Trent Reznor Talks Apple Music & Above Avalon Premium Week in Review

Along with periodic Above Avalon posts, I send out a daily update containing stories (10-12 per week) to Above Avalon members via email. The following is a sample story sent to members on July 2nd. 

Trent Reznor Talks Apple Music

We are getting a much clearer picture of how Apple Music was created through the creative direction of Trent Reznor. 

As a very brief background on Reznor, he, along with Ian Rogers, joined Beats to help launch a music subscription service. The end result was very similar to what we see today with Apple Music. 

Reznor has been quite vocal in the past about the music industry and the volatile relationship between artists and music labels when it comes to money. He experienced the music industry from both the perspective of an independent artist and the view of an artist receiving support by a major label, which serves as good background for working on a music subscription service. 

Apple has made Reznor available for the Apple Music PR tour and Pitchfork published an interview with him yesterday. I enjoyed the interview for all of the imagery and candor found in his answers. 

Here's Reznor on the problem found with most music streaming services: 

"I feel like I'm walking into a big box store where all the merchandise is in a cardboard box. I mean, it's there, you can eat all you want. But it's searching for a box in a card catalog versus a place where you walk in and leave kind of blown away by the stuff you didn't realize you wanted when you went in there." 

You can start to see that Reznor thinks of music streaming differently than most people. Keep in mind that the product he is describing was what Beats was originally selling. The service never saw widespread adoption before getting bought by Apple. It's easy to see that the message Reznor is describing about how most music streaming sites are awful must have resonated with Apple. Could Apple have built its own music subscription service? Sure, but Beats' music streaming was built on ideals that matched Apple's philosophy. According to Reznor,

"What we tried to do with Apple Music is make the experience around the catalog feel like people that love music have touched it in the various ways it gets presented to you: playlists that noticeably feel better, radio stations that were programmed by people, recommendations that feel less like a computer and more like someone made you a mixtape and you like their taste."

Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue described Apple Music as a service a few weeks ago, which now seems much more business-like in retrospect. Meanwhile, I thought Reznor's Apple Music description was the most genuine I have seen published.

You start to understand why Apple is even bothering with music. It's all about selling an experience, something Apple excels at with its current products. That is what Apple means when they say music is in their DNA. There is more here then just Apple thinking they need to do music because they came out with iTunes and the iPod.

Here is Reznor describing what I would say is one of the more controversial parts of Apple Music, Connect: 

"[W]e just wanted to make a place where if you're an artist and you want to share something that's more promotional - you're not necessarily looking to get paid on it but you want people to hear it and have as wide a reach as possible - put it up here and it's not locked into anything. You can embed it wherever. It's not meant to just be over here behind this paywall...We wanted to create a place where the people making the art could feel like they could have a center, and ultimately, monetization, and the ability to be provided with some tools that didn't exist as elegantly as they do anywhere else." 

I think this is where Reznor's argument, while certainly still making a lot of sense, is being stretched just a bit. The Connect that is being described may be attractive to some artists, but with others there may not be much interest at all. I know in my situation, the 40 artists I am following haven't exactly been active on Connect, but others have said they are seeing plenty of activity. Will we see a split develop among the music community? Will we need to wait until there is a massive audience before we see artists begin to engage more on Connect? Time will tell. 

Reznor closes the interview with an interesting take on Apple and risk:

"I'm surrounded by enthusiasm and support and a company that's ready to take risks and allow, what I think, is risky good taste to be a fundamental part of what they're trying to do. It's pretty cool that the biggest company in the world feels that way. It feels good to me right now."

The closer you look at Apple Music, the more you realize Apple is taking a big risk here. While it is a music streaming service just like any other streaming service out there, it is based on ideals that are quite different from others. I think that is why it is so interesting of a product. 

Above Avalon members also received the following stories this past week:

Android Switcher Rates Bode Well for iPhone Sales

Q&A Thursday (collection of submitted questions by members)

Apple is Growing Faster than Xiaomi

Apple Music Observations 

Apple Music's Problem

Reflections on iPhone's 8th Anniversary

Greece's Impact on Apple

Attaching a Price to Apple's Free Music Trial

The Big Bet Behind Beats 1

New iPhones Entering Production

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