Jimmy Iovine, the former owner of Interscope Records and executive of Apple Music, recently sat down with the New York Times to talk about his journey from music to tech, and the challenges that the industry will face in the future.
When asked about why he left Interscope Records and sold Beats to Apple, Iovine said that he says the need for the tech and music industry to come together, and he wanted to play a roll in making that work.
“It’s all a response to Napster. I saw how powerful that technology was, and I realized we had to switch gears. The record companies were not going to exist without tech … I didn’t want it to be the other side. I wanted it to be all one thing. I wasn’t bailing on music. I always thought that technology was going to get people to listen to music in a better way, and you were going to promote it all through a streaming service. But it would all be in the same house.”
Iovine went further to say that “the streaming business has a problem on the horizon, and so does the music business.” When pushed further, he expanded on the line, saying that the music streaming business is turning into a commodity.
“It doesn’t scale. At Netflix, the more subscribers you have, the less your costs are. In streaming music, the costs follow you. And the streaming music services are utilities — they’re all the same. Look at what’s working in video. Disney has nothing but original stuff. Netflix has tons of original stuff. But the music streaming services are all the same, and that’s a problem.”
Iovine had hoped to help solve this problem when he sold Beats to become an executive at Apple, helping to launch and run Apple Music, a music streaming service that now has over 60 million subscribers. When asked about why he left Apple, Iovine said that he “ran out of personal runway”.
“When I went to Apple, it was a new creative problem for me. How do we make this the future of the music business? How do we make it not ordinary? But I ran out of personal runway. Somebody else will have to do that.”
In his retirement, Iovine helps runs the XQ Institute, an educational initiative Steve Job’s wife Laurene Powell Jobs. While he devotes himself to passion projects, Iovine still thinks about where the music industry is going, and how the record labels need to adapt to support artists in order to survive.
“If I were still running Interscope, I would be signing artists and encouraging them. Right now there are a lot of people running around saying, “What’s making noise on TikTok?” That’s fine. But I’m more encouraged by the people who are saying, “Whoa, this artist has something to say. I’m going to support them, because I believe that in the end they’re going to win, and that will make all of us win.”