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Apple’s iTunes Set the Standard in the Music Industry, but Digital Sales Slow, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The sale of downloadable music via the internet and smartphones has grown into an immense business, but it is facing daunting competition from internet-based music services like Pandora and Spotify, as well as from satellite-based radio service SiriusXM which acquired Pandora in 2019.  Nielsen reported that total album-equivalent consumption (which includes album, Track-Equivalent Albums (TEA) and on-demand audio/video Streaming Equivalent Albums (SEA)) sold in the U.S. grew from 678.1 million units during 2019 to 756.8 million in 2020.  However, total digital album consumption decreased 12.5% to 34.4 million units year over year.  On a global scale, total recorded music sales rose from $15.0 billion in 2015 to $21.6 billion in 2020, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).  62.1% of global music sales were digital.  Recording labels and artists are benefitting greatly from the receipt of royalties from services like Pandora.
A big step forward for the music industry came in the form of the groundbreaking iTunes Music Store, a digital service provided by Apple Computer, Inc.  This global service offers single track and album files for download from major music companies.  The music-playing capabilities of the wildly popular iPhone added to the power of Apple’s entertainment empire.  
iTunes, Apple’s online music store, set the standard for ease of use and broad selections of music.  The music companies benefit, receiving about 65% of gross revenue per song).  More importantly, the advent of iTunes was a watershed for the industry, enabling it for the first time to significantly limit music file piracy in a manner that is extremely popular with consumers.  
However, as internet-based music subscription services become more popular, iTunes music downloads are slowing.  Apple acquired Beats, which included Beats Audio hardware and the streaming service Beats Music for $3 billion.  The acquisition helped to fuel the launch of the Apple Music subscription service, a streaming app.  Apple Music is a direct attempt to compete with subscription sites such as Pandora and Spotify. 

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