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Op-Ed: Jimmy Iovine At The Vanity Fair Conference – By Bob Lefestz

"Jimmy Iovine wants Apple to save the world from free music":

It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

Or one can just say that every time Jimmy Iovine opens his mouth he digs his hole deeper.

Let's rewind the clock all the way back to 2004, January of that year, when Jimmy Iovine stumbled through a speech at CES, as he shilled for HP and its soon to be disgraced CEO Carly Fiorina, and complained, as he did yesterday, that free was killing the music business.

"HP Declares War On Sharing Culture":

Jimmy references 50 Cent. If you know your history, Fitty took his newfound fame and ended up with a serious slice of Vitamin Water, generating more riches than any recording contract ever could.

As for Carly Fiorina extolling the virtues of digital rights management (DRM), this was already after the iTunes Music Store had launched and lock free files were swimming all over the web.

This was also the CES wherein Carly launched the HP iPod. And if you want to know how that turned out, how Jobs snookered Fiorina, read this:

"How Steve Jobs Fleeced Carly Fiorina":

And this is the woman we want running our country?

Of course we don't. This is the woman selling newspapers and TV advertising, media loves her challenge to Trump. And I'll cede Carly her intelligence, but her business history is superseded by Andy Lack's tenure at Sony Music, wherein he put the rootkit on CDs and not only killed Neil Diamond's album, but helped put the CD business in its grave, all by alienating customers.

Now Jimmy is targeting Spotify and YouTube at "Vanity Fair," but really he's pointing his finger at you, the consumer. You don't pay for music. But you do overpay to see your favorites live who are "forced" to go on tour and make millions. How could he and Carly get it so wrong?

By having no experience.

Carly Fiorina knew little about tech and little about running a major tech corporation. It would be like putting a fantasy football champ in charge of the Patriots, because really Belichick is doing the job of an amateur, his wins are accidental.

Jimmy knows loads about signing talent and selling music.

Digital distribution of goods? HE'S CLUELESS!

What do we know about tech…

Excellence is key, the price goes down and scale is everything.

Is most of the music deserving of our attention?


But now that everything's available people are gravitating to the few anointed artists. And that means that both the good and the marginal are left out. It's about listens. And all the listens are going to the hit artists. You're broke because of your content, not because Spotify and YouTube are screwing you.

As for YouTube…

It garnered most of the viewing/listening because Warner Music refused to license Spotify and therefore the service didn't launch in the U.S. until 2011. YouTube is much less of a factor in nations where Spotify launched earlier, like in Scandinavia in 2009. Timing is key. Hell, if Apple Music predated Spotify it might be in a triumphant position today.

As for the freemium tier… It was enabled to kill piracy. Does Jimmy really believe if freemium goes away that everybody will pay? He doesn't think it will just drive piracy underground again, via P2P and sneakernet? The book business declared war on Amazon, Bezos capitulated, prices were raised and sales went down. Or is Jimmy just out for himself, and if Apple Music can make money he doesn't really care about piracy… That'd be the self-centered music business way.

We've learned for the past fifteen years that the only way you win is by getting on the customer's side. If you're trying to shame people into compliance, corral them into seeing it your way, you're doomed. Remember when the RIAA sued file traders?

Furthermore, Jimmy is now playing defense. He doth protest too much. He got his ninety days free, he's responsible for a botched product. But suddenly it's Spotify and YouTube's fault?

And Jimmy tried to tilt the playing field. By making rightsholders end their Spotify freemium deal, by making them eradicate free music from YouTube. The end result? GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION! This is hilarious because back in 2004 Jimmy was begging for the government to get involved. Karma's a bitch. And everybody in tech knows you keep the government at bay, because D.C. is backwards and incompetent, and when you finally fly on the radar you hire lobbyists to educate and implore elected officials.

Ranting and raving just makes Jimmy laughable, marginalizes him.

He's making these statements at a fat cat confab. Try saying the same things in front of the public, rotten tomatoes would be flying, boos would drown him out. Can Jimmy really be that out of touch?


We've hit bottom. Recorded music revenues are only going to go up. Streaming has won and will continue to rule, because we live in an on demand culture and that's what streaming is…you don't own it, you have the ability to access it. If you hate Spotify, you hate Netflix, you'd rather own DVDs. But good luck finding someplace to buy them, your brethren have moved on.

But the marginal, like Jimmy, yell loudest.

Ten percent are never going to pay. Forget about them.

As for the other ninety percent, they're looking for convenience, and advantages.

Did AT&T and Verizon put a gun to consumers' heads and force them to buy expensive data plans?

No, people wanted them, so they could play!

They paid for AOL.

They paid for broadband connections.

And now some have stopped paying for cable.

Cablevision got out. But before Dolan made the deal, he said how the value of cable in the future would be the internet, not TV.

If Jimmy wants Apple Music to win, he's got to provide a better experience. And he's got to realize we're in a transitional period. Music has been free for so long that most people have fallen out of the habit of paying for it, if they ever paid at all. But history is littered with stories of people adopting new habits, expensive ones at that.

But you've got the artists saying they're being screwed.

Billionaire Jimmy Iovine saying it's all unfair.

And everybody at home is struggling just to survive.

Jimmy can't rewrite the rules of business, of human behavior. How come he knows so much about selling good records and so little about selling streaming music?

Can you stream on Sonos without paying?

OF COURSE NOT! But Jimmy launched Apple Music without Sonos compatibility, not realizing these upscale sneezers would spread the word.

Is YouTube a good listening experience on the handset?


Can you pick and choose the songs you want to hear on Spotify's mobile freemium tier?


It pays to pay.

People just don't know it yet.

But do you get a date by insulting someone?

Don't we hook drug addicts by giving dope away for free?

Everybody needs to STFU. Streaming services just have to improve, become an indispensable business proposition, then people will pay.

And they will.

But never forget…

One service will have the lion's share of the paying customers, you go where your friends are, we live in a social world.

And just because you can play, that does not mean you can win.

And that goes for both wannabe artists and Jimmy Iovine.

Excellence rules. Word of mouth counts.

And if you're over fifty you're probably clueless.

Unless this is your area of expertise to begin with.

Kids don't own televisions, if they watch on their computers or handsets at all.

Jimmy would tell them to sit down in front of the big screen.

I'm saying we're in a good place. We've beaten back piracy and you can get all the goods in one place. Take that television, take that movies.

Happy days are here again, just you wait and see.