Cook says Apple not in music streaming for the money, touts human content curation

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in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited August 7
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently sat down to discuss Apple Music and its place in the burgeoning music streaming world, once again touting the service's human content curation as a key benefit over competitors like Spotify.

Tim Cook


Speaking with Fast Company at his C-suite office at Apple Park, Cook expressed concern that the streaming industry's increasing reliance on song-suggesting computer algorithms is sucking the soul out of music.

"We worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft," Cook said.

With tens of billions of dollars pouring in every quarter, and swelling ranks of streaming customers built on a healthy installed user base, Apple has the latitude to take a more philosophical view of music.

"We're not in it for the money," Cook said.

The executive was careful not to mention any one service in his critique, but the comments were clearly defined to paint Apple as a leader in the field. Contrasting the human approach to curation systems traditionally used by Spotify.

Apple executives, including SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine, have consistently lauded Apple Music's human curators as a tangible leg-up on the competition. In July, reports claimed Apple Music's subscriber count overtook that of Spotify in the U.S., a considerable feat given Apple was late to the streaming music party.

Apple Music users are treated to a customized playlist of recommended content, as well as a number of regularly updated genre-based playlists that include songs hand picked by human editors. Also featured prominently in the corresponding Apple Music app are new album selections, interviews with artists, a live radio station in Beats 1 and other humanized elements.

Cook is an obvious devotee of Apple's service, telling Fast Company that music is a key component in his life. The Apple chief has noted a fondness of music in past interviews, and repeated those platitudes in the interview published this week.

"I couldn't make it through a workout without music," Cook says. "Music inspires, it motivates. It's also the thing at night that helps quiet me. I think it's better than any medicine."

Spotify, too, is turning to human curation as a means of differentiation. The firm now fields a number of programmed playlists, including popular brands like Rap Caviar, to draw in and maintain subscriber numbers. According to a prospectus filing issued prior to Spotify's initial public offering, the service programs about 31 percent of all listening.

Amplified efforts in curation has led to poaching, with Spotify nabbing Apple Music's former R&B curator Carl Chery in April.

Cook's commentary was included as part of a comprehensive profile of Spotify founder Daniel Ek, who is looking to take the streaming firm to new heights on the back of its successful April IPO.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 87
    mubailimubaili Posts: 381member
    I think Cook is misinformed about AI. An AI that can beat Go’s best players are most likely can recommend a better music with better “soul” than most music curators that Apple can hire. I am worried about Apple’s AI effort if its CEO is this misinformed.
    CheeseFreezeracerhomie3[Deleted User]
  • Reply 2 of 87
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Phil Schiller really hit it out of the ballpark with this PR strategy.

    Not trying to profit? How could Tim even keep a straight face?
    bdkennedy1002muthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]
  • Reply 3 of 87
    does that mean apple will distribute all profits directly back to the artist.
    bdkennedy1002radarthekatmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 4 of 87
    thrangthrang Posts: 746member
    Well, I wish it were true for me - I like Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, King Crimson/Robert Fripp, and Aphex Twin  among others, and 90% of the "For You" offerings each week suck beyond belief. Why am I still being fed hip-hop or rap which I can't stand? I've set up Apple Music multiple times for genres and artists, and use the Like and Dislike buttons frequently... So the human curators are not doing a very good job of artists and genre matching - or I listen to fairly unique artists!
    paisleydisco[Deleted User]rattlhedGeorgeBMacStrangeDayspscooter63jony0
  • Reply 5 of 87
    chasmchasm Posts: 997member
    Thrang: I am also a fan of most of the bands you mention. Mostly, Apple Music does a great job of finding new stuff for me to listen to, but I think they deliberately throw in a curveball every now and again to prevent your tastes from getting too "samey" (not you, obviously, or me ... but most people's tastes fall into a pretty simple set of core bands/artists.

    I have noticed that both Spotify and Apple have trouble with people like me who enjoy very diverse bands. I like Devo, I like Incredible String Band, I like Harold Budd, I like They Might Be Giants, I like Charlie Parker, I like Tiny Tim.

