iTunes and the Future of Downloads – Podcast Episode #25

Comments: 52

smashed iphone

Episode #25 of the Music Marketing Manifesto Podcast marks the beginning of a  a bit of a “reboot” for the show. The format is changing, and episodes will be released far more frequently.

In this episode we discuss iTunes and the future of downloads. It’s been rumored for some time now that iTunes would be phasing out the sale of downloads in favor of streaming. This was recently confirmed by apple exec, Jimmy Iovene, in an interview with the BBC.

This has many musicians wondering what this will mean for their careers going forward…

As someone who believes that independent musicians need to embrace a sales driven model rather than a streaming model, I certainly have an opinion about what this development means. It may not be what you think…

In this episode we’ll discuss the end of downloads on iTunes and the impact it will have on independent artists who are embracing the Direct To Fan marketing model.

To listen to the interview just go to iTunes >> Search “Music Marketing Manifesto” >> and subscribe. The episode should start to download immediately. You can also click here to find the MMM podcast on iTunes.

You can also listen (or download) right here on the site. Just click the play/download button below. (Note*** For more player controls please listen in iTunes)

If you enjoy this episode then please do me a favor and go to iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, and click “subscribe” and leave a review. Those ratings and reviews are vital to the success of the podcast. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

And as always, please leave any thoughts, opinions, or feedback in the comments below.


  • Scott says:

    Hey John, great podcast.. looks like lamestream artists will make even less! With people being conditioned to pay even less for more ($8 a month with Amazon Echo) artists need services like yours more than ever. Indies will need to be even more creative, build value and be methodical to make sales. I like your Indie download app idea and agree about the Patron thing. Looking forward to using your methods more for my new brand. I think I still have 2.0!

  • Badge says:

    Hi John. I have used this technique for a while now. I have a few songs on the streaming sites and use those as a snapshot of the band, almost as a calling card. You can buy the full digital albums but not stream them. I don’t think I’m active enough with releases to expect more fans so I’ve not made hard copies. I have very few listeners and fans but I suppose I am doing it for love really. Without streaming I feel would be almost impossible for people to find us, it seems to be a double edge sword streaming.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Badge, I hear where you’re coming from. The reality is that you’re right… If you are not actively building a fan base through marketing and promotion then the only way people will find you is with streaming. But as you also point out, that alone doesn’t get very far. I think if you are just doing it for the love of music then there is nothing wrong with embracing streaming wholeheartedly. But if you are a musician who is not yet a successful regional act and you hope to generate income, I think it will be very difficult without a sales driven model. Just to re-stress what I am saying in the podcast… I am not saying that streaming does not have it’s place. I am saying that a sales driven model will be far more profitable for the average independent musician, and if you release an entire album to the streaming platforms then there will be little incentive to buy it. But this doesn’t mean you can’t release a few tracks from each album to the streaming platforms to get the best of both worlds.

  • Chrisjenkins says:

    That was a show, makes me feel good to know that the music I’m about to release still has a chance!!!

  • The Dude says:

    Apple isn’t going to stop selling downloads any time soon.

    Iovine actually answered a question about whether downloads would ever go away.

    “If I’m honest, it’s when people stop buying”

    Apple sells a LOT of downloads

  • Mark Dale says:

    Hey John, So many valid points in the podcast. I’m developing a music platform that does fit with what you say, about the musician being able to earn from a sale and a membership, not just streaming. I think one of the challenges to indie musicians today as well is the overwhelming number of ways to market and promote their music, all of which take time to learn and use effectively. Peer and fan support will again start to play a bigger part for many, in the next few years I think. Keep the info and the music flowing.

