(By Sarah Perez | Published on January 16 2017 for techcrunch.com)
Earlier this month, The Wall St. Journal reported how Apple is working to bring in veteran producers to help create original content, including TV series and movies for an expanded Apple Music service. Now, Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine has offered additional insight about Apple’s plans in this space, as well as how it hopes to differentiate itself from existing streaming competitors, like Pandora and Spotify.
“At Apple Music, what we’re trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video,” he said.
And by “video,” he didn’t just mean music videos and those that fit within the broader musical genre, as with Apple’s earlier purchase of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” or Dr. Dre’s “Vital Signs, ” a semi-autobiographical scripted TV series that will be also distributed by Apple.
Instead, Iovine hinted that Apple will consider other types of programming, as well.
“If South Park walks into my office, I am not going to say you’re not musicians, you know?” Iovine said, according to The Hollywood Reporter’s account. “We’re going to do whatever hits popular culture smack on the nose. We’re going to try,” he added.
The exec also commented on how Apple will make its service stand out, as compared with today’s streaming music rivals, like Spotify and Pandora, which focus on converting free users to paid subscribers.
“We’re fighting ‘free.’ So a simple utility where, ‘here’s all the songs, here’s all the music, give me $10 and we’re cool,’ is not going to scale,” Iovine said.
Apple Music has no free tier, beyond its free trial, which is a decidedly different strategy from its peers. Spotify, for example, has said that 80 percent of its paid subscribers began as free users, which is why it continues to offer the “freemium” tier as an entry point to its service.
Meanwhile, Apple not only focuses on making Apple Music a paid offering, it also shut down other free streaming content, like its ad-supported iTunes Radio service, which offered curated stations based on genre. Those became available only to Apple Music subscribers, starting early 2016.
These moves may be paying off. Apple said in December 2016 that its music service now has 20 million paid subscribers, or roughly half of what Spotify has in terms of paying customers, despite the latter’s multi-year head start. Of course, also Apple benefits heavily by nature of owning the platform, giving it a means to promote its own content and services through built-in apps on its hardware.
Ahead of this planned expansion to scripted original programming, Apple has experimented with video content of an unscripted nature. It streamed a Taylor Swift concert and a Vice docuseries called “The Score.” It’s also planning to launch a reality-style program “Planet of the Apps,” which features celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Alba, and will.iam offering mentorship to app developers.
But Apple isn’t the only music service expanding to video in an effort to gain subscribers. Spotify also launched video last year, offering content from partners like ESPN, Comedy Central, the BBC, VICE Media, Maker Studios, MTV, TED, NBC, ABC News, Vogue, Elite Daily, Tastemade, Wired, Fusion, and others. It later expanded to original programming focused on artists, biographies, live performances, and more.