Next time I visit Cupertino, I'll be looking to see if Apple has co-opted one of those McDonald's signs touting the number of burgers served to advertise the number of songs sold on the iTunes Music Store. If such a sign existed earlier this month, it would have had to add an extra digit on February 23rd, 2006, when the iTunes Music Store sold its one-billionth song (that's an American billion, not a British billion, though you probably would have assumed as much).
That one-billionth song was "Speed of Sound" from Coldplay's X&Y album, purchased by Alex Ostrovsky from West Bloomfield, Michigan. For clicking the Buy button in iTunes at just the right moment, Alex won a 20-inch iMac, 10 fifth-generation iPods, and a $10,000 gift card to the iTunes Music Store (I have this great mental image of the guy being presented with an iTunes Music Store gift card the size of a sheet of plywood). Apple also established a scholarship in Alex's name to the Juilliard School of Music to commemorate the one-billionth sale.
Apple's milestone press releases are doubly interesting because they usually contain additional information about the contents and sales of the iTunes Music Store at the time (Wikipedia appears to collect much of this information, though I'd be interested to see a graph of the sales as well). For instance, the iTunes Music Store has sold more than 15 million videos and currently contains roughly: