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Apple finances music videos to help secure exclusivity deals
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Jun 29, 2016, 08:02 AM
Apple is helping to fund the music videos of artists and bands, as part of its plan to gain exclusives for its streaming music service. Executives from both Apple and elsewhere in the industry advised to a report the iPhone producer has helped finance musical projects, including Drake's Hotline Bling and MIA's Borders videos, to not only get content for its subscribers not available anywhere else, but also to make Apple Music a more attractive place to be, in a similar vein to MTV in the 1990's.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Apple's original musical content lead Larry Jackson confirmed the amount of assistance the company provides artists. CEO Tim Cook is said to have "a hand in the production" of MIA's video, while Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book was seen as a major exclusive to the service, as Chance wasn't signed to a label and wasn't offering a downloadable version of the album at all.

In exchange for the production assistance, Apple usually tries to get some form of exclusive in return. For example, the two-week exclusive of Drake's Views in April was instigated by Apple funding his Hotline Bling video. The deal for Taylor Swift's 1989 World Tour film, which had Swift and Jackson working together on ideas, also led to a string of TV ads featuring the singer. These exclusives, on both audio and video content, are a way for Apple to take on its competitors with their own exclusive content plans, such as Spotify's video projects.

Jackson suggests the goal is to make Apple Music "at the intersection of all things relevant in pop culture," with a model similar to "MTV in its Eighties and Nineties heyday" where people could imagine major artists "lived there." Apple Music head Jimmy Iovine thinks the same way, claiming the company wants the service "to be a home, where artists can do their thing." Jackson and Iovine had previous experience with the concept at Interscope Records, with Lana Del Ray's promotional budget channeled into videos instead of via radio for her debut album Born to Die, which went platinum and debuted in second place on the Billboard chart.

The strategy seems to be working, with other industry executives praising it. "Apple is sexy," said Republic Records head Monte Lipman. "They are prepared to do things no one has done before. Lately they've been very clever in coming to us with what we consider groundbreaking opportunities." Anthony Saleh, manager of Future, suggests Apple's funding of projects is "almost like getting paid to wake up and eat breakfast – you're going to do it anyway."

Former Universal executive Larry Kenswil takes another view. While these tactics to garner celebrity support helped Iovine in his time at Beats promoting headphones, Kenswil suggests the stars "are not getting the same kind of publicity on exclusives, so the jury's out."
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