  • Bruce says:

    Hi John-thanks for the heads up on iTunes going to streaming. I stopped using iTunes for my music sometime ago after adopting your model of marketing. Recently my writing partner and I have decided to go one step further. We only releasing our music on vinyl (or digitally from our on line store) which will be available from us via FEDX ore something similar.The CD is officially dead more or less as vinyl has eclipsed it in sales. Of course vinyl is more expensive to manufacture but it has a certain niche appeal which we are hoping will be to our benefit.
    Recently we went to a local LP sale and the room was full of millennials and older people scooping up 60’s and 70’s artists. There isn’t a lot of current music avaliable on this format. We bought a good turn table and stereo system and have ourselves re-familiarized ourselves to the pleasures associated with the vinyl experience. We know its a lot shot but I think we will enjoy being able to have our material presented in the larger LP album format and the unique sound of vinyl

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Bruce,

      I like it. I am personally a big fan of the membership (or Patreon-style) model, but I also like the idea of incorporating physical releases as well. A membership model plus vinyl-only for physical is a great idea. I might do this on my next release as well. Good stuff.

    • Scott says:

      Vinyl, good idea, although I’m not sure the CD is altogether dead I might offer vinyl too on my next release. Offering a menu of purchase options can only help sales. Speaking of, I found a cool new Zep-like Indie band called Greta Van Fleet. They have a great presence on You Tube but really missed the boat on monetizing. I spent several hours listening and watching them on You Tube. Had they had a link to a download or CD probably would have dropped 15 bucks on them without blinking. 10X what they would make on a stream service.

  • Hi John,

    I just did a search and couldn’t find any recent news articles about this rumor. There are a few dating from 2016 where Apple says it’s false. Do you have a link or source? Thanks!


  • Donny says:

    Heya John id there going to be a 5.0 soon? only asking cause i.m on 2.0 and that is no longer available I see in the members area, so I am looking to upgrade in near future but don’t want to fool out extra cash if there is a new one coming.

    thanks mate for all the advice you give


    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Donny,

      There is nothing on the books for a 5.0 right now, but it will likely happen at some point down the road. Not any sooner than next year though. 4.0 is fairly new and very current. And whenever I do release a new version I always give a free upgrade to anyone who has purchased within 90 days. But 4.0 will be the standard for some time.

  • David Lugo says:

    Will artists, musicians, songwriters,publishing and record companies make more money from these changes?

    • John Oszajca says:

      That’s a good question. In my opinion it really all depends on how individual artists and companies embrace the changes. I’m sure many will and many won’t. For me, and as I mention in the podcast, I think this could make it easier for independent artists because it will force more musicians (and therefore consumers) to understand the difference between mainstream models and independent models. While mainstream artists will continue embracing streaming, independent will perhaps evolve to mean that the music is not available for streaming and consumers will, once more, become comfortable paying for it. But how the dust will settle exactly still remains to be seen.

  • Loving this. Thank you for helping me feel less discouraged as a musician. So there is hope in continuing to record actual hard copy cd’s for my dedicated fans?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Glad you enjoyed the episode Kelli.

      I certainly think so. But I think the medium is less important. I don’t necessarily think that physical albums are going to gain any new popularity, but I do think consumers will continue being willing to pay for independent music. Whether that be physical or digital. I see a future where independent artists are generating the majority of their income through subscriptions to Patreon-like services. But streaming will play a part for many. Most independents are not able to generate the volume of streams needed to make any real income. But many of those same artists do have a loyal enough fan base to make a significant amount of money through direct sales. It’s just a matter of embracing what makes the most sense.

  • donaldo says:

    excellent podcast and topic on the evolution of music consumption. driven by the c21 digital product consumer rental v purchase i.e. the stream of a track v the purchase of a track.

    re: musicians getting paid for work – as I recently pinged John there is a new music business model on the horizon block-chain powered music platforms using musicblockchain tech.

    kind regards

  • Really enjoyed listening to this podcast, John. Great thoughts and great encouragement for us indies. Cheers, Julian

  • This is great. I’ve been putting this off for a few years now… it’s time to get on board with you John.

