iTunes May Not Be That Popular, But It Serves Its Purpose

from the locked-in-and-lovin-it dept

A new analyst report says that just 5 percent of the tracks on the average iPod are bought from iTunes — a figure that really shouldn’t be all that surprising, given that Apple intended it to be a loss leader to sell more iPods. People are still buying music on CD, and they’re still using file-sharing networks, illustrating two realities: first, that the mere existence of digital distribution doesn’t mean people will overlook its shortcomings and flock to it in droves; second, that despite the availability of free music, people are still paying for it. Digital music sales offer some benefits over buying CDs or other physical media, but for many consumers, the lack of playback restrictions on music ripped from CDs and the benefit of owning something tangible outweigh the convenience and minor price savings legal downloads offer. In addition, the widespread availability of CDs, often at discount prices, makes that convenience less compelling. This report comes at the same time that other makers of digital music players are working to integrate online music stores more deeply into their products, as their latest attempt to unseat the iPod’s dominance. The report would suggest that this is something of a wasted effort, as it puts too much credence in the iTunes store as the reason for the iPod’s success. It’s just a small part, though, alongside the iPod’s ease of use, its fashionability and the “cool factor” it carries — though, of course, those last two elements, arguably the most important, are the most difficult to copy. But even though the average iPod carries such a relatively small amount of music from iTunes, it’s enough to serve Apple’s other, more important purpose: to lock consumers in to the iPod. After all, who wants to switch to a different brand of music player, if it means losing the ability to play some music — no matter how little — they’ve bought (DRM hacks notwithstanding). That obstacle may be the biggest one facing other manufacturers, not the tight integration of any old music service. Instead of wasting resources on that integration, they should be looking at ways to break the Apple lock-in.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “iTunes May Not Be That Popular, But It Serves Its Purpose”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Distinction, distinction, distinction

iTunes iTMS

Even though iTunes might be the only browser allowed to (ahem) browse iTMS and make purchases from it, does not make one the other.

iTunes is merely the gateway to iTunes Music Store (iTMS).

When I first saw the article I thought it was going to be slamming the actual software, not the plugin to it that allows you to make/manage purchases and subscriptions from iTMS.

Personally, I cant stand iTunes. I think its the worst media library management software I have ever been forced by a company to use.

As for iTMS, I don’t have an opinion of it, as I’ve never used it to make purchases. I’m too damn educated to fall victim to a scam like DRM encoded media. Oh wait, all my podcast feeds are run through there as well. In that case I despise iTMS for that, as I dont understand why Apple should be collecting information about my podcast habits.

I love my iPod Nano for the hardware. I hate the iPod for the crappy spyware like software I am forced to use in order to fully utilize my iPod Nano.

Andrew N. says:

Re: Distinction, distinction, distinction

“Personally, I cant stand iTunes. I think its the worst media library management software I have ever been forced by a company to use.”

Obviously, you’ve never used MusicMatch… it came with my RCA Lyra, and while I loved the hardware, there was no ability to load playlists properly. It also kept bugging me to upgrade to the “pro” version for $30. With iTunes, I just plug up my iPod, and all my music, playlists, and everything else (including Outlook calendar if I want) are automatically synced. While it definitely has some shortcomings, I haven’t seen any other software as easy to use or as functional as it.

The store is a whole other issue.

Can you offer some insight as to why you hate iTunes so much?

jsnbase (user link) says:

Not that popular?

Saying that 5% of tunes on iPods are from iTunes doesn’t seem like enough information to say how popular iTunes (or the iTMS) is or isn’t. How many purchases stay on hard drives and don’t make it to iPods? How many tracks are from discs that were already in the owners’ collections? How many tracks are we talking about total?

I know Techdirt tries – to put it charitably – to look for emerging trends as opposed to existing ones, but the point of the post is unfounded. You can’t illustrate any realities with misrepresented data.

UniBoy says:

Missed the point on iTunes

Yes, there is an iTunes music store. But there is also this incredible application from Apple called iTunes.

I use iTunes because it, combined with an iPod, provides a great experience for ripping, organizing, browsing, playing, and syncing my music and podcasts. iPod+iTunes has BY FAR the best user experience I have seen for digital media.

They should ask how many iPod users use iTunes (and therefore have regular and easy exposure to the iTunes music store). The answer is damn near all of them.

Another important point: When I acquired my iPod, I already had a library of CD’s. All of those songs got ripped and legally transferred to my iPod. So about 90% of my iPod is filled with those songs. The other 10% are purchased from iTunes. But, the point is, I stopped buying CD’s and switched. 90% of the new music I have bought has been off of iTunes. I am sure I am not the only “switcher” out there.

The reason iTunes is better is because i only pay for the songs I want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: loss leader @ $1?

Techdirt is not the one calling it a loss leader, APPLE is the one who coined it as a loss leader, and techdirt is syndicating the labed applied by apple.

