back to article Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET

Elevation and Vertigo may be songs that hit the high notes for Apple boss Tim Cook's chums U2, but the same can't be said for sales of iTunes music right now, which have reportedly nosedived since the start of 2013. According to the Wall Street Journal, iTunes revenue witnessed a rapid decline of around 13 per cent to 14 per …

  1. phil dude


    We reached the point where new music is competing against an ever increasing back catalogue. In some sense the netflix model might be the only way the music industry will survive...

    Only they will not. They would offer a crap service and a pay through the nose service, and keep complaining that people aren't paying for stuff. Movies are the same, but a different curve, but then we actually have netflix. And the selection is a small fraction of what is available.

    Guess what? I can go to walmart, target or best buy and you should look in the $1 CD bucket sometime...

    $5 DVD and blueray $9 (yes, can you believe the Hobbit is already in the $5 box?). I don't even have a blueray player, but i was thinking of getting one!!


    1. Rob 44

      Re: saturation...

      I think there's more to it.

      One thing is the complete lack of decent music. Its all bubbly teen pop shite or some mass produced bands or other junk.

      The market is saturated with mediocre disposable music and I think people are finally getting bored with it.

      There are those of us who love our music and will hunt what we are looking for and a lot of it you just wont find in iTunes (one of the reasons I gave up on it very quickly).

      People have the catalogue of music they want already, its mostly just background noise to the average consumer so they don't feel the need to buy even more music.

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: saturation...

        If it's in the type of music, then it's only in part of the industry. Other music is out there, it's just not in the place Apple is looking...

      2. jason 7

        Re: saturation...

        The issue is that ten to fifteen years ago the fact that if you wanted to record a record you had to pay to go into a recording studio.

        That acted as a great filter to those that could not and should not and prevented many talentless people from ever being heard.

        Now with a laptop and a few bits of software you can do what you like, where you like.

        It's like writing a book. Publishers on the whole could tell a half decent read and put the rest in the recycling. Now anyone can get their dirge pushed onto Amazon etc.

        Sometimes the digital revolution can go horribly wrong.

        1. Random Coolzip

          Re: saturation...

          > Now with a laptop and a few bits of software you can do what you like, where you like.

          Most notably, GarageBand. Did one of Apple's heads slay another?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: saturation...

          I am Lorde, Ya Ya Ya.

      3. CmdrX3

        Re: saturation...

        I don't think there is a complete lack of decent music, but there is less and less of it being released by recording studios who like to rely on the the same old formulaic dreary drudge. For me iTunes is the equivalent of looking through an elevator music catalogue. I prefer Bandcamp myself because while there is certainly a fair bit of dross, there are also quite a few gems and while it's mostly unknown or lesser known artists, much of it is worth more of my listening time than the factory processed dullness that's coming out of the likes of Sony and Universal.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: saturation...

        "One thing is the complete lack of decent music. Its all bubbly teen pop shite or some mass produced bands or other junk."

        If you live in the UK try BBC 6 Music. I totally gave up on MTV/Radio1 mainstream music about 5 years ago. The proportion of things I like vs things that literally just sound like painful noise to me had probably reached about 2% vs 98%. On 6 Music those proportions are inversed and every day I'm hearing something *new* that I love. Good music is out there, turns out it's not even that difficult to find!

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: saturation...

      Saturation is certainly an effect: once everyone has a few hundred songs of the genre they prefer, the buying will slow down.

      The other thing is crapness. How much good new stuff has come out recently? Stuff worth clicking on and buying.

      Top twenties etc was part of the 70s and 80s. Nobody does that any more.

  2. Khaptain Silver badge

    For the last 10 years, maybe slightly more, Simon Cowell et al have successfully managed to reduce the music industry to the same levels of excitement as a walk in a supermarket. Apple are simly one of the many outlets, ie supermarkets, whose catalogues are lifeless and unappealing.

