FEATURE

Steve Jobs | 1955 - 2011
How he Revolutionised the Music Industry

In 2001 Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPod and changed the way we listen to and store music. For the first time, music fans had their entire record collections at their fingertips, all hidden away on a slick, portable device that could fit in their pockets.

By 2003 sales of CDs were falling sharply, with file-sharing programs such as Kazaa and Limewire blamed for promoting piracy. The first major legitimate online services, Pressplay and MusicNet, backed by the big record labels, had already launched but with little or no impact. The services were stymied by a lack of big name artists and a poor pricing structure. They were also hamstrung by licensing deals which saw different record labels backing different services. It felt confusing to the consumer who simply wanted a one-stop shop for all his or her music needs.

Apple's approach, as usual, was different. It persuaded all of the major record labels to offer tracks on its iTunes service with a consistent pricing structure. On 28th April 2003 the iTunes Music Store was born with over 200,000 songs available for purchase.

The labels remained paranoid about online music, fearing that even legitimate services would lead to an increase in piracy. But Apple initially offered the iTunes Store to only US owners of its Macintosh computers - who made up a tiny percentage of the PC global market. Record labels may have felt that offering music to such a small market presented fewer risks. Also, it was offering downloads that could only be played on Apple's iPod, adding another layer of protection from piracy.

iTunes proved so successful that Apple was forced to quickly widen the market - offering iTunes and iPods to PC users, dramatically increasing the numbers of potential customers. The record labels too could see it made perfect business sense because after many false starts, iTunes was proving to be the only legitimate service to catch the imagination of the rapidly increasing iPod user base.

Jobs stated at the time "It is the only seamless music experience in the world, combining the three components of the iTunes music player, music store and iPod”.

In April 2008 the iTunes Music Store became the largest music vendor in the US.

During the 2009 Apple Macworld event, Jobs announced that he had finally persuaded the record labels to agree to migrate all music to the DRM-free iTunes Plus format, which enabled iTunes purchased files for the first time to be listened to on non-apple devices. This upset a number of the majors including Sony Music who, despite their initial concerns, eventually and reluctantly agreed due to a fear of being left behind. This further illustrates how powerful Apple had become within the industry. The record labels certainly do not like Apple holding most of the cards. But, as Forrester Research's digital music analyst David Card stated, "If it weren't for Apple, God knows how bad the music industry would be."

In January of 2010, iTunes served its 10 billionth song. During the Apple event held this week Tim Cook announced that iTunes downloads had now exceeded 16 Billion.

And It’s not just the numbers that show the success of iTunes and how it’s changed our musical consumption. The iTunes chart shows which songs are the most popular. It has a huge influence on how the ‘kids’ of today discover and communicate with their friends the kind of music they like. It immediately validates a hit song and that is a very powerful thing in pop culture.

Whether you love or loath the current digital music age you can do nothing but admire the visionary genius of Steve Jobs and his remarkable talent of creating perfectly crafted solutions to problems we never knew we had.

As the world mourns the loss of one of it’s true geniuses, I can’t help but feel that the future just slowed down.

Steve C

Adam Yauch
1964 - 2012

Written by: Phill

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