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Three ways iTunes, and its 10 billion in sales, changed music industry

As of Wednesday, Apple's iTunes has sold 10 billion individual songs. Here are three ways it has revolutionized the music industry, for better or for worse.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces the release of iTunes 9 at a presentation in San Francisco in September 2009. As of Wednesday, the online music store has sold 10 billion individual songs.

Stuart Brinin/Sipa Press/Newscom/File

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Apple sold its 10 billionth song Wednesday via iTunes, its online media platform whose massive success is credited for ushering in a new era for buying and selling music.

The milestone is the latest sign of iTunes' increased market power in distributing music and video content to consumers. Apple launched iTunes in 2003, selling 25 million digital tracks its first year. By 2006, sales had reached 1 billion. The reason for this explosion is Apple’s iPod, the leading MP3 device. Unit sales reached 220 million by November – or 73 percent of the total digital music-player market.

The key to Apple’s sales strategy for the iPod is ensuring that consumers have access to affordable content via iTunes' 99-cents-per-song price model. That market strategy, however, has long frustrated recording industry executives, who complain it devalues their product. Still, for all their protests and threats to withdraw their catalogs, they appear to have no other choice because iTunes is where the consumers are buying.

In pictures: iTunes top 25 most downloaded songs

Here are three ways iTunes has reshuffled the retail business for music and video, for better or for worse.

1. Goodbye album, hello single

Between the demise of the 45-single and the rise of CDs, no format existed to sell single songs. That was the honeymoon era for the recording industry, which reveled in selling complete albums to consumers at a handsome price. The artist who benefited by this arrangement was the one who saw the full-length album as an opportunity to experiment and create a cohesive musical program. The artist who lagged behind was a one-hit wonder whose album was mainly filler around that Top 40 song.


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