Steve Jobs in 2003: ‘Bankrupt’ Streaming Music Services ‘Treat You like a Criminal’
On April 28, 2003, global tech giant Apple Inc. introduced the iTunes Music Store, marking the beginning of a dramatic evolution in how people purchase and listen to music.
Over the past three years, however, Apple has seen a decline in iTunes’ once-mighty digital download sales as a result of the rising popularity of streaming audio services from companies like Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody and, most recently, Tidal.
So, on June 30, 2015, Apple will finally unveil its own streaming audio subscription service, Apple Music, to contend with the already existing powerhouses of online audio.
At a rate of $10 a month, Apple Music will be doing what founder Steve Jobs warned wouldn’t work. In a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone, Jobs went on the record to say that people want to own music, not subscriptions:
“These services treat you like a criminal. And they are subscription based and we think subscriptions are the wrong path. One of the reasons we think this is because people bought their music for as long as we can remember. We bought our music on LPs, we bought our music on cassettes, we bought our music on CDs. And we think people want to buy their music on the internet by buying downloads just like they bought LPs, just like they bought cassettes, just like they bought CDs. They’re used to buying their music, and they’re used to getting a broad set of rights with it. When you own your music it never goes away. When you own your music you have a broad set of personal use rights — you can listen to it however you want.”
In the same interview, Jobs joked:
“The subscription model of buying music is bankrupt. I think you could make available the Second Coming in a subscription model and it might not be successful.”
At an event later that year, Jobs doubled down on his assessment when he said:
“People have told us over and over and over again, they don’t want to rent their music. Just to make that perfectly clear, music’s not like a video. Your favorite movie you might watch ten times in your life — your favorite song you’re going to listen to a thousand times in your life. If it costs you $10 a month or over a $100 a year for a subscription fee to rent that song, that means for me to listen to my favorite song in 10 years I paid over a $1,000 in subscription fees to listen to my favorite song 10 years from now, and that just doesn’t fly with customers. They don’t want subscriptions.”
Jobs may have been right about subscription-based music services in 2003, but a lot has changed since then. From internet-savvy smartphones to society’s’ ever-growing sharing economy, the world has become a very different place.
Apple Music makes every song in the iTunes library available for $9.99 a month or $14.99 a month for up to six family members. The service also offers curated playlists and a radio station programmed by DJs called “Beats Radio,” named after Beats Electronics, which the company purchased for over $3 billion last year.
The CEO of music streaming rival Spotify, Daniel Ek, said in an interview with Swedish business daily Dagens Industri published Thursday:
“To me it is enough to be among the top three. But right now we have an advantage of being the number one in music.”
Only time will tell if Apple can overtake Spotify with their new music-streaming service, but based on the success Apple has had in the past, it seems, modestly put, very likely.