Apple sells 3 billion iTunes songs

If you needed any proof that Steve Jobs is the master of the music business, this is it.

By Farhad Manjoo

Published July 31, 2007 5:19PM (EDT)

Apple announced this morning that it had sold its 3 billionth song on iTunes (for those of you who have trouble doing missing-penny math, the $.99-per-song take on that is $2,970,000,000). As Ars Technica notes, the milestone follows recent news that Apple, which sells about 10 percent of all music in the U.S., is now the third-largest music retailer in the country -- it's ahead of and behind only Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

And Apple, of course, is the only one of those three that makes most of its money from digital files, a sector of the music business that's projected to increase, rather than CDs, which are falling fast.

But hold on, let's get back to math again. What's 3 billion times zero? Oh yeah, it's zero. And that's about how much Apple makes on music. Remember, Apple's deal with the music industry lets the labels keep just about every cent from each track sold; Apple, meanwhile, makes its money -- and loads of it -- from selling iPods (and iPhones).

So the real value here isn't money -- it's power. Three billion downloads only highlights Apple's tremendous power in the industry; a reminder to labels, like Universal, thinking of stepping off the reservation.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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