Somewhere Steve Jobs is smiling: Digital music surpasses CDs

January 9, 2012

More than a decade after Steve Jobs introduced the world to iTunes and the iPod, digital music sales have surpassed physical media. Although the Apple visionary didn’t live to see the day, he certainly foresaw the eventually and played a pivotal role and, in fact, declared way back then that he was out revolutionize music.

For the music industry, 2001 was a banner year, but fruits of the seeds planted then would take years to fully bloom. On January 9, 2001 — 11 years ago today — Apple launched digital jukebox software iTunes and followed up in October with the iPod. Further, music industry lawyers succeeded in shuttering Napster, the peer-to-peer sharing service blamed in large part for killing physical media sales.

It would be another two years before the final and most successful piece of the puzzle, the iTunes Music Store, would launch and that’s the bit, as well as a host of others that followed in its wake, we’re here to talk about now.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reports that digital music sales have surpassed physical media in the US. For the first time, 50.3 percent of all music was purchased as downloads.

The report shows digital album sales passed the 100m mark for the first time in 2011, as London-born Adele dominated the US charts. Individual digital track downloads also set a new record, reaching 1.27bn sales last year – an increase of 100m sales compared to 2010.

Of course, the overwhelming majority of those downloads — more than 70 percent regardless of who’s doing the counting — were purchased via iTunes.

Thereupon, it’s worth mentioning that the music industry recorded growth in full album sales last year for the first time since 2004. Also, the music industry posthumously gave Steve Jobs a Trustees Award Grammy for his role in transforming the business, a role that often had him at odds with those he benefitted.

Funny how all it’s things are turning out right, just like Steve said they would (if only the industry would get their collective heads out of that dark place)…

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