USA Today columnist thinks Apple’s iTunes Store is a failure

“The online digital music business stinks,” Kevin Maney reports for USA Today. “iTunes, Rhapsody, Zune Store, Napster — you name it. They’re all failures.”

Maney reports, “Nearly six years after the introduction of iTunes and the iPod, online music has failed to interest the vast majority of the world’s music consumers. Which is no doubt why Steve Jobs recently called for an end to copy-protection software on digital songs. Something has to change, or iTunes and its ilk will never break into the mass market.”

Maney reports, “Jobs admitted that iTunes’ penetration has been weak. In his discussed-to-death essay, ‘Thoughts On Music’ — posted a couple of weeks ago on Apple’s website — Jobs noted that only about 3% of songs on a typical iPod are bought on iTunes.”

MacDailyNews Take: Because the vast majority people’s music collections are already contained on CDs, Kevin. People did not throw away their entire CD collections when they bought iPods, they ripped them all to iTunes (and it took forever!) thereby negating the need to buy them via the iTunes Store. Common sense is your friend, Kevin. Try using it from now on, if you possess any. The iTunes Store sales are only really for new music that people don’t already have on CD and who are willing to pay for convenience over bit rate. Truth be told, most iPod+iTunes users are unaware that there’s DRM involved at all. Apple’s FairPlay DRM is that unobtrusive.

Maney continues, “In a report released in December, Forrester Research said it did a strenuous, independent analysis of iTunes purchases… Forrester found that the number of monthly transactions per iTunes household was declining in 2006… About 10% of buyers purchased just one track during the entire year. About one-quarter of buyers spent $5 or less for the year.”

MacDailyNews Take: So, 90% of buyers purchased more than one track during the year and three-quarters of buyers spent more than $5 for the year, right? Regardless, Kevin, a week after that “strenuous, independent analysis” you reference, Forrester Research’s Josh Bernoff set the record straight: “For the record, iTunes sales are not collapsing” and bemoaned the hysterical media headlines and incorrect stories the original report ginned up. Yes, Kevin, your story fits the bill. Except, yours is actually worse since the facts have already been corrected by Forrester themselves (and by multiple other outlets, see related articles below) and follows other reports such as the December 13, 2006 analysis from Piper Jaffray that looked at music sales data and saw strong y/y growth in 2005 and 2006. Specifically, the firm compared total sales between Jan. and Sept. of ’05 and ’06 and saw 78% growth during that period. Or the December 14, 2006 news from comScore Networks which stated that revenue from Apple Computer’s iTunes digital media download service rose by 84 percent during the first three quarters of 2006 versus the same period one year ago as a result of a 67 percent increase in the number of iTunes buying transactions. Kevin, iTunes is not a failure. There’s only one failure involved in your article. Yes, Kevin, that would be you as a journalist. It’s a good thing you work for USA Today where such matters as journalism and fact-checking seem to be meaningless. Based on history, we strongly suspect such breaches might actually be punishable offenses at good ol’ USA Fishwrap.

Maney continues, “After Jobs released his essay, I asked Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris why he chose to do it at that time. She said there was no particular reason. But Jobs never does anything for no particular reason. He manipulates the media and timing better than anyone in tech. More likely, Jobs realized it was time to save iTunes.”

Full article here.
Removing DRM from online music would certainly help online music sales. But, let’s face facts: most people own iPods and, for those that use the iTunes Store, the DRM is hardly, if at all, noticeable. If you really want to increase iTunes Store sales, how about, oh, increasing the bit rate? We know we’d pay more for 192 kbps (or more) encoding, so imagine if the music cartel allowed Apple to boost the bit rate and continue selling the higher quality tracks for the same 99-cents?

Maney makes far too great a leap in trying to link Jobs’ call for DRM-free music to some imagined “failure” of the iTunes Store. In fact, Apple’s iTunes Store is a raging success. Apple’s iTunes Store has sold over two billion songs and is now the fourth largest music retailer in the US, ahead of #5 and closing in on #3 Target. That Maney also relies on that ridiculously overblown, widely- and successfully-disputed Forrester report/blog posting is laughable.

Some advice for Kevin Maney: try reporting the facts and not ham-handedly attempting to twist them to fit whatever doltish fantasy you’ve concocted for the day.

Related articles:
Apple’s iTunes Store passes two billion songs milestone; 50m TV shows & over 1.3m movies sold – January 09, 2007comScore: Apple iTunes sales are surging; revenue grew 84% during first 3 quarters of 2006 – December 14, 2006
Forrester’s Bernoff: ‘iTunes sales are NOT plummeting! Press credibility, on the other hand…’ – December 13, 2006
Jim Cramer on Apple iTunes Store and ‘that stupid Forrester survey’ – December 13, 2006
Piper Jaffray: Apple iTunes Store sales show strong year-over-year growth – December 13, 2006
Apple on Forrester report: ‘the conclusion that iTunes sales are slowing is simply incorrect’ – December 12, 2006
Blackfriars’ does the math: Apple iTunes sales are not ‘collapsing’ – December 12, 2006
Digital downloads drive world music sales in first half of 2006 – October 13, 2006
Study reports the obvious: most music on iPods not from iTunes Store – September 17, 2006


  1. Another MDN scraping the barrel article for something remotely anti-Apple. There is nothing wrong here, SJ himself admitted DRM does not promote digital downloads. Most people still buy CDs. This is just common sense. No Apple bashing at all.

  2. MDN has it wrong. I would never prefer any bit rate, DRM free mp3s over CDs. Those facets wouldn’t matter to the average Joe Ipod Owner. And you have it wrong by saying people didn’t throw away their music collection being the reason that itunes sales are low. Most people still want a real CD, not restricted, protected AACs. Why pay 10$ for the opportunity to burn a transcoded, low bit rate CD, when playing a burnt cd has the image of it being illegally burnt. People listen to music on other things than iPods and itunes.

  3. “”Nearly six years after the introduction of iTunes and the iPod, online music has failed to interest the vast majority of the world’s music consumers. Which is no doubt why Steve Jobs recently called for an end to copy-protection software on digital songs. Something has to change, or iTunes and its ilk will never break into the mass market.””

    One has nothing to do with the other. Most people dont even know there’s DRM on the music, or what it even does. If the vast majority of people aren’t using iTunes its because the market is still relatively new and there is still a lot of growth. There are vast amounts of average people who don’t even know what iTunes is or that you can buy music from it.

    Steve’s call to end DRM has NOTHING to do with this.

    “Worse for Apple, Forrester found that the number of monthly transactions per iTunes household was declining in 2006. “It is too soon to tell if this decline was seasonal or if buyers were reaching their saturation level for digital music,” the report says.”

    Which was rebutted by Apple at Macworld AND even Forrester has since revised their data.

    “But for the majority of people, downloading songs is too hard and too frustrating. Some of that problem is the digital rights management (DRM) software that limits where and how songs can be played.”

    I love how this guy makes up random cause and effect scenarios. DRM has nothing to do with how easy it is to download music. I mean has this guy ever even seen iTunes? How much easier can they make it. Maybe if they had a way to let you think what song you want and it magically appeared on your iPod, then that would be easier.

    Another stupid comment:
    “There are other reasons downloads are stalled. People who grew up with CDs — or vinyl LPs before that — like the packaging and cover art, and like to get songs deep in an album that are not hits but grow on you over time. At 99 cents a song, digital downloads don’t offer enough value to give up the packaged CD niceties.”

    Ok yeah so people read liner notes. Sometimes. But I dont know I’ve ever heard anyone say hey let me buy this CD with a bunch of songs i dont like and let me talk myself into liking them. The point is moot, because you can buy the whole CD through iTunes anyway and let the ‘grow’ on you. Again another nonsensical rationale to fit his fantasy conclusions.

    Dear Kevin. Can you get me a job at USA Today? It seems anyone with a keyboard can get a job there.

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