Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple Computer Inc., unveiled his music service Monday, promising to lure customers away from unauthorized file-sharing networks with what he called “a major milestone in the evolution of the real digital music age.”
Packed with 200,000 downloadable songs available for 99 cents apiece, Apple’s iTunes Music Store is the first industry-endorsed service to forgo subscription fees.
In an interview with The Times, Jobs discussed the future of the music business and Apple’s transformation.
Question: What makes you so positive people will pay for downloaded songs?
Answer: Maybe we’re simpletons, but we truly believe that humans love music. And we believe that the whole music system is being transformed. It’s going digital.
I know this may be a surprise to people who are over 30. But it’s not a surprise to anybody else. The personal computer has become the epicenter of the music-listening experience. People keep their music collections on their computers. They want to burn CDs and to put their music on portable players. Why shop at a record store?
Q: Why shop at all? Given the federal ruling on Friday that Morpheus and Grokster don’t violate copyright laws, how do you expect to compete with underground services that allow kids to download songs for free?
A: Using current piracy services is very frustrating. It takes you 15 minutes to find and download a song of reasonable quality that doesn’t have the last four seconds cut off or a break in the middle. We offer super-fast, high-quality downloads with pristine encoding. You certainly can’t get that on any other service -- pirate or legal. So I’m not too worried about the ruling.
Q: You sound like you think your service could transform music-buying habits enough to change Wall Street’s attitudes about the record business.
A: There is no question in my mind that history will write that this was a major milestone in the evolution of the real digital music age. We believe in the future of music.
Q: How will you make money on the service? Collect a distribution fee?
A: We actually wholesale the songs from the music companies and resell them. I can’t say for what price.
Q: In five years, will Apple’s profit come from computers or other products?
A: We make computers. We make software. We make devices like the iPod. And now we’re distributing music. We’re trying to bring that all together into solutions for our customers. We all love music here, and the whole piracy thing was such a mess. We thought maybe we can clean it up with a really cool product.
Q: What do you say about reports that Apple was in preliminary discussions to buy all or part of Universal Music Group from Vivendi Universal?
A: We have so many rumors in our industry. There are rumors today that we’re going to buy Sun. Rumors tomorrow that Sony is going to buy us. So we have a really strict policy that we don’t comment.