Anders Brownworth

Technology and Disruption

Timing Apple's 1 Billionth iTunes Sale

In a follow-up to my story last July on timing Apple's 500 million iTunes sale, I am working on forecasting the date and time of the 1 billionth sale. For every 100,000th song mark, Apple is giving away a 4 Gig black nano and $100 of iTunes Music Store purchases. The lucky person who purchases the 1 billionth song will get a 20-inch iMac, 10 60GB iPods, and a $10,000 iTunes Music Card! I'm going to take some educated guesses at forecasting when each prize will be won so you can use that information to try to win a prize.

The AJAX code Apple uses to display the countdown timer gets it's data from http://wdirect.apple.com/itms_counter.xml so I am running a program that writes down the current count every 5 minutes. With some clever Excel forecasting work, you should be able to figure out exactly when to make a purchase on the iTunes Music Store drastically increase your chances of winning a prize. I am making the raw data available and periodically working on an Excel sheet for forecasting. The format of each line is a tab seperated $preTime $preCount $curTime $curCount. Some lines may be repeated due to Apple not updating as frequently as every 5 minutes.

Feel free to use my raw data and leave a comment with your guess for the date and time of the 1 billionth sale on iTunes Music Store! Best of luck, and remember I'm not going to say no if you want to give me an iPod when you win...

Comments (6)

Nubo from Concord, CA, USA

Long-range data is not going to be useful for predicting the 1 billionth song. There is going to be a flood of activity when the counter nears a billion. The hour surrounding 1 billion is going to be nothing like any other period.

Anders from RTP

This is true, but you have to take that into account. Using the long range data you can see how there are similar (probably smaller) peaks at the 100,000 song marks. Also, factoring in time of day will be necessary as well. Hey, nobody said it would be easy!

mike from england

I'm still having a hard time with the grand prize. Okay a 20 inch mac... 10, yes, ten 60gig iPods plus $10,000 of iTunes music/videos. Plus a music scholarship in your name?! Damn that is one amazing prize.

Wow, as I was typing this the count went past 978,000,000, the speed up and slow down of sales was incredible.

Anders from RTP

Well, the game is up. The winning purchase was between Thu, 23 Feb 2006 05:32:01 GMT and Thu, 23 Feb 2006 05:37:01 GMT. http://www.freaksw.com/itms/ posted this chart of the sales. It's interesting to see the little ripples around the 100,000 marks. Interestingly, the billionth mark doesn't look like it was a significantly larger ripple.

Joseph Kelly from Austin, TX USA

Does anyone know where to get sales data for individual artists?

Anders from RTP

@Joseph I have no idea. Apple is famously tight-lipped when it comes to numbers so when they publish a number, a live number no less, its a rare occurrence. There are other industry sources, though I'm not up on that market.

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