    It's like that scene in Star Trek (or Doctor Who before it) where the star feeds a computer a bunch of logical conundrums and it explodes. :D

    Keep pressing that dislike button and providing written feedback when you have time ... the Apple Music team do read the fan mail!
    matrix077
  • Reply 6 of 87
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,271member
    Not to disagree with Tim but as the head of Apple, yes, you ARE in it for the money. As we are all aware, in the past Apple almost went under because they had run out of the stuff and Microsoft made them a deal. Just make sure that never happens again, right? :)
    designrmuthuk_vanalingamsingularity
  • Reply 7 of 87
    thrang said:
    Well, I wish it were true for me - I like Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, King Crimson/Robert Fripp, and Aphex Twin  among others, and 90% of the "For You" offerings each week suck beyond belief. Why am I still being fed hip-hop or rap which I can't stand? I've set up Apple Music multiple times for genres and artists, and use the Like and Dislike buttons frequently... So the human curators are not doing a very good job of artists and genre matching - or I listen to fairly unique artists!
    Interesting.  I only tried the “For You” a couple of times and didn’t think much of it so don’t check it anymore.  However, I use the “Favorites Mix” playlist quite a bit.  Similar to your experience, I frequently hear songs in my “Favorites Mix” that I’ve rarely, if ever, heard.  I also have iTunes Match and I’ve noticed that most of the music in FM is from my library, not from Apple Music.  So, I’ll have a band’s entire album in Match, but maybe only listened to the “popular” songs, but FM throws in songs that I don’t know off that album.  I don’t know if it matters with “Favorites Mix” but I have put star ratings on most of the songs in my library that I enjoy, but some have no rating because I haven’t really listened to them.
  • Reply 8 of 87
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    If you’re really not in it for the money, HOW ABOUT YOU LET VOICE CONTROLS ON THE HOMEPOD CONTROL AN ITUNES LIBRARY OF MUSIC RATHER THAN JUST APPLE MUSIC, THEN.

    That’s $350 they’re never going to see from me (hell, I was going to get two of them), because I’m not using streaming services. Ever. Local content, only and always. Fix the HomePod, Apple.
    SpamSandwichmuthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]pscooter63jony0
  • Reply 9 of 87
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 133member
    Life was sucked out of Rock and Roll by people like Lee Abrams who launched the Superstars format in the 1970s that concentrated on a rather smallish list of established artists and their most popular songs rather than let the audience discover and decide what they wanted. Prior to his consultancy, stations used program directors that listened to the Club DJs, talked to the concert promoters, tabulated local call in requests and their own judgement to determine playlists and rotations. This resulted in a Rock station in New York sounding different from one in Philadelphia and one in Memphis sounding different from one in Atlanta. It also helped keep rock vibrant and similar things happened with country and Soul.

    After Superstars delivered large audiences content to hearing mostly the same stuff over and over, the same thing was applied to other formats.

    In streaming land, the tech geeks think they can predict what you will like from a relatively short playlist. That may work for some, but not for everyone- especially those with broad and eclectic tastes. We would all be better off returning to a more regionalized playlist where local artists and favorites can gain traction before breaking out nationally.

    The one thing that bothers me the most about streaming from whomever is that the artists are not adequately compensated for their work. Peter Frampton recently tweeted this: "For 55 million streams of, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’, I got $1,700".

    Apple should pay artists more or get out of streaming.
    lostkiwiGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 10 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    davgreg said:
    Life was sucked out of Rock and Roll by people like Lee Abrams who launched the Superstars format in the 1970s that concentrated on a rather smallish list of established artists and their most popular songs rather than let the audience discover and decide what they wanted. Prior to his consultancy, stations used program directors that listened to the Club DJs, talked to the concert promoters, tabulated local call in requests and their own judgement to determine playlists and rotations. This resulted in a Rock station in New York sounding different from one in Philadelphia and one in Memphis sounding different from one in Atlanta. It also helped keep rock vibrant and similar things happened with country and Soul.

    After Superstars delivered large audiences content to hearing mostly the same stuff over and over, the same thing was applied to other formats.

