Jimmy Iovine Interview: ‘The Defiant Ones’
Jimmy Iovine found himself to be very uneasy about the idea of an HBO documentary being done about himself. In our exclusive interview (watch the video above), he reveals, “I cancelled it a couple of times because there’s a lot of sensitive stuff in there. I didn’t want a parade.” But the film’s director, Allen Hughes, got Iovine to come around by re-framing what the piece would be about. “He called me and said, ‘The story is a white guy and a black guy who come from racially charged neighborhoods that get together through music and have to stay together through some of the difficulties they had growing up.'”
Iovine’s been working in the music industry since the 1970’s. He started as a recording engineer working with artists including John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf. He also worked as a producer for artists including Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and U2. He rose to new levels of prominence in 1990 with the founding of Interscope Records, which would eventually connect him with Dr. Dre, with whom he co-founded Beats By Dr. Dre. That company was acquired by Apple in 2014 for $3.2 billion.
Iovine became very taken with the direction that Hughes wanted to go with the documentary. Exploring the racial angle of how he and Dr. Dre came up “sounded positive because there aren’t a lot of companies where an African-American and a white person work together as partners and the two cultures bring so much to each other.” He added, “I wanted to show the loyalty and commitment and what that bond can do and how those two cultures could mesh into something really good.”
We also discussed the seismic shift that happened in the music industry when Napster came on the scene. “The minute I saw it within four seconds I knew we were screwed.” Iovine sees the value in what the new technology has already brought and will continue to bring but is very critical of how the industry as a whole has reacted to everything that’s happened since.
“Every step of the way has been a mistake as far as I’m concerned. Suing Napster was a mistake, not fighting YouTube hard enough and even something silly like the Billboard charts. Until recently, if a song was streamed on YouTube it counted the same as being streamed on Spotify paid.” He added that he doesn’t think the labels understand it but also that they don’t have a plan. “They’re waiting for technology to boom and that boom could end up going in the wrong direction.” But he’s also critical of streaming services because they’re all the same in his opinion.