Today in Apple history: iTunes cracks top 10 on list of US music retailers


What was your first ever iTunes music download?
Photo: Apple

November 22: Today in Apple history: iTunes becomes one of top 10 U.S. music retailers November 22, 2005: Two-and-a-half years after opening its virtual doors, the iTunes Music Store enters the list of top 10 U.S. music retailers.

While iTunes sales numbers can’t yet match the selling power of established retail giants like Walmart, Best Buy and Circuit City (or fellow tech company Amazon), this milestone nonetheless represents big news for Apple — and digital music sales as a whole.

iTunes makes Apple a major player in music biz

The surprising figures came from data-analysis firm The NPD Group. It reported that, in the third quarter of 2005, Apple cracked the list of top U.S. music retailers. While the report gave no exact figures, it confirmed that Apple’s iTunes model was very much in the ascendancy.

The list went like this, with the comparative position for 2004 in parentheses:

1. Walmart (1)
2. Best Buy (2)
3. Target (3)
4. Amazon (4)
5. FYE (10)
6. Circuit City (tied for 5)
7. iTunes (14)
8. Tower Records (tied for 7)
9. Sam Goody (tied for 5)
10. Borders (9)

The news about iTunes sales numbers served as a significant reminder of how quickly Apple carved out a name for itself in this area.

iTunes sales numbers: On the rise

The iTunes Music Store had only debuted a couple of years earlier, on April 28, 2003. At the time, digital music was synonymous with music theft — courtesy of pirate services like Napster that helped make illegal downloads big business. The fact that iTunes downloads were now as profitable as some of the giants that sold music the old-fashioned way came as a big relief to the music industry.

The news didn’t come as a total surprise, though. It was clear virtually from Day 1 that iTunes would be big. By December 15, 2003, Apple celebrated its 25 millionth download. By the following July, Apple sold its 100 millionth song. And iTunes went on to sell millions of music videos and even distribute feature films.

iTunes rises on the music charts

Perhaps more than other industries, the music biz loves charts. Seeing iTunes sales numbers crack the top 10 offered proof positive that Apple had a winner on its hands. In fact, iTunes proved unstoppable during the first decade of the 21st century.

Apple sold songs by the billions. By February 2010, Cupertino had become the single largest music vendor in the world. Meanwhile, some established giants (like Borders Group, ninth on the list here and now defunct) ran into problems.

However, as streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify supplanted digital sales in recent years, iTunes’ days became numbered. Apple finally pulled the plug on iTunes in 2019. With the release of macOS Catalina, Cupertino split up iTunes into three dedicated apps: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts.

Do you remember your first iTunes download? Let us know in the comments below.


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