In an new interview released today, Jimmy Iovine and Larry Jackson delve deeper into some of the finer points of their artistic relationships on the Apple Music platform. The pair go into details on why hip-hop and R&B artists have seen a surge in streaming, how they maintain their relationships with artists despite labels, and the impact of Apple Music’s platform on piracy.
The interview kicks right off asking for clarity on the “huge surge in streaming for hip-hop and R&B artists” we’ve seen. Larry Jackson answers it head on by explaining that the shift occurred before Apple Music even arrived to the marketplace. He also explains that when he looks at the top albums of the year (by Drake, Beyoncé, J. Cole, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd), “How is that not pop? You don’t hear Frank Ocean or J. Cole on pop radio, but streaming has ushered in what the new pop is.”
One of the more anticipated albums that hit this year was Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde.’ The album released as an Apple Music exclusive, but not before Frank Ocean’s visual album ‘Endless’ was released first. The visual album was noted as “just the start of Frank Ocean content coming to Apple Music.” As time went on, some drama emerged as “Endless” was found to have been potentially released solely as a way for Ocean to fulfill his agreement with Def Jam, one of Universal’s labels, allowing the release of “Blonde” to be under Ocean’s own label. This eventually caused Universal’s chairman to no longer agree to any single-platform streaming exclusives. In today’s interview, Jimmy Iovine responds that given how everything played out with Frank Ocean’s situation, they simply wanted to work with the artist, and he would control where that music was released. The relationship between him and Universal was simply that, one between him and Universal, and nothing to do with Apple.
Iovine is asked about how the way Blonde was released and that Apple might have been stepping into the scene in a way traditional labels couldn’t. Iovine explains that Apple Music has no interest in being a label, but they do have interests in making their own platform that best communicates with the audiences. Jackson goes on to say that label executives like Monte Lipman, and L.A. Reid have also “decoded” what Apple’s streaming platform is attempting to do as they earned three number 1 albums on Apple Music this year.
One of the highlights of the interview is when the pair is asked if the idea of exclusives can push listeners to downloading music illegally. Jackson admits to having used BitTorrent once or twice in his life, but the “simplicity and design of what we and other services have been able to do has made privacy probably more of an inconvenience and less of an appealing idea than it once was…”.
After much back and forth, Kanye West’s latest album was eventually released onto Apple Music. Jackson even highlights that their relationship is discussed in West’s “Saint Pablo“, and Iovine explains that West was a part of Jay’s thing [Tidal] and he wanted to make a “deal with his friend”. This didn’t stop them, as Iovine explains, “You try to do the best with that you’ve got and ignore everything else.”
As far as balancing creative and business relationships with artists, Jackson mentions it’s disheartening to hear that some consider Apple Music’s approach as transactional. He explains the process is more collaborative with the artist, exemplifying that the idea of Taylor Swift falling down in the treadmill Apple Music ad was her concept.
The entire interview is a good read into the way the Apple execs plan on building relationships with their artists and how to push their music and content in a way that satisfies both parties.