The music streaming giant, which trails only Spotify for market-leadership, has an uneven relationship with its content providers, not least because of the thorny issue of music exclusives. Labels are ice-cold on exclusives, which are considered bad for artists, bad for consumers.
But in a wide-ranging chat with Music Business Worldwide’s Tim Ingham, Apple Music exec Jimmy Iovine says his company has acquiesced to its content providers.
“We tried it. We’ll still do some stuff with the occasional artist. The labels don’t seem to like it and ultimately it’s their content,” he said. “But we’re doing exclusive video content now, and putting a lot of money into that.”
Rewind to last August when Frank Ocean played a killer game of chess with his record company, Universal Music Group. Ocean completed his contractual obligation with the release of his drought-breaking visual album Endless, through an Apple Music video stream and with support from his label. The elusive R&B star called checkmate the next day when he released Blond as an Apple exclusive through Ocean’s own label, Boys Don’t Cry, without UMG’s involvement. Almost immediately, UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge told the heads of his labels that the music giant finished with streaming exclusives on one platform and on a global basis.
With Apple now turning its back on music exclusives, it would appear the big players are paying attention. After a round of tough talks, Spotify recently announced a new, multi-year global license deal with UMG which allows the music giant’s artists to window their albums to its paid users only for the first two weeks of a release. “We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy,” explained Daniel Ek, Chairman and CEO of Spotify, in a statement announcing the deal.
Iovine is in a unique position having sat in every seat at the table. The golden-eared former producer co-founded Interscope Records and Beats By Dre, which he sold to Apple for a fortune in May 2014.
The interview is a cracking read, in which Iovine shares nuggets on Apple –“we have 300 creative people at our company, not one creative person running around like a one-legged-man at an ass-kicking contest” — opens up on John Lennon, Steve Jobs, “free music” and the war with YouTube, windowing, Chance the Rapper, and his own appearance, alongside Dr Dre in the upcoming ‘The Defiant Ones’ documentary on HBO.