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Apple just made a key hire that could unravel the mystery of its content strategy

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Apple named a new Apple Music boss on Wednesday, and his background hints at what the company’s thus far nebulous content strategy might be going forward.

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Oliver Schusser will be the new vice president of Apple Music and international content. He’ll split his time between Apple’s Cupertino headquarters and Culver City, Calif., where many TV shows and movies are filmed, according to Variety, which earlier reported details of Schusser’s appointment. Variety also reports that Schusser was key in Apple’s acquisition of Shazam, which uses algorithms to identify music.

While Apple’s known primarily for its focus on music, the fact that Schusser also has a background in tech acquisitions — like Shazam — and will split his time in Culver City suggests that Shazam and movies could become a serious part of Apple’s ambitions, as opposed to just bonus content for music lovers.

In other words, Schusser may provide the missing link between Apple’s ambitions in television, music, and artificial intelligence, by bringing all of these elements under one leader. Despite hardware like Apple TV and HomePod, Apple’s overarching media strategy has failed to impress some critics thus far.

Schusser, who joined Apple in 2004, has demonstrated an ability to work with music labels, studios and publishers — the companies that determine Apple’s content acquisition costs, as it seeks to compete with big spenders like Netflix. He’s also worked internationally, an important area of expertise as Apple deals with content challenges in big markets like China. (He’s also previously worked at Universal and Napster.)

His responsibility is now bigger than ever.

Apple Music now has 40 million paying subscribers, the company said on Wednesday, which means it is more than halfway to catching up to newly rival public Spotify, with 71 million paid subscribers (although Spotify has a total of 157 million monthly users thanks to its free platform).

That’s a fast push considering last June, Apple Music had 27 million paid subscribers. A year ago, Spotify said it had over 50 million subscribers.

Schusser’s promotion reflects Apple’s growing focus on software and services, as well. Schusser will report to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services — a business that was $8.5 billion last quarter. (CEO Tim Cook has said he wants to double this line of business by 2020.)

Apple Music has its roots in Beats Music, which came to the company through a hardware acquisition. Still, a source told Variety that Schusser’s promotion has “no impact on the current standing of Jimmy Iovine,” a Beats alumnus who currently helps run Apple Music. Iovine is expected to step into a consulting role at Apple in August, according to The Wall Street Journal, though he has said recently that he’s moving to a consulting role at the company.

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