    I believe that large industry has only itself to blame for it's own demise.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      I really don't understand why anyone used iTunes music, ever. Even Apple die-hards, when decent music is available on a CD to keep (and rip for your device) for less money than the same album costs for download.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge


        Before criticising folk who use iTunes you have to consider the following:

        1) Apple managed to get a sensible sales model from the major music labels. You need to look back a decade or so to see just how crap the industries own on-line shops were. Just who gives a fsck about which label your favourite band is on? And the incompatible DRM shit!

        2) Some folk struggle to use ripping software. Hell, some struggle with the concept of RTFM, or even of using Google, etc, to find help...

        3) A lot of folk bought Apple ipods, etc, and they deliberately did not document the interfaces and often changed them, so getting music on along with album art was hit and miss. Same trick MS has used...except nobody bought the Zune...

        4) A lot of new laptops, and all tablets, lack CD drives and few folk will splash for an external USB one unless they can be persuaded of the benefit. Buying the CD may be comparable to, or even cheaper to iTunes in the sale/bargin box case, but buying one track at a time is popular because frankly a lot of albums are pish, with one or two redeeming tracks. If you are lucky. In that case the economics work against CD purchases.

        5) While CDs are uncompressed and better than half of the MP3 tracks out there, most folk don't seem to care about Hi-Fi quality. They play them through crappy speakers or headphones and often as background music, and just don't see sound quality as important.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @werdsmith

          You said CDs are typically better than MP3s but iTunes uses AAC which seems better AND some of their music is professionally ripped from the original digital masters (which are better quality than the CDs that were also created from them) and / or specifically remastered for iTunes - so CD better quality than iTunes - perhaps but it's certainly a lot closer than say CD vs 128bit (or lower) MP3s.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @werdsmith

            "You said CDs are typically better than MP3s but iTunes uses AAC which seems better AND some of their music is professionally ripped from the original digital masters (which are better quality than the CDs that were also created from them) and / or specifically remastered for iTunes - so CD better quality than iTunes - perhaps but it's certainly a lot closer than say CD vs 128bit (or lower) MP3s."

            Oh my good god! You utter fucking iTard! Seriously, I want to call you all manner of names that call into question your mental capacity but are less than socially acceptable outside of an 80's playground and certainly frowned upon in polite company...

            *bangs head on desk*

            Nope still not feeling better.

            *gouges brain out with a spoon*

        2. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: @Paul Crawford

          Hang on, Mr high-and-mighty "some folks" wisdom-fountain.

          Perhaps the REASON "some people" have trouble using ripping software is that about twelve years ago some twat introduced the term "rip" to those people making media players, and they felt obligated to take a reasonably understandable product and complicate it in a welter of stupid shiny and jargon.

          My dad has no idea what "ripping" means, but has been "recording" stuff for nearly 50 years and could probably teach you and the rest of your exclusive club a thing or two about how to do the job properly, including the basic stupidity of making software volume controls linear when it has been known to everyone since Marconi that the ear's response is logarithmic. Apparently some programmers were so busy bragging about their mad C++ skillz they forgot to R that particular FM.

          And "a lot" of laptops do not lack an optical drive. Apple laptop computers lack the drive. Most non-apple laptop vendors still offer the option if you want it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Because you can buy individual tracks for one. Apple can 'Match' all you gigs of music and store it in the cloud to be shared on all your devices and there is a huge catalogue of music you can find and download in seconds. The key factor is convenience.

        1. Maventi

          " be shared on all your devices and there is a huge catalogue of music you can find and download in seconds. The key factor is convenience."

          Only Apple devices. It's not convenient for anything else and that may be part of the problem.

      3. Adam 1 Silver badge


        Buying a physical CD also requires putting on pants then driving to a Westfield somewhere and flicking through the shelves hoping to find the one you are after. Good luck if it isn't on the top 50; all of that pant wearing could be for naught. Contrast this to digital sales, where if you know what you want then you can have it purchased and downloading within seconds; no calling around different stores to see who has it in stock.

        ITunes (the software) is still an awful offence against humanity, but I can see how it is convenient to those locked into that ecosystem.

