Since its launch last summer, Apple Music has become a driving force in the music streaming economy, establishing itself as a dominant platform for artists to interact with their listeners. The service hosted exclusives for some of the year's most talked-about releases, including Chance The Rapper's boundary-shattering Coloring Book and Frank Ocean's first offerings in four years, Blonde and Endless. As the music industry has scrambled to adjust to the rise of streaming and the decline of traditional album sales, Apple Music has played a sizeable role in reshaping the conventions of music commerce. Today, Apple Music executives Jimmy Iovine and Larry Jackson sat down with The New York Times to discuss their company's impact on the music industry.
Iovine opened up about working with Frank Ocean, who sneakily fulfilled his contract with Universal Music Group and subsequently released Blonde independently with the assistance of Apple Music. Ocean's exclusive Apple Music release is largely believed to be the reason Universal Music Group put forth a ban on exclusives. Iovine denies any involvement in the animosity between Ocean and Universal, affirming that "whatever happened with him and Universal is really between him and Universal. It has nothing to do with us. Nothing."
He also acknowledged that while exclusive content is one of Apple Music's biggest draws, it is not the only incentive for subscribers to fork over $9.99 a month for access to the service. "There’s a lot of reasons we have over 20 million subscribers. One of the things they get is some music early. Fantastic. Do we see spikes when we do exclusives? Yes. Is that the only reason we get subscribers? No."
Jackson used the interview as an opportunity to dispel the myth that Apple Music's partnerships with artists are negotiated in an impersonal manner. "The thing that has been most disheartening for me to hear or read is that what we do is transactional in a cold, callous way. The process is so much more collaborative than just sitting in some ivory tower and doing some silly banking deal," he says. He goes on to cite his recent collaborations with Taylor Swift and Travis Scott as hands-on artist interactions.
While the two executives spent a large chunk of the interview discussing their successful artist partnerships, they also addressed the partnerships that never came to fruition. Iovine says he would have loved to host Adele's album, but acknowledges that cutting a deal with the British superstar "wasn’t in our realm." He also discussed Kanye West's decision to partner with Tidal, explaining that the choice didn't surprise him. "I kind of felt like it was going to happen before it did. Jay Z and Kanye — that’s a very natural thing for them to work together," he says. He also denies rumors of bad blood between Jay Z's service and his own. "I see Jay all the time. I want him to do great."
Amidst the raging debate about whether or not record labels are still necessary in the current climate of the music industry, Iovine argues that they still hold value for their artist development and radio promotion capabilities. "Breaking an artist is much bigger than getting on whatever fancy playlist of the week," he notes. "Terrestrial radio is still an undeniable, massive powerhouse and they know that terrain better than anyone."