Lefsetz: Apple Music is toast

“Apple Music. It’s toast,” Bob Lefsetz writes for The Lefsetz Letter. “Apple Music provides nothing new other than a live radio service, which is mildly interesting, but never forget that iTunes Radio didn’t put a dent in Pandora. And sure, Beats 1 will make it worldwide before Pandora ever does, but is that what the world is clamoring for, a global radio service? I don’t think so.”

“Three months free is a good start, but there’s no incentive to keep up your subscription. And those already desirous of paying for streaming already do, and getting someone to switch is difficult, especially to a company that evidences such hubris,” Lefsetz writes. “The truth is Iovine is tone-deaf. He’s way out of his league. He comes from a land where relationships and intimidation mean everything. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours and we’ll make it on the image of propped-up stars. But the truth is in the modern era the winners are faceless techies who go their own way, whether they be Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Evan Spiegel of Snapchat or Nick Woodman of GoPro. They’re giant slayers who think different, something Apple used to have a hold on.”

“I’m mortified by my experience with the Apple Watch. Jony Ive may be a great designer, but when it comes to what’s under the sheen, he’s brain dead. You’re selling me a watch that doesn’t tell time, that doesn’t perform the basic functions of a wristwatch? And you’re selling it as a luxury good? This is all wrong and does not portend a good future, especially when Angela Ahrendts is hired to promote it. I used to believe in Apple, but my faith is flagging,” Lefsetz writes. “Of course Apple Music won’t fail completely. But it will not eviscerate YouTube, it will not get everybody to pay, it probably won’t even dominate the streaming sphere.”

“The reality is right now music is primarily a freemium product. And you won’t get everyone to pay by either closing down YouTube or offering this imitative service,” Lefsetz writes. “You will only win by providing what the customer wants, by having people play in to your web. And the customer doesn’t want Apple Music, doesn’t need Apple Music, and the hardest problem facing musicians is getting people to listen to their tunes at all, not getting paid.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Just getting this one the record here for future reference, but we will offer a bit of rebuttal:

1. Our Apple Watches all “tell time,” and exceedingly accurately, too.

2. Our Apple Watches perform all of “the basic functions of a wristwatch” and then some.

3. Lefsetz’s comments regarding Jimmy Iovine and Angela Ahrendts come across as morbid jealousy. That right, Bob, they both made more money last week than you’ll make in your entire lifetime. Have a nice day now.

4. iTunes Radio already has 30 million users in the U.S. and Australia and this is before it becomes Apple Music Radio!

5. Apple Music’s goal is not to get “everybody” to pay. Apple Music’s target, like all of Apple’s products, is the quality customer; those with disposable income and the willingness to spend it. The rest, “everybody” else, are virtually worthless (oh, sure, you can run ads for check cashing outfits and bail bondsmen; good luck with that; they don’t pay, either).

Quality customers are worth significantly more than those who settle for “free” wares to developers, advertisers, third-party accessory makers, vehicle makers, musicians, music labels, TV show producers, movie producers, book authors, carriers, retailers, podcasters… The list goes on and on. The quality of the customer matters. A lot. And, via the Mac, iPhone and iPad, Apple’s already amassed the vast majority of quality customers. They’re already in the ecosystem. The massive ecosystem to which Apple Music is being added in 18 days. Like “Android,” Pandora and Spotify can have everybody else and try to make a go of it with free ad-supported services to which the labels and musicians will deny exclusives and, eventually, their music altogether, because they’re simply not getting paid (see: Taylor Swift).

Facile analyses that equate one “freemium” user to one paying subscriber, 1:1, are fatally flawed.


  1. The guy does come off as a bit of a dick. But Apple Music may fall face first. I still don’t totally understand and the only streaming music subscription you’ll ever see me pay for is Sirius Radio. I think Apple has missed this. They have to compete with Sirius Radio. People aren’t going to buy two music subscription services per month.

    I predict because of this, and because so many people use YouTube to stream music, Apple Music will not be successful.

    1. I see paid music subs the same as cable subs, don’t want either, I really prefer the old way let me sample the music and I’ll buy either the album or track that I want. a la carte, I have a very eclectic taste in music which runs the gamut of genres, so no radio station or streaming service would ever suffice. But your point is well taken.

      1. You know, I’ve never understood a streaming music service at all. There are a femtozillion Internet radio channels of every genre and you can listen free. What gives with pay for streaming?

        1. I discover new artists I think I might like all the time. Streaming with Spotify allows me to go listen to that artist’s entire catalog. I find this to be fantastic! If i get hooked sampling, I buy the songs or albums quite often. That’s why I’ve come to LOVE streaming. Here’s hoping Apple Music offers this ability.