    In streaming land, the tech geeks think they can predict what you will like from a relatively short playlist. That may work for some, but not for everyone- especially those with broad and eclectic tastes. We would all be better off returning to a more regionalized playlist where local artists and favorites can gain traction before breaking out nationally.

    The one thing that bothers me the most about streaming from whomever is that the artists are not adequately compensated for their work. Peter Frampton recently tweeted this: "For 55 million streams of, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’, I got $1,700".

    Apple should pay artists more or get out of streaming.
    I pretty much disagree with most of your antiquated views on music and disagree with the notion of Apple getting out of the streaming music business when they're one of the highest payers (looks like third behind Napster and Tidal (neither of which seem very popular which means that Apple is probably a much higher earner for musicians than those two simply by being on Apple Music), but I will say that if Tim Cook is serious about his not being in the music streaming business for the money it would go a long way to prove that by, at the very least, paying artists more per listen than anyone else out there. Personally, I use Spotify and I look forward to it (and SiriusXM) app to show up on the Apple Watch later this year, but if Apple came out with a statement that they were going to, say, triple how much they pay artists I'd sign up right away.

    Here is the Frampton tweet you mention:

    edited August 7 lamboaudi4[Deleted User]
  • Reply 11 of 87
    Soli said:
    davgreg said:
    Life was sucked out of Rock and Roll by people like Lee Abrams who launched the Superstars format in the 1970s that concentrated on a rather smallish list of established artists and their most popular songs rather than let the audience discover and decide what they wanted. Prior to his consultancy, stations used program directors that listened to the Club DJs, talked to the concert promoters, tabulated local call in requests and their own judgement to determine playlists and rotations. This resulted in a Rock station in New York sounding different from one in Philadelphia and one in Memphis sounding different from one in Atlanta. It also helped keep rock vibrant and similar things happened with country and Soul.

    After Superstars delivered large audiences content to hearing mostly the same stuff over and over, the same thing was applied to other formats.

    In streaming land, the tech geeks think they can predict what you will like from a relatively short playlist. That may work for some, but not for everyone- especially those with broad and eclectic tastes. We would all be better off returning to a more regionalized playlist where local artists and favorites can gain traction before breaking out nationally.

    The one thing that bothers me the most about streaming from whomever is that the artists are not adequately compensated for their work. Peter Frampton recently tweeted this: "For 55 million streams of, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’, I got $1,700".

    Apple should pay artists more or get out of streaming.
    I pretty much disagree with most of your antiquated views on music and disagree with the notion of Apple getting out of the streaming music business when they're one of the highest payers (looks like third behind Napster and Tidal (neither of which seem very popular which means that Apple is probably a much higher earner for musicians than those two simply by being on Apple Music), but I will say that if Tim Cook is serious about his not being in the music streaming business for the money it would go a long way to prove that by, at the very least, paying artists more per listen than anyone else out there. Personally, I use Spotify and I look forward to it (and SiriusXM) app to show up on the Apple Watch later this year, but if Apple came out with a statement that they were going to, say, triple how much they pay artists I'd sign up right away.

    Here is the Frampton tweet you mention:

    Hmmm, that works out to 0.000030909 cents per stream. Per BGR, this NYT article claims Apple will be paying artists 0.2 cents per stream which works out to $1 for every 500.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/business/media/apple-signs-thousands-of-independent-labels-in-royalty-deal.html

    Something seems off here. I recall Frampton was a long time holdout to letting his music go digital. Perhaps he’s trying to make things appear worse than they are to justify his holdout stance. Going by The Times’ figures he would have gotten $110,000 for 55 million streams (on Apple Music). 

    I think I read that Apple was trying to negotiate their rates down, so maybe this isn’t accurate, but I doubt they dropped as far as Frampton claims in that tweet. 
    edited August 7
  • Reply 12 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    Soli said:
    davgreg said:
    Life was sucked out of Rock and Roll by people like Lee Abrams who launched the Superstars format in the 1970s that concentrated on a rather smallish list of established artists and their most popular songs rather than let the audience discover and decide what they wanted. Prior to his consultancy, stations used program directors that listened to the Club DJs, talked to the concert promoters, tabulated local call in requests and their own judgement to determine playlists and rotations. This resulted in a Rock station in New York sounding different from one in Philadelphia and one in Memphis sounding different from one in Atlanta. It also helped keep rock vibrant and similar things happened with country and Soul.

