Lyor Cohen: Steve Jobs Bullied the Music Industry, Spotify is an Evolution

Spotify is now demonized by the music industry, but industry vet Cohen says that Jobs and iTunes were far more problematic.
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In a new interview with The Guardian, veteran record executive Lyor Cohen offered up contrasting views of the founders of Apple and Spotify, showing how static perspectives rarely keep up with a constantly evolving music industry.

Cohen said that based on his interactions with Apple, revered founder Steve Jobs was “a bully.”

“My firsthand experience was that he was determined and was going to get only what he wanted,” Cohen said. “He was very seductive, but a profound bully. And oftentimes he did not say the truth.”

On the other hand, Spotify founder Daniel Ek, according to Cohen, had a “fabulous” idea that helped everyone involved during a time period where piracy was destroying labels from the inside out.  

“I thought that the consumer proposition was fabulous and that he was going to be a very successful and wealthy guy. And that he was going to help shepherd in a new era,” Cohen said. In an extended version of the interview, he added, “…One of the ways he was able to eviscerate a lot of the piracy was through the free tier. His free tier gave people music in a very protected way.”

The contrast between the two services is interesting because it shows just how opposed the music industry was to change via the internet. In the early days of iTunes, Apple was chastised because it demanded a high percentage, and allowing the purchase of individual songs was thought to encourage customers to spend less money. At that point, record labels were still wishing for the glory days of $18 CD sales.

These days, most conversation about streaming formats is about how services like Spotify and Apple Music don’t compensate artists enough for their streams. Stories are constantly being published that show artist's songs being streamed millions of times, and yet the artists are receiving payments that seem comparatively low. 

Each perspective, for and against Apple and Spotify, has its merits. But wherever the music industry goes next, it will likely be a similar cycle: streaming will be seen as the good old days, while the new innovators will be demonized. 

By William E. Ketchum III, follow him at @WEKetchum

Photo Credit: Instagram

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