Today in Apple history: iTunes hits 10 billion downloads


With iTunes 10 billion downloads milestone, Apple becomes the world's biggest music vendor.
Apple becomes the world's biggest music vendor.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

February 23: Today in Apple history: iTunes hits 10 billion downloads February 23, 2010: The iTunes Store officially passes the 10 billion music downloads mark, reaching a major milestone. The 10 billionth purchase? “Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash.

The buyer of the song in question is Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia. As part of a “Countdown to 10 Billion Songs” promotion by Apple, Sulcer wins a massive $10,000 iTunes Store gift card — and receives a personal phone call from Steve Jobs for good measure!

iTunes hits 10 billion downloads

A father of three and grandfather of nine, Sulcer later told Rolling Stone he was unaware of Apple’s much-publicized competition when he downloaded the track. He bought it for a Johnny Cash mixtape he was making for his son.

When Jobs personally phoned him to say he’d won, Sulcer initially didn’t believe the Apple co-founder was on the other end of line.

“He called me and said, ‘This is Steve Jobs from Apple.’ I said, ‘Yeah right,'” Sulcer told the magazine. “I have a son that loves to play tricks and he does that every now and then — calls me and imitates somebody.”

After questioning the caller’s identity multiple times, Sulcer eventually noticed that the caller ID read “Apple.” Only then did he start to believe the call might be genuine.

iTunes downloads reach record-breaking numbers

February 2010 was a big month for the iTunes Store, which officially became the largest music vendor worldwide.

The 10 billionth iTunes song download wasn’t the first sales landmark Apple celebrated extravagantly for its online music store platform. On December 15, 2003 — about eight months after the iTunes Music Store’s launch — Apple marked its 25 millionth download. The winner that time? A Frank Sinatra cover of the Christmas classic “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

Less than a year later on July 12, 2004, Apple sold its 100 millionth song: Zero 7’s “Somersault (Dangermouse remix),” purchased by Kevin Britten from Hays, Kansas.

Like Sulcer, Britten received a $10,000 iTunes Store gift card and a personal phone call from Jobs. (Britten also won a 17-inch PowerBook.)

Apple clams up about stats

Today, Apple mostly avoids making a big deal out of its sales landmarks. It no longer reports individual iPhone sales. Even when Apple passed the 1 billionth iPhone sold, it did little to commemorate the occasion. (In 2023, Apple mentioned that its user base hit an astonishing 2 billion active devices. But that revelation came in a press release about quarterly earnings.)

The company also seems a bit shy on Apple Watch, Apple Music and other sales fronts. Same goes for viewership numbers for Apple TV+. Apple says it views this information as competitive — and doesn’t want to constantly one-up itself.

Do you remember what your first iTunes song purchase was? Leave your comments below.


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