Editorial: Can the iTunes Music Store sustain its new momentum?
By Peter Cohen
On April 28, Apple celebrated the one-year anniversary of the iTunes Music Store by releasing a new version of iTunes, introducing some new features to the store and making some important changes to the underlying technology that makes the whole thing work. The result? A lot more people bought songs last week — about 3.3 million all told, up from a 2.7 million weekly run rate leading up the announcement.
Apple also gave away some birthday presents to iTunes Music Store customers — free songs from the store every day for a week. That free song deal is now a permanent, weekly fixture. Apple said this week that about 500,000 free songs had been downloaded — a number not included in the 3.3 million song figure.
Why’d the number of users jump up so much last week? At the time of the one-year anniversary announcement, analysts said that the free tunes were likely to be a draw. Apple also reworked its Digital Rights Management (DRM) so that five Macs can play the same songs bought from the iTunes Music Store, up from three. There was a reduction in the number of times a playlist can be burned to CD — seven, down from 10 — but most users seem happy with the tradeoff.
It remains to be seen if the better than 20 percent jump in iTunes Music Store traffic this past week is a sustainable figure or just a momentary flurry of excitement generated by the store’s new features and the buzz around the anniversary, but it’s still an impressive figure in context. Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently told the press that iTunes Music Store turned a small profit this past quarter. Many of Apple’s competitors in the digital music space are still trying to make money, and the heat’s just getting turned up now from major players Sony and Microsoft.
Apple’s the market leader in this sector right now, and let’s hope that the company can keep it up. It’s a big world out there, and so far, the iTunes Music Store is only available in the United States. The timing of Apple’s introduction of the iTunes Music Store to foreign markets and the depth and breadth of its library offering to those markets is key to the company’s sustained success as a digital music powerhouse going forward.
(Peter Cohen, Senior Editor for MacCentral, supplies this week’s guest editorial.)
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