Apple could terminate iTunes music downloads within two years [updated]

By , May 11, 2016

new itunes store

Apple is preparing to completely terminate music downloads in the iTunes Store, reports Digital Music News. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the outlet says an aggressive, two-year timetable to switch completely to streaming music is gaining traction within the company.

Hedging on its claim, the site also says other shutdown plans are being considered, including one that would see the iPhone-maker offer music downloads for another 3-4 years. Regardless, executives have agreed that keeping downloads running forever is no longer on the table.

Part of the debate is that paid music downloads still account for hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple, worldwide.  According to an estimate revealed by music industry analyst Mark Mulligan at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, iTunes music downloads will still be worth an estimated $600 million in 2019, though that is down from peak revenues from $3.9 billion in 2012.

Admittedly, it’d be nice to see Apple phase out music downloads. It’s pretty clear that streaming is the way of the future, and it would make iTunes and Music apps less confusing. But it’s hard to imagine Apple, who practically created digital music downloads, getting rid of them by 2018.

First there’s the money. As aforementioned, this is still expected to be a $600 million business in 2019. Even for a company as big as Apple, that’s a lot to just toss out the window. Then you have to think about other issues like offline playback and what users will do with purchased music.

What do you think? Could Apple really get rid of music downloads within two years?

Source: Digital Music News

Update: An Apple representative has issued a statement to Recode, denying the above report.

“Not true,” says Apple rep Tom Neumayr. Neumayr wouldn’t expand on that comment, except to make it clear that he was responding to both timelines proposed in today’s story from Digital Music News.

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  • I prefer downloads because I’d rather own a track than stream it. Hope they don’t do that…

    • Anonymous

      You can download the track in apple music.

      • Blip dude

        But you don’t really own it?? Once I decide to get rid of Apple Music, so will the track.

      • Anonymous

        You don’t own it by any means. But technology is always changing. So for me personally I don’t want to own it. I remember when I bought CDs and I had hundreds maybe evens thousands of dollars invested into music. Then everything went digital. And I started buying iTunes, then Spotify came and i went to streaming. And that has been the best bet. I have all my music in the past and i can add to it daily all for a small price of 120 a year. And it’s been cut in have due to apples new college student fee so 60 dollars for the next four years. Which is well below what I use to pay and I get far more music.

    • Matt

      Same. I use Traktor DJ on a regular basis so owing the track is vital. I like getting my music on iTunes because beatport prices are ridiculous even though often times iTunes does not have some tracks from lesser known artists whereas beatport does.
      Still though, I have never subscribed to Spotify, Apple Music, etc. and never will because I’d rather pay the $0.99 or $1.29 for a song and own it forever, instead of “lease” the track which is exactly what music streaming service subscribers do.

      • Blip dude

        THIS!!!!

      • Anonymous

        Your dj situation makes sense why you would want to own your music. But for the masses subscriptions are probably the better deal.

      • Ángel Javier Esquivel

        Same here. Although I do have AppleMusic, and when any given DJ releases a song, I can listen to it “free” before I buy it on Beatport (I prefer BP because they sell WAV files)

  • Bob

    I still wonder of there still are people who download music and want to possess it when you can stream almost anything! Owning music is so 2015!

    • Mr_Coldharbour

      Plenty of people as a matter of fact, probably event the majority. I’m one of them. What say you if you don’t have an internet connection and want to just play a jam at anytime and any place? What if you’re on holiday and don’t have an internet connection present and want to play something, but oh, you’d need an internet connection to stream, then what? Downloads and actually owning your media doesn’t put you at the mercy of a subscription that could potentially change at anytime (for the worse most of the time) and at the mercy of having an internet connection. You’ll be able to play whatever you have anytime anywhere.

      • Ds

        I agree 100% with that. I live in a town surrounded by mountains and there are tons of dead spots around where streaming would be useless. plus one big thing that everyone seems to be forgetting is data consumption. having to stream music where I dont have wifi is out of the question since Verizon no longer offers unlimited data.

