iTunes Fans Share Their Fondest Memories Apple announced it will not offer iTunes in its new operating system. Amy Wang of Rolling Stone explains why iTunes "completely changed the way that people buy and listen to music."
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Remembering iTunes' Cultural Significance

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Remembering iTunes' Cultural Significance

Remembering iTunes' Cultural Significance

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Nearly two decades ago, Apple announced a new jukebox software. It was called iTunes. And today Apple has announced that in its new operating system, iTunes is going away to be replaced by another music app. In Rolling Stone, Amy Wang writes a "Farewell To A Clunky But World-Shattering Icon." And she joins us now for a remembrance. Hi, Amy.

AMY WANG: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: World-shattering is a very strong phrase. So when iTunes debuted in 2001, how did it revolutionize the music industry?

WANG: It completely changed the way that people buy and listen to music, right? And of course you have to factor in that before iTunes, there was also a brief era where the music industry was terrified that people were just going to download things illegally and pirate music...

SHAPIRO: The Napster era.

WANG: ...For the rest of their lives.


WANG: Exactly. And so iTunes came in and sort of did two things at once. It moved the model from retail stores onto the Web, and it also sort of helped ease those fears that Napster would take over.

SHAPIRO: OK, so I asked people on Twitter for their iTunes memories. And someone named Monica Bisha said, that first time I realized I no longer needed to put 10 CDs in my backpack to get work done at the library. It was amazing.

WANG: Yeah, I mean, to kids today the image of fitting 10 CDs into one thing is just unspeakable.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Right.

WANG: That's, like, so uncool.

SHAPIRO: Do you remember the first music you bought on iTunes?

WANG: I think it was probably something, you know, embarrassing now, like The Killers' single or something.

SHAPIRO: Oh, of course - coming out of my...


SHAPIRO: That one?

WANG: Yeah, definitely.


THE KILLERS: (Singing) ...And I've been doing just fine. Gotta gotta be down because I want it all. It started out with a kiss...

SHAPIRO: OK, when I asked on Twitter for memories, somebody named Byungho Park brought up a big moment in 2010 when, finally, the Beatles' catalog was available on iTunes, after they had held out for almost a decade.


THE BEATLES: (Singing) Here comes the sun, do do do do...

SHAPIRO: It seemed to acknowledge the inevitability of this platform, right?

WANG: Yeah, absolutely. If you think of the Beatles as the sort of, like, cultural indicator of anything, whatever they say is kind of, like, the gold standard for the industry.


THE BEATLES: (Singing) Here comes the sun. And I say it's all right.

SHAPIRO: Someone named Luke Vargas wrote on Twitter, iTunes debuted when I was in sixth grade. Macs sold that year featured some preloaded songs to showcase iTunes, including "Love Shack" by the B-52's.


B-52'S: (Singing) ...Says 15 miles to the...

Love shack.

SHAPIRO: He says, the song still grates on me, but it will forever be my first digital audio experience.

WANG: (Laughter). iTunes came out when the iPod came out, too. Those two things were in tandem. And to this day, I know people who still say, you know, that's the iPod song - because they remember it so vividly.


B-52'S: (Singing) The love shack is a little old place where we can get together.

SHAPIRO: It feels to me like as we go from purchasing physical things, like CDs, to purchasing MP3s on iTunes to now just streaming, the connection to the music we listen to has become weaker.

WANG: That's so true. You essentially lease music instead of buying it. So that's the hypothesis for why live events are growing so much. And people want to go to concerts and festivals more than ever because if you can stream things so easily and so openly every day, then you want to crave that emotional connection to an artist that you can get maybe in person or via some other means rather than just buying their music.

SHAPIRO: Is there a song from the iTunes era you'd like us to go out on?

WANG: I think what comes to mind is that Feist song, "1234."


WANG: You know what I'm talking about? Yeah.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Yes, I totally do.

WANG: The iconic, like, person bobbing along to an iPod.


FEIST: (Singing) One, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more. Three...

SHAPIRO: Amy Wang of Rolling Stone, thanks for this reminiscence.

WANG: Thanks so much, Ari.


FEIST: (Singing) Old teenage hopes are alive at your door. Left you with nothing...

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