Beats Audio CEO Tried to Convince Steve Jobs to Adopt Music Streaming

Jimmy Iovine

The head of sound tech firm Beats Audio has revealed that he spent three years trying to convince Steve Jobs to launch a music streaming service.

Jimmy Iovine, CEO of the company endorsed by Dr Dre, made the remarks during an interview with tech site AllThingsD at the CES 2013 trade show. About meeting with the Apple boss, he said: “We hit it off right away. We were really close.”

But it seems that Iovine couldn’t get Jobs to see eye-to-eye with him on everything, especially when it came to adopting a paid-for streaming music business model: “I was always trying to push Steve into subscription and he wasn’t keen on it right away.

“Luke Wood (co-founder of Beats Audio) and I spent about three years trying to talk him into it.

“He didn’t want to pay the record companies enough. He felt that they would come down, eventually.”

The exchange seems to have happened in 2002 or 2003, while Iovine was head of the Interscope music label.

Jobs

Iovine then went into hardware production, teaming up with Wood and Dre to form Beats Audio in 2006. The company has since seen its innovations included in a number of high-spec handsets from Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, including the One X and the firm’s recent Windows Phone 8 flagship, the HTC 8X.

Beats has enjoyed much success with the handsets it features on gaining favour amongst critics and its distinctive range of headphones becoming a hit with consumers.

Since his exchange with Jobs, Iovine could be forgiven for feeling a degree of satisfaction in seeing the idea of an online streaming music service take off, even if he may not have been at the forefront of the developments.

Spotify has become huge – its developers announced last year that it has 15 million subscribers, 4 million of whom are signed-up to the paid premium version of its service.

Other start-ups have been successful too, such as the US-only Pandora and Last.fm. What is notable about the way streaming services have become popular is that the market has been led by smaller companies rather than any of the big players in the tech world.

Many of these services have also made a successful move into the mobile realm, with Spotify and Last.fm both able to boast well-developed apps for a variety of smartphone platforms.

Spotify-Image

Accompanying this new model for providing music to consumers has been another shift in the industry. Spotify introduced the option for users to pay for and download individual tracks in 2009 in conjunction with online music provider 7Digital (taking  full control of downloads itself in 2011) yet the firm has now suspended them in the UK and many European countries.

This move has led to speculation that consumers who are already streaming music may see no need to pay to be able to download it as well, a shift which could pose problems for established digital music services such as Apple’s iTunes.

Iovine isn’t letting the grass grow under his feet though. Last year, Beats acquired Mog, a free music streaming service with a focus on social network sharing, and has plans to rebrand and re-launch the venture under the name Daisy, later in 2013.

Meanwhile, it seems that Apple may have warmed to the idea of streaming music to its customers. In December, tech site CNET quoted Richard Greenfield of research firm BTIG as saying that the latest version of iTunes contains hints of what may be coming in the future.

Greenfield points towards the greater prominence given to the ‘radio’ button in iTunes 11 as proof that Apple will be launching an iRadio service, possibly during 2013. If introduced, such a service would no doubt feature streaming across the whole Apple ecosystem, encompassing  iPhones,  iPads and Mac computers.

If the firm that Steve Jobs created does make this move it will present stiff competition for the likes of Spotify and mark a new direction for the company which did much to popularise the idea of paid music downloads.

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