Steve Jobs is rolling out upgrade and upgrade and stat after stat at MacWorld, but we are already struck by one: The 4 billion songs sold via iTunes. As impressive as that number sounds, it should be disappointing for Apple and may be encouraging for Amazon, which is trying to break into the digital music business that Apple dominates: Over the last six months, Apple’s music sales are flattening.
At last year’s MacWorld, Jobs said AAPL had sold 2 billion songs, a billion-song increase over the previous year. And at the end of July 2007, the company said it had sold 3 billion songs, meaning it had sold a billion songs in seven months — about twice the rate of the previous year. But the 4 billion Jobs just announced means that iTunes sales have stalled in the past five months.
If you are Amazon, or any of the big music labels that wants AMZN’s non-Apple music store to succeed, you could interpret those stats as heartening: Maybe Amazon is stealing Apple customers with its DRM-free digital downloads. The only stat we’ve seen on Amazon’s store is an early guesstimate from Billboard, which pegged the company’s digital music market share at 3%, just a few months into a soft launch. An alternate, depressing conclusion: If Apple’s sales are flat, that means everyone’s sales are flat, or worse.
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