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There is no official wind-down schedule for iTunes music downloads, and while sales are on the decline they're still doing better than expected, Apple's head of internet software and services said in an interview published Tuesday.
"There's no end date, and as a matter of fact, [labels and publishers] should all be surprised and thankful to the results that they're seeing because our music iTunes business is doing very well," Eddy Cue told Billboard. He suggested that the decline is being staunched partly because "a lot" of people are content with downloading music and not veering towards subscriptions.
Another Apple executive, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, said it was "inevitable that downloads will diminish" — much like CD sales crashed in the 2000s — but also argued that there was no reason downloads couldn't co-exist with streaming, in the same way people still buy vinyl.
Recent Digital Music News reports have claimed that Apple is preparing to phase out iTunes downloads in the next few years in favor of Apple Music. Earlier this month the site said that Apple is simply keeping its options open, and rearchitecting iTunes in a way that will let it drop music downloads if sales fall dramatically.
In 2015, streaming revenues surpassed downloads for the first time as people increasingly turned to services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. Apple Music recently hit 15 million paid subscribers, about half of Spotify's, although the latter also has many listeners on its free ad-supported tier.