      • therealjjohnson

        I think they mean just use Apple Music. Even with Apple Music you download the items to your phone so you have them locally to avoid signal and wifi issues. I think they just want to move away from the iTunes Store. For some reason…

      • Mr_Coldharbour

        And look how well that turned out that Apple Music. I’m glad I never turned it on, it is just a dumpster fire riddled with issues and mass confusion as reported by many, especially Jim Dalrymple from The Loop where it supposedly just erased all his local music because of how poorly it was implemented. No thanks, downloads never let me down.

      • therealjjohnson

        I use it now. I have no issues. Not sure he knew what he was doing because all my local music is still on my phone.

        I would give it a try. Once you try it personally I think you’ll be able to give it a honest opinion. Reviews from others are cool, but nothing beats first hand usage.

      • Anonymous

        Apple music subscribers can download music on a divce that can connect to the internet. So you can download music to your phone, tablet, ipod, mac if your going to be in an area without music.

    • Mark S

      I’ll tell you why smart guy. What do YOU do when there’s no network??? So much for your precious streaming library you can’t access. Wi-fi isn’t available at all times everywhere. I still wonder why there are people who are short sighted and would rather pay for something that they can’t own. The second you stop paying there goes the access. I bet you were a big DIVX supporter back during the birth of the DVD too huh?

    • Blip dude

      I do, streaming music is so 2014 by that logic.

    • Matt

      I explained this above, but I’ll explain it here as well. I am not a pro-DJ, but I do DJ as a hobby and owning the track is vital so “renting” it for a monthly fee does not work for me. Traktor DJ does not have support for Apple Music and even if it would, I’d still rather buy the track and support the artist instead of listen to a leased version of that track.
      Owning the track also gives me the secure feeling that it will always be there whereas if I forget to somehow make a payment on the so called monthly Apple Music lease, I loose all my music.
      Also, If I own the track, I can transfer to all my devices without having to download a sperate app (Apple Music)
      Lastly, even though iTunes is a horrible platform which needs serious TLC, I’d rather spend less money on the iTunes store than beatport (unless necessary) which is always more expensive and then store my music in folders separated by genre, etc.

    • Bob

      To be honest I hate Apple music, but love Spotify. And you’ll always be able to download songs for offline purposes, but that doesn’t mean you need to own the music. What I meant is the whole concept of owi g anything is just an illusion. During your life one can use music and other ‘things’ but than you die and end up with nothing at all. So why do you want to own music when uou can play it anyway? There are millions of songs, more than you can play in a lifetime. The power of streaming is that you have access to almost any music you want and can explore as much as you like. In former days you choices all were based upon your budget because you can only buy a certain amount of music. But nowadays the sky is the limit for a fair amount of money. And fir the exceptions of living in wifi-less areas, there always be exceptions like that, that’s maybe the disadvantage of living in such an area but maybe you’ll gain other advantages (like surrounded by beautiful nature) in return. Life’s all about priorities…

    • And what will you do, if a crazy manager decides to remove an artist you love from Apple music?

    • mlk

      True, my friend! And reading printed books is so 1450! And wearing shoes is so Romans Era! Sometimes it feels really good being told that you are some sort of dinosaur and will soon become extinct. Count me in for that, and for being called a luddite if you will. I just don’t make purchasing decisions depending on how trendy (or old-fashioned) they are.

  • Won’t happen! Just another rumor that will cause controversy to help drive the Apple stock and confidence into the toilet.

    • Alex Wilson

      Inclined to agree.

  • Virus

    Time to rename iTunes they sell more than just music in the store now

    • Swanny246

      Agree, I think iTunes needs to be split up. The Music Store component could become “Apple Music Store”, the videos could become “Apple Video”. The App Store is still officially part of iTunes despite basically being its own entity.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    I hope this never materialises. As some have already said here, I want to own my music, not be at the mercy of a subscription that could change at any time and at the mercy of having an internet connection. Again, it is rubbish like this that just hurts the consumer and causes unneeded difficulties.

  • I am going to crackdroid. That is the end for me. I am old fashioned and prefer to have “Physical” possession of all of my digital content
    .

  • Paymon John Vafa

    I hope that doesn’t affect itunes match.

  • Alex Wilson

    Interesting to say the least, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon and I hope it never does. I still often go back to some of the LPs I have, though I’ve ripped all of my CDs I still enjoy listening to some old songs that are not available on iTunes or other sites.