    After Superstars delivered large audiences content to hearing mostly the same stuff over and over, the same thing was applied to other formats.

    In streaming land, the tech geeks think they can predict what you will like from a relatively short playlist. That may work for some, but not for everyone- especially those with broad and eclectic tastes. We would all be better off returning to a more regionalized playlist where local artists and favorites can gain traction before breaking out nationally.

    The one thing that bothers me the most about streaming from whomever is that the artists are not adequately compensated for their work. Peter Frampton recently tweeted this: "For 55 million streams of, ‘Baby I Love Your Way’, I got $1,700".

    Apple should pay artists more or get out of streaming.
    I pretty much disagree with most of your antiquated views on music and disagree with the notion of Apple getting out of the streaming music business when they're one of the highest payers (looks like third behind Napster and Tidal (neither of which seem very popular which means that Apple is probably a much higher earner for musicians than those two simply by being on Apple Music), but I will say that if Tim Cook is serious about his not being in the music streaming business for the money it would go a long way to prove that by, at the very least, paying artists more per listen than anyone else out there. Personally, I use Spotify and I look forward to it (and SiriusXM) app to show up on the Apple Watch later this year, but if Apple came out with a statement that they were going to, say, triple how much they pay artists I'd sign up right away.

    Here is the Frampton tweet you mention:

    Hmmm, that works out to 0.000030909 cents per stream. Per BGR, this NYT article claims Apple will be paying artists 0.2 cents per stream which works out to $1 for every 500.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/business/media/apple-signs-thousands-of-independent-labels-in-royalty-deal.html

    Something seems off here. I recall Frampton was a long time holdout to letting his music go digital. Perhaps he’s trying to make things appear worse than they are to justify his holdout stance. Going by The Times’ figures he would have gotten $110,000 for 55 million streams (on Apple Music). 

    I think I read that Apple was trying to negotiate their rates down, so maybe this isn’t accurate, but I doubt they dropped as far as Frampton claims in that tweet. 
    I didn't do the math but I don't think Frampton is lying or mistaken, so I'm assuming that what he's getting as payment is just a cut of all the other people between him and Apple.
    edited August 7 GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 13 of 87
    mubaili said:
    I think Cook is misinformed about AI. An AI that can beat Go’s best players are most likely can recommend a better music with better “soul” than most music curators that Apple can hire. I am worried about Apple’s AI effort if its CEO is this misinformed.
    There is a difference between deterministic games and music.   And from what I know, Deepminds AlphaZero aglorithm can’t generalize to non-game scenarios and applications.  
  • Reply 14 of 87
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,808member
    I can only assume that Tim is basing his “not in it for the money” to be a relative term versus the margins that Apple expects from other products in their portfolio. If Apple were to triple (or whatever) what they pay artists for streaming and pass the cost along to subscribers they would see a mass exodus of subscribers to other, cheaper services. I guess they could eat the difference by not passing along the additional cost to subscribers, but then they’d face the wrath of shareholders, many of whom are less financially altruistic about Apple's generosity to musical artists, content owners, and songwriters.

    As far as having humans in the music curation role is concerned, Apple is obviously promoting it as being significant because that’s where they’ve invested their money and are trying to differentiate from other streaming vendors. I think I love music as much as Tim Cook does, it’s a huge part of my life, it’s very personal, but Apple’s music curation has never influenced my musical choices or discovery process in any way. No big deal. It’s not a factor for me, but if other folks find it useful, good for them. No harm, no foul. Rock on.


