Apple executive Jimmy Iovine confirmed that Dr. Dre is getting a show — and said it will “move the needle.”
The hip hop legend has been rumoured to be working on a show, reportedly called “Vital Signs”, since last February, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
And it makes sense to assume the show’s going to be hosted on Apple Music.
Iovine, who cofounded Interscope in 1989 and Beats with Dr. Dre in 2006, is now responsible for the growth of Apple’s steaming service Apple Music, along with software chief Eddy Cue.
In an interview with Music Business Worldwide, he talked about the challenges Apple faces making its paid streaming service more appealing than free options.
Part of that will involve adding exclusive video, like Dr. Dre’s show. He said: “It’s only when you can integrate tech and liberal arts on one platform — and do it well — that the wire will be tripped.”
“The show Dre’s doing is really gonna move the needle. It’s so unique.”
Iovine also said Apple Music was becoming a “cultural platform” with “storytelling” to try and gain an edge on free services.
It’s not totally clear what he means by “cultural platform.” But he recounts a meeting with a child who, instead of handing him a demo CD like other would-be artists, showed him something on his iPad. According to Iovine, it was an animation of an African American family, accompanied by music and a plot.
“And I thought: ‘Oh sh-t. This reminds me of the beginning of hip-hop; young, talented kids are realising that the money is in visual’,” he said.
Iovine argues that people need to start paying for music again. Apple charges £9.99 a month for its subscription service, while rivals like Spotify offer free tiers. The trouble is, he said, they’re so good that artists are getting “screwed.”
“The fact is that ‘free’ in music streaming is so technically good and ubiquitous that it’s stunting the growth of paid streaming,” he said.
“Two things have to happen: free has to become more difficult or restricted, and the paid services have to get better.”
There’s another reason Apple is moving to exclusive video — it has tried exclusive album releases, and they don’t really work.
“We tried it,” he told Music Business Worldwide. “We’ll still do some stuff with the occasional artist. The labels don’t seem to like it and ultimately it’s their content.”
Take the Frank Ocean fiasco, where Ocean released an album on his label, Universal’s Def Jam, to fulfil his contractual obligations. The album was a long, conceptual music video that some people treated as a puzzle, and even a joke. A day later, Ocean released a more conventional pop album exclusively to Apple Music through his own label, Boys Don’t Cry. Universal’s chairman, Lucian Grainge, subsequently sent a letter to his company banning platform exclusives, according to multiple reports.
Another titbit from the interview: Iovine said he proposed a streaming service to Apple as far back as 2006, but then-CEO Steve Jobs said no because he was working on something that was “bigger than streaming.” A year later, the iPhone arrived.