The iTunes Store is a software-based online digital media store operated by Apple Inc. that opened on April 28, 2003, as a result of Steve Jobs' push to open a digital marketplace for music. As of April 2020, iTunes offers 60 million songs, 2.2 million apps, 25,000 TV shows, and 65,000 films. When it opened, it was the only legal digital catalog of music to offer songs from all five major record labels. As of June 2013, the iTunes Store possessed 575 million active user accounts, and served over 315 million mobile devices.
The iTunes Store is available on most Apple devices, including the Mac (inside the Music app), the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod touch, and the Apple TV, as well as on Windows (inside iTunes). Video purchases from the iTunes Store are viewable on the Apple TV app on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices and certain smart televisions.
Steve Jobs saw the opportunity to open a digital marketplace for music due to the rising popularity of easily downloadable tracks. In 2002, Jobs made an agreement with the five major record labels to offer their content through iTunes. The iTunes Store was introduced by Jobs at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in April 2003. It was initially available on Mac computers and the iPod, and was later expanded to Microsoft Windows in October 2003.
In April 2008, the iTunes Store was the largest music vendor in the United States, and in February 2010, it was the largest music vendor in the world. The iTunes Store's revenues in the first quarter of 2011 totaled nearly US$1.4 billion. By May 28, 2014, the store had sold 35 billion songs worldwide.
In 2016, it was reported that music streaming services had overtaken digital downloads in sales. It was reported that iTunes-style digital download sales had dropped 24% as streaming sales continued to increase.
In October 2019, with the release of macOS Catalina, iTunes was split into separate Music, TV, and Podcasts apps. Apple's storefront for movies and television shows moved inside the TV app. Any music in users' iTunes library would transfer to the Music app, which would still offer access to the iTunes Store.
Following the introduction of the iTunes Store, individual songs were all sold for the same price, though Apple introduced multiple prices in 2007. Music in the store is in the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format, which is the MPEG-4-specified successor to MP3. Originally, songs were only available with DRM and were encoded at 128 kbit/s. At the January 2009 Macworld Expo, Apple announced that all iTunes music would be made available without DRM, and encoded at the higher-quality rate of 256 kbit/s. Previously, this model, known as "iTunes Plus", had been available only for music from EMI and some independent labels. Users can sample songs by listening to previews, ninety seconds in length, or thirty seconds for short tracks.
In addition, the iTunes Store offers apps, which are applications used for various purposes (games, productivity, news, etc.) that are compatible with the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, although some apps are specifically for the iPhone or iPad only. Some Apps cost money (called "Paid Apps") and some are free (called "Free Apps"). Developers can decide which prices they want to charge for apps, from a pre-set list of pricing tiers, from free to several hundred dollars. When someone downloads an App, 70 percent of the purchase goes to the developer(s), and 30 percent goes to Apple.
At the Macworld 2008 keynote, Steve Jobs, who was Apple's CEO at the time, announced iTunes movie rentals. Movies are available for rent in the iTunes Store on the same day they are released on DVD, though the iTunes Store also offers for rental some movies that are still in theaters. Movie rentals are only viewable for 24 hours (in the US) or 48 hours (in other countries) after users begin viewing them. The iTunes Store also offers one low-priced movie rental a week: in the United States, this rental costs 99 cents. Movie rentals are not yet available in all countries but it is available in the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
There is a weekly promotion in which one to three songs are available to download for free to logged-in users. Free downloads are available on Tuesdays, and remain free until the following Tuesday, when the store gets refreshed with new content. Some artists choose to have select songs available for no charge. This is not available at all iTunes Stores. Some iTunes television programs have begun the same technique to encourage brand loyalty; although those stay longer. In fact, the iTunes Store has a "Free TV Episodes" page where free episodes are organized by length, either as "featurettes" (shorter than 15 minutes) or full length episodes (longer than 15 minutes). Free content can vary from a preview of a show to bonus content to pilot episodes and entire seasons of TV shows (examples of free seasons include HBO's The Weight of the Nation and ABC's Pan-Am). Some networks, such as ABC and NBC, have their own pages of "Free Season Premieres".
