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Apple changed music forever 20-years ago today

The iTunes Music Store was announced by Steve Jobs 20-years ago today, on April 28 2003, changing the face of the way we consume music forever.

The launch of the digital music store as part of iTunes 4 was designed to sync purchases perfectly with the iPod music player, enabling songs to be bought for just 99 cents each.

Previously, most iPod users had been filling up their MP3 players by burning their CD collection onto their computer’s hard drive, or by downloading songs illegally through peer-to-peer file sharing sites.

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The store arrived with 200,000 songs which could be purchased individually or part of an album or compilation. That switch changed the paradigm somewhat as previously songs that weren’t released as CD singles were only available on the album.

Apple also offered a 30-second preview of all songs and, after the purchase, the ability to burn unlimited CDs, use the music in iMovie and iPhoto and sync the songs to an unlimited number of iPods.

The store was pitched as a happy middle ground between embracing the digital music revolution and compensating artists while attempting to make piracy less attractive to MP3 player owners.

“The iTunes Music Store offers the revolutionary rights to burn an unlimited number of CDs for personal use and to put music on an unlimited number of iPods for on-the-go listening,” said the late Steve Jobs, then Apple’s CEO, in a press release. “Consumers don’t want to be treated like criminals and artists don’t want their valuable work stolen. The iTunes Music Store offers a groundbreaking solution for both.”

Initially, Apple launched the store for Mac computers only with Windows users gaining access six months later in October 2023. Apple said the files matched CD-quality with its AAC audio format at 128 kilobits per second, while also offering superior quality to MP3 files of the same size.

The iTunes Music Store launched with 200,000 songs and was the precursor to the Apple Music streaming service (of course via Spotify) which now has access to over 100 million songs for an all-you-can consume £10.99 a month with lossless and spatial audio available. We’ve come a long way… and vinyl is more popular than ever.

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