Jimmy Iovine has something to get off his chest. The Apple executive, 63, has spent decades in the music industry as a producer, engineer, label executive and co-founder of Interscope Records, before founding Beats Electronics and Beats Music alongside Dr. Dre and, in 2014, moving to Apple after its purchase of that company in a deal worth some $3 billion. Now, 17 months after the launch of Apple Music — which has generated plenty of headlines due to its exclusives strategy and aggressive pursuit of original content on its way to 17 million paid subscribers — Iovine still feels like his mission is misunderstood.
“What everyone’s writing is the obvious right now,” he tells Billboard. “They’re writing, ‘People in the record business are getting into tech so they can talk to people in the record business.’ That’s hogwash.” [Ed. Note: That topic was the subject of several articles last week, including ones in Billboard and Music Business Worldwide, though Iovine’s ire appeared to be aimed at a Rolling Stone article published on Yahoo.com.]
The topic is one that’s of particular interest to Iovine, who alongside Dr. Dre donated $70 million to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles in 2013 to create a new institute dedicated to educating students in the arts, technology and business of innovation, which he says means “everything” to him. It’s also in the context of the recent migration of former music business players such as Troy Carter, previously manager to Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor, and Lyor Cohen, the longtime Def Jam and Warner Music Group veteran, who both recently shifted to Spotify and YouTube, respectively. But while that shift has become a trend in recent months, particularly as streaming has overtaken all other areas as the dominant revenue stream in the music industry’s digital era, Iovine feels that the ‘liaison narrative’ being put forward is an oversimplification of a larger issue.
“It took 10 years to develop this team,” he says of those around him at Apple, including Trent Reznor, Luke Wood and Larry Jackson. “The people from popular culture had to understand how to talk to engineers. It isn’t just them talking to record people; [otherwise] the engineer culture doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, doesn’t take you serious, and writes you off.”
With Apple Music’s recent redesign and its continuing foray into exclusives, both in audio streams and now its latest push into video, Jimmy Iovine breaks down the misconceptions of his strategy at Apple, the difficulty of marrying the music world with the tech world and the evolution of the company he’s building now. “We are an adjunct to labels and artists,” he says. “Yeah, it’s a popular culture company, but it’s also a tool. And that’s what we’re building. We’re not in the record business.”