Beats Audio CEO Urged Jobs to Create Subscription Music in 2002

Jimmy Iovine Beats Audio AllThingsD Subscription MusicBeats Audio CEO Jimmy Iovine
Image via AllThingsD

In the wake of recent rumors about a future music subscription service from Apple, an AllThingsD interview Thursday with Beats Audio CEO Jimmy Iovine sheds light on the early influences that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs considered when iTunes was still in its infancy. According to the interview, Mr. Iovine strongly urged Mr. Jobs to create a subscription music service over 10 years ago, but the Apple CEO was hesitant.

Mr. Iovine became determined to launch a music subscription service in the early 2000s after witnessing the music industry’s inability to adapt to the online digital music revolution. He took his concerns to the heads of several tech companies but wasn’t able to convince them of the strategy’s importance. Only late Apple CEO Steve Jobs “smelled it the most,” Mr. Iovine told AllThingsD.

Despite the forward-thinking mentality that Mr. Jobs was known for, even he was not initially sold on the idea of an online subscription service, according to Mr. Iovine:

I was always trying to push Steve into subscription. And he wasn’t keen on it right away. [Beats co-founder] Luke Wood and I spent about three years trying to talk him into it. He was there, not there … he didn’t want to pay the record companies enough. He felt that they would come down, eventually.

As to why music subscriptions have thus far not been wildly successful, Mr. Iovine cited a lack of “culture” in the current services, which he feels are dominated by “tech guys” who can’t curate a great listening and discovery experience. Drawing on an observation from Mr. Jobs, Mr. Iovine argues that it takes a team dedicated to both hardware and software to truly succeed, something that Apple has become known for in its resurgence over the past 15 years.

Steve called me in once. He said, “You know something, you should feel really good. You’re the only guys from software that ever built a piece of hardware successfully.” That means that we can be the guys who cracked this code as well. Because we live in both worlds. We’re actually arguably better at this than at hardware. You know why they call it hardware? It’s really hard.

Although not pressed on the topic, Mr. Iovine mentioned that he would be meeting soon with Apple’s Eddy Cue, who has led the iTunes Store to great success in recent years. It was not clear if the meeting was to discuss business related to Apple’s music services or simply a personal visit.

Apple’s iTunes application celebrated its 12th anniversary this week, and the iTunes Store, which now serves as the primary hub for iOS apps and entertainment content, will hit the ten-year-mark in April. Amid growing rumors, some analysts expect Apple will launch a Pandora-like “iRadio” service this year.

[via AppleInsider]