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iTunes To Offer Unlimited Downloads of Music Purchases?

David Gilbert


iTunes To Offer Unlimited Downloads of Music Purchases?

A cloud-based iTunes service is something that many people have been hoping Apple would implement for some time now, and if reports today are to be believed it may be taking the first step towards such a service.

Bloomberg is quoting not one, not two but three people with “knowledge of the company’s plans” who say that Apple is in discussions with with a number of major record labels to allow unlimited downloads of music purchased on iTunes. This in effect would mean that once a song is purchase by a user in iTunes, they can then download that song to their iPhone, iPad and iPod separately for no extra charge.

As Apple already allows this type of service with its apps in the App Store, it seems logical that it would create a similar system for music. Apple is apparently in discussions with Universal Music, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music and EMI in an attempt to thrash out a deal to suit everyone. Apple currently has 70 percent of the digital download market in the US, but digital music sales worldwide are stagnating and this could be seen as Apple embracing change out of necessity. The move would see iTunes become more attractive to people who may have moved away from it to streaming services such as Spotify or Grooveshark.

The sources quoted by Bloomberg said this service could be rolled out by mid-year and Apple's investment of $1billion in a new data centre in North Carolina for MobileMe and iTunes services should be able to handle the extra pressure.

Source: Bloomberg


March 5, 2011, 12:15 am

wait, what? Apple are only just now allowing you to put the music you've purchased on any and all devices you own? That system has been around for ages: Purchase MP3/FLAC from 7 Digital (for example). Plug in device, drag and drop. Plug in second device, drag and drop. Plug in third device, drag and drop. Copy MP3/FLAC file onto NAS drive. Boot network media player and click play.

I thought the whole point of the DRM-free iTunes music was that could could put it on any of your owned devices without restriction (the real "R" in DRM), how is this any different?

Incidentally, the headline is kinda misleading, implying a flat fee and "all you can eat" style unlimited rather than allowing you to do what you want with the music you've purchased


March 5, 2011, 12:19 am

@ChaosDefinesOrder - my thoughts exactly, look out for my editorial of this very topic tomorrow ;)

Fair point on the headline, it has been adjusted.


March 5, 2011, 12:55 am

Glad to know I'm not the only one! Kinda reminds me of how a "flush headphone jack" was advertised as a brand new feature ;-P

Chris W

March 5, 2011, 1:36 am

Are you seriously saying that currently when you purchase a song from iTunes at the moment you can only put the song on one of your apple devices? I've never purchase a song from Apple, only Apps from the store. If this is true I don't think I ever will unless it changes. Currently I buy CD's instead and convert them to MP3's giving me complete freedom and usually cheaper.


March 5, 2011, 1:40 am

@ChaosDefinesOrder - you can do that already. Plug in your iPod/iPhone/iPad and transfer as much of your iTunes library (purchased and ripped music and video) as you want, no restriction on number of devices at a time. What's new (as I understand it) is you could purchase a track from the iTMS on your computer, then without syncing the device you could download the same track to your iPhone or iPad. Similarly, you could buy on your iPhone and it would (perhaps automatically) appear on your main iTunes library on your computer. Computer gets stolen? No backup (naughty!)? Just redownload all your purchased music and you're good to go, except any music you got from somewhere other than the iTMS, or ripped yourself, but Apple doesn't want you to do that anyway, and this would be a real value add for iTMS.

Wouldn't surprise me if it's extended in future to offer a log-in web interface (knowing Apple, probably requiring a paid subscription with me.com) that lets you stream your purchased iTMS tracks directly from the cloud.

I wonder if Apple ever will open up the iTMS with a Napster/Spotify Premium style subscription streaming service. Would be great as it would doubtless integrate seamlessly with iTunes and iPod/iPhone so unlimited music from the whole iTMS library. That would be pretty awesome and I'd fork out £10 a month for it. Yes you can already do it with Spotify, but it's not quite as seamless, and doesn't work with the Remote app on iPhone, annoyingly.