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: @werdsmith

          "Buying a physical CD also requires putting on pants then driving to a Westfield"

          Around my area, for some people at least, pants are no obstacle to going shopping.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @werdsmith

            Topless was always overrated :o

        2. Peter 48

          Re: @werdsmith

          you obviously never heard of online retailers like Amazon, WowHD or Zavvi?

        3. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: @werdsmith


          "Buying a physical CD also requires putting on pants then driving to a Westfield somewhere and flicking through the shelves hoping to find the one you are after"

          You what? Did Westfield exist in the 80s?

          If you want a specific one then you punch the name into google and then you will end up on a retailer site that probably has your card details saved.

          Otherwise, I tend to serendipitously pick them up. Most are used and cost 50p.

          I know that some people just going onto things called "newsgroups" where there isn't much news but you can take plenty of "FLAC".

      4. Frank Bough


        Convenience. iTunes has a big catalogue, good artwork, booklets etc and is quick and easy to pay for. Expensive, certainly, but very functional. Sound quality is decent, no DRM. I've bought a few things on iTunes over the years though I generally torrent or buy CDs. Spotify is the thing that's harming iTunes revenues, playlist sharing is ubiquitous.

      5. Dieter Haussmann

        iTunes was great for buying music that is not available on CD but it is mostly on youtube and Spotify now. Apple also increased the length of the sample you can play before you buy such that it's not worth buying.

    2. Charles Manning

      Blaming the music industry is pointless

      Things have changed.

      There was a time (60s, 70s, maybe even the 80s) when being up to date and trendy with music was fashionable and the yoofs would spend all their money on records and looking cool. Every street had at least one garage where some wannabe boy-band was making crap sound they call music. The music industry made a lot of money.

      Music is no longer fashionable.

      Fashions come and fashions go. Music has gone, just like bell bottoms and stovepipe jeans and various haircuts. We don't blame the hair industry fro the demise of the duck tail, so why blame the music industry for the demise of music.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Blaming the music industry is pointless


        <Quote>: Fashions come and fashions go. Music has gone, just like bell bottoms and stovepipe jeans and various haircuts. We don't blame the hair industry fro the demise of the duck tail, so why blame the music industry for the demise of music.

        I find it interesting that you consider music as a fashion, personally I do not. I would keep music where it a has always been, as an art. And just like art, music changes, although it does not disappear.

        I blame the music industry for the demise of the music industry not for the demise of music, they are very different things.

        The music industry has made everything industrial. We talk about the potential benefits, ie the profit, that can be made by a musician before we talk about their talent. A musicians looks are more important than their vocal chords... The industry has only one objective, make money for itself....

        Musicians, and I don't mean the Kylie minogues of this world, are akin to poets, they have something to say, they have a desire to communicate, a feeling, an emotion , a particular moment, but unfortunately these are not the elements that are being pushed by the industry....

        Industry has successfully pushed in everyone's faces, what it wants you to listen too... They want to be the ones supplying the choice of goods just like the supermarkets. In the beginning the supermarkets stocked everyones products but more and more all we see now are the supermarkets own "branded" stuff....

        The music will continue to live on, and all the good music will remain outside of the mainstream because industry does not see the "benefit" in them...

        I have always been under the impression that the death of all large industries, and not just the music industry, is due to implosion rather than explosion. Here we are witnessing a new implosion, it is simply impossible to retain the huge profits for any length of time.

        PS : The number of haircuts and jeans being bought has probably remained the same or is even slightly higher than before.....

  3. gardener21

    I've bought less from iTunes over the last year, mainly because I've been buying more on vinyl. So constrained revenues for the iTunes store means more revenue for my local record shop.

  4. johnB


    Maybe the sheer unpleasantness of iTunes on the PC might be a contributory factor ?

    1. Philip Lewis

      Re: ITunes?


