Apple’s music business is under fire. Not ‘on fire.’ Under fire. As much as Apple changed the record store industry by becoming the world’s largest online music store, streaming music is putting a dent in iTunes.
Change often begets change. iTunes and iPod changed how we buy, manage, and listen to music. Today, music is everywhere, cheap (pay by the month), and the industry is going through yet another change.
What has been Apple’s response? The company spent $3-billion or so for a headphone company run by a couple of industry hotshots (Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine), dumped a listless and mostly lame U2 album into a few gazillion iTunes music libraries, and seems to be grasping at straws to save its huge iTunes Store music business.
Why all the noise and nattering negativity from the nabobs over Apple’s free U2 album? Apple didn’t say anything about it. The album just showed up. It’s as if you woke up one morning and your living room was full of new IKEA furniture. Free is good, but furniture is a personal thing, and most of us would be creeped out to find out what IKEA did while we were asleep.
What’s wrong with free music (even if you don’t want U2 on your iPhone)?
How does free music help the music industry, which is already on the rocks? Free devalues value. Sure, I like free, but if free is the only way to get music how long before most recording artists retire to Del Webb’s Sun City?
What is Apple up to?
What the industry needs is a new model whereby the recording companies do not suck the life (and profits) out of recording artists. Apple is in a position to disintermediate the recording industry as we know it. Think of Apple as the future recording industry mogul; the world’s largest recording label. How long would it be before recording artists would dump their record labels and sign up to be managed by Apple’s Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine?
There is more going on that my plausible but unlikely scenario, but Apple, historically, isn’t afraid to make drastic changes. iTunes is a huge and profitable business for Apple. Will Tim Cook protect it as it ages, or put new life into iTunes with a transmogrification similar to Doctor Who?