And the reason apple loses money on every song? Apple pays the copyright owner (something around) 85 cents for every 99 cent sale.

YOU try turning a trick under that license.

Robin (user link) says:

Re: loss leader @ $1?

Actaully the price, like the drm is set by the entertainment industry. Apple would not have access to the selection of tracks, tv shows and moives if it didn’t placate the RIAA and MPAA with DRM. The record industry causes the wholesale price of a track to be somewhere around $0.67 not becuase thats what it costs to sell another copy, but becuase thats what they feel you should be forced to pay.

If you don’t like DRM by CDs, and rip. Thats what I do. If you don’t like iTunes/iPod, then buy another player. Its not a monopoly or anything

Paco says:

iTunes v. CD's

I still have a hard time buying my music straight from iTunes instead of buying complete CD’s. I think that many musicians out there would say that they want you to listen to ALL of the songs that they put out on their CD’s, instead of just one or two from iTunes that you have heard on the radio. Some of the greatest songs on an album may never hit the radio, and never be heard by anyone who doesn’t own the CD.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: iTunes v. CD's

Umm, I couldn’t care less if the artist wants me to listen to all their songs. I’m only going to buy and listen to the ones I like.

You do realise you can listen to a preview of ANY song on an album and get a taste for whether or not you like it? And if you like all the songs guess what? You can buy all of them………

James says:


I own a 30 gig video ipod and love it. However I do not have the same sentiments about the iTunes software. When listening to music on my computer I always use Windows Media Player. The music is the exact same, but I like how Windows Media Player organized my music much better than iTunes. By the way, of the songs in my medium sized library (about 8 gigs) absolutely none of them were purchased with iTunes.

Leroy says:

DRM didnt stop me

When I found that my battery needed to be replaced in my 2nd generation IPOD and the huge cost to do that, I gave it up, trashed it and got a sandisk player that uses plain old AAA batteries instead. Any file that wouldnt transfer due to copy protection was played with itunes and at the same time recorded with Cool Edit and saved in my choice of file format. Now, I can move any song to any player of mine that I choose. Add to that IPod frustration that fact that all of my Apple brand monitors have died prematurely, I finally gave up on Apple and went to the PC realm. No more Apple products for me!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DRM didnt stop me

Any file that wouldnt transfer due to copy protection was played with itunes and at the same time recorded with Cool Edit and saved in my choice of file format

Damn that must take long, much easier and quicker way (if you have more than 2 songs) is to just “burn” the music “to a CD”, then “rip” it back to your PC in your prefered format… don’t have to wait for the length of the track to record it.

In my situation, I use Nero to burn the music to the Image Recorder, once I have the image I open it with Nero Image Drive and rip it back.. Takes under 5 minutes for the entire procedure for an 80 minute “CD” and no actual media needed. Only have the speed of your hard drive to worry about.

Non-liberal Oregonian says:


I think some of you are too close to the tree to see the forest. Itunes is great for music management, yes there are other good programs out there. However, I have run the gambit of trying new programs and found iTunes to be the most user-friendly, and organized out there.

Just take it for what it is. An apple product designed for apple lovers. If you don’t like apple–just go play with your bug-filled beta version of Media Player 11

a guy with a mac & a PC

Topher3105 (profile) says:

What price savings?

I am consistently buying CD’s now that are the same, if not, cheaper price then iTunes.

iTunes turned me off because of their 5 device limit. As a software developer, I often upgrade my main machine and I use multiple machines anyways, and didn’t realize that every RAM or CPU upgrade required another activation. I have been unable to properly deactivate my older systems because I am not about to re-install older RAM and CPU’s just to do that. As a result, I can no longer buy music from iTunes without setting up a new account.

I have lost purchased iTunes music. Apple doesn’t (as a matter of general policy) allow you to re-download purchased music, so I have paid for nothing. The times I have lost music were directly as a result of a botched iPod updatesbecause of Apple’s software. I had contacted their customer support about it and was asked what I would do if I had lost a CD, implying that I would have to rebuy the CD in that case. I told them that my management system for storing CD’s (i.e. the shelf) did not have a problem with habitually deleting files.

I have nothing against iTunes, but their music store leaves a lot to be desired for. I am through wasting my money there.

somebody says:

How to eliminate lock-in

All that needs to be done to eliminate lock-in is for some anti-Apple corporation to slip some money under the table to the makers of jHymn. If jHymn had its ease of use raised to the level of iTunes (not much) and was distributed more widely, people would start using it in the same numbers as Limewire. Then, no more iDRM, and no more iBullshit iCrap.

bendonnelly says:

itunes purpose?

I’ve always thought itunes purpose was a program to organize music files. Only recently has the itunes music store picked up popularity.
They now sell all types of media from music to movies. While at the same time it’s getting easier for people to share music. So my question is itunes really there to sell music or to keep my play lists organized?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...