Jimmy Iovine is just as important to the Beats story as Dr. Dre. The Interscope records co-founder started the company alongside the rapper/producer in 2006. Beats initially focused on headphones and speakers, and in 2012 the company would grab 64% of the $100-and-up headphone market. But as the industry inched its way into the streaming age, it would follow in early 2014 with Beats Music.
Iovine's experience as a producer, label executive and businessman would set the tone for Beats' success. Heck, he's worked with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks (whom he also dated), U2 and more. He's unquestionably one of the most notable music producers of the 1980s. That resume was also a key component of the Apple deal, as Iovine (and Dr. Dre) would become an employee, working alongside Vice President of Services Eddy Cue and Senior Vice President Phil Schiller on the hardware side. A streaming service was exactly what Apple needed to compete with the likes of Spotify, Google, Rdio (RIP) and others.
Let's back up a bit. Beats Music wasn't entirely built from the ground up. The company bought streaming service MOG in 2012 and, before shuttering it two years later, transformed the pieces into its own subscription option. MOG's key features included a handy playlist generator and Pandora-like artist radio stations. Beats would put a lot of stock in curation as well, mostly around emotion and personal preferences. It also had help from creative powerhouses like Trent Reznor, who continued to work with Apple following the acquisition. The first time you fired up Beats Music, you were met with a tap-driven questionnaire that learned your tastes. The service didn't exist for very long on its own, as Apple would buy Beats just four months after it launched, and before the end of 2015, Beats Music was gone for good.
Hours after the deal was official, Cue and Iovine appeared at Recode's Code Conference to discuss the day's events. The Apple VP made it clear he felt Beats Music was the "first music service done right," referring mainly to the focus on curation and playlists.
"It was a no-brainer for us," Cue explained at the event.
Apple had iTunes and its massive catalog of digital music for purchase, but the iPod generation was coming to an end. It needed an on-demand subscription service to keep up with the industry's pivot, and rather than build its own, it decided to buy one.
"Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple," Tim Cook explained when Apple bought Beats. "That's why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world."
Indeed, Apple Music would launch in June 2015, and amass 10 million subscribers by January 2016 -- 20 million paid users that December. Less than two years later, and after some redesigns, it would double its tally to 40 million. Sure, the company hasn't caught Spotify globally, and it may never be able to. But in the US, Apple reportedly has more paying users than its biggest rival.
On the streaming side alone, the investment has paid off. Apple has cemented itself as a key player in the most popular way people now listen to music.