A new profile of Apple Music’s VP, Oliver Schusser from Billboard takes a detailed look at how his leadership has affected the team as well as the service’s growth and results over the last year. Colleagues describe him as “a partner, a great listener and a champion of innovation” and he’s optimistic about the future of Apple Music.
While Oliver Schusser has over 15 years experience at Apple in building the international operations for iTunes, taking over Apple Music happened just last year. In the time since he’s become the VP of the service, Apple Music has grown from 40 million subscribers to 60 million and the team appears to be invigorated by their new leader.
And with his low-key, efficient approach, Schusser has — as nearly two dozen sources inside and outside Apple who were interviewed for this story put it — dissolved the internal divide of the Iovine era and stoked a renewed energy.
Other leaders at Apple and in the music industry describe Schusser as very calm and a master of details.
Executives both inside and outside Apple often describe Schusser as “very German.” Like a Teutonic Barack Obama, he balances an unflappable calm — and an apparent inability to say anything controversial — with an impressive mastery of detail, in this case the inner workings of Apple Music.
Apple Music’s global senior director of editorial, Rachel Newman shared her thoughts on how Schusser was able to make such positive change in just a year, including interpersonal skills and touches like remembering birthdays.
“He knows more about most people’s teams than they do themselves, in a good way,” says Newman, who, like many Schusser appointees, is an Apple native — she ran iTunes, the App Store and Apple Books in her native Australia and New Zealand for nearly a decade. “He knows people’s birthdays. He just has the capacity to deal with the human side of being a leader, as much as he does the strategic and commercial sides. That is what makes him phenomenal.”
As for Schusser’s vision of Apple Music, it lines up with Apple’s overall philosophy of being at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.
“You hear Tim talk a lot about humanity — how we’re at the crossroads between the liberal arts and technology,” says Oliver Schusser. “It’s got to be both.”
He shared more about what that means in the context of Apple Music.
explaining — in his typically measured way — why the service he oversees hasn’t gone all-in on algorithms. “That’s just not the way we look at the world,” continues Schusser. “We really do believe that we have a responsibility to our subscribers and our customers to have people recommend what a playlist should look like and who the future superstars are.”
When it comes to results, Schusser says he’s not looking just at the numbers (even though Apple Music is currently growing faster than Spotify).
We just want to be the best; that doesn’t have to be the biggest.
The changes since Schusser has taken over have also been noted by leaders at music labels.
“Oliver continues to be a tremendous partner and friend who has brought a broad global perspective to the role,” says Michael Nash, executive vp digital strategy at Universal Music Group. “He has expanded Apple Music’s culture of creative experimentation while building upon its strong track record of collaboration with labels and artists.”
Other changes at Apple Music over the last year include more women in leadership roles than ever before with the service also sending out updates faster.
Last month I spent time with Oliver Schusser and the new executive team leading Apple Music. The service is shipping updates faster, there are more women in power than ever before, and Schusser has brought a focus on global growth to Apple Music 👇🏾https://t.co/u3imGE8niO
— Micah Singleton (@MicahSingleton) July 25, 2019
Schusser notes that he’s pleased with where Apple Music is after its first four years and that it aims to move forward with the goal of being “the best partners for labels, publishers and songwriters.”
“It has been four years, and we’re feeling really good about where we are,” he says. “Other people have had a lot more experience, a lot more time to test things and to learn, and we’ve caught up really fast. We look at ourselves as an artist-first company, and we want to be the best partners for labels, publishers and songwriters. We’re working with the product and engineering team on our vision and the future for the product. If you do all of these things, the rest will follow.”
Find the full Billboard interview here.
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