Apple will reveal sweeping changes to Apple Music at this year’s WWDC in an effort to draw new interest in the streaming music service, Bloomberg reports. Sources familiar with the plans said the company is trying to make Apple Music’s user interface much more intuitive after the first version was met with tepid reviews and failed to draw the numbers that competitors like Spotify boast. Insiders said development of that first product was complicated by internal culture clashes within Apple that had been brewing ever since the company acquired Beats two years ago, with the company still struggling to integrate the two groups of employees and unite its streaming and download businesses into one coherent music promotion strategy.
The dominance of Apple’s iTunes during the transition from physical to digital music sales had given way to the prevalance of streaming services when the company bought Beats, leading Jimmy Iovine and other Beats executives to convince Apple to pour its cash into the streaming service Beats had built at the expense of the planned rollout of iTunes Radio. Employees who had worked on the iTunes Radio project saw their efforts scrapped just a few hours before an event where it was supposed to be announced and were told for more than a year that it would eventually be folded into the new Beats streaming service. The resulting Apple Music product debuted to mixed reviews, criticized heavily for its clunky and confusing interface.
Iovine, who holds no official title but is heavily involved in the promotion of Apple’s music products, has become a major source of friction inside the company. While he has served to smooth over public feuds with Taylor Swift and has secured exclusive deals with artists like Drake, people familiar with the matter said they’ve been in the middle of negotiations with artists and labels only to find Iovine was conducting his own separate discussions. Current and former staff members said the complicated leadership structure has harmed Apple Music’s development, slowing down progress with a long and drawn-out approval process for new product ideas, even in early stages.
One Apple executive said the culture clash happened by design, with the company hoping to throw together different people in the hopes of creating something groundbreaking. But former Beats staff members began leaving in droves, even going so far as to forgo financial incentives if they chose to remain at Apple for only a year. Apple Music’s new look is being overseen by content head Robert Kondrk and Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor, but with Iovine and Jony Ive still looking over their shoulders. The final product will be revealed in June, and one person close to the team said Apple’s leaders have expressed optimism about the new look. With Tim Cook banking on services like Apple Music to bolster the company’s growth in the face of lagging iPhone sales, the company has continued to invest in its music service, employing more than 1,000 people to finally fulfill its potential.