Underwhelming start to iTunes Radio lights fire under Apple; iTunes Store may get dramatic overhaul

“The failure of iTunes Radio to halt the decline of music downloads has prompted Apple Inc. to consider the most dramatic overhaul of its iTunes music store in more than a decade, according to executives familiar with Apple’s internal deliberations,” Ed Christman and Alex Pham report for Billboard. “iTunes Radio, which launched in September with much fanfare, so far only sees about 1%-2% of listeners clicking the buy button, while overall music downloads have been declining upwards of 15%, according to several label executives.”

“At the same time, Apple is finding that its influence over labels is slipping as YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and other streaming services gather momentum,” Christman and Pham report. “One independent label said that iTunes’s share of the label’s revenue has eroded from more than 70% in 2012 to about 50% today.”

“As a result, Apple is being forced to consider options that would have been out of the question a few years earlier – an on-demand streaming service, an iTunes store for Google’s Android devices and negotiating download sales windows that favor Apple as first reported by Billboard,” Christman and Pham report. “Apple faced a similar juncture in 2003, when Steve Jobs agonized over whether to make iTunes compatible with Windows PCs. When he finally relented, Jobs announced iTunes for Windows by saying, “Hell froze over.” The decision facing iTunes today regarding Android weighs no less heavily on Jobs’ corporate heirs.”

Read more in the full article here.

49 Comments

    1. You know how Apple looks at markets for things that are unintuitive, unnecessarily complex, and in need of dramatic improvement? They should look at iTunes.

      A media manager, several stores, mobile device management, streaming radio… What an unholy swamp it’s become!

      1. And you know hpw Apple is constantly tweaking and reinventing it’s flagship products…

        iTunes will no doubt , get seriously revamped to compartmentalize and lighten it’s load while enabling better user freindly managment of multiple functionalities.

        iTunes is second to none in database capabilities and a spectacle of why Apple is the world’s best siftware company.

      2. Yep. And if it has indeed had a 20% decline in 2 years, then 3-5 years is way too long to wait for a fix. Tech can’t move this slowly and not get caught by the Samsung thieves and others. Apple has a very real logistics problem here. Innovation takes more time than does copying the innovator. So at Apple’s pace, that of an innovator, how can they ever fend off the copier? Only with a new product category but tough to do within that same category after the secrets are out. Apple needs to have two paces: one for innovation and a more nimble one existing product categories.

  1. “The failure of iTunes Radio to halt the decline of music downloads…”

    I don’t believe that was the point of iTunes Radio. Yes, there is a button to buy songs in iTunes Radio. Similar services have those, as well. I think iTunes Radio was meant as a response to what declining downloads said about the market, rather than an attempt to change the market.

    iTunes for Android makes sense. So would a real streaming service.

      1. Really different from Windows. We keep hearing what a ridiculous chore it is trying to program for Fragmendroid.
        iTunes for what version of that pile of nonsense?

  2. I’m not sure why they find it surprising that so few people who stream music for free don’t then buy that same music for download.

    As far as iTunes for Android… Nope.

    Using Windows isn’t a good comparison. When Apple released iTunes for Windows, it was solely to promote the sales of iPods. It was a success because so many people who were Windows users wanted to use iPods and iPods were free of any IT Manager decisions and were competitively priced for consumers (still premium products). This success followed with the iPhone and then the iPad.

    With iTunes for Android, what exactly would Apple be hoping to sell? A few songs per user for 99 cents?

    Keep in mind, (unlike iTunes for Windows) these are users that for the most part chose not to participate in the Apple ecosystem and have for a long time have found and been using alternatives to iTunes.

    I have a bunch of Macs and iOS devices, and one Nexus 7 (that I need for development). One of the biggest problems with Android is the lack of a cohesive iTunes-like media manager and synchronization tool. Really, if you’re a heavy media user on iOS and have to switch to Android, you’ll be kicking and screaming every step of the way and won’t be a bit surprised when you read articles about how most Android users use their phones like as if they were just feature phones with email and maybe Facebook/Twitter.

    Why would Apple want to fix one of the biggest things broken on Android just to make a few 99 cent song sales per user (at best)?

    Also not mentioned in the article… which version of Android on which hardware were they thinking this would happen on?

  3. Without the great conductor to hold things together Apple senior executives are losing the plot. Have they even considered that iOS 7 makes the Music App unintuitive and difficult to use or find ancillary functions because of the overly thin fonts and terrible layout?

    Apple under Cook has lost the pulse of the buying consumer living as they are in the remote fastness of their ivory tower.

  4. I can tell you why the decline in music downloads:
    1-Many of us have now stocked our libraries with catalog music and only add a little on a regular basis.
    2-The bulk of the stuff being pushed today is really marginal stuff. Some guy running his mouth over a drum track is not music and is not worth buying.

    1. I would have to agree with you. Most of the music or what loosely qualifies as Music is not worth buying. Maybe just maybe if there were descent music worth buying people would start buying again.

      1. Darwin and Mechanic50 – you both nailed it. Much of the new music is not worth hearing. My catalog of music is filled with music no longer being recorded so I listen to music I already own and create iTunes stations of music I do like. Nothing more to buy.

