On April 21, 2003 Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at the Moscone Convention center in San Francisco and pronounced a new era for digital music consumption with the release of the iTunes Music Store, saying that other online music services are either illegal or unattractive.
“We were able to negotiate landmark deals with all of the major labels,” he said of the store. “There is no legal alternative that’s worth beans.”
The iTunes Music Store launched with a library of 200,000 tracks, with participation from all five of the major record labels. In addition, the store listed exclusive tracks from 20 artists, including Bob Dylan and U2. The songs cost 99 cents each to download, with no subscription fee, and include the most liberal copying rights of any online service to date.
The Apple CEO pitched the music store as falling between Napster and fee-based services such as Rhapsody and Pressplay. Until it was shut down in 2001, Napster allowed people to download songs at no cost from other PCs connected to the Internet–which, Jobs emphasized, was stealing. Pressplay and Rhapsody allow users to access music for a monthly fee.
The iTunes store allowed users to download their favorite songs or albums with the cover art and booklet. Already well on his way to changing how the world used technology with the Mac computers, the simultaneous release of a newer version of his signature iPod effectively sent the CD player the way of the 8-track. On October 4, 2011, the store served its 16 billionth song.
The first commercial got major cool points for featuring Lil’ Kim, Ziggy Marley, George Clinton, De La Soul and the late Barry White.
Today the store has expanded to sell apps, games, movies, books and anything that can be loaded onto a phone or laptop. It is also considered by some cynics to be the biggest de-facto record label in the world.