Apple Music And The Music Business Q&A With Eddy Cue


Pollstar Live! 2018

Apple has gone far beyond being known as the company behind the personal computer, iPod and now even iPhone, and appears fully committed to continuing to change the world with sleek, high-quality, user-friendly innovations. Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of software and services, says the goal is for everyone to have nothing in their pockets.

See: Pollstar Live! Conference Hub Page

Well, other than an iPhone, he said, laughing.

Demonstrating the seemingly small but life-changing tech Apple is known for, Cue explained how he goes to work without even carrying keys or a wallet. “Not having keys to anything is really nice,” Cue said. “It’s simple, but it’s a big deal.” The concert business is ripe for that kind of user-friendly convenience.

With services like Apple Pay, Cue sees opportunities in ticket purchasing as well as merchandise and concessions, which hardly anyone would say are convenient or user-friendly buying experiences overall. 

“Anytime you want to purchase something, the number of clicks, the number of things you have to do, you see dropoff,” Cue said. “Depending on how many there are, there are always huge dropoffs. With Apple Pay, you see something you want, you basically do the face ID and you’re done. It’s very easy to complete the transactions.”

Cue was quick to head off any misconceptions that using a phone as a credit card is not as secure as cash or plastic.

“Paying, by the way, with a phone is more secure by a large margin than anything physical,” Cue said. “When paying with Apple Pay, the number the merchant gets is not your actual credit card. It uses a one-time number that can only be charged once. It’s extremely, extremely secure.

“When you use Apple Pay to pay, Apple never sees that transaction,” Cue said, adding that when Apple CEO Tim Cook asks how Apple Pay is going, he has to respond that he doesn’t know because he doesn’t see any of the transactions.

Another Apple software product directly linked to concerts and music is Apple Music for Artists, an analytics tool for artists. ”With all the data that comes from 15 years of the iTunes store as well as Apple Music streaming platforms, the company is putting that back in the hands of artists.

“For us, one of weirdest things in the music industry is the lack of transparency,” Cue said. “One of things that we want to do, specifically when we think from an artist point of view, we want to make information available to them as we have, so they can see what is actually happening,” Cue said. “Obviously it’s great for live because you can see where your fan base is, but it’s great for marketing. You can see the effects of what you’re doing basically in near-real time,” such as being on an A-list playlist.

Moderator Shirley Halperin, executive editor of music for Variety, asked how the response has been so far.

“It’s early, but it’s been great,” Cue said. “We’re giving all the information we have. We’ve rolled it out to about 2,000 artists and the plan is to roll it out to everyone in the spring.”

While the live experience is unique in that it can’t be replicated — Cue with great fondness recalled his first concert, an Earth, Wind & Fire show in Florida that featured what would now be considered a primitive laser light show — a common thread from multiple panel discussions at Pollstar Live! was that while there are only so many tickets, the number of fans worldwide presents an opportunity.

“[There’s] a lot of places in the world where people don’t get to see it at all. What can we do to bring that experience to people?” Cue said. While not elaborating, Cue multiple times stressed Apple’s commitment to high-quality home audio, including HomePod, which is available in stores on Friday. Other panels have mentioned virtual or augmented reality as ways to bring concerts to more people while not replacing the actual concert for those in attendance.

Ken Deans, founder of KDP Services which provides technology solutions to festivals including Coachella, noted how he was in Singapore and not one person there hadn’t heard of Coachella.

“The numbers have become staggering, the amount of people you can reach,” Deans said, adding that Coachella live streams video to more than 100 million people.

“Honestly, look at the numbers. Out of 7 billion people in the world, 125,000 people attend Coachella. It’s not even at a percentile.”

On the same panel, “Now Hear This: Innovation and Technology,” L-Acoustics’ CEO Laurent Vaissie said as long as show production and technology continues to improve and give fans a better experience than at home, streaming or providing other means to fans to enjoy concerts from home won’t cannibalize the physical, in-person event.

“So far, the the concert experience is actually the better experience, but if this changes it could be a more dangerous trend,” Vaissie said.