This week marked the one year anniversary of the passing of Steve Jobs. He was by most accounts a complex man of many contradictions. One thing was clear about him however, he loved music and respected artists. It was this genuine appreciation for the arts that is said to have driven his sense of design, look, feel and performance of Apple products. With the iPod and iTunes Steve and Apple made the most significant change to the record business probably since the introduction of the 12″ long play album.
It’s easy to slip into revisionist history about the iPod, but the truth is that the product launch was delayed pending the verdict in the Digital River Mp3 player trial. Only after it was clear that the iPod was not violating any rights did the product launch. Apple very well could have also achieved market dominance of the iPod without introducing a legally paid music store, but Steve recognized an opportunity that would be mutually beneficial to both Apple and artists alike.
Although controversial when it launched in 2003 (for ala carte song downloads), the Itunes Store is still the most successful online music start-up ever. Most important in recognition of that fact is acknowledging Itunes is a model that takes into account and benefits all stakeholders fairly. The prevailing wisdom of the internet and tech community was then (and sadly remains largely so today) to be one of greed and exploitation of both artists and rights holders.
It is precisely this intention and respect that makes the iTunes store great. When Steve rolled out iTunes for indie labels he said, “Things for you are going to get worse, they are not going to get better. Payment is optional, this will help you compete against illegally free by providing a better user experience, at a reasonable price.” He was right on all counts.
Thanks Steve, if only more people in the internet and technology community had as much respect for the arts and artists as you did we’d all probably be a lot better off. We miss you, sail on.