Apple has been betting big on exclusive content when it comes to growing Apple Music and a new report from Rolling Stone details just how far the company is willing to go in partnering with labels and artists. In the report, Apple’s head of original music content Larry Jackson expressed the reasoning behind Apple’s motivation and how it goes about working with labels.
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Jackson explained that much of his inspiration comes from his previous gig working with Jimmy Iovine at Interscope Records. Specifically, Jackson points to one of his first real success stories as a record label executive: Lana Del Ray. Jackson explained that because Del Ray was an artist “made for and by the Internet,” he was able to convince Interscope to pour money into videos rather than radio promotion.
“We were like, fuck it, let’s just make movies. So we made long-form films – that’s why [Del Rey’s] ‘National Anthem’ is eight minutes long.” Without any singles in radio rotation, Born to Die debuted at Number Two on Billboard and went platinum, which Jackson saw as a vindication of his vision.
Interestingly, Jackson noted that even Tim Cook has a say in Apple Music original content. For instance, Cook was apparently involved in the production of M.I.A.’s music video for “Borders,” which Apple funded.
Of course, Jackson isn’t working alone on growing Apple Music. Jimmy Iovine explained to Rolling Stone that Apple wants to do something where artists can “do their thing.” A recent example of this is Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, which was an Apple Music exclusive. In this case, Chance doesn’t have a record label so Apple worked directly with him to secure the exclusive.
It hasn’t all gone to plan, however. Iovine points to Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo as an example of this. Apparently, Apple was in the running to gain exclusivity of the album, but Kanye backed out at the last minute to work with Jay Z and Tidal. “He wanted to work with his friend, in the end,” Iovine says. “It’s that simple.” Eventually, The Life of Pablo did come to Apple Music.
Record labels also appreciate Apple’s efforts at working with and for artists. Monte Lipman, head of Republic Records, explained that Apple is coming up with “groundbreaking opportunities” for artists and labels:
“Apple is sexy,” says Monte Lipman, head of Republic Records, home to the Weeknd and Ariana Grande. “They are prepared to do things no one has done before. Lately they’ve been very clever in coming to us with what we consider groundbreaking opportunities.”
Ultimately, Jackson says the goal is to put Apple Music “at the intersection of all things relevant in pop culture.” To ensure that he keeps his sense of aggression, Jackson likes to recall a story Iovine told him:
“There are two buzzards sitting on a wire; one buzzard’s sit-ting up there waiting for something to die; the other buzzard’s saying, ‘Fuck this waiting-to-die shit, let’s go kill something.’ That’s the philosophy. You just have to go and get it done.”
Earlier this month at WWDC, Apple’s Eddy Cue revealed that there are now 15 million paying Apple Music subscribers. Apple certainly has the cash to continue to secure exclusive deals, and with Jackson at the helm it seem like that’s what will keep happening.