Episode 38: SoundJam (iTunes)

Ben & David revisit the birth of the digital music revolution and Steve Jobs’ “digital hub” strategy, with Apple's 2000 acquisition of the Mac music player SoundJam MP, which would go on to become iTunes. We relive the 90’s with brushed metal interfaces, music visualizers and of course, software sold in (physical) boxes.

Topics covered include:

  • The heady early days of the “digital music revolution”: NapsterWinAmp, and the Diamond Rio
  • Former Apple engineer Bill Kincaid’s first exposure to the concept of digital music, via NPR on the way to an auto racing track
  • Bill’s decision to build SoundJam, recruiting fellow former Apple engineer Jeff Robbin as a cofounder, and later adding Dave Heller to the team
  • Why you used to need a publisher to sell software… and the celebrity author of the SoundJam user manual: David Pogue!
  • SoundJam’s release in 1998 and enthusiastic adoption by Mac owners who enjoyed pirating playing digital music 
  • SoundJam's (and later iTunes’s) most famous UI element: brushed metal
  • The Apple acquisition of SoundJam in 2000 instead of competitor Panic Software’s Audion, and the wonderful history as told by Panic's founders years later  
  • Steve Jobs' launch of iTunes at the Macworld keynote in January 2001
  • Launch of the iPod later that year in October 2001 
  • The SoundJam team’s long subsequent tenure at Apple and leadership roles to this day


The Carve Out:

Thanks to this episode's sponsor, Silicon Valley Bank. You can learn more about SVB, or reach out to Marshall Hawks directly (who's voice you'll recognize on the show) here