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iTunes (Music) Store Billion Downloads Visualization

On February 23rd, 2006, Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS, now called the iTunes Store) sold its one billionth song. In the days leading up that event, Apple had a countdown on its webpages, which provided interesting information about the download habits of its customers. This page provides a visualization of the collected data, as well as of data that others collected leading up to the 100 millionth and 500 millionth downloads.

The Display

The initial view is an overview of data from the start of the iTMS in 2003 to the latest milestone of 1.5 billion songs reported on September 12, 2006. The green lines show the rate of sales, the background shows the number of songs sold. This is not very precise of course, because there are so few data points. The blue bars show you the times that more precise information is available (close to the 100, 500, and 1000 million milestones).

When you switch to the detailed view, the graph (in "iTunes green") shows the rate at which songs are sold, in songs/minute. The background pattern color changes whenever a 100,000 mark is reached (at every 100,000, they gave away something). You can see the little spikes when getting close to the 100k, and how often those 100k steps occur in times of high activity. Of course, there is also a spike at the end.

The purplish-gray area in the background shows the absolute number of songs sold. The two scales on the right give you a way of measuring the values of the rate and absolute number, respectively.

What can be seen

There is a very apparent daily pattern. Apparently, most songs are sold in the US, the rate is highest when it is evening or night in the US. Europe and Japan seem to have little influence on that.

There is more activity on the weekends, which does not mean significantly higher sales/minute, but it is stretched out over a much longer time - practically the whole day, but with a very apparent decrease in activity in the early evening on the first sunday (in the Billion/2006 data set).

Times with more activity also show more "hunting" for prizes (spikes), and this seems to be much more prevalent in the US. The final spike was quite a bit smaller in 2006 than expected: in 2005, the final spike was around 150% higher than the highest rate in the week before, while a year later, the rate only went up by about 50%.

That is a questions I also wondered about, and so I contacted Apple. I was told that since the data "is out there", it's fair game for any kind of work like this. That is a very sensible point of view, IMHO.


The following list is mostly taken from Apple's 500 million downloads page (which is not online anymore), with a few additions. This is the basis for the overview in the applet.

  • January 6, 2009. Steve Jobs reports 6 billion song downloads.
  • June 19, 2008. Apple reports 5 billion songs.
  • January 15, 2008. Steve Jobs reports 4 billion songs sold "as of last week."
  • July 31, 2007. Apple reports 3 billion songs sold.
  • January 9, 2007. Jobs reports 2 billion songs sold.
  • September 12, 2006. Steve Jobs reports 1.5 billion songs sold.
  • February 23, 2006. 1 billion songs sold. One notable addition to the list of countries at this point was Japan, and there were a number of sub-sites, like a French and a Dutch site for Belgium. The grand prize at the billion consisted of: a 20" iMac, 10 fifth generation iPods, and a $10,000 Music Card. In addition, Apple established a scholarship to the world-renowned Juilliard School in the name of the winner. For every 100,000th song from 950,100,000 to 99,900,000, a 4GB iPod nano with a $100 iTMS gift card was given away.
  • July 17, 2005. 500 million songs sold. At this point, iTMS was available in 19 countries: US, Austria, Belgium, Canada (excluding the Province of Quebec), Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. The grand prize consisted of 10 iPods, a 10,000 song gift card and 10 50 song gift cards for the iPods, four tickets to see a Coldplay concert in front-row seats plus transportation, and a backstage pass and meet'n'greet with the band. At every 100,000th song from 480,100,000 to 490,900,000, and iPod mini was given away, together with a 50 song gift card.
  • May 10, 2005. 400 million songs sold. iTMS opens in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland
  • January 24, 2005. 250 million songs sold.
  • December 16, 2004. 200 million songs sold.
  • December 2, 2004. iTMS opens in Canada.
  • October 26, 2004. iTMS opens in the European Union.
  • October 14, 2004. 150 million songs sold.
  • July 12, 2004. 100 million songs sold - mostly in the US, the three additional stores had only opened less than a month earlier. The grand prize for the 100 million contest was a 17" PowerBook, a 40GB iPod and a gift certificate for 10,000 iTunes songs. Every 100,000th song from 95,100,000 to 99,900,000, a 20GB iPod was given away.
  • June 15, 2004. iTMS opens in the UK, France, and Germany.
  • April 28, 2004. 70 million songs sold.
  • March 15, 2004. 50 million songs sold.
  • December 15, 2003. 25 million songs sold.
  • October 16, 2003. iTunes available for Windows. 13 million songs sold.
  • September 8, 2003. 10 million songs sold.
  • June 23, 2003. 5 million songs sold.
  • May 14, 2003. 2 million songs sold.
  • May 5, 2003. One million songs sold.
  • April 28, 2003. iTMS launched in United States.

Posted by Robert Kosara on October 2, 2006. Filed under applications.