A number of news outlets are reporting that Jimmy Iovine will be leaving Apple later this year. Iovine originally joined the Apple team when they purchased Beats, back in 2014 and he’s worked closely to oversee both Apple Music as well as Beats 1. Iovine is holding off on leaving until August so that his shares will fully vest, which makes this departure more lucrative on his part. That said, it’s unclear why he’s leaving in the first place. Apple hasn’t commented on this news. What’s funny is that Iovine made a comment recently that streaming music isn’t a great business and he’s unsure how companies can ever turn a profit.
Iovine doesn’t have an official title at Apple, so it makes you wonder what kind of role he’s had. Since joining Apple, he has kind of become the public face of Apple Music and has given a ton of interviews on the streaming business. While Iovine definitely has a bright future ahead of him, this is going to be a big blow for Apple. He has given Apple a valuable link between technology and record labels that allow it to turn Beats’ streaming music service into Apple Music. But perhaps the most valuable thing Iovine brought to Apple was his enviable contact book in the music industry. Through Iovine’s career as a record producer, then as a label executive with Interscope, he came to know a huge range of artists and other people in the industry.
Iovine has never really been a good fit with Apple’s public image. During his onstage debut at WWDC in 2015, Iovine’s speech went on a tangent and included a sex joke. Many have criticized Iovine for this, calling the speech awkward.
Later that year, Iovine was forced to issue a statement apologizing after he made an inappropriate comment about women during a TV interview. In the interview, he stated, “I always knew that women, some women, at times find it very difficult to find music, and this makes it easier with playlists, curated by real people, not algorithms alone.” He then went on to say, “I just thought of a problem. Girls are sitting around, talking about boys, right? Or complaining about boys, when they have their heart broken or whatever, and they need music for that, right? So it’s hard to find the right music. Not everyone has the right list or knows a DJ.” That’s not the worst thing that’s been said about women, but he definitely could have chosen some better words or a less sexist example.
Iovine did some great work for Apple, but this seems like a good time for his exit. Apple has shifted their focus to video content with their $1 billion budget to bring a new streaming service to the market. Even if streaming music services don’t allow companies to turn a profit, that’s how we consume music these days, so it’s important to keep that going. Maybe Apple won’t invest as much money into Apple Music, but it will still continue. That said, Iovine’s departure is certainly going to be felt at Apple, but I think they’ll be ok.