        2. Femto is the prefix for a number X 10^-15 and Zillion is made up but could conceivably be above trillion which would make it a number X 10^12. When you combine these two, you would get a number X10^-3 or milli. That means that you are talking about less than one streaming music service.

          You don’t have to know much to post on this site as it seems to be ‘fact free’. “Be clueless and proselytize.” – The other Vulcan greeting.

        3. Feeling a bit snarky were we, Reality Check? Personal issues? Given that a zillion is 10^26, then a femtozillion is 100 billion. That’s a lot, isn’t it.

    2. Just curious… What is it about Sirius that compels you to pay $10/mo, while you have no interest in a streaming service?

      Personally, I find FAR more value in a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music since I can stream to any of my devices, and the programming is what I want, not some pre-programmed selection of music somebody thinks I want to hear (with very questionable sound quality, I might add).

      1. Actually, I see it’s $14/mo for the basic service with internet listening so you can listen somewhere besides in one car or on one single receiver. For all access, it’s $19/mo. Ouch.

        To me, Spotify or Apple Music at nearly half that price is a steal compared Sirius XM. Wow, I had no idea that were that far away from being competitive. Unless you want to listen to news or Howard Stern, or you’re an over-the-road trucker in areas with no coverage a lot, I just don’t see the value in Sirius XM.

        1. The only reason anyone I know subscribes to Sirius is Howard Stern. But the guy is 61 and has already started talking of retiring. He’s not going to be Sirius’s cash cow forever.

        2. When Apple Music gets ESPN Radio, NFL Radio and broadcasts live sporting events, across the gamut, I will switch.

          Wish Apple would buy the streaming rights to the NFL. The NFL can make a broadcast network/content provider.

        3. I could not care less about the NFL. Nor any subscription that includes sports or Fox. It’s also amazing how some people around here equate a person’s worth and character, not just taste, to the amount of money at their disposal. Wow! No shame, eh? I don’t think of “Windoze” and Android/”Samdung” fanbois as being poor, just stupid.

      2. ecrabb:


        The one thing that separates Sirius from the rest is that it’s satellite radio. You can drive from Vancouver, BC Canada to Texas and not miss a beat. You cannot do this with the other streaming music services. If you tried using them with your data plan u’d be dead fast. And you’d be dead in no signal zones.

        And in Canada, there are lots of places out of signal range. That’s why satellite Internet is a decent market.

        And to those saying Sirius has no subscribers and they’re dead, cut the crap. They have some 30 million subscribers and are growing. They’re in every new car, etc.

        There’s lots of choice on Sirius and you can bet they will offer more channels like sports to compete. And the subscription fee is negotiable, so don’t bother quoting a jard and fast number. I pay $9 per month. Negotiated rate.

        1. Thanks for responding. Your reasoning sounds logical to me. I can definitely see how it would work better than streaming for some.

          That said, I just wish the sound quality was a little better. I’ve spent more than a little time listening to Sirius XM in rental cars on long interstate road trips, and the sound quality is pretty poor compared to even Spotify’s lowest setting. I guess low-quality is better than nothing, though.

        2. Agreed. I would like to see better quality as well. I’m sure at some point it will. I can’t imagine Sirius not working on that over the past several years.

    3. “People aren’t going to buy two music subscription services per month”.

      I subscribe to Spotify and Pandora; as well as iTunes Match. Now, if Apple’s service beats (ha!) Spotify’s offerings, Spotify will lose.

  2. I will pile on to MDN Take.

    My goal is music. Companies which treat music as a product or me as a consumer are already on the wrong tract. Instead, treat music as worthwhile and the customer as a person who enjoys listening. One more thing: treat the musicians as people worth paying.

    I believe Apple will do this better than ever.

  3. Lefsetz is another big talking small fry just trying to get attention by waking up a sleeping bear. As an AAPL shareholder, professional musician, college professor and published author, I’ll be laughing all the way to the bank Bob. you remind me of all the genius technology Wintel heads of my past who bought Dell, Micron and Gateway and kept telling me what a fool I was to buy Apple stock. How’s that Dell stock doing now? I guess better than Micron and Gateway.

  4. He’s preaching to his choir of Apple Haters…, and they, love it. He’s not trying to reach the rational thinkers…, just his followers. Those who want something for nothing, who believe that life owes them everything. What a Gaggle! Please name me the musician WHO DOESNT WANT TO GET PAID… artist 1st or not! Go Blow it out your ear!

