The History of the iTunes Store

iPods Linked To Hearing Problems

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The iTunes Store was first launched on April 28, 2003. Apple’s idea was simple — provide a virtual store where people can buy and download digital music on-demand. Initially, the store only hosted 200,000 tracks and only Mac users were able to buy and transfer music to the iPod. PC users had to wait until October 2003 for the release of the Windows version of iTunes. Today, the iTunes Store is the largest seller of digital music in the U.S. and has sold over 10 billion songs.

iTunes' Early Days

When Apple first launched its iTunes digital music service it had already signed deals with major record labels. Big names such as Universal Music Group (UMG), EMI, Warner, Sony, and BMG all signed up to make their music available on the iTunes Store. Incidentally, Sony and BMG have since merged to form Sony BMG (one of the big four music labels).

Demand soon developed and it was no surprise that 18 hours after the service first went live, it had sold approximately 275,000 tracks. The media soon latched onto this success and provided Apple with a great promotional platform that made it incredibly successful.

Global Launches

During Apple’s early days, the iTunes Store was only available to U.S. customers. This changed in 2004 when a series of European launches took place. The iTunes Music Store was launched in France, Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Greece, Finland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands. Consumers in Canada had to wait until December 3rd, 2004, which was after the European roll-out to access the iTunes Store.

Global launches continued throughout the world over the years making the iTunes Store the most widespread digital music service in the world.

DRM Controversy

One of the most talked-about issues in iTunes’s history is, ​of course, Digital Rights Management or DRM for short. Apple developed its own DRM technology, called Fairplay, which was only compatible with the iPod, iPhone, and a handful of other digital music players. For many consumers, the restrictions that DRM places on purchased media (including video) is a bone of contention. Fortunately, Apple now sells most of its songs without DRM protection, although in some countries there are still DRM protected songs in the iTunes music catalog.


Apple has celebrated many achievements over the years, such as:

  • Selling 70 million songs in its first year.
  • 1 million music videos sold 20 days after first being introduced in 2005.
  • 2006: 1 billion songs downloaded and a gain of 88% of the legal music download market share (U.S.)
  • 2007: The iTunes Store became the most popular destination in the world to download movies; 2 million movies had been sold.
  • 2008: Apple announced over 4 billion songs were download and that it had become the second-largest retailer of digital music in the U.S.
  • 2010: Over 10 billion songs downloaded.
  • 2011: 15 billion apps downloaded.

Iconic Status

The iTunes Store is an iconic name that will always be remembered as the service that spawned the legal music download industry. Its greatest achievement to date is not the quantity of media that has flowed from its stores (although hugely impressive), but the clever way in which it has used its hardware to drive consumers to its iTunes Store. With more and more online music services now appearing, many of them offering (sometimes) cheaper media downloads, Apple needs to make sure it keeps up with present and future trends to stave off the competition and maintain its dominance.

Apple Music

In 2015 iTunes was branded as Apple Music acknowledging the reality that streaming rather than downloading is the future of music buying for the public.

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