Follow Up to Apple Music Exclusives Piece

After hearing about Universal allegedly banning exclusives, I felt this crucial narrative mismanaged.

I’m not writing on behalf of Apple. I left Apple Music in June, and these words and opinions are my own.

I wrote about pre-Troy Carter Spotify. A Spotify that preaches music be free. A Spotify that, to my knowledge, exclusively markets artists by playlisting them (save for Metallica doc). A Spotify that features three indie artists on Today’s Top Hits (out of 50 today). I believe platforms need to focus on more than playlist placement to develop artists. Troy is the best person I could imagine for this job. I am confident he, along with Tom Calderone, will do great things, but my article was written before we’ve seen any of that impact.

I do not want any music to be exclusive to any platform. At Apple Music though, exclusives (or windows) are not about excluding. They are about surrounding the release with exciting content and conversation, creating cultural moments that Apple elevates and in return becomes forever associated with. At Tidal, they are solely about withholding. I believe Apple can remove the “Exclusive” tag from its strategy, let everyone have it at once, change it to “Brought to You By,” and be even more effective. Rather than a land grab, make it a race to whom can build the most excitement around their platform. I hope this happens.

$10/month is not too much, $50 might be. Think back to CDs. Music should not be free, IP has value. Music cannot just be subsidized by brands that sell soda and NO just using music as an ad to sell concert tickets is NOT OK either. I believe the underdeveloped Apple Music Connect is a better answer to Freemium than ads. Effectively, we should shift from sampling to connection. Fish where the consumer fishes and build feedback loops.

Playlists must democratize, or the indies die, and diversity goes away, taking creativity with it. There are three indies on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits, and I lost count on Apple’s Hot Tracks, plus it’s all new not just Top 40 Radio. I do not trust the studies that tell us playlists feature a healthy amount of indies. Indies are dying for lack of representation. Apple needs to do better as well, but at least Hot Tracks is there and it’s the first thing users see.

Beyond playlists, Kiiara, Gallant, A.Chal (many more) premiered (non-exclusive) on Beats1, developed through Apple Music’s ecosystem, and have all gone on to big things.

In Billboard, regarding how Spotify develops artists: “‘Take Me To Church’ hit №1 on Spotify’s US chart. This is when Spotify decided to give ‘Take Me To Church’ an extra lift.”

Kiiara’s “Gold” has been in heavy rotation at Beats1 for over a year, along with three other singles. “Gold” featured in Hot Tracks June 2015, when she was anonymous and unsigned. Kiiara is now signed to Atlantic Records, but I’ll never forget the day when Zane flipped over “Gold” and I tracked down the manager to be the only one he would give the .wav file to. A year later, “Gold,” signed to Atlantic, sits on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist.

Read the Rolling Stone profile on Carl Chery and Bryson Tiller. Everyone should look at the work that Carl, Neil Dominique and Tunji Balogun did together to develop Bryson Tiller.

Apple did not break Chance the Rapper, Apple was just a deserving and a little lucky beneficiary to be his partner. Chance has an incredible team around him and does not need Apple or anyone else. This is not a template, he is unique.

Discover Weekly is a great first step, exposing new artists to listeners constantly, but we can do much better. Scott Vener will find something before anyone else. Put it on OTHERtone Beats1. Blogs pick it up. UGC playlists pick it up. People start listening. It’s tested against algorithms. It passes and gets thrown into the DW mix. Francis and the Lights featuring Bon Iver “Friends” is on my DW this week. Way too late, I listened to that immediately on release day on repeat. I prefer to just have the human Scott Vener tell me what’s good.

Discover Weekly (30 songs), Fresh New Finds (30), New Music Friday (66), Viral 50 (50+50) and Release Radar (26). 252 songs. Who has time to consume 252 new songs every week? Are there 252 new songs every week worth listening to? That’s excluding, by the way, any real dance music, which has been shut out of streaming services — no EDM playlists do not count.

Give me the 10 best songs of the week, genre agnostic. I’d rather spend more time with the unforgettable, than a little bit of time with so much that I can’t even remember if it’s memorable (oh snap good quote!). Make that list the holy grail with major bragging rights and exposure.

I don’t know what “Happy” or “Chill” means as a playlist, but I read Hypebeast’s newsletter every day, and their Best Of Week playlist is a must listen for me.

Flume’s and Odesza’s. “Never Be Like You” and “Say My Name” are great songs — classics. But they do not reflect every single mood or activity in my arsenal as a human being. That’s what happens when you let the computers do all the work.

Ok enough for now! Hope you enjoyed reading! Let’s build a better streaming world together!

Love

sg