iTunes Smashes Other Online Music Stores, Takes 25% Of All Sales

With all the talk of music piracy clouding the airwaves these days, it's rather refreshing to hear some positive news about music in the digital age. And despite what the RIAA or anyone else may have you believe, music sales are still happening. Just not in the same way that they were when your mother was buying records.

According to a new report, compact discs only accounted for 65% of US music sales in the first half of 2009, while digital downloads are expected to "nearly equal CD sales" by the close of 2010. What's remarkable about this is how quickly the shift in culture has taken place. Generally speaking, it takes quite some time for individuals to stop buying a mainstay and start buying another, particularly when a new technology steps in to confuse those who didn't grow up with a mouse in one handle and a rattle in the other. The research is being put forth by the NPD Group, with one Russ Crupnick even stating that most folks are still "surprised that the CD is still the dominant music delivery format, given the attention to digital music and the shrinking retail footprint for physical products."

Indeed, that's one way to look at things. But another is to be thankful that the digital format is catching on. For years, iTunes and other music services battled the stigma of DRM. Every digital download had some sort of copy protection tacked on, making the files incompatible with certain machines and audio players. Now that the iTunes Music Store sells all of its music with no DRM (meaning that the files can be copied to any music player that reads standard AAC files), there's an even greater chance that adoption will soar in the coming months and years.

The report also notes that "paid digital music downloads accounted for 35% of all music sales in the first six months of the year, up from 20% in 2007 and 30% last year." Just think about it--one out of every three music tracks purchased in America go through some sort of digital sales outlet, not a physical disc. Imagine if someone said that would be the case back in 2000. Would you have laughed them out of the house?

Crazier still is the in-depth research into iTunes. Apple's prevasive music software has obviously taken the world by storm, and it has captured quite the loyal audience. Reportedly, iTunes has made up 25% of all music sales in 1H 2009. Just stop and give that some thought. One in four tracks purchased anywhere (in store or via the Internet) went through iTunes. iTunes is competing with online stores from Microsoft, Rhapsody, Napster and countless mini-stores available on cellphones and smartphones, not to mention oodles of established brick-and-mortar locations. Even still, it has an incredible 25% market share, and with new iPods rumored for September, we suspect that figure will just keep on climbing.

To really put things in perspective, consider this: Walmart--the world's largest retailer--only made up 14% of all music sales, and Best Buy was behind even it. iTunes topples Walmart? What kind of crazy world are we living in? If you want an even wilder statistic (yes, it gets wilder still!), consumer downloads from all of iTunes made up 69% of the digital music market, followed by AmazonMP3 at 8%. We'd say "a distant second" doesn't even do this situation justice.

So, how often do you visit iTunes for your music fix? Are you still one of those folks who can't live without the actual disc?