Apple execs mingled at Grammys, discussed future of Beats and iTunes

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By Larry Banks

The Grammys may have been last weekend, but only now are details about the Apple whispers around Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party starting to be revealed, according to Billboard.

Apple revamps Beats Music

Apple executives attending the gala include CEO Tim Cook, as well as Eddy Cue, Jimmy Iovine, and iTunes VP Robert Kondrk, with the executives chatting with a variety of music industry movers and shakers during the event.

Iovine, who joined Apple last year after the Beats Music acquisition, has been meeting with senior executives from many of the major record labels in the last few weeks, and even though Billboard reports that “a nondisclosure agreement preceded every sit-down”, some details on the discussions have started to leak out. One of the main threads seems to be a spring or summer launch for a revamped Beats Music streaming service which the company is said to be deeply integrating with iOS 9 and OS X. And this weekend, Apple has been seen bolstering its music credentials further with the hiring of the UK’s hugely popular Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, who will leave the BBC to join Apple supposedly to collaborate on iTunes, iTunes Radio or Beats Music.

Apple wants to be the music business

Apple Execs at the Grammys

An industry insider who spoke with Billboard claims that the iPhone maker doesn’t just want to be in the music business, but basically wants to be the music business – for example, dozens more exclusive tie-ins and releases only available on Apple devices. Billboard states that with the new iOS updates already being developed, Apple seems to be tackling its music shortcomings head on.

The proof is in the 800 million credit cards it already has on file — comparably, Spotify has 15 million subscriptions and 60 million monthly users, although the service is growing, headed to an initial public offering.

In fact, integration has begun. Apple TV features a Beats logo, an update to Apple’s iOS will include streaming and creative is in the works for new ads starring artists recruited by Iovine. But that may be the extent of Beats’ involvement as Kondrk takes the lead on music. Like the Apple-centric design of its offices, the look and feel of Beats is likely to mirror Apple’s aesthetic, not the other way around.

Other rumours say that iTunes itself will undergo a bit of an overhaul, with Apple planning to remote lots of covers and re-recordings. Billboard also says that the ‘featured’ slider on the front of the iTunes store may be replaced with a similar item that is based on sales, rather than being editorially chosen:

Additionally, featured-artist sliders, previously chosen editorially, may now be determined by sales velocity, leaving some to wonder if iTunes is becoming less like a Tower Records and more of a Target — limited selection and a focus on hit titles. “Until now, iTunes has been good to the indies,” contends one vet. Conversely, an Apple source says such case-by-case house-cleaning to eliminate duplicative and deceptive versions is routine.

Industry insiders are reportedly quite optimistic about Apple’s music plans, and the company already has a huge user base with credit cards on file, as well as its unmatched ecosystem of devices and operating system that the new service should make a splash when it’s finally unveiled.

If Apple can offer an all-you-can-eat streaming service at a reasonable monthly price, as well as human-curated playlists, it might just have a chance to compete with Spotify in the lucrative streaming market.

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