Sonos, Spotify and the Tenth Anniversary of the iTunes Store: Part 1
April 28, 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of Apple’s opening of the iTunes Store. iTunes is now the most popular music vendor in the world, having sold 25 billion songs. The Store’s anniversary caused me to take another look at the role of convenience in the development of formats for recorded music, a topic I have written about in my Saporta Report blogs. I contend that iTunes succeeded because the iTunes system provided a convenient way of organizing and storing digital music, the iTunes Store provided a convenient way to buy digital music and the iPod (and later the iPhone) provided a convenient way to play digital music.
For me the discussion begins in the 1960s, when vinyl ruled in two formats, LPs and 45s. Hobbyists desiring to reproduce recordings used reel-to-reel tapes. In response to a desire for a more portable (albeit lower fidelity) format, 8 Tracks and cassette tapes were developed. Their portability and stability made it possible to include tape players in car stereo systems. At the time (and for decades to come), sound quality generally eclipsed video quality. Almost everyone had good stereos. Older audiophile quality stereos still sound good, but try looking at a CRT television from the 60s or 70s. Until MP3 players dominated the scene, listening to music was often a communal experience. Music filled the room, a product of elaborate stereo systems in huge racks accommodating a turntable, preamp, amp, tuner, tape player and even equalizer. And the speakers were often huge as well. It was easier to listen to the stereo than watch TV, given that screen quality and size were lacking.