    StrangeDayspscooter63
  • Reply 15 of 87
    Being 50 years old and watching Apple and Microsoft grow from startups to billion dollar companies, I think I am entitled to say that more and more people are seeing through Tim Cook and Phil Schiller's bulls***. I work for a company that has a similar strategy. If you're told everything is great, then it is, while most people whisper that it's not. Lots of transparancy. Drink the Kool Aid. Everything will be fine. I love many of Apple's products, but over the years, Apple has turned into the Microsoft of 1995. Kumbaya, give everyone a big hug, then add 30%. When Steve died, the DNA of the company died with him. It's just going to take years for that to be realized. Maybe John Sculley would like to come back with his big mouth and almost bankrupt Apple again so they can start from scratch.
    edited August 7 [Deleted User]
  • Reply 16 of 87
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,408member
    dewme said:
    I can only assume that Tim is basing his “not in it for the money” to be a relative term versus the margins that Apple expects from other products in their portfolio. If Apple were to triple (or whatever) what they pay artists for streaming and pass the cost along to subscribers they would see a mass exodus of subscribers to other, cheaper services. I guess they could eat the difference by not passing along the additional cost to subscribers, but then they’d face the wrath of shareholders, many of whom are less financially altruistic about Apple's generosity to musical artists, content owners, and songwriters.

    As far as having humans in the music curation role is concerned, Apple is obviously promoting it as being significant because that’s where they’ve invested their money and are trying to differentiate from other streaming vendors. I think I love music as much as Tim Cook does, it’s a huge part of my life, it’s very personal, but Apple’s music curation has never influenced my musical choices or discovery process in any way. No big deal. It’s not a factor for me, but if other folks find it useful, good for them. No harm, no foul. Rock on.
    Sure, but I'd argue that they've been down the "leaving money on the table" argument before and they've come out ahead. macOS used to be $129 and after a few price drops it's now free but device sales are where the money is at and keeping as many users on the same OS reduce costs elsewhere, which I think they found with iOS-based devices.

    So, is there an argument that if Apple was the best platform for artists to make money on streaming music would this lead to even higher revenue and higher profit from various device sales? We know Apple's services segment is massive in its own right, so I assume they're making a profit there but, let's say (very hypothetically) that Apple could pledge to make Apple Music a break-even business with all additional proceeds per quarter are distributed to artists, could this drive artists to use and recommend Apple Music and Apple devices without Apple ever having to sign them up as spokesman or send them swag; and if this could happen would that not also then drive artists to Apple Music and Apple devices?

    Now, Apple Music is also on Android, which may be a hold over because of Beats, but why not just kill it when they created Apple Music as they've done with plenty of other apps over the years? If Apple Music could be a driver for more device sales because artists can't help but be drawn to and promote the platform, would killing the app on Google Play then also help get people to jump to the iPhone?

    tl;dr: Could Apple help others profit as a means to profit even more themselves?
    edited August 7 radarthekat
  • Reply 17 of 87
    I get that apple are the good guys. 

    But theyre a business. 

    And the whole hole point of business is to make a profit. 

    Lets have a bit more honesty and a little less of whatever this is. 
    SpamSandwichentropysmuthuk_vanalingam[Deleted User]
  • Reply 18 of 87
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 609member
    nunzy said:
    Phil Schiller really hit it out of the ballpark with this PR strategy.

    Not trying to profit? How could Tim even keep a straight face?
    Guess what? Money & making profit isn’t the be all, end all for a lot of people, thankfully. If that is at the top of your value system, you are in for a rude awakening. If not now, later in life. 
    bdkennedy1002canukstormradarthekatnunzyGeorgeBMacRayz2016Tuuborpscooter63
  • Reply 19 of 87
    How arrogant to say you’re not in it for profits if you’re one of the major music streaming players.

    If that’s indeed true, why does HomePod not support Spotify and why does Siri not accept third party music streaming services? Correct... to push ‘m out. 
    [Deleted User]
  • Reply 20 of 87
    mubaili said:
    I think Cook is misinformed about AI. An AI that can beat Go’s best players are most likely can recommend a better music with better “soul” than most music curators that Apple can hire. I am worried about Apple’s AI effort if its CEO is this misinformed.
    That’s where you are wrong. AI has only certain deep thinking capabilities ,not general ones like the ones in our brains.
    perpetual3Rayz2016
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