THE LEFSETZ LETTER: Apple Music

It's toast.


Its success was based upon eliminating free. But that positively non-techie entity known as the government put the kibosh on that. Now the labels and Apple are too scared to enact their plan of eliminating freemium. So while the techies leap ahead, creating solutions to problems we didn't even know we had, those in the music business stay mired in the past, believing backroom dealings and brawn will get them what they want. But it won't in the new world.


Apple Music provides nothing new other than a live radio service, which is mildly interesting, but never forget that iTunes Radio didn't put a dent in Pandora. And sure, Beats 1 will make it worldwide before Pandora ever does, but is that what the world is clamoring for, a global radio service? I don't think so.


Bob Lefsetz, Santa Monica-based industry legend, is the author of the e-mail newsletter, "The Lefsetz Letter". Famous for being beholden to no one, and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to music business honchos like Michael Rapino, Randy Phillips, Don Ienner, Cliff Burnstein, Irving Azoff and Tom Freston.

Never boring, always entertaining, Mr. Lefsetz's insights are fueled by his stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

Bob has been a weekly contributor to CelebrityAccess and Encore since 2001, and we plan many more years of partnership with him. While we here at CelebrityAccess and Encore do not necessarily agree with all of Bob's opinions, we are proud to help share them with you.


But the heart and soul of Apple Music is its streaming service. And it broke the number one rule of technology. That in order to succeed you've got to deliver something better, bring in those who were disinterested or scared to participate previously, and there's nothing in Apple Music that isn't widely available elsewhere, including its social network and playlists. Is that what we need, a new place to display musicians' thoughts and wares? You can't compete with Facebook just like you can't compete with Google. Innovation can kill them, but there's nothing innovative about Connect other than it's located on Apple's platform.

As for playlists… The internet is inundated with them. And if hand-curated playlists were the key to success, the original Beats Music would have triumphed. But to call it an also-ran would be generous. Turns out to win, or at least play the game in a meaningful way, you've got to have a freemium offering. And Apple Music does not.


It could change. It should change. Three months free is a good start, but there's no incentive to keep up your subscription. And those already desirous of paying for streaming already do, and getting someone to switch is difficult, especially to a company that evidences such hubris.


That's right, there's a huge backlash to Monday's presentation. Primarily in the press, because the public doesn't care. But you can't find anybody saying anything good, from Iovine to Cue. Furthermore, there's the story of the indie act having previous ties to Iovine and being fake. Those who care are aghast, even if most people don't give a crap. But the truth is Iovine is tone-deaf. He's way out of his league. He comes from a land where relationships and intimidation mean everything. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours and we'll make it on the image of propped-up stars. But the truth is in the modern era the winners are faceless techies who go their own way, whether they be Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Evan Spiegel of Snapchat or Nick Woodman of GoPro. They're giant slayers who think different, something Apple used to have a hold on.


I'm mortified by my experience with the Apple Watch. Jony Ive may be a great designer, but when it comes to what's under the sheen, he's brain dead. You're selling me a watch that doesn't tell time, that doesn't perform the basic functions of a wristwatch? And you're selling it as a luxury good? This is all wrong and does not portend a good future, especially when Angela Ahrendts is hired to promote it. I used to believe in Apple, but my faith is flagging.


And I need something and someone to believe in.

Daniel Ek's story is more interesting than Iovine's. Ek slayed piracy, Iovine sold crappy headphones as fashion items. I still listen to my old Sennheisers, will anyone listen to their old Beats? We want people who suffered, who are in it with us, providing us something we can't get elsewhere, whereas Apple Music seems constructed to save the major labels, artists and Apple…AND WE DON'T CARE!


That’s right, Apple Music is hermetically sealed. The public does not need to pay to save the music industry, the music industry must innovate its way out of the hole. Assuming there's a hole to begin with! All the new tools have allowed acts to find their audience, interact with them and super-serve them. So, recordings are a smaller piece of the pie, but listening to Lucian Grainge rant against freemium is like listening to a manufacturing plant owner rail against China. We don't want to overpay for music and we don't want to pay $3000 for a flat screen. Welcome to today.


Of course Apple Music won't fail completely. But it will not eviscerate YouTube, it will not get everybody to pay, it probably won't even dominate the streaming sphere.


Because you've got to live in the real world.


And the world we live in, especially online, is one in which you must respect your customer, and hew to reality.


The reality is right now music is primarily a freemium product. And you won't get everyone to pay by either closing down YouTube or offering this imitative service. You will only win by providing what the customer wants, by having people play in to your web. And the customer doesn't want Apple Music, doesn't need Apple Music, and the hardest problem facing musicians is getting people to listen to their tunes at all, not getting paid.


But don't expect anybody in the music-industrial complex to acknowledge this.


P.S. It doesn't matter whether the government nails the labels or Apple for past behavior, it prevents them from heinous activity in the future. Believe me, the last thing the music industry wants is government scrutiny, it's got more skeletons in its closet than a graveyard.


"Who is Loren Kramar? The 'unsigned' artist Apple advertised has major label connections": http://tnw.co/1KqoOJb

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