Music mogul Jimmy Iovine shot down rumors that he plans to exit Apple in August telling Variety that he’s committed to staying on the team and helping the company get music streaming right. “I am almost 65, have been with Apple for four years and in 2 1/2 years the [Apple Music] service has gotten to well over 30 million subscribers and Beats has continued its successful run. But there’s still a lot more we’d like to do. I am committed to doing whatever Eddy [Cue], Tim [Cook] and Apple need me to do, to help wherever and however I can, to take this all the way. I am in the band.”
Iovine, who became an Apple “executive” in 2014 when the company purchased Beats Electronics from him and artist and producer Dr. Dre for a reported $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in stock, appeared on Monday night at the Grammy Museum for a screening and Q&A to promote the Grammy-nominated HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones.” Iovine said that, as is common with stock swaps, his Apple stock has been vesting in stages since he sold Beats, and while he confirmed the last of it will vest in August, he was displeased at the mercenary tone of recent speculation.
Iovine said he turns 65 in a few months and that while eventually he’ll have to slow down, it won’t be soon. “The next chapter, whatever intensity I’m working, will be to help streaming come to scale.” Iovine lauded Apple Music’s growth to more than 30 million paid subscribers in two-and-a-half years, as compared to Spotify, which has been around for 14 years (officially for 10) and claims more than 70 million subscribers.
While streaming services have a ways to go insofar as fulfilling their mission, he cautioned that the music industry is riding the tailwind of technology, it shouldn’t be viewed as a cure-all. “The record industry right now is expecting technology to fix their problems, like they always have, and I’m not sure technology is going to fix their problems this time. It will make music better, it will make it sound better, and improve access and delivery, but I’m not sure that benefits the labels unless the labels do something to make the proposition more interesting. Everybody’s talking about the great oil gusher, but it’s not going to scale unless streaming gets more interesting.”
To help the next generation connect the dots between the tech and creative music space, Iovine and Dr. Dre (whose given name is Andre Young) founded the Iovine-Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation at USC with a unique curriculum that includes not only business skills, but a fourth year “garage experience” to bring a project to fruition.
As an example of what “more interesting might be,” Iovine drew from subscription television. “Netflix has a unique catalog, because they don’t buy HBO and they have their own catalog. Then on top of that they have a little thing called $6 billion in original content. HBO has $3 billion, Amazon probably has $4 billion. Well, guess how much original content streaming has: zero! Fundamentally. All the catalogs are exactly the same,” he told the crowd.