Steve Jobs: the man who changed the music business
The thousands of obituaries which will be written over the next few days about Steve Jobs, who died yesterday aged 56, will remember him for many things. He was a technology visionary, a man who transformed a niche company called …
The thousands of obituaries which will be written over the next few days about Steve Jobs, who died yesterday aged 56, will remember him for many things. He was a technology visionary, a man who transformed a niche company called Apple into one of the most recognisable brands in the world. When it came to products which were beautifully designed, innovative and easy to use, Jobs and Apple led the field: the Apple II, iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad. Others may have been first to the punch with digital music players, smartphones and tablet computers, but it was Apple products which were the gamechangers because they caught the public mood.
When Jobs came in contact with the music business via the iPod and the iTunes store, he found an industry which didn’t know its arse from its elbow at that stage. We’ve written before here many, many times about how Jobs, a white knight in a black poloneck, came riding to the rescue of a belgeaured business. Remember that before the iTunes store came along, the industry had made several attempts to roll out its own legal digital download store, all of which came to nothing. As Steve Knopper, the author of “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Rise and Fall of the Record Industry in the Digital Age”, noted when I interviewed him in 2009, the only way to get music online during the period from 1998 to 2002, from the beginning of Napster to the beginning of iTunes, was to pirate it.
What Jobs did with iTunes was what the industry itself had failed to do – come up with a simple, easy-to-use interface for people to buy MP3s. Sure, Jobs was doing it to flog his iPods, but his iTunes succeeded because the industry had dithered, prevaricated and procrastinated for so long and came up with nothing. Sure, the industry has often grumbled since that they sold the farm to Jobs with the iTunes deal, but the upside is that they’re now making cash they never were before. Sure, it may have been the end of the CD industry, but that was on the cards anyway.
More than anything else, Jobs and Apple reinforced the importance of music. Music is now at the heart of technology marketing, pitches and plays and it’s up to the business to leverage that. Even the name of Jobs’ company was a nod and a wink to his favourite band. That he revolutionised the business may not have been on the cards when he was starting out to change the world with Apple, but there’s no doubt that the music business today is a much different beast to the one which existed a decade ago thanks to Jobs.