While previously the US iTunes Store has offered as many as three free songs each week (the single of the week, Discovery Download, and Canción de la Semana) in recent years, the store has instead replaced the three aforementioned categories with a unified "Single of the Week" banner, with the week's single being from a new up and coming artist. In 2015, Apple discontinued the "Single of the Week" program.
App prices are set by the developer; they can be free of charge or charged at 99 cents plus any number of dollars.
The iTunes Store allows users to purchase and download items directly to portable Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and iPod Touch. Apple offers three apps, each of which provides access to certain types of content.
Other, free content available from the iTunes Store can be accessed from two other iOS apps:
Originally, mobile users had to be connected to a Wi-Fi network in order to enter the store, hence its original name: iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. However, at Macworld 2009, Apple issued a software update which automatically allowed 3G and EDGE users to access the store's full functionality for files smaller than 10 megabytes (MB). The iOS 3.0 update added the ability to download movies, TV shows, audiobooks, iTunes U, and ringtones on mobile devices, in addition to the previously available songs and podcasts. On February 18, 2010, Apple increased the 10 MB 3G download limit to 20 MB. In March 2012, Apple increased the 3G download limit to 50 MB, and, in late 2013, Apple increased the limit to 100 MB when they released the final version of iOS 7 for their new iPhones.
In the United States, Apple provides technical support for the iTunes Store via email, there is no phone number for issues with iTunes purchases. Most customer service inquiries are handled online, via the Report a Problem link in iTunes.
In response to major natural disasters, Apple provides the facility for donations to be made through the iTunes Store. Unlike other iTunes purchases, donations made to charitable organizations through this system are not subject to the 30% handling fee Apple usually charges. iTunes donation pages were set up following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 Japanese earthquake and ensuing tsunami, and 2012's Hurricane Sandy. In all of these cases, donations were redirected to the Red Cross.
The store began operations after Apple signed deals with five major record companies: EMI, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Bertelsmann Music Group. Songs from more than 2,000 independent labels were added later, the first being from The Orchard on June 24, 2003.
As of April 2020, iTunes offers 60 million songs, including exclusive tracks from numerous artists. Not all artists are available on iTunes, but many holdouts, such as Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, have allowed their music to be sold on the iTunes Store in recent years. New songs are added to iTunes catalog on a daily basis, and the iTunes Store is updated each Tuesday.
Downloaded songs come with song information (name, artist, album) already filled out, though iTunes provides a free service by Gracenote to do this for songs not purchased from the store, although they must be imported with iTunes. Songs that have an entry in the iTunes Store also come with album artwork (Artwork is embedded in the metadata). Artwork can be obtained for songs not purchased from the store for free if the user has an iTunes Store account. Purchased songs do not come with lyrics, nor does iTunes provide a service for acquiring the missing lyrics. However, several third-party applications exist to locate and automatically add lyrics to the user's music.
Some songs are available from the store by "Album Only", meaning the song can only be acquired through the purchase of the entire album, whereas most songs can be downloaded separately from the album they belong to.
Songs above 10 minutes in length are by default Album Only songs. However, this is not universally true; for example, Living in the Heart of the Beast by Henry Cow is 16 minutes and 18 seconds, yet is available for individual purchase as of December 24, 2013. Soundtracks also often have many Album Only tracks.
Sometimes, the 10-minute restriction works in an artist's favor. Examples of this include Prince's Lovesexy and the deluxe version of Phoenix's Bankrupt!, which both have an album as a single track instead of being separate, (in Prince's case, the track was the album, while in Phoenix's case, it was a collection of demos and outtakes) forcing the buyer to buy the album itself.
Movie soundtracks normally include songs owned by many different labels, making licensing more complex. For example, Forrest Gump: The Soundtrack includes songs from Peacock Records, Argo Records, and Capitol Records, among many others. Greatest Hits by Red Hot Chili Peppers has only one song, "Higher Ground", that is not available for download on a per song basis, whilst Circus (Britney Spears' 2008 album) has two songs that are available for album download only, Rock Me In and Phonography.
