iTunes music downloads: 10 billion so far

Apple hit an impressive milestone today, selling its 10 billionth song on iTunes.

The iTunes Music Store opened in April 2003, more than two years after the iTunes software itself debuted. Apple hit its 1 billionth song sale in February 2006, followed by the 5 billion download mark in June 2008. Given that the remaining 5 billion downloads took less than two years, it seems that the rate of iTunes downloads is still increasing.

iTunes music downloads: 10 billion so far

As it should. iTunes is by far the leader not just in digital music downloads, but in all music sold in the United States, accounting for a quarter of the market according to The NPD Group. Wal-Mart, the biggest retailer in the United States, only sells 14 percent of all music. With the CD market constantly giving way to digital downloads, it seems likely that the rate of iTunes downloads will only continue to grow.

The success is certainly due in large part to Apple’s iPod, which as of September 2009 had 73.8 percent of the MP3 player market. With the popularity of the iPod Touch and iPhone, it’s even easier to purchase songs through iTunes directly on the device (though it’s also easier to listen to music in other ways, such as Pandora or Slacker Radio).

Tech watchers believe there’s a big change to iTunes brewing at Apple, with the company’s acquisition of streaming and downloadable music service Lala. It’s possible that Apple could overhaul iTunes to include streaming music, and may even use Lala technology for scanning a user’s existing library for access from the cloud. Apple, of course, has said nothing of the sort. I do think the future of music is streaming, especially as the Internet becomes ubiquitous.

For the record, the most popular iTunes song download of all time was the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” followed by Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” and again the Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow” taking bronze. What does it mean that none of those songs appeal to me?