It’s called the iTunes Music Store, a new digital service for Mac users offering songs from all five major music companies–Universal, Warner, EMI, Sony, and BMG. Though Apple had yet to sell a single song Jobs is already causing a stir in the record business.
The real buzz in the music trade is that Steve has just created what is easily the most promising legal digital music service on the market. “I think it’s going to be amazing,” says Roger Ames, CEO of the Warner Music Group.
Jobs, not surprisingly, is even more effusive. He claims his digital store will forever change not only how music is sold and distributed but also the way artists release and market songs and how they are bought and used by fans.
One thing’s for sure: If ever there was an industry in need of transformation, it’s the music business. U.S. music sales plunged 8.2% last year, largely because songs are being distributed free on the Internet through illicit file-sharing destinations like KaZaA. Unlike Napster, KaZaA and its brethren have no central servers, making them tougher for the industry to shut down. The majors have tried to come up with legal alternatives. But none of those ventures have taken off because they are too pricey and user-hostile.
The iTunes Music Store, by contrast, is as simple and straightforward as anything Jobs has ever produced. Apple users get to the store by clicking a button on the iTunes 4 jukebox, available for download when the service made its debut on April 28. You can listen to a 30-second preview of any song and then, with one click, buy a high-quality audio copy for 99 cents.
There’s no monthly subscription fee, and consumers have virtually unfettered ownership of the music they download. Jobs is rolling out the iTunes store with previously unreleased material by artists including Bob Dylan, U2, Missy Elliott, and Sheryl Crow. There will be music from bands like the Eagles, who have never before allowed their songs to be sold by a legal digital music service. And Jobs is personally lobbying other big-name holdouts, like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, to come aboard.