March 5, 2011, 4:50 am

@John McLean: But online stores like Amazon MP3, 7 Digital and Play Digital already allow you to download your paid music multiple times, so it's still nothing new!


March 5, 2011, 5:18 am

The article is highly misleading, wow... calm down people.

You've always been able to sync the music you buy amongst all (unlimited) your iOS devices and up to 5 computers at a time without paying anything extra, nothing is changing there.

The problem discussed here is that you could only download (from Apple's servers) the purchased music and video content once. It wasn't possible to re-download purchased files, except when in special cases agreed with customer services.

And let's be clear this was something demanded by the music industry, not Apple. Apple already allows it for the apps.


March 5, 2011, 12:21 pm

Whether the restriction was demanded by the music industry or Apple, add me to the list of people who were surprised that you couldn't re-download music you'd already purchased.

I'm not into music, so never downloaded any. Maybe I've been spoilt by Steam, but I just assumed iTunes would be more customer focused.


March 5, 2011, 2:55 pm

That's not true, I don't know about the others you mention but Amazon MP3 for sure doesn't let you download anymore after the short download period expires (unless agreed with their customer services)

@GaryRW Well, if you're buying games and apps you can re-donwload them on iTunes like you do on Steam.


March 5, 2011, 2:58 pm

I think the point is that you won't need to sync your device anymore. The music ecosystem would work like the games ecosystem Steam. You can download entire games to any pc or mac without extra charge. Currently with music, regardless of service, they only let you download it once. If you lose it without a backup, then it's gone.


March 5, 2011, 3:39 pm

@ChaosDefinesOrder: Misleading comment, Amazon MP3 does NOT let you download more than once.


March 5, 2011, 5:18 pm

@ChaosDefinesOrder - not saying it's anything new, I was just correcting you on the point regarding syncing with multiple devices. As Gk.pm says this article is hugely misleading.

Also I haven't used 7Digital or Play, but Amazon MP3 definitely does NOT let you download purchased music multiple times, unless they have changed their policy. Of course as it's DRM-free MP3 you can put it on as many devices as you want, but if your hard drive fails and you don't have a backup, there is no facility to re-download purchased tracks. If iTunes does it with the iTMS, hopefully Amazon and others will follow suit. It seems pretty unreasonable to me not to let people re-download stuff they've paid for.


March 5, 2011, 6:11 pm

So much iOS hating and misinformation this week!

My wife and I happily share iTunes-purchased music and apps between our iPhones. iTunes offers a big pool of our common media and apps without any silly restrictions that get in the way of our iOS use. The 5 PC/Mac limit for your music library is something different altogether and this claus was a contributing factor in Apple being the first to allow us 79p downloads of individual tracks back in the day.

It's painless, it works and it means we don't have to mess around with multiple accounts.


March 5, 2011, 9:06 pm

@All, ok I've only used Amazon MP3 once for one song so hadn't had as much experience with the "return download", but I've used 7 Digital's "Digital Locker" a few times to re-download tracks again, and Play Digital let me download as many times as I wanted. Have just confirmed this right now by re-downloading a couple of tracks I purchased on 14/08/2009 and there was no issue!


March 5, 2011, 10:40 pm

I'm still not sure about 7Digital as they are very unclear about re-downloading (they just say to contact customer services) but Play Digital definitely also limits the number of re-downloads. From Play's MP3 Downloads FAQ:

"Can I re-download my purchases?
For each track or album purchased through PlayDigital, there is a set limit to the number of times you can re-download the file. This may vary by title as the record label sets the re-download limit."

So it appears no one really allows unlimited re-downloads yet.


March 7, 2011, 2:16 pm

Count me as one of those people who has defected from itunes to Spotify Premium, and I really haven't looked back.

Arctic Fox

March 7, 2011, 2:35 pm


"Count me as one of those people who has defected from itunes to Spotify Premium, and I really haven't looked back."

Me too. Its been a very long time since I have allowed iTunes near any system of mine. I like Spotify premium, its a decent good value service and the local install is very easy to use to coordinate all my locally saved MP3s etc. as well as the cached offline tracks from Spotify itself.

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