Jimmy Iovine Talks Founding Interscope Records & Selling Beats By Dre

  • You did not excel in school and got fired from your first few jobs. What changed? I had a lot of insecurities and a lot of fear. I had to learn to understand [and use] my fears. [0:20]

  • The owners of the studio asked me to come in on Easter in 1973 to answer the phones. My mother thought it was a bad idea. I went anyway. I was like I will do anything. It turned out they were testing me. [1:07]

  • At 22/23 years old you wind up in the studio with Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon —how did you establish credibility with those people? You are there to help make their project better. Part of that is caring as much about their music as they do. If they are allowing me in this room, then I am going to do as much as I can to be of service to them. [1:30] 

  • I wasn’t cool. I wanted to be cool. I wanted a better life. I wanted money. I didn’t want to be a longshoreman [his father’s profession]. It was that simple. [2:45] 

  • I knew very little about the music business. All I knew was at my previous job I was getting paid by the hour. In my new job [as a producer] I was getting paid with royalties. [3:00]

  • There is nothing like your first hit. Because The Night by Patti Smith was an incredible moment. That one song changed my life. [5:20] 

  • Why Jimmy decided to switch from producer to record label owner: David Geffen had just sold his record company. I said to myself he kind of does the same thing I do but he is making a lot more money. [6:28]

  • In the first three years, Interscope records had Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, 2pac, Snoop Dogg, and Dr. Dre. [7:22] 

  • His management style: The artists get to do exactly what they want. No compromise.[7:40]

  • Napster changed everything. I didn’t like the way the record industry was handling it. I just decided to build something else. I wanted to build businesses with our artists. That is how Beats by Dre got started. [9:12] 

  • I like to pivot. I get complacent and bored. I got bored of producing records. I got bored of running a record company. I wanted to move on. [10:22] 

  • I tried to start a music streaming company. [Before Steve Jobs] You couldn’t get the deals done. It was just impossible. When I met Steve Jobs and Eddie Cue I said these are the only guys that can get this done. They understand it. They can get it done. [11:05]

  • The music labels need to get more sophisticated in tech. They are banking on everything staying the same. Only the technology companies are moving at 100 miles an hour. When you are inside a tech company you realize how many years out they are planning. [13:30]

  • Do you still enjoy what you do? I don’t know if I ever enjoyed it. It is work to me. [16:00] 

  • His most important idea: Turn fear into a tailwind instead of a headwind. Fear is as powerful as the force. If you can harness it it is an asset. You will have a big, big advantage. That has been my whole thing. When I feel fear I have trained myself to move forward. The fight is never over with fear. It is never gone. You have to harness it. [16:40]

  • Do you have any regrets? I don’t have a rearview mirror. I was always about what is new. What is tomorrow? I don’t look at life like that. [17:45]

  • Full video here.