Apple Music’s Oliver Schusser has deep history in digital music

Alicia Keys appeared at one of the final iTunes Festival events.

With 40 million paying subscribers worldwide and another few million trying it out, Apple Music has a new boss, with the promotionof Oliver Schusser to vice president of Apple Music & International Content.

Deeply connected

Schusser has deep connections way back to the pre-iTunes dawn of digital music distribution.

He was Napster’s marketing VP even before Bertelsmann’s ill-fated 2002 purchase of the music-sharing firm, and has also had stints at Universal and Vodafone.

That means he’s one of the music industry folks who first had the vision of a celestial jukebox for music retail – and now runs the Apple version of that very same jukebox.

Schusser was instrumental to the launch of the iTunes Festival in 2007, where the great Amy Winehouse wowed the crowd at the ICA.

Schusser was included Evening Standard’s annual list of the top new media people in London in 2010 (along with Apple’s also legendary Alan Hely): “The mastermind behind Apple’s dominance of the download market, the German is also responsible for the computer firm’s move into film and TV show downloads,” that report said.

“Previously at Napster, he was also a driving force behind Apple’s 30-night music festival at the Roundhouse earlier this year. Billboard once wrote, “His impact on international music can’t be missed—or underestimated.”

Bang on trend

The Apple music exec is also pretty good on music-related trend. When the Now 70 compilation became the fastest selling compilation ever at iTunes in the UK in 2008, he noted, “It’s also the first time the number one album on iTunes has contributed 25 of the top 100 selling tracks….”

He’s always recognized the task Apple has faced with music online.

“Our number one challenge for the sixth year in a row is to continue to convince people that it is better to get content in the legal way than actually steal it from the internet. That’s really what’s driving us to make iTunes better and to have more content and offer exclusive content,” he told the BBC in 2009.

‘Heart and soul’

Speaking at an iTunes Festival event a few years later, he told Jim Dalrymple: “We never really defined ourselves as simply a digital retailer where people buy files from us on the Internet.  We wanted to have some heart and soul, and be a living brand. We have always been very close to the creative community, so this [iTunes Festival] was a logical next step for us.”

Schusser was hired by Eddy Cue 14-years ago, since when he has contributed to some of Apple’s most successful music-related initiatives, and led efforts outside the U.S. around iTunes, the App, movies, TV and music stores, iBooks and more. He also played a central role in the Shazam purchase, which hasn’t yet achieved regulatory approval.

Making it great

Schusser has always had a handle on what happens at Apple Music, following the launch of which he said: “There’s a lot of work going into making the product better. Our focus is on editorial and playlists, and obviously we have teams all around the world working on that, but we’re also adding features and cleaning up certain things.”

Moving forward, his vision for Apple in music was revealed as long ago as 2009, when he said: “We believe in the value of music, we want to compensate artists and record labels and I think our focus is just having a great product.”

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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