Reports are that Apple is moving up its timetable for killing the MP3 download from its iTunes Store to later this year. Originally the company was planning on next year for end-of-life, but have accelerated the schedule thanks to quickly declining sales and the unprecedented growth of music streaming. There has been no official announcement however, and the information came from sources within Apple not allowed to speak publically.
The report states that program termination will come just after the 2018 Christmas season so Apple will still be able to have one last sale to any die-hard download stragglers.
The company also has a strategy to migrate users to a new Apple Music account with a 3 month trial where the user will be able to get the streaming equivalent of their download library, along with any previous playlists. Downloads already purchased will continue to work, but no further download purchases will be able to be made.
Track and album download sales were down by almost 25% last year and are expected to reach 30% next year, so the writing was already on the wall as to the future of the format.
Another reason why Apple wants to get rid of downloads is the fact that iTunes has become bloated and engineers are having a difficult time staying on top of it. Eliminating downloads would go a long way to giving it the streamline that it needs.
It wasn’t that long ago that downloads were still a billion dollar business, but the format has drastically fallen off in the last few years and is headed to the trash heap faster than anyone would have expected. While there’s still a case to be made for hi-res music downloads, that market niche is so small that it’s hardly a blip on the music industry’s bottom line.
While vinyl and cassettes both have had unexpected revivals in recent years, I think it’s safe to say that the MP3 might be one format that will not.