Google’s ex-CEO thinks Apple Music is elitist

Is Apple Music elitist? Former Google CEO thinks so.


Mike Wehner


Published Sep 14, 2015   Updated May 27, 2021, 11:48 pm CDT

Google’s Eric Schmidt isn’t known for publicly throwing shade at competitors, but in a recent interview with the BBC he made it clear what he thinks of Apple’s newly launched curated music initiative.

“A decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music,” Schmidt, the former Google CEO, explained. “Today, you’re much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world—what actual listeners are most likely to like next—and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be.”

“As a bonus, it’s a much less elitist taste-making process—much more democratic—allowing everyone to discover the next big star through our own collective tastes and not through the individual preferences of a select few,” Schmidt added.

Coming from the Executive Chairman of a company built on search, it’s no surprise that Schmidt’s take on media, and specifically music, is data-centric. Numbers carry power, and in a world where listeners can vote with their personal playlist selections, becoming a star would require near universal appeal. Apple Music’s curated approach, like radio stations in general, make it possible to go big by simply by striking the fancy of the DJ on duty.

Schmidt’s theoretical music utopia has never existed, and the chances of influencers being completely removed from the equation seem to be fairly slim. Whether it’s the person hitting the play button for Apple Music’s Beats 1, a top YouTuber, or even musicians themselves promoting fellow artists, there will always be someone with the clout to push their tastes upon others.

Music lovers today already have the power to tip the scales more than ever thanks to services like Spotify where votes and recommendations often come from friends and fellow subscribers, and access to smaller artists is better than it’s ever been. Are we on the verge of a future where data rules all recommendations and influencers are extinct? Likely not, but the balance between the two seems to be healthy at the moment. 

Photo via iHubNairobi/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Sep 14, 2015, 6:25 pm CDT