Some albums on the iTunes store are available only as a "Partial Album" meaning that one or more of the songs on an album's CD release aren't available on its iTunes equivalent, often due to differing copyright holders between songs.
Some tracks are listed as "Work Only", which means they can only be obtained by purchasing the entire piece of work (within the album); the tracks cannot be bought as singles. Works are generally pieces of classical music: symphonies, string quartets, etc., in multiple movements.
When entering the US music store, there are multiple sections one can visit. Music is divided into genres (Alternative, Classical, Jazz, Soundtrack, etc.), and there are a number of links to other sections of the store under the Quick Links header. These include Recommended for You, Complete My Album, iTunes LP, as well as thematic sections, such as iTunes Festival sections.
On November 1, 2006, Apple created a category for Latino and Hispanic content, "iTunes Latino". Telemundo and Mun2 made some of their popular programs available for purchase, becoming the first Hispanic television content in the store. It offers music, music videos, audiobooks, podcasts and television shows in Spanish in a single concentrated area. The brief descriptions given to the content are in Spanish as well as several subcategories. Gibraltarian Flamenco Metal band Breed 77, released an exclusive album called Un Encuentro to coincide with the launch of "iTunes Latino". It features 11 songs, all from previous albums, but all sung in Spanish.
In 2012, Apple created Mastered for iTunes. When iTunes launched, the decision was made to standardize on AAC instead of the more popular MP3 format on the supposition that it offers better quality compared to other codecs at similar bit rates. Mastered for iTunes (MFiT) is a procedure developed by Apple specifically for Mastering Engineers to follow. This set of tools allows Mastering Engineers to audition Apple's proprietary encoding during the mastering process to take into account how music will eventually interact with Apple's encoding. In addition to auditioning the encoder, there is also a tool (called afclip) that processes the audio file and creates a text file for audio clips. Because of this special encoding process, extra attention must be paid to headroom and inter-sample peaking while mastering. In August 2019 it was announced that the Mastered for iTunes program would be rebranded as Apple Digital Masters. With the rebranding the high resolution masters are now available with Apple Music through streaming. It is speculated that the rebranded came because the functionality of iTunes would be changing in macOS Catalina and there for the Mastered for iTunes name no longer made sense.
While most downloaded files initially included usage restrictions enforced by FairPlay, Apple's implementation of digital rights management (DRM), iTunes later initiated a shift into selling DRM-free music in most countries, marketed as iTunes Plus. On January 6, 2009, Apple announced that DRM had been removed from 80% of its music catalog in the US. Full iTunes Plus availability was achieved in the US on April 7, 2009, coinciding with the introduction of a three-tiered pricing model; however, television episodes, many books, and films are still FairPlay-protected.
There is a policy of censoring profanity in titles on iTunes. This has resulted in a Scunthorpe glitch, by which inoffensive titles are censored due to a coincidental string of letters. If the song has an explicit label, it will be marked "explicit" next to the song title. If a song is marked "explicit" it is unavailable for purchase if "restrict explicit content" is checked under the parental controls preference. Often there will be a "clean" mark next to the title of some songs, meaning the lyrics have been censored, and is available to purchase on all accounts. Generally if a song is marked "clean" there is an explicit version available as well.
In the first 18 hours, the iTunes store sold about 275,000 tracks, and more than 1 million tracks were sold in its first 5 days. When released for Windows in October 2003, iTunes was downloaded more than 1 million times in the first 3 days, selling more than 1 million songs in that period. On December 15, 2003, Apple announced that it had sold 25 million songs.
In January 2004 at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs announced (Sellers, 2004) that an unnamed person had purchased US$29,500 worth of music. On March 15, 2004, Apple announced that iTunes Music Store customers had purchased and downloaded 50 million songs from iTunes Music Store. A song sold on iTunes gives the artist 9 cents in profit. They also reported that customers were purchasing 2.5 million songs a week which translates to a projected annual run rate of 130 million songs a year. The 50 millionth song was "The Path of Thorns" by Sarah McLachlan.
