After just a few short years in the trenches of the streaming wars, one of its highest-profile figures is bowing out. Billboard reports that Jimmy Iovine intends to leave Apple Music by August, ending a four-year run that saw him take over Apple’s music division and build it into a legitimate rival in the global music-streaming market. Iovine, previously known in the business as an influential label exec who founded Interscope Records, moved to Apple in 2014 when he sold his and Dr. Dre’s Beats company to the tech giant. After just a year on the job, Iovine and Apple launched Apple Music in 2015, becoming an immediate direct threat to Spotify. Since then, Iovine has been crucial to Apple Music’s rapid growth — in just two years, the service has amassed 30 million paid subscribers. Spotify just hit 70 million, but it, of course, has been around for a decade (though it only reached its first million paid subscribers in 2011, so equally impressive) and offers a free tier.
Iovine has been credited with contributing to music’s streaming boom in recent years — paid-subscriber numbers are up across the industry, but especially at Spotify and Apple Music — having focused on bringing original content and curation to the format in deals with Drake, Frank Ocean, Taylor Swift, and hundreds more, with the belief that people are still willing to pay for music. Still, for all his success with streaming, Iovine has remained cautiously optimistic about its sustainability as a business model. “The streaming services have a bad situation, there’s no margins, they’re not making any money,” he said last year, noting streaming’s issues with paying creators and lacking a physical product to rely on for profit.
His reservations about streaming’s future, however, don’t appear to have led him to leave. According to Billboard, his Apple shares will have simply fully vested later in the year. It’s also unclear if Apple plans to replace Iovine, who technically has never even had an official title at Apple Music — he just runs the show as “Jimmy.” But if they can’t (or won’t) replace him, they’ll have to find a way to replace his magic formula, because streaming is showing no signs of slowing down.