      I personally know a lot of people who do not find iTunes unpleasant. They use the 1% of the functionality necessary to get their tracks onto their device and that, as they say, is it. They do not know what mp3 actually is, or any other music format. For them Hi Fidelity is a book written by Nick Hornby and a pretty good movie, and is only peripherally related to music. These people my friends, are the vast unwashed masses, who do not sip lattes together sharing their hispster experiences and waxing inteligently on trends in fashion, these are the people who are ARE Apple's customers. In some circles, these people are called consumers.

      Disclaimer: I personally think iTunes is an abomination, but I am in the software industry, so my opinion is only relevant in the sense that I evaluate it differently from consumers. If iTunes was perceived as badly by consumers as I (and everyone here I think), then I suspect that Apple would never have been as successful in the music delivery business.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    If they will listen to iRunier

    They will listen to anything... sorry, but it seams Apple has made their bed. Instead of having high quality downloads, you get meh! And instead of consumers thinking they should do better, they hit the gutter looking for the tracks.

    I hear kids on my street playing their fav songs via their mobs... sounds like shit either way.

    Feel free to elaborate, I'm sure you can!

  6. i like crisps


    I will blame Bono, because he invented the there!

    1. Havin_it

      Re: HOW DARE YOU!!

      I was just gonna go with "because he's a nob", but I like yours better.

      Favourite Bono story: remember that sleb-heavy campaign for the famine-struck hellhole du jour a few years ago that involved the slebs snapping their fingers? Bono was giving this patter to a Glasgow audience ...

      B: "Every toime oi snap me fingers *snap* a choild in de turd world doies *snap*..."

      LOCAL WAG: "Well f*ckin' stop doing it then!!"

      1. markw:

        Re: HOW DARE YOU!!

        Bono is not a nob.

        He's a knob.

        1. Havin_it

          Re: HOW DARE YOU!!

          I've got a 1980s Young Ones annual that says different, what you got?

    2. Dagg

      Re: HOW DARE YOU!!

      There is only so much catholic guilt rock you can take before you are either full or top yourself!

  7. adnim Silver badge

    I expect there are some that care.

    Share holders and those that see a pigs ear as a silk purse perhaps?

    1. Nadjau

      Re: I expect there are some that care.

      For album purchases I've switched to using services that offer FLAC or ALAC downloads and these days only use iTunes occasionally to purchase singles that typically are compressed so 256kbps AAC is fine.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I expect there are some that care.

      iTunes is such a minuscule portion of Apple's revenue and profit it is unlikely any shareholders would notice the effect if it went away entirely. A 1% drop in iPhone sales would cause 10x more investor panic than would shutting down iTunes tomorrow.

  8. 404 Silver badge

    Rumor has it...

    ...that Apple is porting iTunes to Android <waves dead chicken furiously> Ran across mention of it today when I checked Google. Subject came up during a discussion with the wife - I was asked by client staff if going from Apple to Android was a good idea. First impulse is to say 'Ohellya', then reason kicks in and I ask how invested are they in iTunes. If they're a crazy person and have hundreds/thousands in Apple kit/music/whatever, I tell them to stay with Apple, if not, try Android. Wife wondered if they had iTunes for Android. Good Question.

    Anyway, the search terms in Google are thus:

    'Itunes for Android - don't judge me, this is research'

    You'll find a few references - it makes *some* sense if Apple iTunes is losing market share, although I'd never sleep again if I was Tim Cook - Steve would rip my heart out for that one, where ever he may be.

    1. McWibble

      Re: Rumor has it...

      Remember that you can import up to 20,000 songs into your Android music library, even from iTunes (source: ).

  9. Maventi

    I blame a combination of two things; services such as Spotify and also the rise of Android. iTunes limits you to Apple devices; if you own an Android or Windows phone then it's more of a hindrance than a help. Now that the former has a the lions share of the market, people are going to want something that plays nicely with their phone and their computer, regardless of brand. iTunes fails spectacularly at this.

    I realise that iTunes songs are DRM free but that in itself doesn't make it any easier for the average non-geek to get their iTunes collection working on their non-Apple phone.

