Update: Apple has rebutted this claim.
Apple is now preparing to completely terminate music download offerings on the iTunes Store, with an aggressive, two-year termination timetable actively being considered and gaining favor. According to sources to Digital Music News with close and active business relationships with Apple, discussions are now focusing “not on if, but when” music downloads should be retired for good.
Part of the debate is that paid music downloads still account for hundreds of millions of dollars, worldwide. According to an estimate revealed by music industry analyst Mark Mulligan at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, iTunes music downloads will still be worth $600 million in 2019, though that is down from peak revenues from $3.9 billion in 2012.
It’ll probably happen, but when? $600 million isn’t chump change, and the costs of maintaining the iTunes Store are spread across the different types of content.
Another wrinkle comes from recording labels themselves, especially independent labels. That group derives significant revenues from music download sales, and is expected to be express significant displeasure against any ‘premature’ shutdown. “It’s the past, not the future, but then you should know how the music business is,” one source noted.
There are labels that don’t allow their music to be streamed. Losing the iTunes Store would have a serious effect on them. Sure, one could say they have to catch up with the times, but it’s their right to be recalcitrant.
In any case, I don’t think this will happen in two years; maybe five, more likely ten.