On April 28, 2004, iTunes Music Store marked its first anniversary with 70 million songs sold, clear dominance in the paid online music market and a slight profit. The store also offers hundreds of movie trailers and music videos, in an attempt to boost soundtrack sales. In the conference, Steve Jobs reiterated that a subscription service is still not in the interest of customers and reported that only 5 million of the 100 million songs offered in the Pepsi giveaway campaign were redeemed, which he blamed on technical problems in Pepsi distribution. According to an Apple press release dated August 10, 2004, iTunes Music Store was the first store to have a catalog of more than one million songs. Also, iTunes Music Store at that point maintained a 70 percent market share of legal music downloads.
The emerging monopoly of the store was criticized in 2011 by Mike Lang of Miramax for "effectively strangling the industry". He says that because the music industry has allowed too few content providers, it is now suffering. Lang views the issue as being more of a threat than music piracy.
On July 5, 2005, Apple announced a promotion counting down to half a billion songs sold.
Originally only Mac OS X users who had a US billing address could buy songs with the service, but Steve Jobs announced plans to support both Windows and non-American users. The Windows version of iTunes and support for the Windows platform from iTunes Music Store were announced on October 16, 2003, with immediate availability. Beginning in 2004, the service has become available in a number of countries other than the United States:
To buy files through the store, a user must install the proprietary digital media player iTunes to access the store. This software is available only for certain versions of the Macintosh or Windows operating systems.
A user must also pay with an iTunes gift card or a credit card with a billing address in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Bulgaria, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, the United States or Vietnam. Apple also offers other payment methods (like PayPal), which differ from country to country. Residents in other countries can only buy a gift card from a merchant or download free podcasts and previews.
The iTunes Store uses Apple's FairPlay digital rights management (DRM) technology. FairPlay is built into the MP4 multimedia file format as an encrypted AAC audio layer, and is used by the company to protect copyrighted works sold through the store, allowing only authorized devices to play the content. The restrictions imposed by FairPlay, mainly limited device compatibility, have sparked criticism, with a lawsuit alleging antitrust violation that was eventually closed in Apple's favor, and various successful efforts to remove the DRM protection from files, with Apple continually updating its software to counteract such projects.
In February 2007, an open letter by Steve Jobs, Apple's then-CEO, discussed the use of DRM on music, raising points about the future of the protection and announcing the company's support for ending the use of DRM. Although the open letter initially caused mixed industry reactions, Apple signed a deal with a major record label the following month to offer iTunes customers a purchase option for a higher-quality, DRM-free version of the label's tracks. In January 2009, Apple signed deals with all major record labels as well as a large number of independent labels to offer all iTunes music in the DRM-free option. This does not apply to songs downloaded while using Apple Music, Apple's subscription-based music streaming service.
On Super Bowl Sunday, February 1, 2004, Apple launched a promotion with Pepsi in which they gave away 100 million songs, through tokens on selected soft drink bottle caps. Unfortunately for Apple, Pepsi failed to properly distribute the bottles to major metropolitan areas until only weeks before the promotion ended, despite a one-month extension of the deadline by Apple. The promotion was repeated beginning January 31, 2005, with 200 million songs available, and an iPod Mini given away every hour.
On July 1, 2004, Apple announced that, starting with the sale of the 95 millionth song, an iPod would be given away to the buyer of each 100 thousandth song, for a total of 50 iPods. The buyer of the 100 millionth song would receive a PowerBook, iPod, and US$10,000 gift certificate to iTunes Music Store.
Ten days later, on July 11, Apple announced that 100 million songs had been sold through iTunes Music Store. The 100 millionth song was titled "Somersault (Dangermouse Remix)" by Zero 7, purchased by Kevin Britten of Hays, Kansas. He then received a phone call from Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who offered his congratulations, as well as a 40 GB 3rd Generation iPod laser-engraved with a message of thanks.
