Jimmy Iovine’s inability to bull—t in interviews was made abundantly clear on Wednesday during a discussion at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, where the music industry veteran pounced on freemium services like Spotify (“It’s a shell game”), artist apathy towards albums and that letter from Taylor Swift (“It was unbelievable”). And although he tried mightily to prevent it, his loose lips managed to admit there are “issues” being worked on at Apple Music.
“I can tell you I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t going really well,” he said during the chat, which also included HBO CEO Richard Plepler. “We have a couple of issues, some stuff we really have to work on, but we’re three months old. When you work at Apple, everything you do is [scrutinized].”
Iovine’s comments arrived a week after the first wave of free trial subscriptions expired at Apple Music. Apple has not released subscriber figures.
Here are highlights from Iovine, plus video of the entire exchange:
On Spotify and Freemium Streaming Services: “We have a problem with this whole ‘free’ issue… The television industry doesn’t have it, the movie industry doesn’t have it, but the record industry has it. In my personal opinion — and this is not Apple’s opinion — that ‘free’ is a real issue. You have to make a service in order to get over ‘free.’
“This whole thing about ‘freemium,’ maybe at one time we needed it, but right now, to me, it’s a shell game, because what these companies are doing is building the old-school traffic. They realize, okay, Snapchat has 100m people, it’s worth $16 billion. So if I have 100 million people and a model that has subscription as well, what’s my company worth? And they’re building an audience on the back of the artist. That bugs me. It really bugs me. It’s a shell game. It’s like ‘we need this’, but they don’t really need it because we [Apple] don’t have a free service. If we had a free service we’d have 500 million people free on our service. We believe if we build something strong enough it will work.”
On Taylor Swift’s Open Letter: “[Eddy Cue] called up Tim [Cook]. This is Apple, the biggest company in the world. We worked all day Sunday — Eddy, Tim and I — and they dealt with it on the spot on a Sunday morning on Father’s Day… It was unbelievable. They moved like lightning. I was really impressed, Taylor was impressed. And they did the right thing, more importantly.”
Free Advice for Labels: “The labels have to reinvent themselves. They have to keep their importance in the artist’s life. It’s that simple. And I think they are doing that. My old company is doing that.”
On Artists Picking Tours Over Albums: “What I’m hearing now from the labels is ‘We don’t have enough worldwide superstars.’ Well there’s a good reason for that: the records are taking a backseat to all the touring. And they should at least be equal. They’re not right now, and you’re seeing the album being really beat up.”