Before iTunes, music was different. Buying a song meant walking into a brick-and-mortar store and buying a physical record or CD. All of that has changed.
iTunes not only made it easier to find the music you wanted to hear, but it made it easier to buy music. Today we’re used to digital content marketplaces, like the App Store and the Google Play Store, but that idea of centralizing and distributing content completely online started with iTunes. It helped us make the transition from an analog music world to the digital music landscape of today.
So here are all the ways iTunes changed music.
6. It Killed the Album
Before iTunes, most music artists and record labels were focused on releasing albums, much like they had been doing for decades before. It made sense. At the time, consumers were still going into music shops and mostly buying physical CDs. As a consumer, if you didn’t want to shell out for the full album, you had to hope the song you wanted was released as a single and buy that instead.
With iTunes, you no longer had to buy a whole album just to hear a single song. That meant you could get the songs you wanted, and you could get them for a lot less money. Consumers loved it. But because so many people were starting to buy individual songs and ignoring albums, the music industry was forced to adapt. That meant releasing more singles and shifting the focus away from albums and longer projects.
5. It Made Music More Accessible
iTunes not only made it easier to get music, but it made music cheaper and more accessible to the masses. Instead of forcing consumers to shell out $15 or more for a CD, iTunes launched by selling most songs for just $0.99 each, and you could get most albums for $10.
Even if you had money, actually finding the album you wanted to buy could be a challenge before iTunes. If you were looking for a specific album, especially if it was from a lesser-known artist, it might mean driving all over town to various record stores and retailers trying to find it. With iTunes, on the other hand, you could find almost any song you wanted to hear with just a quick search.
4. You Could Keep Your Songs Forever
Before iTunes, even if you burned your own MP3s or turned to illegal websites to download your music, it didn’t mean you’d be able to keep it forever. Physical CDs and records can get lost, break, or get stolen. Even digital media like MP3s can be lost if your computer crashes, or if you lose access to it.
But because the iTunes Store is based and backed up on Apple’s servers, it allows you to not only access your music and media on one device, but on almost any device that’s connected to the internet. That also means you could re-download your purchases as many times as you needed to.
Although we often take cloud-based services like Google Drive and iCloud for granted today, in 2003, releasing a cloud-based music marketplace was a bold move for Apple. And it was one that paid off big time. Nothing in life is ever 100% certain, and it’s still possible to lose access to your iTunes account. But for the most part, iTunes is a place where you can buy something and keep it forever.
3. It Created an Entirely New Business Model
Today we’re pretty comfortable with the idea of buying content online. But before iTunes, buying a digital copy of anything was a novel idea for a lot of people.
The iTunes Store was one of the first big digital content marketplaces. It was a bold move for Apple to go digital in a still mostly analog world. The iTunes Store launched at a time when Blockbuster Video was still a force to be reckoned with, and Netflix wouldn’t even start streaming any content until four years later.
iTunes started with just music, but it quickly grew. It became not only a music marketplace, but a place you could find audiobooks, podcasts, and much more. In 2005, movies and videos became available for purchase on the platform. The iTunes store quickly grew from an experiment in online shopping to a true digital content powerhouse.
2. It Led to the Birth of Music Streaming
These days, most people are subscribed to some kind of music streaming service. Although it can be hard choosing between Apple Music and Spotify, no matter which platform you choose, you can get access to an absolutely huge library of songs for a low monthly fee.
But these kinds of services might not have developed without the impact of iTunes. iTunes proved that the internet was capable enough for people to be able to download and stream content easily. And maybe more importantly, iTunes proved that people were willing to spend real money on completely digital content.
Today we’re living in a golden age of music. It’s never been easier to get access to the music you want to hear, and to discover entirely new songs and artists. But we might not have gotten here without iTunes.
1. It Helped Create the Apple Ecosystem
Everyone knows that iTunes was designed to support the iPod. iTunes made it easy to buy, store, and download your music on Apple’s MP3 player. But there was just one glaring problem: early iPods couldn’t get on the internet. The iPod’s history goes back to 2001, with the release of the first-generation iPod. But there wouldn’t be an iPod with Wi-Fi capability until 2007, when the iPod touch was released.
So, how were you actually supposed to get the music you bought on iTunes onto your iPod?
Home computers bridged the gap between the iTunes Store and the iPod. Although iTunes was compatible with Windows computers, the easiest way to run iTunes and get your music from iTunes to your iPod was by using a Mac. It was a great combination. You used your Mac to browse, buy, and download your music, and you used your iPod to listen to it.
Although Apple discontinued the iPod in 2022, iTunes was the beginning of the Apple ecosystem as we know it, and Apple hasn’t looked back since.
Without iTunes, Music Wouldn’t Sound the Same
Not only did iTunes help make the iPod the most successful music player of all time, but it sent ripples through the music and tech industries. Although most people have moved on from iTunes (in large part due to Apple discontinuing it on macOS), without iTunes there wouldn’t be an Apple Music, and there wouldn’t be a Spotify.
iTunes helped the world make the transition from physical CDs and records to the digital and cloud-based content libraries of today. Whether it was the way we found music, the way we bought it, or the way we listened to it, there’s no question that iTunes changed music forever.