  • Mark S

    Then I will either record the stream or stop purchasing music.

  • Riley Freeman

    i dont mean to be rude but to say ” it’d be nice to see Apple phase out music downloads. It’s pretty clear that streaming is the way of the future” has got to be one of the most moronic things ive seen someone say that specializes in the tech blogosphere.

    Streaming uses more battery and data. in an era where phone companies basically ignore battery longevity for slimness even though nobody is asking for these phones to get slimmer. I know pretty much everyone rather the phone stay the same size and have a battery that you dont have to charge daily.

    I have itunes match with over 8000 songs and i download all my music from my main playlist and leave everything else in the cloud because ill only play something else on ocassion. I have a 128gb 6 plus and while i have tons of memory to actually download every single song, i prefer to have the available memory.

    Downloads>streaming

    • Melvco

      It sounds like you prefer downloads to streaming, but I’d be willing to bet that a growing segment of the crowd Apple and other tech companies want to sell to would disagree with you.

      Having a library of 8,000+ songs is certainly not the norm for users, and the ability to download full albums and playlists for offline listening really cancels out your concerns of battery life and network outages. In fact, downloading music from the cloud (Apple Music has offline listening) for local playback sounds exactly like what you’re doing with iTunes Match.

      I can understand being comfortable in your current setup, but if you really think purchasing music 1 track or album at a time is the future, I have a VCR I’d love to sell you.

      P.S. For future reference, saying “I don’t mean to be rude” doesn’t make the ensuing comment less rude.

      • Riley Freeman

        i dont get your point. The article is about DOWNLOADING not purchasing songs one by one. Offline listening is downloading except they porbably have it where you dont own your own copy of the song. It still has to be downloaded to your phone or “cached” if you dont want to use the word download but its the same thing. Difference is simply ownership.

        id bet you’re wrong. Look at the comments alone and i saw more pro downloads than streaming

      • Melvco

        Yes clearly there was a miscommunication here. I believe the report is about purchasing individual songs and albums. I can’t imagine offline listening ever going away, for the very reasons you outlined above.

      • Blip dude

        It is actually. Because again, if I decide to get rid of my subscription for a few months, so will the music. So I’m stuck with either legal purchasing or you guessed it, piracy.

    • Swanny246

      You are aware you can save songs from a streaming service for offline use?

      • Riley Freeman

        you guys keep mentioning the same damn thing as downloading but i actually own my songs

      • Swanny246

        Ok.. I’m just saying your points about streaming using more data and battery are invalid when you can cache them offline 😛

        If you want to own your songs – awesome. I have no problem if people choose that, I don’t think Apple should be looking to kill off their music store.

  • If they do it, they will loose a customer.
    — I want to OWN my music.
    — I don’t want anyone to tell me what music i can have.
    — If some manager decides to remove a track from Apple, it will be lost for the customer

  • Ernie Marin

    I hate it so much when people suddenly like something just because a big name company does it. Remember when 10 years ago cellphones were supposed to get smaller and smaller, then 10 years later they are almost the size of small laptops, same as tablets and laptops itself, no one can predict the furute, specially when it comes to technology, and saying streaming is the way of the future is just anoher vague prediciton brought upon by the media, specially this page, every single change Apple makes is hailed as the next big thing. Well Apple isn’t on the edge on technology as you loke to make it seem, and if they do this google play and amazon will gain even more fame and screw up Apple, streaming isn’t the way of the future, specially when it depends on WiFi and LTE, both if which aren’t 100% reliable, as opposed to just having your musing available on your device all the time, signal or not.

  • Mr_Coldharbour

    Well, glad to hear that this lunacy was put to bed and that music downloads isn’t going away.

  • Steven S.

    I prefer downloads because I want to OWN my music, not RENT it.

  • XZavier

    I would hate Apple if they did this, sure streaming is great in all, but I prefer downloads because there is no delay or problems if you have a bad signal or wifi connection, and also if you don’t have tmobile you’d be screwed because of how much data you’d have to use with Verizon or any other company that doesn’t allow you to stream unlimited music without affecting data.