After years of all-purpose clunkiness, computer crashes, unwanted U2 albums, and the occasional experience of actually listening to and enjoying some music, Apple has confirmed that it’s finally putting its fabled iTunes media program out to pasture. Per Rolling Stone, the company will be replacing the software with a trio of apps allowing users to access their TV, Music, and Podcasts separately, just as they do on the company’s unstoppable killer army of sleekly designed personal devices.
But while we won’t necessarily mourn iTunes—a program that often felt like it was trying to do a million things half-shittily, instead of a handful of things well—it’s worth taking a second to think about how massively the program (and its connected storefront) altered the face of music publishing over the last 20 years. Our younger readers may be baffled by this concept, but once upon a time, the entire sum total of all human musical accomplishment was not available for sale in a single searchable database. (Sure, we had Napster, but good luck getting a decent spread of Weird Al songs off of there without getting stuck with a dozen “hilarious” mis-attributed parody tracks.)
And while that model has been supplanted, to no small extent, by the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple’s own Apple Music, iTunes was an important stepping stone toward a world where digital music was seen as just as lucrative a way to screw artists out of their royalty money than the long-established, more traditional methods. It changed the world, and while you can also say that about polio, it’s still worth noting its passing.