10 Billion iTunes Song Downloads Could Equal $10K for One Lucky Customer

Planning on buying any music anytime soon? If you are, you may want to keep an eye on the new counter Apple (s aapl) is running over on its web site. You can find it by visiting the special 10 Billion Song Countdown contest page the company has set up as it nears the momentous milestone.

When that number does hit 10 billion (as of this writing, it was almost at 9.9 billion), one lucky iTunes customer who actually makes the 10 billionth purchase could win a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card. That’s a lot of songs, TV shows or even apps, depending on what you fancy. Especially if rumors prove true and TV show prices drop to just a dollar. And at the current pace of around 100 songs per second, it will be just under two weeks until that milestone is hit.

Apple took the opportunity to also toot its own horn, which is only fair considering it’s hard to overstate the impact iTunes has had on the music industry:

iTunes changed the way you buy music, making songs and albums available for download, day or night. Seven years later, we’re about to celebrate our biggest milestone for music, yet — 10 billion songs downloaded. Buy a song, and if it’s the 10 billionth download, you could win a $10,000 iTunes Gift Card.

Viewed over the long term, hitting the 10 billion downloads-mark so soon after the it hit 3 billion (July 2007), a number which took three years from the initial launch of the iTunes store, Apple is doing very well. Recent developments, however, have had a negative influence on iTunes music sales numbers. Specifically, I’m talking about the new deal Apple worked out with record labels that saw prices for some bestselling music jump to $1.29 per song from 99 cents.

Since then, digital album sale growth has been steadily on the decline. According to AppleInsider, the second quarter of 2009 saw 11 percent growth in digital sales, while the third only saw 10, and the crucial fourth quarter — which included the 2009 holiday season — saw only 5 percent growth. Sure, it’s still technically growth, but that rate of decline has got to be making both Apple and music industry executives nervous.

For its part, Apple is probably just content to let the music sales slow so that it can go back to record companies and say “I told you so” regarding the effects of the price flexibility required by the labels in exchange for DRM-free tracks. Customers could actually come out on top if sales continue to trend downward, since the industry might be forced to try going back to a flat, 99-cent-per-song-downloaded rate, a move Apple would no doubt support.

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