Our Power 50 continues today with #9, after we revealed yesterday that Spotify's Alicia Sbrugnera and Marcus Thaine picked up the tied #10 spot.
A return to the list for Apple's Janelle McCarthy, her role at Apple in overseeing the company's music side has been interesting to watch, specifically as Apple Music finds its place in the music industry.
Stay tuned for #8 tomorrow — and head here to pre-order the AMID Power 50 for the full list.
Apple, Music Manager Australia & New Zealand
Apple's iTunes store has controlled the revenue from music downloads for as long as the short memory of the internet age can remember, but downloads are in free-fall (sound familiar, physical sales?). Playing another hand in Apple Music, their new streaming platform has shown some of its trump cards in 2016.
Janelle McCarthy has been a regular in the AMID Power 50 since 2013, when she appeared with a bullet at eight. She joined Apple in October 2011, jumping ship from Viacom's MTV where she was Director Of Programming. Ask around though and the manager of both of Apple's trademark music platforms across Australia and New Zealand is still something of an enigma.
Apple's local music team is quite secretive and the roles are not always clearly defined to those outside Apple's strong media wall and tight circle of associates. The general perception is that McCarthy oversees the label relations and editorial/curation processes of Apple and iTunes — and on perception alone that's a big deal. Labels will present to someone like ex-Universal staffer now label relations guru Katie Hardwick, but McCarthy will be there when the big meetings take place.
Even as digital downloads decline, Apple still represents — for the majors — the top source of recorded music revenue. Apple Music's contribution is modest but the perception is that they've retained any market share eroded by downloads cooling. (Special editions and heritage albums are still big sellers via downloads.)
Apple may have appeared late to the party with their streaming service, but as streaming dominates music consumption in some European markets, it's still a growing entity in Australia so there's not too much ground to gain. Apple Music's growth and potential firepower is encouraging the industry and the revenue opportunities look promising — this is an era for optimism rather than the naysaying and denial that a post-Napster world suffered from.
Optimism aside, the roll out of The Avalanches' comeback album Wildflower mid-2016 serves as a blueprint of their game plan. The streaming service was the facilitator in a deal with Telstra and the band's label EMI, which saw the album streamed exclusively through Apple Music a week prior to release, although this act of 'windowing' content is becoming less prominent.
What made the deal is that Telstra offered their current and potential customer base six-months free access to Apple Music and backed it with a massive promotion that involved advertising across terrestrial TV, print and online media and outdoor.
Wildflower was therefore pushed on a marketing level that labels in 2016 just can't afford; a campaign across more bus-stops and reality TV ad breaks than EMI could have ever hoped to buy. The album debuted at #1 and was presumably streamed through the roof — we don't know for sure, as streaming figures across the board for Apple are kept close to their chest.
A record label executive AMID spoke to described the deal as a "game changer".
It also highlights — to the outsider — how Apple Music is presenting itself to the industry. Peers like Spotify, who Apple are trying to ward off, offer curation and playlists, jumping on trends as soon as they emerge, presumably drop them from the front pages as soon as they're done. Apple Music proposes to back an act throughout the campaign, getting on early and pushing it the whole way through.
If they can be associated with the right act, listeners will be using Apple Music to stream their songs and, more importantly, accessing that platform through Apple devices. Given that there are in the realm of one billion Apple hardware devices around the world, that's quite an attractive proposition for labels. (Particularly when the top banner on the iTunes store home page doesn't have the immediate effect it used to.)
That arsenal of hardware could also be the key to cementing streaming's place in late-adopting territories like Australia.
So as something of a silent power-broker within the walls of Apple, how does the industry know of the power McCarthy wields? Often labels aren't exactly sure what role she plays in the editorial selections, but if she doesn't have direct involvement they assume she's the one those who make the decisions report to. More importantly, in now over five years at Apple McCarthy has overseen — "survived" is a word others have used to describe executives in the same tumultuous period — the operation at a company that does not take downward arcs on spreadsheets lightly.
Within the vaulted walls of Apple she remains a constant figure and driver in the future of a company determined to remain synonymous with music globally.