Apple Music without Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs never wanted to get into the music streaming business. He didn’t believe people wanted to ‘rent’ music. And if he had changed his mind, over time, it probably wouldn’t have looked anything like Apple Music.
In one of the biggest new software introductions since Steve Jobs untimely passing, Apple Music offered nothing really new or revolutionary. They also didn’t talk about any plans for leveraging Apple Music to sell music through iTunes or how Apple Music would be different in their dealings with artists.
But even before Apple Music was formally announced at the World Wide Developer Conference, they had made a serious miscalculation. Word got out that Apple Music was not going to pay artists for the music they played during Apple’s ninety day free trial period. Essentially, they were asking artists to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to help launch Apple Music.
While other music streaming companies, like Spotify, don’t pay for their trial periods either, this was Apple, one of the wealthiest and most successful companies in the world. A company with cash surpluses north of $165 billion trying to squeeze money from songwriters and musicians.
Organizations that represent independent artists, A2IM and Win, advised their members not to accept the deal.
But it wasn’t until Taylor Swift threatened to hold back her music from Apple Music that they agreed to pay. Apple didn’t offer much, but the indie’s weren’t up for a second confrontation with Apple.
Then came the actual Apple Music announcement.
Instead of being a celebration about music, their presentation was all about the user interface and Beats Radio. Here’s where you pull out U2 and have them rock the conference. Here’s where you announce Adele’s new record available exclusively through iTunes as a paid download for Apple Music Subscribers.
Here’s where Apple announces the other exclusive release deals they’ve already lined up. Here’s where they announce that Apple Music subscribers will be able to listen to and purchase new music not available anywhere else.
Here’s where you take a page from Netflix and HBO and talk about signing talent and launching a record label. After all, as part of the acquisition of Beats Entertainment, the highly successful music business legend Jimmy Iovine now works for Apple.
This is where you talk about MUSIC, not technology. After all, the musicians and songwriters are the primary developers for Apple Music. What they create is the new software that drives Apple Music.
Had that happened, every musician and songwriter in America would have been talking about and rooting for Apple Music. Apple would have had the massive, positive free media coverage they’ve enjoyed in the past.
Putting things in perspective, music streaming services are online distribution networks built by programmers and coders. Without the music, who cares. Think of it like Nascar Racing. Imagine if at the end of the race the mechanics get all of the prize money and they pay the winning driver a few hundred bucks for risking his or her life.
And isn’t that what artists do? They put everything on the line when they create something out of nothing. They let you in on their most intimate secrets in the hope you won’t reject or ridicule them. You can’t outsource music production to China or program computers to search their personal life experience to create great art.
In some ways, the Apple Music presentation epitomizes the glaring disconnect between tech and the creative community in this country. A total lack of appreciation or understanding of the part creators play in the success of their business and music’s importance to our national heritage.
It was inevitable that the Internet would change everything about music distribution, but that doesn’t mean technology can come in, unchallenged, and marginalize our rich heritage of art in America.
Photo Credit: David Paul Morris