        1. Actually Fred, I have using iRadio since it’s launched. Through fiddling with it creating my own stations, I’ve found lots of new artists. It has inspired me to go to Redeye Records here in Sydney.

          I bought 10 cd’s ! First time in at least 8 years. 😎

          I have always been very picky regarding sound quality (no I’m not a hifi nutter) as having run several semi-pro studios as well as live front-of-house gigs. CD’s are way better than mp3’s whatever rate and flac and Apple’s AAL come close but cd’s still are superior.

          Back to the point, I doubt anyone can draw any conclusion based on what this article states. There hasn’t been long enough to project anything about how the market will pan out.

          Now that apple has entered the steaming music fray (soon to be followed by google and MS, etc) I can’t see how spotify, Rdio etc will survive.

          Btw, iRadio has considerably higher audio quality than the rest IMO.

      2. That makes sense intuitively, but when I consider that “music today isn’t as good as it used to be” argument has always around, then I don’t think it really explains anything new.

        In the first decade iTunes has been around, the 2000s, I felt new music was pretty terrible overall – especially since I could only compare it to music of the past, unaware of how much worse it would be today. Yet iTunes was still very successful: so people were apparently still buying that mostly crappy contemporary music (for god knows what reason).

        I think the thing that’s actually changed today that’s bucking the trend for iTunes might really be Spottify and other streaming music service.

      1. There are great musicians. They are not being pushed by the Radio, TV or Recording Companies (cannot really call them record companies anymore).

        What is getting pushed is largely bullshit of the lowest common denominator variety.

      1. The problem these days is not the creation of music, but the DISCOVERY of music by individuals. The old ways have broken down (record stores, radio, etc) and the new ways are not reliable or have been manipulated by the PR machine of the RIAA cartel members.

    2. Interesting. Of all the players in the music industry to find fault with, you chose a loud-mouthed guy?

      Try expanding your listening habits and you will find something other than that which you’ve described.

      The Radio exposes me to music I’d otherwise might not hear.

  5. iTunes is very very very very very long overdue for a complete overhaul. Whoever designed the last iteration need to be horsewhipped… It’s impossible for me to find and sort thur songs in my library, you can’t play a playlist IN ORDER from the remote iOS app, and the iTunes store is nothing short of a big, huge mess… something MS would have put out.

      1. “List view”? If you mean the sidebar that was in every version of iTunes up until version 11, it’s still there, it’s just hidden. Just go View -> Show Sidebar.

        …and if that’s not what you mean, then, uh… my bad, please do feel free to elaborate!

    1. It is long past time that Video & Books be stripped out of iTunes. Seems to me that shopping for media could be moved out of iTunes into the current App store that exists on the Macintosh. Tabs across the top for Books, Movies, Video, Music, Mac Apps, iOS Apps.

  6. I can’t agree with iTunes for android. It would be against everything Steve Jobs stood for. He hated that piece of junk the first second he laid eyes on it. He said “I don’t want to please Android users.” And he is right. They don’t deserve it. Besides, Michael Jackson’s new album, “Xscape”, is an iTunes Exclusive at the moment. Those immoral cheapskates don’t deserve the magic of Michael Jackson. I bet they even made jokes about his troubles during the 90s and 00s. Android users deserve only the bottom of the barrel.

  7. We are reminded daily of the darkness of the Steve Jobs era. The only real solution is to find a replacement for Tim Cook – somebody who knows how to find the light switch and lead the company back.

  8. What failure? Sales failures are because the record labels want to keep raising prices. It has nothing to do with iTunes Radio.
    I don’t see the connection here at all. Get the price of songs back down to 99 cents each or lower and you will reverse slowing sales. It has nothing to do with iTunes Radio or iTunes itself. It’s all on the record labels being GREEDY period.

  9. Desktop/Laptop iTunes has gone downhill since v10.6.3, getting progressively slower, uglier, clunkier.

    Apple hasn’t even got round to sorting the green minimise button, or miniplayer option.

    Sad, because I once used iTunes all the time, both for downloads and playing. Today, I keep a legacy laptop free as a jukebox but haven’t bothered with the store for ages.

    IOS is better, but lacks listening sample options.

        1. Sometimes things are just not broken..iTunes, for a very long time, was one of them. Changes, under the guise of improvements, spoil the simplicity that makes a program so useable. A similar thing happened to Photoshop, in my opinion based on using both programs from their conception to their current version. What do you think?

            1. “I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that Deerslayer is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that Deerslayer is just simply a literary delirium tremens.”

              the ice cold maestro.

          1. Photoshop? I always used NIH Image. As a result I haven’t followed Photoshop at all, and have little appreciation for it. As my artistry depends more on the mystic imagination, and on Mathematica, than on Adobe’s tools, I expect we have experienced different trips, and are conditioned accordingly.

            1. Okay, but certainly we have in common the use of iTunes..as it is the topic of this MDN item, I should like your opinion of its current state in regards to usability.

              Also, please explain to me why usability has no e, yet useable does?

            2. I am aghast that you now treat me as an expert in language usage — I am no such thing. I admit to consulting OED.com regularly, but I spend as much time trolling for news of scandal. In my defence, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Johnson were similarly inclined.

              As for useable, I much prefer the word useless. It has so much more punch.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.