Like that of Jon Snow, the death of iTunes has been greatly overstated – though admittedly Apple’s music service will be greatly diminished in the future.
Having resuscitated the wheezing music industry when it was first unveiled in 2001, iTunes has been put out to pasture, pushed all the way to the back of the trophy cabinet, handed its carriage clock and thanked for its faithful service over the years. The tech giant has been focused on its Apple Music streaming service since 2015, but kept iTunes around for old time’s sake. Well, now its current form is being consigned to the big tech dustbin in the sky, as a new operating system, macOS Catalina, will introduce a trio of streamlined new apps for music, podcast and TV.
So although it kind of lives on in another form, iTunes as we know it is a thing of the past. Some people are pretty cut up about it. Well, we’re all nostalgic for the noughties, aren’t we? The global recession was but a speck on the horizon and The Strokes were still really good.
It’s certainly true that iTunes, and later the iTunes store (introduced in 2003), were incredibly innovative: while the rest of the music industry kept on whistling a happy tune, kidding itself that people would – surely! – tire of illegally downloading Guns N’ Roses on nasty Napster and start buying CDs again, Apple was busy facing up to the reality of the situation.
And for a while iTunes – and its bedfellow the iPod – was a lot of fun. “Holy shit!” you thought, “I can hold a thousand songs in my pocket!” No more balancing Discman on the school bus to try and prevent it from skipping when you went over a bump. Instead of scanning CD covers into your computer to cultivate a copied CD collection that looked like it had been bought for £13 from Rotherham market, you had to Google an album cover, drag it into iTunes and gaze upon its pixelated mishmash of colours. And then spend hours manually naming song and album titles, which was particularly horrific for Various Artists.
Wait a minute – iTunes was rubbish, wasn’t it?
“Like me, you probably have a hard drive of iTune tracks kicking about in a drawer somewhere, which you’ll literally never listen to ever again and which cost you the price of a small house in Warrington”
iTunes was exciting during its inception, and even beyond its heyday, in the late noughties and early noughteens, when streaming services weren’t widely available on mobiles, so it still seemed novel to be able to buy any music in the world – imagine! – from the safety of your sofa. But the writing was already on the wall when Spotify launched in 2008, and certainly by around 2013/2014, when most people had streaming services at the swipe of their iPhone.
The thing about your collection of songs bought on iTunes was it was essentially pointless the second you signed up to Spotify, so now, like me, you probably have a hard drive kicking about in a drawer somewhere, which you’ll literally never listen to ever again and which cost you the price of a small house in Warrington. To add insult to injury, you famously don’t even actually own them, and instead have bought a limited license to play them. Bruce Willis reportedly considered suing Apple to sign over the rights to his iTunes collection, but then probably remembered that Californian tech companies tend to have deep pockets and changed his mind.
So, no, I won’t miss iTunes and its clunky operating system, the lost hours it caused me, or the embarrassing way it reminds me, whenever I dip into that old hard drive like a man peering into bottom of a deep, fetid and possibly dangerous well, that I once bought an Everything But The Girl album. Instead, like Apple, Spotify and to a lesser extent Tidal, I’ll embrace the future and stream my way to the grave, safe in the knowledge that scanning, downloading, pixels, crappy CD-Rs and enormous, cumbersome MP3 players are a thing of the past – good riddance.
Like most nostalgia, fond reminiscence of iTunes is misplaced. Save your misty eyed memories for the good old Discman and its endearing unreliableness, I say.