  • Ozem Goldwire says:

    To Ben –
    I am sorry for being critical on this subject as well as your comment, but it is good for us to know about new forms of marketing with the direct to fan approach and building an audience. They are very important. We all know that there are various forms of bartering to keep this world around for survival, you know what I mean?
    Anyways, take good care. 😉

  • Ben says:

    Thank you for replying John. A middle ground like you were suggesting makes a lot of sense, and I can see the value in that

  • Ozem Goldwire says:

    Nothing in this world is free. You have to work to earn something, not to earn nothing. If a musician is spending money, more or less, on studio equipment to make a good recording of an album or single and giving music away for free and not getting a return on investment for one’s own hard work, he or she is doing oneself a disservice.
    Also, nothing in this world is special; it is what it is in life. You put something in what you get out of. This applies to me, musicians, pessimists/naysayers, and everybody! 😉
    Good job on your podcast, John. Do not let the negative types tell you otherwise; they just don’t understand.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Ozem. All perspectives are welcome. The differing opinions don’t bother me at all. Streaming is a touchy topic among us musicians 🙂

    • Ozem Goldwire says:

      One more thing, how do you suppose to support yourself financially when you think that selling your greatest work to your fans is unethical? It is like you devaluing yourself pretty much. What could be your worth of?
      These are my words in regards to Ben’s comments.
      Take good care, everybody! 😉

  • Weston Brown says:

    In regards to what Ben is saying, all I have to say is WOW. You are saying it is unethical for people to buy music? Maybe we should just not create it at all then. My take on it is that if you don’t want your music streamed, don’t put it on streaming sites. Then people will have no choice but to buy your music if they want to own it. Is that unethical now??? Music takes a lot of energy to create, and we’ve spent years perfecting our craft and becoming skilled musicians. Anyone who thinks the purchase of digital downloads being unethical is far off base… Thanks to this new recent development, it’s just going to get people to believe even more deeply that music isn’t worth buying. Thanks ITunes for your support in musicians! I know I will never again use CD Baby for album distribution. I’ll just create awareness myself of my own music through YouTube, paid advertising, and sell it exclusively on CD Baby.

    • John Oszajca says:

      We’re on the same page Weston. Only difference for me is that I still absolutely see the value in services like CD Baby for distribution. I will just be a lot more discerning about which distribution options I select. Thanks for the comment.

      • Ben says:

        I think you guys are missing the point of what I was trying to say.

        In the past it was necessary for someone to buy a tape, a vinyl, or a cd, in order to listen to an album. It wasn’t so much the audio people were paying for, but the ability to listen to the audio on a specific format or device

        Now days it is completely un nessessary for someone to have to buy something to listen to your album.

        Usually when someone buys a digital download on iTunes they are doing it to “support the artist”, not because it is necessary to buy it to listen to it.

        People still want to support the artists they love… Why not let them do it in a more meaningful way that fosters greater connection… Something like supporting an artist on patreon, and getting exclusive perks or behind the scenes access?

        The intrinsic value of music hasn’t changed, but the medium and formats people consume it through has. So why not focus on giving your fans what they actually want? Rather then making them do something un necessary?

        There are a lot of other ways to make money as a music artist in the direct to fan space… Crowdfunding, Merch, branding, licensing…

        • John Oszajca says:

          I don’t agree that the physical medium is what people were paying for. They were paying the artist for their work, and for their right to consume the music.

          This is one of the reasons that digital downloads are less expensive than physical albums. The price of the medium (and then some) is removed.

          Most artists are very frustrated with the move to streaming because, for the most part, it’s bad for artists. However, it is good for the consumer and so it’s here to stay.

          But if we recognize that the reason fans consume independent music is very different from the reason people consume mainstream music, then we can embrace a different marketing model and leverage the bond we create with our (much smaller) audience and still find ways to make a reasonable income from our music. Unless you experience a fairly extreme number of streams (not the norm for most independent artists) you just can’t make the kind of money you need to make without direct sales being part of the model.

          But as I say in the podcast, this move only helps us as far as I’m concerned. It further defines the difference between mainstream and independent music.

          That’s my two sense anyway.

  • Robin Schell says:

    A quick question: Is there any credible evidence that anyone actually discovers a new artist on the streaming services, and if so does that tend to translate to sales?

    Fans and people in my perifery have put forth the notion (that people discover new music on these services) but I’d like to see real case studies. My take on it thusfar is that even if someone does discover you on a streaming platform they’re very unlikely to be the kind of person that will then go buy a CD or a paid download etc. So I can’t see how it does anything positive and this latest podcast appears to pretty much support my position.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Robin,

      I can’t offer up any evidence, but I’m certain that people do discover music through the streaming platforms. However, I agree with your skepticism about how often that leads to any direct sales or crowd funding donations.

