JIMMY IOVINE, 63
ROBERT KONDRK, 55
Vp media apps and content, Apple
Last Year's Rank: 3
Apple Music's brain trust had plenty to celebrate in the service's first full year, during which it doubled its number of subscribers to 20 million. It's the second-largest on-demand service (behind Spotify, with 40 million), at a time when the music business, driven by a 39 percent gain in streams, saw back-to-back years of growth for the first time this millennium. (Meanwhile, the iTunes Store remains the largest digital music retailer.)
Those in charge insist Apple Music has only scratched the surface. "We are [just] getting subscriptions and music at your fingertips to the masses," says Robert Kondrk, who oversees management and business maneuvers. "There's a lot of work to be done to reach people, educate them and provide music the way people want to listen to it."
That work began in earnest with an overhaul of the Apple Music app in June. The upgrade simplified the user interface, particularly for its Beats 1 radio stations and curated playlists, which Jimmy Iovine, the former producer and Interscope Records chief (who holds no official title at Apple), says makes Apple the leader in music discovery: "It's not like a movie, where you only watch one. You're going to put on a playlist of some sort." And Apple, adds Kondrk, "can slice and dice the content in a way that's very personal."
Apple Music, overseen by Eddy Cue as part of a purview that includes the iTunes Store, Siri and Apple Pay, kicked off 2016 with a slew of exclusive album releases, including Drake's Views, which shattered the one-week streaming record, and Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book, the first streaming-only Billboard 200 hit. That strategy faltered after the release of Frank Ocean's Blonde and a ban on the practice by Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge (No. 2). Iovine hasn't ruled out exclusives, saying future ones would be decided on "a case-by-case basis."
But Apple Music is already expanding into film and TV: It released Drake's short film Please Forgive Me in September 2016, and now has three shows in production. "Our team thinks about feeding the beast every day, whether it's exclusives from an album or something in the video space," says Kondrk.
The added value may be critical in 2017, with new on-demand services from Amazon, Pandora and iHeartMedia. Adds Kondrk: "You want to delight the people paying for your service."