Drake, Pharrell Williams Confirmed for Apple's Music Service (Minus That $19 Million Payday)

Dan Martensen


Apple’s revamped music service -- expected to be unveiled during Apple’s 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference next week (June 8-12) -- has at least two confirmed faces: Drake and Pharrell Williams, according to multiple sources familiar with negotiations. Billboard first reported the news in April, which Williams all but confirmed several days later when he was spotted wearing a pre-retail Apple Watch during the April 6 telecast of The Voice.

Details of the artists’ respective involvement is unclear at this time, though a May 31 report from the New York Post suggested that Drake, Pharrell and David Guetta would be three of several celebrity “guest DJs" for a revamped iTunes Radio, the result of a year’s worth of integration with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre’s Beats By Dre, purchased late last May for $3 billion.

Spokespeople for Apple, Drake and Williams declined comment, though one knowledgeable source shot down the Post’s claims that Drake would be paid $19 million for the deal: “Apple doesn’t normally pay artists for those types of collaborations,” the source explained.

Billboard has also learned that Drake was poised to be one of the 16 artist partners of Jay Z’s Tidal, but dropped out as late as two days before its March 30 launch event in New York. Jay Z confirmed that Iovine had been trying to poach the same artists he was courting for Tidal, telling Billboard in a March 30 Q&A: “I think that’s just his competitive nature, and I don’t know if he’s looking at the bigger picture: That it’s not about me and it’s not about him; it’s about the future of the music business.”

Jay also noted that he consulted Pharrell’s advice in a May 16 “Tidal Freestyle,” in which he rapped, “I don't take no checks / I take my respect / Pharrell even told me 'Go with the best bet' / Jimmy Iovine offered the safety net / Google came around with a crazy check."

Apple’s race to the finish line for its new streaming service hasn’t been without a few hiccups -- as of May 5, the service was still missing sign-off on several crucial major-label contracts, prompting several Apple-watchers to speculate that the company may miss that proposed launch date. That same week, the Federal Trade Commission started investigating Apple for potential antitrust practices by reportedly pressuring the major labels to phase out Spotify’s free subscription tier.