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You’ll never guess whose job it is to make sure Apple’s streaming music service doesn’t suck

Published Mar 26th, 2015 8:31AM EDT
Apple Beats Music
Image: Screenshot | Beats Music

It’s fair to say that Apple completely missed the boat on music streaming. Content with healthy downloads from the iTunes Music Store, Apple gave plenty of breathing room to crafty upstarts like Pandora and Spotify who slowly but surely started putting large dents into the traditional digital download business.

These days, digital downloads are on the decline as consumers are increasingly showing less of an interest in owning their music. Apple, of course, has plans to get into the streaming business thanks to its $3 billion acquisition of Beats Music last year.

That said, Apple’s 2013 rollout of iTunes Radio doesn’t exactly instill confidence that Apple gets music. Which, not surprisingly, is part and parcel why Apple bought Beats in the first place — music industry talent and savvy.

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With Beats Music under the Apple umbrella, Apple now has three music industry legends under its employ: Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, and Trent Reznor. And you better believe that all three will be deeply involved Apple’s upcoming music streaming service which, rumor has it, will be announced at WWDC 2015 and will likely be part of iOS 9.

Inded, a recent New York Times piece sheds some light on how seriously Apple is taking its attempt at a streaming music service. And leading the charge is non other than Trent Reznor.

In a sign of how important Beats is in reshaping Apple’s digital music, the company has made a musician a point man for overhauling the iPhone’s music app to include the streaming music service, as opposed to an engineer. Trent Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails frontman who was the chief creative officer for Beats, is playing a major role in redesigning the music app, according to two Apple employees familiar with the product, who spoke on the condition they not be named because the plans are private.

As anyone familiar with Trent Reznor can attest, he’s just the type of person Apple needs to ensure that its latest musical endeavor will resonate with actual music fans. iTunes Radio, in stark contrast, always seemed like a cheap and rather pedestrian copy of Pandora. Reznor, though, brings instant credibility to whatever type of service Apple plans to roll out in the coming months.

Additionally, the Times report claims that industry bigwig Jimmy Iovine is working hard, behind the scenes, to secure music exclusives for the upcoming product rollout.

Mr. Iovine has set the tone of the transformation of Apple’s music plans, according to music executives. Mr. Iovine, who reports to Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of software and Internet services, has been leading aggressive talks to secure prominent album releases that will be exclusive to Apple, akin to what Beyoncé did when she released her self-titled album on iTunes in December 2013. One music executive involved in the negotiations described this part of the new iTunes as “Spotify with Jimmy juice.”

With Spotify and Pandora growing with each passing quarter, Apple doesn’t have the luxury to take a swing and a miss with Beats. It’ll have to come out of the gate swinging with an A+ product from all angles. With Reznor leading the charge on the actual app and Iovine working his music industry magic behind the scenes, not to mention Dr. Dre doing his own thing, WWDC 2015 will be that much more interesting.

On the pricing front, however, Apple’s Spotify killer won’t be as cheap as many were initially hoping. Though Apple was reportedly seeking to undercut Spotify’s $9.99 monthly subscription rate by $2, the latest reports indicate that isn’t in the cards. It’s also worth noting that Apple’s Beats streaming app will not include a free ad-supported tier.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.