March 15, 2004: The iTunes Music Store hits a musical milestone, having sold an astonishing 50 million songs in less than a year. The achievement cements Apple’s place at the center of the rapidly changing music business — at least for the moment.
“Crossing 50 million songs is a major milestone for iTunes and the emerging digital music era,” Steve Jobs said in a statement. “With over 50 million songs already downloaded and an additional 2.5 million songs being downloaded every week, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine others ever catching up with iTunes.”
Apple takes the music business by storm
While the 2004 numbers proved undoubtedly impressive, today Apple has sold close to 50 billion songs through iTunes. The company even stopped announcing the new landmark sales levels it hits. In other words, Apple was just getting started.
At the time, Jobs (for once) downplayed the speed at which iTunes was taking over the music industry. However, he was being totally accurate about how far ahead of the rest of the competition Apple was. Just a few months later, Apple smashed through the 100-million-song barrier.
Within five years of opening its virtual doors on April 28, 2003, Apple became the biggest music vendor (not just online) in the United States. It grew to the largest worldwide by February 2010.
Apple squanders its early lead?
Ultimately, it took the surge of streaming services like Spotify for Apple to lose its position as the clear marketplace leader. As of December 31, 2019, Spotify leads the streaming pack with 271 million active and 124 million paid subscribers. The last time Cupertino released subscriber figures, it reported upward of 60 million Apple Music subscribers worldwide. Music downloads, by comparison, pretty much died.
Still, milestones like the one celebrated today are always fun to look back on. They remind us of how much further Apple had to climb at the time.
Do you remember what your first iTunes song download was? Leave your memories and assorted recollections below.