Music Business

Jimmy Iovine: Beats Music Service Will Share Listener Data With Artists

Dmedia-jimmy-iovine-313x234By Eliot Van Buskirk of

One of recording artists’ biggest complaints about every major music service, from iTunes to Spotify, is not about money — it’s about data. Maybe the solution is for music intermediaries to deliver both.

As Zoe Keating put it so well, it seems unfair to artists that big music stores can contact customers directly to buy or listen to certain artists in order to make their services more attractive as products — but that artists themselves can’t contact those same fans. So when it’s time to go on tour (i.e. try to pay some rent), it’s harder to let those people in those towns know about it.

Beats Audio — the upcoming music service from Beats by Dre, whose leaders include Jimmy Iovine (traditional record business), Ian Rogers (digital music business) and Trent Reznor (artist, boat-rocker), which will ostensibly be build atop the MOG music service that Beats acquired last summer — is doing exactly the opposite. Beats will tell artists which people are using the service to access their music, so that those artists can contact the fans directly.

When Keating proposed that she would rather be paid in that data possibly including the email addresses of listeners, privacy advocates freaked out on Slashdot. Indeed, one reason Apple says it doesn’t allow musicians, labels, or app developers access to customer data is due to privacy concerns. But really, does Apple want to protect you — or is it also trying to keep your data for itself as a competitive business advantage over competing services, and even over artists themselves?

After all, some fans absolutely would do practically anything in order to communicate directly with their favorite artists. Would it really be hurting anyone to give artists that data, so that all a fan would have to do to contact an artist would be to listen to their music on Beats?

As noted by Digital Music News, Jimmy Iovine just told Walt Mossberg that before someone uses the Beats music service, they will need to opt in to allowing Beats to tell the artists they listen to who they are. It’s not clear whether the label will get that information too — if so, this scenario could lead to all sorts of horrible spam (“You listened to a song by some random artist on one of our subsidiary labels so now buy these freaking Justin Bieber concert tickets right now!!!”). On the other hand, if the customer data only goes directly to the artist, what could be wrong with that? Nothing, says Iovine.

Here are some excerpts from Digital Music News’ transcript of a conversation between Walt Mossberg and Jimmy Iovine, in which Iovine says Beats will tell artists who and where their listeners are:

Iovine: There’s also something else going on on our service that doesn’t happen anywhere. We have to make it user-friendly for the artist, they have to be able to build businesses on it, they have to be able to have information about who’s using their music, where they are, it has to become a business for the artist instead of just communicating with their fans.

Mossberg: You’re going to have to tell people that right up front —

Iovine: Yes, yes, they have to know—

Mossberg: And by the way, not only are you going to pay me $10 a month, but what you’re listening to is going to be communicated back to certain people—

Iovine: To the artist—

Mossberg: To the artists.

Iovine: To the artist. I think that’s fair play. I mean we don’t—

Mossberg: I’ve never heard of a service that does that before.

Iovine: I know that.


Full video:

Thumbnail image courtesy of AllThingsD.


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  1. There’s all kinds of possibilities for spam problems with this. Yes, every artist would love to have that data. But do they know how to use it without being annoying? Labels will abuse it, but a lot of artists are clueless too.
    The problem is some of the people that listen to the track might not even like it. The beauty of streaming is that you can experiment with stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to. I listened to Rihanna’s last album, didn’t like it, and certainly wouldn’t want to be contacted about it in any sort of automatic way.
    The best thing an artist could do it take those people, send them one or two follow up emails offering them a free something of value (probably not even a download at that point, since it’s a streaming market) and if they don’t hear anything back, delete that person from the list.
    The problem is that a lot of artists and labels will just pound them with “buy my record!” emails and tour dates nowhere near the person. That won’t result in anything but angry fans and probably defectors to other streaming systems.
    So I’d like to see some controls on this. And I’m sure it’s a work in progress. But maybe something like, if they listen to at least 5 of my tracks, then I get the information.
    I think it’s great they want to share, but it’s the follow up that’s really good to make it sink or swim.

  2. I hate a “me too” comment but much of what Phil wrote above I have to agree on.
    With streaming giving you the ability to burn through as much music as you want, whenever you want, I must admit my “personal connection” to artists has very much waned, however this also probably is partly due to my age as well.
    The last thing I want is to be contacted just because I listened to the same song 10 times over. It’s bad enough dealing with all the other industry/personal spam as it is let alone getting pinged as soon as I listen to a song: “Hey, I saw you listened to my track, here’s 10% of my tour” etc etc
    I agree on the analytics being useful but useful turns into “monetizable” quite quickly and then, like they say “its all fun until someone gets a poke in the eye”

  3. I chimed in on another blog about the SPAM issue as well and I think it will prevent any PII (personally Identifiable Information) from freely flowing to the Artists – which means no real actionable info will come from this that isn’t already out there and being offered by other services.
    At a minimum, fans will choose a streaming service that doesn’t lead to SPAM over a streaming service that does. Period. Even if the service asks you for permission to give your email address or phone # over to an artist and you say ‘yes’, the service loses control over how the Artist uses or abuses that info – but the consumer won’t stop holding the service responsible for it, and will begin doing more of their listening elsewhere.
    The solution that Beats will come up with is to put some sort of ‘gate’ in front of the communication piece, so my bet is that Beats will start by allowing artists to pay them to send out the spam or to be featured in the spam that Beats sends outs to its listeners. At least then Beats can control the frequency and content of it all.
    So say hello to your future gate keeper, um, I mean “intermediary” as Iovine puts it.
    My opinion is that this isn’t really a problem that requires ‘solving’. Retailers exist so that consumers don’t have to have a relationship with every manufacturer/creator of every product they consume. The concept that ticketing companies or iTunes should be providing personal customer data (and contact info) to the manufacturers or content creators is fraught with more challenges that a single blog post could outline, and ultimately is at odds with the retailers own best interests.

  4. They’ve gotta keep the old raisin quiet and just let Ian Rogers be the mouthpiece for this venture. Enough is enough.

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