iPods and iPhones Still Rule the Mobile Listening World of Free Music Listening

iPods and iPhones Still Rule the Mobile Listening World of Free Music Listening

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The online world has reshaped the landscape for getting the music you want.  The days of the packaged media like the CD are numbered.  CD distribution through traditional music stores peaked in 2000 with about $35 billion in sales worldwide but it has tanked since.

Today, those music stores like the mighty Tower Records are almost gone, replaced mostly by your friendly supermarkets like Wall-Mart and Cosco.  You also have Amazon selling them online but now, the landscape has given way to what is called digital downloading of the music you want.  Today, it’s all about the music content, not the media.

What made the music content centric mode of acquisition and purchase are those portable media playback gadgets that have become iconic for the mobile computing crowd – the iPod.  While MP3 players have been around since the late 90s, it was not until 2001 when Apple released its first generation iPods that eventually defined what transcended a mere trend into a pop culture for the new century.

In 2007, Apple once again reshaped mobile gadgetry with the release of the revolutionary iPhone that blended utilitarian mobile phones with the ability to play media files.  It was at this time that Apple decided it was not about to give up its market for mobile music playback to cellphones that offer this feature.

Some General Statistics

Along with the iPod and iPhones, the trend towards music downloads have redefined the way people acquire the music they want to hear.  As of January, Nielsen reports that for the eight straight year in 2009, CD album sales continue to plummet to just 374 million units, down 12.7% from the previous year with a whopping loss of 52% in revenues from its peak in 2000.  Admittedly, CD sales still accounted for 64% of all album purchases to date, but on a total value, it was nowhere near even half of its peak in 2000.

In contrast, digital downloads increased 8.3% for the same period with more than 1.16 billion individual songs downloaded.  In terms of dollar values, digital downloads account for 40% of music purchases. But these are purchased downloads.  The number of online music downloads for free is said to be immensely more than those that have been purchased.

Some of today’s popular iPod models each holds around 1000 songs.  Research reveals that the average iPod contains only about 22 song out of these 1,000 songs or just 3% that have been purchased from iTunes or paid downloading sites.  These are MP3 files with DRM protection.  The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and downloaded from file sharing P2P or torrent sites or paid subscription sites that allow unlimited DRM-free music content downloads. These files are playable on any player that can play the open formats.

It’s almost hard to accept that just 3% of the media content on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods and iPhones, thanks to their purchases in iTunes.   But because 97% of the music content in the average iPod or iPhone are not sourced from the iTunes store, it is clear that iPod and iPhone users are not locked into iTunes and are free to source their MP3 mostly from free download music sites.

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