I predicted HMV's fall from grace so when will the music die for iTunes?
Overconfident at having accurately predicted HMV's troubles 18 months ago, business correspondent Oliver Astley warns that iTunes, too, could have its work cut out in the next few years.
FOLLOWING the progress of HMV over the past four or five years has been like watching a car crash in slow motion.
Not unlike the news media, the music industry has been turned on its head by new technology and though iTunes is top dog at the moment, it too faces some stiff competition and risks obsolescence.
The HMV situation was entirely predictable.
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I even wrote a column in these very pages in June 2011, about how the company needed to take drastic action to avoid collapse, citing a disappointing experience downloading a song from its website.
Supermarkets offering CDs and DVDs at bargain-basement prices, the rise of Amazon and the online music juggernaut that is iTunes all added up to a perfect storm for HMV that has finally sunk the ship.
I remember a time when all my pocket money went on vinyl and Derby had record stores such as Oasis and BPM (now resurrected), Our Price, Virgin and HMV.
I'm hoping the restructuring deal announced yesterday will save Derby's HMV because its departure would leave a huge hole in the city centre.
Bizarrely, after the recent rash of retailers biting the dust, there have been calls for the Government to step in to save the high street.
But people will still have the same choice of products online.
HMV tried its hand at taking on iTunes but, as I found out to my cost, songs were 10p more expensive and you could only download them as Windows Media files.
You couldn't put these on your iPod and couldn't burn them to a CD so why would anyone use this service? More pertinently, why would a company invest heavily in such a service?
It was more expensive, less convenient and had fewer features than iTunes so it didn't really stand a snowball's chance in hell.
Having read the coverage in the Sunday supplements this weekend, I understand that HMV, seeing the success of Facebook, also invested in a social networking site that few people seem to have used and was understandably short-lived.
In the last analysis, and this is bad news for iTunes, people want their music for free and with a decent broadband connection you can get it.
In the same way I saw the writing on the wall for HMV 18 months ago, I predict iTunes will see its current market dominance battered by Spotify.
Download the software and you have access to millions of songs for free on your PC, laptop or mobile.
With the basic free package there is a limit to the number of songs you can listen to and every three or four, there will be an advert.
But from about a fiver a month for a basic package, you can listen to as much of whatever you like without any advertising.
Even though I am about eight quid in credit on my iTunes account, having been given a gift voucher for my birthday, I find it easier to simply listen to stuff on Spotify for free.
You just have to download an app to have access to all this on your smartphone, too – although mine has all the bass capability of a meadow pipet.
It is linked to Facebook and your friends can see how amazingly cool and eclectic your taste in music is.
Alternatively, you can have a private session so no one can see that you have been listening to Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne.
And, ultimately, great songs such as this will outlast HMV, iTunes – and Spotify too.