Apple Music: Platform? Promoter? Both.
By all modern metrics, Drake was far and away the most listened-to artist of 2016, a year when music consumers further abandoned CDs and paid downloads, and turned increasingly to streaming services.
The rapper saw staggering numbers from FM radio to Spotify, where songs from his album “Views” were streamed more than three billion times since their April release, but it was Drake’s exhaustive synergy with Apple Music, where “Views” was played another few billion times, that best illustrated the recent paradigm shifts in the music industry — and signaled where things may yet be headed. (According to Nielsen Music, on-demand streaming now accounts for a larger share of total business — 38 percent — than physical sales, digital album sales or track downloads.)
Even 10 years ago, long after the MP3 had changed everything, the pop industry was fairly diffuse: Major labels serviced music to stores and radio while also handling additional marketing. Music videos, paid for by those labels, had their premieres on MTV or, increasingly, on free online platforms; late-night shows and glossy magazines did interviews around long-planned release dates; and the lucrative business of touring was largely a separate concern.
Since its debut in the summer of 2015, however, Apple Music has separated itself from Spotify, the industry’s streaming leader, by trying to become a one-stop shop for major artists — part platform and part promoter.
In the case of Drake, the service’s marquee musician so far, that has meant unveiling new songs on his OVO Sound show for Apple’s Beats 1 internet radio station while making his music exclusive to the service for a set window of time. Zane Lowe, the Beats 1 host, was granted Drake’s only interview around his album release. The rapper’s Summer Sixteen tour was sponsored by Apple, as was his promotional mini-movie, “Please Forgive Me,” which remains available only to subscribers. (Unlike Spotify, Apple does not offer free streaming; a monthly subscription is $9.99, though three-month trials are available.)
The Apple Music executives Larry Jackson, left, and Jimmy Iovine, are record label veterans who were behind the delivery of some of pop music’s most notable 2016 moments.
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