Inspired by Pepsi's marketing success with iTunes giveaways, Coca-Cola partnered with 7-Eleven to give away a free iTunes song with every 32 US fl oz (950 ml). Slurpee frozen beverage until July 31, 2005. Songs could be redeemed until August 31, 2005, by entering a code printed on the Slurpee cup into iTunes Music Store application. Coca-Cola did this in spite of having its own music store, myCokeMusic.com, that competed with iTunes Music Store in Europe. myCokeMusic.com ceased business on July 31, 2006.
On July 5, 2005, Apple announced that they were counting down to half a billion songs. The buyer of every 100 thousandth song up to 500 million would receive an iPod Mini and a 50-song gift card. The grand prize for the person who downloads the 500 millionth song was 10 iPods of their choice, a 10,000-song gift card, 10 50-song gift cards or 4 tickets to the Coldplay world tour. Twelve days later, on July 17, Apple announced that 500 million songs had been sold through iTunes Music Store. The 500 millionth song, purchased by Amy Greer of Lafayette, Indiana, was "Mississippi Girl" by Faith Hill.
On July 28, 2005, Apple and The Gap announced a promotion to award iTunes music downloads to Gap customers who tried on a pair of Gap jeans. From August 8 to 31, 2005, each customer who tried on any pair of Gap jeans could receive a free download for a song of their choice from iTunes Music Store.
On February 7, 2006, Apple announced that they were counting down to the billionth song download and began a promotion similar to the previous 100 million and 500 million countdown. Whoever downloaded the billionth song would receive a 20" iMac, ten 60 GB iPods, and a US$10,000 iTunes Music Card. The billionth song was purchased on February 23, 2006, by Alex Ostrovsky of West Bloomfield, Michigan. The purchased song was "Speed of Sound" as part of Coldplay's X&Y album.
On July 25, 2006, Facebook and iTunes began offering a promotion where members of the Apple Students group would receive a free 25 song sampler each week until September 30 in various music genres. The idea behind the promotion was to get students more familiar and enthusiastic with each service as Autumn classes approached. However, in order to prevent abuse of the promotion, the weekly code that Facebook provided stopped working after it was redeemed one million times. In addition, the promotion caused discontent among international students, as the code was only valid in the US iTunes Music Store.
On April 10, 2009, Apple announced that it will be counting down to the billionth app. Apps being the applications for iPod Touch and iPhone. Launching a counter that is constantly running on Good Friday, Apple starting counting down. Connor Mulcahey, age 13 of Weston, CT, downloaded the billionth app, "Bump" by Bump Technologies, and received a 17" Macbook Pro, a 32GB iPod Touch, a Time Capsule, and a $10,000 Gift Card for the iTunes Store.
On February 11, 2010, Apple announced that it would be counting down to 10 billion songs downloaded. A $10,000 gift card was offered as a prize. On February 24, 2010, the 10 billionth song, "Guess Things Happen That Way" by Johnny Cash, was purchased by Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia.
Currently, iTunes is supported on the macOS (Leopard and above) and Microsoft Windows operating systems. iTunes was known to run passably well in Linux on x86-based computers using the Wine compatibility layer; however, by December 2011, this was no longer the case. Users without iTunes installed can see a content database (but not hear or view the content itself) using the iTunes Preview service, which runs inside their internet browser. This service also allows users to watch trailers for upcoming film releases. Should they choose to purchase any media, they will be redirected to iTunes.
Store pages are delivered using standard HTML with a special header. This change was made when iTunes 9.0 was released. iTunes uses WebKit to render these pages on the screen. These pages are also accessible on the Web, at iTunes.apple.com, allowing pages from the iTunes Store to show up in search engine search results.
Prior to iTunes 9.0, the iTunes Store was delivered using a custom XML format that describes the position of all of the elements, boxes, album art and all of their properties – including whether a reference link can be dragged out of iTunes and into another document.
The store's back-end software uses WebObjects – Apple's own application server it acquired from NeXT. Content is uploaded to iTunes data store using an internal Apple program called iTunes Producer, which automatically encodes and adds metadata to uploaded files.