  5. Apple Music comes online at the end of this month………it will be free for the first THREE Months…….

    The “tell” for this venture will occur sometime in October 2015 when the ‘freebie” period expires……
    How many will cancel,,,,,,how many will keep……….??

    I think the hidden plus in the Apple Music pricing model is the Family Plan for $14.99 for up to six people…..I predict there will be a lot of “families of 6 people” buddies that will collude and get their monthly Apple Music for $14.99/6= $2.50 per month or $30 per year.

    Even if Apple makes $0 on Music; sticky ecosystem, ease of use, and new artist uploading to a huge audience will be game changing……..

    Think of it similarly as Netflix and HBO Go sharing of account passwords.

    Oh sorry…….APpLe is dooooooooooooooooomed…..LOL!! NOT!!

    1. Wow, I didn’t know about the family plan. That’s great. There’s four in my family, so to get everybody on Spotify at the same time, we’re looking at $25/mo. It’s just expensive enough we haven’t done it. But, to get everybody online with Apple Music, it’s only $15. That’s very reasonable and a significant savings. I’d spend the $60 extra every year to have the flexibility of any of us listening whenever we want.

      I’ve been very happy with Spotify, but the family pricing might be the one thing that gets me to move to Apple Music. Hopefully the execution is really great because I’ve been very, very happy with Spotify for probably three years now.

    2. It is going to function through the family sharing functionality that is already in place. People aren’t going to setup their friends as fake family members unless they also want to share the same payment method at minimum. You want all your friends buying shit on iTunes? No. This will only be used by actual families that make all their purchases from the same payment card.

      1. You sure about that Mike? There’s got to be a way to protect the payment card information from family members. So this is going to open up payment cards to all the 10 year olds out there who are in the Apple Music family plan?

        1. If it does indeed use the iTunes Family Share feature, then one payment method is saved and younger members have to ask for permission to purchase anything. That’s how it currently functions with my two kids. I get a notification of an app, book, or music they wish to buy and I can approve or disapprove after I check it out, even for free items.

  6. “And those already desirous of paying for streaming already do, and getting someone to switch is difficult…”

    Switching providers for a streaming service might not be so difficult as Lefsetz would like to imagine. What’s the big downside to switching to a different service? It’s not as though you’re going to lose music that you already bought because you’ve only been renting it. Any music that you have already purchased or ripped from CDs will be available to you seamlessly via Apple’s service.

    I know that there are some dyed in the wool Apple haters who would never have anything to do with Apple, but for anybody who is thinking rationally, Apple Music is quite a compelling proposition – especially if you can take advantage of the Family Plan.

    1. You do lose (possibly carefully created and extensive) playlists and the social sharing of Spotify playlists some of my friends swear by…. …so there’s some stick…

      ….I also (unlike the year’s other big push, Watch) don’t think Apple’s relying on this strategic initiative to be more than incremental to their direct bottom line, either.

      Rather (even tho’ available on Android) (with no free 3 months there, ouch) it’s more about building out the ecosystem that will make those with all-Apple gear further ensconced and disincentivized to ever consider a non-Apple device.

      Still, the family rate may be the biggest single draw. Spotify seems likely to have to match it (if they can make a deal with the musiccos), and that will squeeze them further since Apple doesn’t have to make any money at all on their service, and the service IS Spotify’s biz…

  7. MDN’s Take has a lot of validity, but has the typical, strong stench of elitism that turns me off. Yes, MDN, I understand what you mean by “quality” customer, but you make it sound so snobbish and elitist – the pseudo-Apple that the haters latch onto and ridicule.

    I like to think that Apple’s definition is broader and more inclusive. Apple welcomes any customer who values the ideals to which Apple strives – ease of use, user experience, personal privacy and control, quality, security, aesthetics, integration, and so on. You do not have to have a lot of disposable income to become part of the Apple family – you just have to be willing to save for a while. Everyone is welcome, including the person who can just scrape together enough for an old MacBook and an iPod shuffle. In fact, you can become part of the Apple family in spirit just by sharing similar goals and values, even before you own an Apple product.

    1. That’s fine sentiment, but don’t forget this is a time of war, a pitched battle for our hearts, minds, and wallets. MDN employs strong, Churchillian rhetoric as a constant prod to the lazy and complacent, and as a beacon of hope to the despairing. We will prevail. As for the supposed elitism, all marketspeak is socially divisive by design. What matters more is the weight of all the market research constantly cited here that supports MDN’s assertions.

  8. “You’re selling me a watch that doesn’t tell time, that doesn’t perform the basic functions of a wristwatch?” Wow. It tells time like I want see at that moment. I can choose watch face for going out at night, one for work, and one for play.

