UPDATE on May 12: Apple has refuted Digital Music News’ claim that it’s looking to end music downloads. Though additional details weren’t offered up, Apple rep Tom Neumayr simply told recode, “not true.”
Apple Music is already on tap for a major overhaul this summer, but that isn’t the only change headed iTunes’ way; supposedly, Apple wants to get rid of music downloads entirely. According to Digital Music News, the folks in Cupertino are ultimately planning to have Apple Music — and, therefore, streaming — be at the forefront of their musical offerings, thus vastly changing iTunes’ current incarnation in the process. According to sources, Apple execs are focused “not on if, but when” and are considering a staggered shutdown that would kick off in “Tier 1” countries like the United States, UK and leading countries in both Europe and Asia before subsequently hitting “Tier 2” and “Tier 3” countries in the following years.
As MacRumors points out, the decision is a curious one — iTunes still rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars each year — and the timeline for the changes is largely unclear. However, the decision is likely a preemptive one by Apple as streaming music services continue to supplant downloads. Music industry insider Mark Mulligan estimates that iTunes downloads will be worth as little as $600 million USD in 2019, down from nearly $4 billion in 2012. Going even further, Mulligan believes “Apple’s download business could be 10 times smaller than its streaming music business by 2020.”
All in all, if the move does indeed come to fruition, it should help significantly streamline things for Apple. As noted by just about everyone in the industry, iTunes and Apple Music, in their current form, don’t interact particularly well — downloaded purchases are intermixed with streaming content, creating confusion and headaches for the user — and the problems are only exacerbated when you throw iTunes Match into the mix.