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Thursday, February 11, 2010, 03:50 pm PT (06:50 pm ET)

iTunes soon to reach milestone of 10 billion songs sold

Apple's iTunes music store will soon reach 10 billion songs sold since its inception in April of 2003, and is marking this accomplishment with a contest rewarding the purchaser of the 10 billionth song a $10,000 iTunes card.

While Apple's iTunes took nearly three years to reach its first billion, it will soon surpass 10 billion songs sold since the online music service was introduced in 2003.

To commemorate this event, Apple has announced a "10 Billion Song Countdown" promotion that will award a $10,000 iTunes gift card to the person who downloads the 10 billionth song.

"iTunes changed the way you buy music, making songs and albums available for download, day or night. Seven years later, we’re about to celebrate our biggest milestone for music, yet — 10 billion songs downloaded," states Apple's website.

Apple celebrated 3 billion songs sold in July of 2007 after four years of sales. Thursday's contest announcement reveals that sales trends since then have greatly increased. iTunes has taken only three years to make its 10 billion song milestone.

Despite this tremendous growth, one music executive revealed Tuesday that digital music sales have slowed in the wake of Apple relaxing pricing rules on iTunes individual songs. Songs were at one point a flat rate of 99 cents a piece. In early 2009, Apple allowed music labels to set prices between $0.69 and $1.29.

Digital album downloads grew 5 percent in December, down from 10 percent in the September quarter and 11 percent in the June quarter. Digital revenue is slowing as well: Warner saw 8 percent growth in the holiday quarter, versus 20 percent a year before.