The second most valuable company in the world, Apple, have today announced that music fans have purchased and downloaded more than 25 billion songs from the iTunes Store.

The huge milestone further cements iTunes as the world’s most popular online music store, now available in 119 countries worldwide after adding a number of territories late last year. Here in Australia, iTunes continues to dominate the digital music landscape where it is estimated to enjoy around 90% market share for legal digital music purchases.

According to Apple, the 25 billionth song purchased from the store was ‘Monkey Drums (Goksel Vancin Remix)’ by Chase Buch, a DJ producer from London who will no doubt enjoy the attention the milestone will achieve.

The track in question was purchased by Phillip Lüpke from Germany, and as the downloader of the 25 billionth song Apple have decided to give Phillip an iTunes gift voucher to the tune of €10,000, about $13,000 AUD.

“We are grateful to our users whose passion for music over the past 10 years has made iTunes the number one music retailer in the world,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services.

“Averaging over 15,000 songs downloaded per minute, the iTunes Store connects music fans with their favorite artists, including global sensations like Adele and Coldplay and new artists like The Lumineers, on a scale we never imagined possible.”

With the rapid decline in physical album sales, the announcement that digital album sales are set to break last year’s record of 1.3 billion copies sold in the US, and that for the first time ever, sales from downloads were greater than those of CDs and vinyl in the first quarter of the year over in England, there is certainly a lot of conjecture over the current state of the music market worldwide.

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Although a market leader with a catalog of over 26 million songs and over 25 billion songs downloaded, iTunes is also facing increased compeition from new streaming services who sell access to music instead of ownership for a monthly subscription.

In the past twelve months, a plethora of streaming services have launched in Australia including market leaders Spotify, and Deezer, as well as other competitors such as Rdio, JB Hifi Now, and Mog.

Access to free music from internet radio such as Pandora has also had an impact, so much so that the company now makes up 7% of all radio listening in the United States and the company have their sights set on the lucrative Australian market after launching local towards the end of 2012.

Apple had planned on launching a similar service as part of iTunes, but the plans have been delayed indefinitely by agitated record labels who have refused to sign on to the service for fear it would further cannibalise digital record sales.

The proliferation of music videos online and increased access to cheap bandwidth around the world has seen companies like Vevo and Youtube explode in popularity with music lovers over the past five years. Australians streamed music videos more than half a billion times in 2012 alone, and Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff agrees that “the future is access, not ownership, not iTunes as it is today.”

Apple are also fighting a battle on the hardware front, with sales of their iconic iPod line of portable music players flatlining following an increased focus on the iPhone.

Top industry analyst Mark Mulligan has claimed that a decline in iPod sales is directly to blame for the recent global flatline in the growth of digital sales. Mulligan credits Apple’s iPod for creating the boom in the modern digital music market, and states that “as soon as iPod sales slowed, so did the digital music market”.

With the digital market now in desperate need of a new device with iPod-like hype, perhaps Neil Young’s new “iPod killer” Pono will provide the answer.

The previously announced music player is expected to launch this year, focusing on audio fidelity, and will offer a music download store, a line of portable music players, and a revolutionary approach to the way we listen to our favourite tracks that lets music lovers hear the music the way it was intended to be heard.

For the moment, Apple are fighting back by increasing the quality of songs sold through the iTunes store to high-quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, which the tech giant is pitching as audio virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings.

They’ve also been busy filling notable gaps in the iTunes Store, including Australia’s own AC/DC who finally made their entire discography available in November last year, and The Beatles who finally relented back in 2010.

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