Overall, music sales fell by more than a billion dollars last year, but Apple's iTunes is doing better than ever. The digital music distribution service claimed more money than ever, and now represents the biggest U.S. market for music sales, making up over a quarter of total music sales in this country. Unfortunately, not even iTunes may save the industry; total music sales in the US only rose by 1.1 percent over the previous year (which, according to industry analysts, is as good as not growing at all), and the total worldwide market decreased to $17 billion. That's nothing to sneeze at, but the fact is that, even if more people are buying music through iTunes, less music is being sold. The way the trends are going, it looks like actual music sales themselves may start dropping off, even in the United States.
So what's the solution? The record industry is actually looking to iTunes now to save their own business. One executive is quoted as saying that an iTunes subscription service might be just the thing to get people interested in buying music again (or at least renting it). It would appear that, with the purchase of Lala, Apple may be laying the groundwork for a service like that.
However, there are a lot of other factors going into this market change (not the least of which is that it's easier than ever to make, buy, sell, and share music outside of the record industry system, which includes iTunes), and even a subscription service won't solve the problem.