On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, the world lost one of its leading innovators, visionaries and entrepreneurs. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former CEO, died of pancreatic cancer which he was battling since 2004. As his health condition deteriorated in August, Jobs resigned from his office as the company's CEO.
Apple is far more than just another technology giant based in California's Silicon Valley. With the creative foresight of Steve Jobs, it embodies the creativity and ability to make changes instead of following proven but old-fashioned recipes and norms. It offers solutions to multiple issues that enhanced the digital experience to millions of users around the globe. Music in particular, has experienced an immense but also necessary change thanks to Jobs and Apple.
How did Jobs exactly change the music game? He showed ways of distribution and revenue generation in a new era to a troubling and somewhat lost industry. Back in October 2001, Apple launched the iPod and iTunes, the first easy-to-use software for managing your digital music collection. The digital environment was a tough one since paying for music seemed to be an antiquated idea. Numerous illegal file sharing software embodied a serious threat to the record labels' revenue as the user was enabled to obtain songs and entire albums for free. By incorporating iTunes to their newest gadget, Apple fundamentally changed how the user relates to music. Apple set the price at .99¢ a song and simplified the acquisition of music which started to seduce people back in the habit to pay for their audio pleasure. Although iTunes may have killed the album, recording artists (and labels respectively) are now able to make a relatively handsome fortune by selling music one song at a time – and sharing revenue with Apple obviously. Although there have been some setbacks, such as the rather low response to Apple's social music network Ping, subsequent gadgets like iPod and iPhone followed and even further aided the condition of the music industry in the digital era. When the iTunes store opened, the music industry’s revenue from digital sales was negligible, but by last year it had grown to $4.6 billion around the world, representing 29 percent of all revenue from recorded music.
As one of the most influential persons in the music industry during the past 25 years, Steve Jobs disposed a great deal of passion and envisioned ways of how it could and should be enjoyed. As his former employees concur, his personal involvement in all music-related subjects was a personal matter – a matter of love even. The development of the iPod had been ordered by Jobs himself, who disliked existing digital music players and their difficult interfaces. Due to his stamina and perseverance, as shown during the successful and less profitable years of Apple, Jobs was able to open the door to a new era called digital music - an undertaking which is still encountering problems in the field of legal matters but has proved to be a necessity for this troubled industry. The complex ambiguity of the relationship between recording artists and the digital music era have already been indicated in his open letter "Thoughts on Music," where he outlined the difficult nature of music rights and proposed a continuing stream of music-related innovative products and a wide variety of choices. While being worshiped and feared in the music industry, he broke through its institutional resistance and got the record companies and music publishers to license their songs to iTunes. His universal understanding for this subject matter also led him to ending The Beatles' longstanding digital embargo as well as convincing Dr. Dre. to make his catalog available digitally. These are just two of numerous examples that show the extent of Jobs's passion that subsequently changed, revolutionized and improved the face of the music industry.
Obviously, problems for the music business remain. Sales numbers are not as high as they used to be during the golden '90s. However, digital music is now perhaps the biggest priority in the music industry thanks to Jobs. It is no secret that in the long run, digital music will pave the way for future opportunities that shall lead the music business to more profitable times.
In order to succeed, one needs to remember one of Steve Jobs's most popular quotes: "Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?" This blatant question hints at the necessity to think different – think against the grain. The music industry needs to incorporate this mantra. It will also require further individuals like Steve Jobs that have faith in their intuition instead of conforming themselves to ancient/pre-digital norms that have unintentionally imposed obstacles rather than solutions. Rest in peace, Steve.
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