    Contrast that to Spotify and the likes where platform is no boundary. It doesn't matter what mix of devices and platforms you use, nor if your taste in music suddenly shifts. Everything still works everywhere, as long as you pay your small monthly subscription. As much as I'm still a little wary of the whole 'customer owns nothing' approach, they have executed it well enough that I'm happy to play along for the time being.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Android != iPod

      Well, I suspect there are plenty of people who have an iPod and who also have an Android phone. Since most Android phones are junkfill (by definition) most of these people will have chosen to stay on the iPod for their music.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Android != iPod

        "... most of these people will have chosen to stay on the iPod for their music."

        If iTunes still supports their iPod model. The majority of iPod models are no longer supported in current versions of iTunes. I know this because the people you speak of come to me and complain that iTunes won't work with their phone or their iPod. It certainly shatters the faith in Apple for them.

  10. Peter 48


    The article seems to ignore the rise of alternative purchase sites as well. Amazon MP3 in particular has been doing exceptionally well, increasing their marketshare considerably over the last few years. Then you have Google's play store that has frequent deals and 7Digital who are/were the backbone for several vendors such as Samsung or LG.

    1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: rivals?

      Rivals, yes, but not from other music stores. Today's big "casual music listener" demographic is still there, but they've grown up in an era where you just don't pay for music: YouTube has given them a free, personalised, All-Requests, All-the-Time version of MTV that means you never really need to buy that song they like.. just keep listening for free until you go off it.

      Music fans - people who enjoy music as an art form, and will sit and do nothing but listen to music - will still pay, but they are a tiny part of the music market. The casual listenership has almost completely fallen away, leaving only the core of people who actively enjoy music.

      On the other hand, there's still money in back-catalogue; particularly in classical and Jazz - but they're not really part of the same "Music Business" that the tech media are so obsessed with, despite often being the same companies.

  11. Stevie Silver badge


    I think you'll find that this drop in sales of digitally downloaded music corresponds with an equal increase in unethical and questionably legal purchases of CDs from so-called "music shops".

    The only answer is to install speed governors in all vehicle engines so that nipping down the shops for a copy of the latest album by Lady Gaga becomes velocity-downgraded with respect to digital downloads.

    A free benefit of this plan is that people will not be able to circumvent the plan by buying via the mail services, as they will also be moving slower, though in the UK I understand the Post Office has been unusually pro-active in this area already and been using Velocity Dependent Disincentivisation (VDD) to discourage the use of their service for years.

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    The fact is that the audience for the track-at-a-time model of iTunes is young and poor and increasingly on the push for something for nothing, whereas the old and too-thick-to-understand consume their music as albums and don't mind paying for them as long as prices don't soar to ridiculous levels.

    While Apple were busy ignoring the Old School, Amazon snuck in and stole the market from them. Amazon will sell me the CDs I want and will provide an instant gratification downloadable version free of charge for some of them (my tastes are eclectic, sometimes wildly so).

    iTunes/Gracenote can't even find the album art for much of my collection, even some stuff that's been in the wild forever (like Fairport Convention, Godley & Crème, Hot Chocolate, Ian Drury & The Blockheads, Jake Thackray, King Crimson, Madness, Manfred Mann, The Marshall Tucker Band, Mott the Hoople, Pentangle, Al Stewart, ABW&H, The Beatles, The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band, Bryan Ferry, Caravan, ELP and the list goes on). What chance seeing the liner notes or the lyric sheet if they can't even find the bloody album cover in the mighty database of "not on file"?

    And what a horrible, horrible, unfit for purpose interface. Luckily they fuck with it every three updates or so, so there is little chance of ever mastering it unless screwing with your music player software is all you have on your calendar.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Bah! @Stevie

      Were you reading my music catalogue!

  13. Dieter Haussmann

    There were only ever 'so many' pleasing and no-so pleasing combinations of notes and instrument arrangements and they have all been released already and same goes for lyrcis.

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