25 Billion Reasons to Respect Apple in Music

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) is still here, folks.

The consumer tech giant is letting the public know that it has now sold more than 25 billion songs since iTunes Music Store made its debut 10 years ago.

It's a pretty big deal, and not just because it's such a huge number.

The last time that Apple put out a number it was 16 billion songs, and this was in October 2011. So, sure, iTunes has been around since 2003, but one may assume that nearly a third of those 25 billion downloads have taken place over the past year alone.

With 26 million songs available in 119 different countries, Apple is the undisputed champ in this space.

Apple doesn't get enough credit for this. All of the buzz goes to streaming speedsters Pandora (NYSE: P  ) and Spotify.

Pandora's certainly growing like an infectious summertime pop hit. The music-discovery pioneer announced this morning that it had 65.6 million active listeners at the end of January. Yes, this is a sequential decline from its 67.1 million active listeners in December, but we're still looking at a 38% spike over the past year. Listener hours for January matched the 1.39 billion it recorded in December, but this is still a 47% advance since January of last year.

Apple doesn't provide monthly or even quarterly performance metrics for iTunes, but it's a safe bet that Apple isn't growing as quickly as Pandora.

However, that can always change. Pandora takes a hit when reports surface about Apple's inevitable entry into personalized radio, assuming that the country's leading music retailer will be swiping at Pandora's market share.

Streaming is certainly getting crowded these days.

Microsoft introduced Xbox Music in October. Google followed quickly in announcing a licensing deal with the last of the major labels for its Android-friendly Google Play platform. After months of discussing its entry into streaming, Sirius XM Radio finally introduced its platform -- in beta -- last month.

Apple will be here, and soon.

How well it fares -- whether this is the next iTunes or another Ping -- will depend on product and pricing. However, Apple's name and girth makes it an immediate contender.

You don't sell 25 billion digital song downloads without knowing what you're doing.

Apple jacks
There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more important, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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