May 23, 2024

Say farewell to downloads, the future is streaming… (not yet)

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Last week, Apple announced at their recent WWDC event that they will be shutting down iTunes, and this after 18 years of existence. Our mailbox has since been filled with questions regarding this announcement, and most of those mails were filled with panic.

iTunes done and gone?

First of all, dear musicians, your fans (or customers if you want to call them like that) will still be able to access the music they downloaded through iTunes. The confusion is largely caused by the press (in search of clickbait titles, just like the one we used here actually) who have been sending out news updates saying ‘iTunes is gone’, ‘iTunes is no more’, …

The fact is that iTunes will be folded into Apple’s dedicated music app, Apple Music and will be accessible from the Sidebar of Apple Music. Users will have access to their entire music library, whether they downloaded the songs, purchased them or ripped them from a CD. For those who like to own their music, the iTunes Music Store is just a click away.

When will the change happen? The move will happen once Apple’s upcoming macOS Catalina is being rolled out. It will replace the existing iTunes experience with 3 dedicated apps — Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV.

What does the future hold for downloads?

The whole panic is really unnecessary. Although it’s very clear (and I have been announcing this for the past few years) that streaming will be the definite future, downloads will not go away pretty soon. In case you doubt, the success of such ‘better’ download stores as Bandcamp prove that downloads, especially those offering HD audio, will definitely not go away. The reason: they cater to a completely different kind of people, people that for instance care about owning the music they pay for.

Let me remind you that when iTunes launched in Europe, I was really getting harassed because I said this would be the future. Lots of angry mails and name calling later, downloads indeed became the future. When Spotify launched, I predicted it would overhaul the downloads as well (the same shit storm was the response). And although it is not yet the case for everyone, streaming music is definitely the way to go for the big crowd, if only for the ease of use.

BUT, yes, there’s a BUT, I never said that the new kid on the technology block would (completely) destroy the ‘older’ format. Instead I wrote back in 2011 that physical formats would continue to exist next to downloads. And actually, downloads will also continue to exist next to streaming. Each format will attract it’s own (cross platform) mix of consumers/lovers.

But what does the music industry want?

Subscription based streaming is pretty much the top priority of today’s (major) music industry. And as long as Apple keeps the option to download open, this market will continue to exist and generate $$ for the bands and labels available via the platform. The moment the download option is closed via Apple, only then we’ll see a major shift towards streaming music.

But even then, the unserviced audience that wants downloads will still be serviced via a platform like Bandcamp, and I predict that that specific platform will actually gain in traction as many labels and bands will start using the platform as well (the platform is still not used by a lot of labels and bands, surprisingly one should think) once the downloads are dropped from iTunes.

For your info, fans have paid artists $391 million using Bandcamp, and $8.8 million… in the last 30 days alone!

So, no panic, everything will be fine.

author avatar
Bernard - Side-Line Staff Chief editor
Bernard Van Isacker is the Chief Editor of Side-Line Magazine. With a career spanning more than two decades, Van Isacker has established himself as a respected figure in the darkwave scene.

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