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Tuesday, July 05, 2005, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Apple begins iTunes countdown to half a billion tunes

Apple today kicked off its countdown to half a billion songs sold on the iTunes Music Store with an online song counter so music fans around the world can participate in the race to purchase and download the 500 millionth song.

As part of the countdown, Apple is giving away an iPod mini and an iTunes gift card for 50 songs to the iTunes customer who purchases the winning song at each 100,000 interval. The person who downloads the 500 millionth song will win the grand prize—10 iPods of their choice to share with family and friends, an iTunes gift card for 10,000 songs and an all-expenses paid trip for four to see Coldplay on their world tour.

Apple today also announced the availability of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “The Long and Winding Road” on the iTunes Music Store. Both songs were recorded live at this past weekend’s Live 8 benefit concerts featuring U2 and Sir Paul McCartney. Proceeds from the sales of these one-time-only performances will benefit debt relief in Africa.

“As we prepare to cross this major milestone of half a billion songs, we want to thank our customers, the artists and the music labels who have helped make iTunes a global success,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of applications. “iTunes continues to be the world’s number one online music store featuring the world’s best digital music including special performances such as the Live 8 concerts.”

The iTunes Music Store features more than 1.5 million songs from the major music companies and over 1,000 independent record labels, 10,000 audiobooks, gift certificates and exclusive music not found anywhere else online.