For three years, The Beatles' record company Apple Records were in a legal dispute, Apple Corps v Apple Computer, with Apple Computer over the name "Apple." On May 8, 2006, a ruling was declared in favor of Apple Computer, but Apple Records said it would appeal the ruling. Despite this, plans were announced by Neil Aspinall in April 2006 to remaster completely and release the entire Beatles catalog on an unspecified online music service, as well as release some previously unheard work by the band. No date was set at that time. It has also been reported that the Beatles' music catalog might initially be appearing on iTunes only, as Apple is reported to be negotiating with Britain's EMI group over an online distribution deal that might be exclusive for a limited time.
During his January 9, 2007 Macworld Keynote address, Apple CEO Steve Jobs used the band's song "Lovely Rita" to introduce the music-playing capabilities of the company's new iPhone. This was regarded by industry observers as further evidence that the Beatles catalog would be introduced to iTunes Music Store catalog in the near future. On February 5, 2007, Apple Corps and Apple Inc. announced they had reached a settlement in their legal dispute.
In a related development, Apple announced on August 14, 2007, that the entire solo catalog of John Lennon would be available on iTunes. The solo catalogs of the other three Beatles, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, are also available on iTunes.
On November 16, 2010, the entire Beatles catalog was officially made available on the iTunes Store.
On June 6, 2006, The Consumer Ombudsmen in Norway, Sweden and Denmark launched a common open letter to Apple regarding the EULA of iTunes through the Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman Bjørn Erik Thon. The iTunes case is based upon an official complaint filed by The Consumer Council of Norway on January 25, 2006.
On January 22, 2007, German and French consumer groups joined forces with Norway and Finland. Their goal is to create a united European front against iTunes (Germany and France have each had their own negotiation process with iTunes). According to the press statement Apple is in favor of this. The key points in the negotiations were:
In 2004, Which? magazine complained to the European Commission about the higher prices in the UK for the same songs sold in other parts of the European Union: typically €0.99 in the rest of the EU and £0.79 in the UK. In 2008, the Commission withdrew its investigation after Apple agreed to end the price disparity.
On July 1, 2007, the New York Times reported that Universal (the world's largest music corporation at the time of writing) would not renew its annual contract to sell music through iTunes. Instead, Universal said that it would market music to Apple at will, allowing it to remove its songs from the iTunes service on short notice if the two sides did not agree on pricing or other terms.
On August 9, 2007, UMG announced a plan to sell some songs in MP3 format, without Digital rights management, through a variety of online services such as Amazon Music and the newly created gBox. While these tracks continue to be available through the iTunes Store, Universal chose to license these songs in DRM-free formats only through other services.
On August 31, 2007, Apple announced that programs on NBC's 2007–08 television schedule would not be available on iTunes. NBC had informed Apple the previous day that it would not be renewing its contract. It was later clarified that this change only applied to series produced by NBC Universal-owned Universal Media Studios, including Universal-produced shows on other networks such as House. NBC programs produced by other studios, such as Chuck (Warner Bros.) and Journeyman (20th Century Fox), would remain available on iTunes.
Apple has publicly asserted that NBC would only renew their contract if Apple agreed to a price increase of US$4.99 per episode, which they did not. NBC disputes that claim, claiming that Apple balked at NBC's request to package shows together and make wholesale pricing more flexible. NBC claims that they never asked to double the wholesale price and insisted that their shows would be sold by the iTunes Store through early December. Other networks who sold their shows via iTunes did not follow suit. On December 1, 2007, NBC shows were pulled from the iTunes Store.
On September 9, 2008, Apple and NBC Universal announced that NBC's TV shows were once again available on the US iTunes Store.
The UK iTunes Store has many shows from NBC available, although they are distributed by Universal Studios. The pricing for these seasons are higher than they were on the US store, an example being, Season 3 of The Office is priced at GB£43.47 (roughly US$72) vs. $52.99 (US Store HD).