Studded with performances from Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and Carly Simon, a premiere at last week’s Tribeca Film Festival also featured a Silicon Valley celebrity: Apple.
Apple Music has the exclusive rights to “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives,” which airs in New York City this week at the annual artistic confab. The film’s director, Chris Perkel, tweeted the announcement, with a link to a report in Billboard.
“Apple is a global innovator that has revolutionized the distribution of music,” Davis said in a statement. The acquisition highlights Apple’s methodical approach to becoming a taste-maker in the video content business.
The documentary film profiles Davis, who helped launch the careers of musical icons like Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and Santana. For Apple, the film joins a line-up of music-and-tech themed documentaries like Taylor Swift’s “1989 World Tour,” and shows like “Carpool Karaoke” and “Planet of the Apps.”
Davis’ profile also fits with the company’s long tradition of paying homage to visionary thinkers, like the company’s “Think Different” commercials that celebrated those who “push the human race forward.”
Apple’s Jimmy Iovine “remains obsessed with harmonizing the respective dialects of the entertainment industry, which he claims is insecure; and the tech sector, which he calls ‘slightly overconfident,’ Variety reported earlier this year. Davis, in a way, represents the type of person that Iovine says he is looking for: “We’re trying to make the music service a cultural point of reference, and that’s why we’re making video.”
Gaining gravitas with the media and film industry has been a hard-fought battle for Apple, which enlisted Iovine in the early iTunes days to convince artists that they could trust the iTunes Store.
Now, Apple is fighting those battles again, with new mediums and content. Apple’s content boss Eddy Cue has reportedly been in and out of meetings with Paramount Pictures and Sony TV, sources told Mashable.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been trying for many years to orchestrate a type of “skinny bundle” for its Apple TV device, but hasn’t necessarily been able to close deals with major content producers, according to Recode’s reporting. Then there’s streaming, a model that Apple has been trying to improve for artists that feel shortchanged.
Cortney Harding, author of “How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology, said that the “Davis” deal is a smart move for Apple.
“One of the biggest problems with streaming services is they don’t have any way to differentiate themselves,” Harding said. “Exclusives were a big thing…I don’t think they worked, so they have sort of fallen out of favor. They can’t compete on price. So they have different free intro periods, ad-supported versions. Where can they compete? By offering other types of content.”
The combination of piecemeal purchases on iTunes and Apple Music could eventually make Apple a one-stop hub for all kinds of content, Harding said. It also puts Apple Music out on the edge with services like Hulu and Spotify that are branching out into new types of content like virtual reality and podcasts.
Plus, Apple has the cash to outspend almost any rival. CEO Tim Cook told analysts on a conference call last quarter that there “there’s not a size that [Apple] would not do” when it comes to media acquisitions.
“One thing they can do is just write a giant check,” Harding said. “It’s frustrating in the artist space that more artists aren’t doing this…There’s a lot of artists interested, it’s just finding the funding.”