When it was first introduced, iTunes seemed to be the most logical answer to the heated controversy caused by widespread online illegal music downloads. According to NPD estimates, iTunes is currently responsible for 63 percent of all digital music sales, and is undeniably the United States' top music retailer.
But how did this music purchasing model become so widely accepted by music lovers? Some of the success can be pinpointed to the standardization of the 99-cent singles model: music shoppers no longer have to buy the whole album in order to listen to the tracks they like. This practice had mixed results, however, as music sales are no longer as strong as they were in the past.
NPD analyst Russ Crupnick notes that musicians will increasingly have to rely on touring, merchandise sales, and endorsement deals to make up for lost album sales. The effect of iTunes' model, in this case, certainly seems to be a double-edged sword. The music industry has recuperated some of the billions of dollars it lost in illegal downloads, but it's still not making as much money as it did in those bygone days when people only had the choice of buying CDs.
Something that few people can argue about, ultimately, is the convenience of iTunes for iPhone users. Before long commutes, it's hard to resist downloading one of your favorite songs at such a cheap price. But the question of whether this will be good for the music industry as a whole will probably continue to be debated for years to come. Currently, the streaming subscription model—a model that allows a customer to pay a subscription price to have access to the product/service—is providing Apple with a new challenge to catch up to, and we can only guess what practices they're going to adopt to keep in step with the ever-changing technological climate.