Is iTunes the "number one" music retailer?

iTunes is big. But just how big?
iTunes is big. But just how big?

Apple's iTunes is undoutedly a very, very big online music store. But just how big it it? Some of the figures supplied on their recent press releases have raised questions about its claims to being the "number one music retailer in the US."

According to Beta News, the company issued a press release last April 3 in which it claimed to have surpassed Wal-Mart in terms of songs sold to consumers, referring to data from the NPD Group's MusicWatch survey for January and February 2008 to support that contention.

At the time, Apple said iTunes had sold over four billion songs over the past five years from a music catalog which had reached a volume of six million songs, which gave Apple bragging rights to the title of "number one music retailer" in the country.

The article also states that on Friday, June 19, Apple issued another release, again using NPD's statistics for January-February, to characterize iTunes as the "number one music retailer in the US." In this second statement, however, Apple's tally of tunes sold increased by one billion songs to five billion, while the size of its music catalog grew to 8 million tunes. Apple also maintained on June 19 that iTunes customers are now renting and buying in excess of 50,000 movies per day.

The math breaks down like this: If iTunes has indeed sold another 1 billion tunes over the past 75 days, the online music store would have averaged in the neighborhood of 16 million song downloads per day. (Translation: that's a lot of tunes.)

Beta claims that Apple'sfigures in regards to iTunes have sometimes shown discrepancies: In August of 2007, Apple reportedly said it had five million songs in its online catalog. By April of this year, the company had raised this number to 10 million, before lowering it again from that level.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.