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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 8:06am

    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.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 8:07am

    Re: Distinction, distinction, distinction

    sigh. I did it again. I keep forgetting you cant use not equal brackets.

    the first line should read: iTunes 'not equal to' iTMS

     

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  3.  
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    jsnbase, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 8:28am

    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.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 10:43am

    5% of your music does not sound like a "lock in " Scenario. Especially when you can burn it onto a cd and re-rip it to MP3. It seems popular to blame the DRM situation on apple as a trick to keep you hooked. I think people new to the ipod dont realize that adding restrictive DRM came from music industry pressure.

     

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  5.  
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    UniBoy, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 10:50am

    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.

     

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  6.  
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    tehdirtaddict, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:07am

    loss leader @ $1?

    They sell every DRM infested track at $1 (rounded $0.99), and yet you specify its a loss leader? Jeez, so you are expecting them to sell at $2 instead?

    iSucks should be selling for under 50 cents DRM free, and everyone will be buying!

     

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  7.  
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    IStillThinkYouAreAllMorons, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:12am

    1 Billion + is not popular?

    How many other music sites have sold well over a BILLION tracks?
    None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nyet.
    Unpopular? Methinks that is flawed information or opinion.

     

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  8.  
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    Paco, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:18am

    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.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:19am

    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.

     

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  10.  
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    SimonTek (profile), Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:27am

    You know

    You do realize the whole DRM thing isn't Apples fault, theres this little mafia called the RIAA (MPAA even for that matter) that really won't sell them songs to re-sell without DRM. Of all the choices I have, I like itunes. Heck I used itunes first then bought an ipod.

    ~SimonTek

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    James, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:28am

    iTunes

    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.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Jo Mamma, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:29am

    video?

    You raise interesting points, but don't forget about the potential impact of video on iPod sales.

    It may have been a loss leader on music, but I suspect that video will make them more money.

    It's pretty easy to rip a CD, but (for non geek types) ripping a DVD is a little trickier, and getting a TV show is even harder.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    buba, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:30am

    why use itunes when napster is "free" now?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    AMP, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:30am

    Re: loss leader @ $1?

    RE: and yet you specify its a loss leader?...Regardless of if they sell the music at $0.50 or $0.99, if they are not making money on it, then it is a loss leader.

     

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  15.  
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    Andrew N., Sep 18th, 2006 @ 11:36am

    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?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Corey, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:02pm

    Anti-Trust

    I think it is time to call for an Anti-Trust lawsuit. Someone get Alberto Gonzales on the phone.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Brendan, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:06pm

    Problem

    I think one of the problems is too, the lack of quality selection. Having good audio equipment I can hear thye difference in a 128-192k Mp3 compared to a --alt-preset standard or -v2 rip. I think they should offer even lossless quality if they want to sell more. I sure would buy more if they had that option

     

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  18.  
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    DittoBox, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:18pm

    Re: loss leader @ $1?

    Apple makes just under 10 cents per song, as low as 2 cents. The artists make less than Apple.

    The rest goes to the pigs in the studios.

    Before you take out your back end, do your research. It is a loss leader.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Leroy, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:25pm

    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!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:27pm

    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.........

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Robin, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:33pm

    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

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Non-liberal Oregonian, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:46pm

    Itunes

    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

    Sincerely,
    a guy with a mac & a PC

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    5%... man if 5% of my songs came from ITunes, they would have made an extra 1000 dollars off me. But in my case, it's 0%... I haven't even bothered to download the free songs they have offered to me.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Topher3105, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 1:20pm

    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.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    somebody, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 1:43pm

    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.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    bendonnelly, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 1:59pm

    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?

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2006 @ 2:09pm

    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.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    leroy, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 1:33am

    Re: Re: DRM didnt stop me

    it could have, but i have only purchased about 9 songs from itunes store, otherwise i buy the CD. Your method is much faster but costs more. I only own about 320 music discs.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Top Tip, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 2:26am

    Alternitive to Itunes

    FYI;
    For all you people who dislike iTunes; you can syncronise your iPod using winamp (and it lets you download as well as upload).

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    james, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 5:39am

    $6

    yourmusic.com = $6 a cd, hardly a complete selection though...

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Scott, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    Re: loss leader @ $1?

    Maybe you should learn to use it?

    Buy the track, burn it to CD, do whatever the hell you want with it. The DRM in iTunes' case is barely a stop gap measure to placate the RIAA and benefit the consumer.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Scott, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 12:15pm

    Re: What price savings?

    And whose responsibility is it for you to backup your data?

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Frink, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 8:33pm

    Re: What price savings?

    RAM updates do not require any reauthorization of iTunes music. The rest of your post simply displays your ignorance. Nothing is ever lost if you have a backup.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Frink, Sep 19th, 2006 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Distinction, distinction, distinction

    "the worst media library management software I have ever been forced by a company to use"

    Who forced you to use it? Was that at gun point?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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