      The biggest reason for this is that the format is not conducive to establishing any kind of bond between artist and fan. That bond is required if an artist is truly going to establish a fan base. This is why I think the direct to fan marketing funnel is so essential for independent artists, who can’t afford to create that bond with very expensive branding and media campaigns.

  • Ben says:

    John, I disagree with your take. I will go so far as to say I believe in this day and age it is unethical to want to sell someone a digital download, when you could let them stream for free.

    Why would you want to tell your fan they have to pay to download a file on their device to listen to your album, when you could easily let them stream it and at no cost to you? There is absolutely no point in digital downloads anymore unless you are going somewhere you won’t have Internet access.

    Why not, let fans stream your music, but instead of selling them your music, sell them on supporting you, on a platform such as patreon? Give them something special, for supporting you or donating? Or sell them Merch, through a print on demand site?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Ben, all opinions are certainly welcome, but we’re just going to have to disagree on this one.

      The idea that selling ones music could in anyway be unethical is sort of preposterous to me. We have put time, energy, and money into our music and we can sell it in anyway that we want. Fans can choose to consumer it in any way that they want.

      You say “Why would you want to tell your fan they have to pay to download a file on their device to listen to your album, when you could easily let them stream it and at no cost to you?”… At no cost to me? Even on the cheap, a good quality track is usually running at least $1000 per song. Often more than $10,000 a song. Streaming has it’s place, and consumers like it. We need to pay attention to that. But we also need to make sure we have a business model that makes sense. If we give all of our music away for free, then most independent artists simply won’t be able to make enough to survive. Some will, but most won’t.

      You also ask “Why not, let fans stream your music, but instead of selling them your music, sell them on supporting you, on a platform such as Patreon? Give them something special, for supporting you or donating? Or sell them Merch, through a print on demand site?”

      If you remove the music from the Patreon-style/membership model then you will get far less support. I’m not sure if you actually listened to the podcast, but in the podcast I layout a scenario similar to what you are suggesting. The only difference being that I believe that a smaller portion of one’s music should live on the streaming platforms and the “premium” content should live in a private members area/app that fans pay money to get access to.

      But whether it’s through album sales, or a Patreon-style model, the fact still remains that if an artist has a small but engaged audience (and they don’t make their music available on the streaming platforms) they will still sell thousands of albums. Just 4000 albums selling at full price is enough to support most independent solo artists. Even less if you add a few additional promotions into the mix.

      Bottom line, direct to consumer sales will always be a part of the music business whether iTunes continues doing so or not.

    • Scott says:

      Sell them on supporting you… I agree with all the merch suggestions, but then what’s the difference if you sell them a CD, digital download or vinyl as well? What’s unethical is that musicians are making less and being ripped off. “Support” should be the best way of exchanging fair value.

  • Howdy John, great stuff as usual 🙂

    I´m sure it would be good for you to add some sharing buttons to your posts, for sharing them on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

    Kind regards and a warm hug 🙂

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks for the heads up Daniel. Somehow the sharing plugin must have gotten turned off when I was doing some work on the site recently. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Back on now 🙂

  • Chris Goslow says:

    Great to hear the podcast, John! I’ve been out of the loop for a little while, but I used your principles and the sales page technique to earn over $1000 in CD and download sales when I released my new piano album last December. I love the message here… don’t worry about Apple, keep doing what is working, it’s all about direct connection with fans (“friends,” really, as in people you make into your friends by connecting with them through your marketing)

  • I hate this model of exploitation and the need musicians feel to be part of this oppressive situation.
    personally, i make 100,000% more for an album sale by independent means than i do from streaming which also relies on questionable advertising methods.
    I expect this comment will not be allowed, which would cement my opinion further. Maybe i am wrong ?

  • Sarah Thygpen says:

    Thanks for your insight into this. Really glad to hear we have more podcasts to look forward to. The MMM podcast is my favorite music business/marketing podcast so keem’m coming 🙂

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