Buying music is so 2003, Apple wants it to be all about streaming.
The doomsday clock for the iTunes Store has ticked one stage closer to its inevitable end as rumours suggest Apple is planning to get rid of paid iTunes music downloads next year.
According to sources inside the company, as reported by Digital Music News, Apple has locked in a firm date for the store shutdown. It's likely that the store won't close overnight, but Apple is planning to phase the service out starting from 31 March 2019. After that point, buying new music won't be possible, instead, Apple intends to shift focus to its Spotify rival, the Apple Music streaming service.
The March date won't be when services start being pulled. Instead it's when Apple will make its plan public, allowing users to make ample preparations for the service to close. It's believed Apple has no plans to revoke user rights on purchased songs, though, meaning anything you've bought will always work on all Apple devices and iTunes across all versions.
This means any music purchased on iTunes or uploaded from other source, will always work. iTunes Plus downloads and video downloads will also always be playable and you'll still be able to manage your downloaded music collection without issue. In reality, all that's changing is the fact you won't be able to buy any new music digitally from Apple going forward.
Apple had previously denied any plans around possibly killing its service but, as of last month, that changed. Speaking in an interview with the BBC, Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine explained that the store would shut down “when people stop buying.”
Iovine avoided providing a date for the shutdown, but his admission signifies Apple is certainly thinking about it as a prospect. Chances are, the March 2019 announcement window and subsequent tail off is a result of forecasting for where they see iTunes Store sales trending over the next 12 months.
Apple Music may not still be as big as Spotify with its 71 million subscribers, but users of Apple's service are growing. As of Apple's last report, Apple Music has more than 40 million paying users with around another 7 million running through its trial service. By shuttering the iTunes Store, it's likely that more people will finally bite the bullet and opt to sign up for Apple Music to get their fix.
Still, don't expect an official word from Apple on the matter until it's really ready to tell us what's going on. It's very rare Apple actually ever caves to pressure around rumours, so chances are they'll remain tight-lipped on this until March 2019 rolls around.