Apple Said to be Terminating iTunes Music Downloads in Two Years [Update]

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Streaming music has become a big deal, with Apple jumping on the bandwagon last year with Apple Music, but apparently there are some bigger plans in the works.

According to a report published recently by Digital Music News, Apple is currently considering a variety of different plans that, ultimately, see the termination of digital music downloads from its iTunes service. One of those plans could see the end of music downloads in the next two years, which appears to be the most aggressive plan Apple has considered.

Another plan, according to the report, which cites individuals with “close and active business relationships,” suggests Apple is considering terminating music downloads between three and four years from now. While a timeline can’t be pegged down just yet, the report states that Apple is having “not on if, but when” conversations for music downloads from iTunes, putting a sort of inevitability on the whole subject — if the report is true.

That could mean seeing music downloads in iTunes being phased out in waves, based on territories, like in the United States first, and then in other countries later:

“Back to the story, the sources indicated that a range of shutdown timetables are being considered by Apple, though one executive noted that “keeping [iTunes music downloads] running forever isn’t really on the table anymore.” Also under discussion is a plan to “ride the [iTunes music download offering] out for the next 3-4 years, maybe longer,” when paid music downloads are likely to be an afterthought in a streaming-dominated industry. […]

According to one source, an initial shutdown could take place in ‘tier 1’ countries like the United States, UK, and leading countries in Europe and Asia, with ‘tier 2’ and ‘tier 3’ countries experiencing a staggered shutdown in subsequent years.”

iTunes downloads still bring in a ton of money for Apple, in the hundreds of millions, but streaming content continues to steal some of the attention away from owning downloads. To compare, in 2012 iTunes music downloads were worth $3.9 billion for Apple. Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst, says that in 2019 Apple’s iTunes music downloads will be worth $600 million, based on the current trends leaning towards streaming music.

Another reason Apple is said to be considering this move is Apple Music, which, primarily focuses on paid subscriptions to access streaming content from a wide range of artists. As it stands now, the service has garnered 13 million subscribers since launching last year. Even Spotify, one of the most popular streaming services available, saw a shot in the arm for its business after Apple Music launched.

Update: Apple has come forward with a statement to Recode and said that the claims that Apple has plans to terminate iTunes music downloads in two years are “not true.”

[via MacRumors; Digital Music News]