    Musicians have always made more money on gigs than song sales. Song sales is what gets an audience. Apple puts song sales, and artists self promotion in one place. A place that already has a large customer base with their credit cards.

    What I thought was interesting was the absence of the iPod. Now it has been dropped from Apples front page on their site. Also that Apple Music will be on Android. I think we may be seeing the end of iTunes. A separate iOS device management app may be coming soon.

  9. I’ve had a Sirius XM radio since 2004 and also have the internet feed as well as the iphone app. Almost everything I have is Apple. Macbook, iPhone but I see no reason to waste my money on Apple Music. I can take my Sirius XM receiver anywhere and in places that Apple Music will never be able to reach. Sirius XM is great to take in remote area that have no cell phone reception like on on remote camping trip or on a long road trip.

  10. The music industry has been in a state of flux for many years. The old model of getting your music on-the-air and in the stores still exists, but has been eroded by the Internet and the rise of social media. There are those that think Apple is late to the party… I would disagree. I believe that Apple may be fashionably late, but once arrived, will be the best dressed, most affluent, intellectual and well connected of all the party goers.

    I was talking to a multi-instrument artist yesterday and he was complaining about how difficult it was to establish himself. When I told him about the Social Media aspect of Apple Music, he got excited. He sees it for what it is… a way to level the playing field. On a service like Apple Music, the indy artists can be discovered just as easily as the artists under contract with a big label… because now they will be all co-existing under one big label… Apple

    Bob Lefsetz is just angry because he wasn’t invited to the party. Instead, he is Lef Setz’ing on the curb with his feet in the gutter. Maybe he should go home and take a nice hot Sitz bath.

  11. “I’m mortified by my experience with the Apple Watch. Jony Ive may be a great designer, but when it comes to what’s under the sheen, he’s brain dead. You’re selling me a watch that doesn’t tell time, that doesn’t perform the basic functions of a wristwatch?”

    This man has never touched an Apple Watch, of that much you can be sure just from those three sentences alone.

    1. I dunno. I try to play it down the middle and I’ve heard plenty of (mostly generally Apple-friendly) pundits and reporters bitching about the not-always instantly visible time – and general performance, e.g., “I get frustrated waiting for data loading and end up taking out my phone.”

      Fixable over time (e.g., the latter via native apps, and other iterations and optimizations to come), but even so….

      1. Have you heard a single one of them claim that the Watch doesn’t tell time or doesn’t perform the basic functions of a wrist watch (stopwatch, timer, alarm)?

        No, because they haven’t, because they’re not liars like this guy.

        Loading up an app from your phone to your watch may take a few seconds, but doing that hardly falls under the categories of “telling time” or “the basic functions of a wrist watch”

        1. No but I’ve heard plenty (and again last night on a network) complaining about have to make a gesture to turn the screen on… …when others have an ultra low power mode to keep that bit visible.. ..something I’m sure will be remedied, but hasn’t been yet…

          …there’s “lying” and then there’s splitting grammatical hairs. The screen turns off and requires a user action to turn it on. No lie.

  12. “the hardest problem facing musicians is getting people to listen to their tunes at all, not getting paid.”

    Spoken like a true non-musician. Getting paid matters. We all have to make money. We love music, we make music because we love it, but if we’re lucky enough to actually make a living out of it…believe me getting paid matters!

  13. Not sure if it has anything to do with a software bug or just Apple’s eternal betaware and lack of quality control, but here goes:
    When on my Phone in my car using Bluetooth, when the conversation ends (end call) the music player starts streaming Esperanza Spalding unless there is already something else running. Just started this week and as far as I know Apple has not changed iOS or iTunes SW this week. If you go to the app switcher it also does not show the music player as having launched.

  14. The rebuttal is right. The quality of the customer does count. I’ve been using Spotify for a long time now, but I haven’t added much to My Music because of my concern that a better service would come along and make my effort to create a music library worthless.

    As a result, when June 30 comes, my Spotify subscription will be cancelled and my Apple Music subscription (free for 3 months) will begin and both the music I buy and the music I just stream will blend together into one nice library.

    Furthermore, Sirius/XM and Pandora aren’t close to what I’m looking for. I want to be able to select and listen to albums, artists, and songs based on what I want to hear, not based on what someone else picks. I also don’t mind paying for my music, so I will gladly listen to it first and then buy it if I like it. That way, Apple, the artists, and I win. FYI…I win because if streaming ever dies, I’ll have files that I’ve purchased that I can still use.

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