Record company executive, producer
Jimmy Iovine, who rose to lead the powerful Inter-scope Geffen A&M recording label, began his career in the music industry during the early 1970s. He has worked as an engineer, producer, and record company executive, partnering with a group of diverse artists ranging from John Lennon and Stevie Nicks to Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Eminem. During his extensive career, he has also added film and television credits to his repertoire.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Iovine grew up in an Italian-American family. His father, Jimmy Iovine Sr., was a longshoreman who passed away in 1985. Throughout his son's life, the elder Iovine was a strong influence and a major supporter of any endeavor the younger Iovine attempted. When Iovine played baseball during his childhood, his father was the team's coach. When he decided to join a band, his father stepped in as the group's manager. And when Iovine decided to embark on a career in the music business, his father was his biggest fan.
Jimmy Iovine's entrance into to the music business was a job as a recording engineer at the Record Plant recording studio in New York in 1973. From the beginning he worked with influential artists, including John Lennon. In 1975, Iovine served as the engineer for the recording of Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run album. After working as an engineer for several years, Iovine got his first break as a producer in 1977 with a New Jersey band called Flame.
The following year, Iovine's studio career took off when he produced Easter for Patti Smith, an album which included the Top 40 hit single "Because the Night." The album's exposure led to a high demand for Iovine's work. Over the next few years, he produced three albums for rocker Tom Petty: Damn the Torpedoes (1979), Hard Promises (1981), and Long After Dark (1982).
In 1981, Iovine formed a personal and professional partnership with vocalist Stevie Nicks when he produced her first solo album, Bella Donna, which included the single she performed with Petty, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." Bella Donna soon reached the top spot on the Billboard magazine album sales chart, and when the time came in 1983 to return to the studio to record her next effort, The Wild Heart, Nicks turned to Iovine. That same year, he produced U2's live recording Under a Blood Red Sky. By 1984, Iovine had established himself as a hit producer, and he had expanded his activities to include musical direction and supervision for the popular film Sixteen Candles.
The following year, he and Nicks returned to the studio to work on Rock a Little, but their personal and professional partnership ended before the album was complete. Nicks's drug addiction had started to interfere with her performance, and Iovine was helpless to change the course of things. Despite the setback in his personal life, his career didn't miss a beat. Over the next five years, he produced the first album by the band Lone Justice, the Once Upon a Time album for Simple Minds, the Pretenders' Get Close, Patti Smith's Dream of Life, and U2's Rattle and Hum.
In 1990, Iovine partnered with Ted Field, an heir to the Marshall Field retailing fortune, to form Interscope Records. Field and Iovine contracted with Atlantic Records, a division of the giant Time Warner conglomerate, for distribution in a $30 million joint venture. The label came out almost immediately with its first hit single, Gerardo's "Rico Suave," which was followed by hits from Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch and Primus—all in its first year of operation.
But Iovine and Field didn't stop there. They decided to make the bold move into the world of hip-hop by investing a few million dollars to distribute Death Row Records, a label formed by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. "For the time during the late 1980s and early 1990s, outside of one or two rock bands, hip-hop was the most potent message and the most true message that was being delivered in this country," Iovine told the Public Broadcasting System's Frontline program.
Backed by Interscope's distribution muscle, Death Row released a number of multiplatinum-selling albums from artists such as Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Robert Greenblatt, president of entertainment for Showtime cable television, later told Entertainment World that "Jimmy Iovine is the undisputed czar of hip-hop."
Despite the success of their hip-hop artists, Interscope didn't focus solely on one genre of music. Their roster included R&B and pop acts, such as Blackstreet, and alternative rock bands, including Bush, Helmet, and Nine Inch Nails. Iovine relentlessly pursued a deal with Nine Inch Nails that took more than a year to seal. The group, led by Trent Reznor, had expressed its displeasure with their label, TVT Records, and wanted to move to another company. However, Steve Gottlieb, head of TVT Records, didn't want to let them go. So Iovine called him every single day for an entire year until Gottlieb finally agreed to form a joint venture with Interscope for Nine Inch Nails.
"Jimmy has this gift to get things from his friends that further his career goals without making you feel that you've been used," Danny Goldberg, then chairman of Warner Bros. Records, explained to Patrick Goldstein in the New York Times Magazine. "It's a real art because Jimmy can do these things without making anyone unhappy." Once Iovine had Nine Inch Nails on Interscope's roster, Iovine made a deal with Reznor and his manager John Malm to form their own record label, Nothing Records, which led to the addition of shock rocker Marilyn Manson to the label's roster.
In 1995, Interscope Records began receiving criticism centering on the gangsta-rap artists in the Death Row lineup. Critics began exerting pressure on Atlantic Records' parent company Time Warner, and Atlantic elected to sell its stake of the label back to Field and Iovine, who refused to cave to the demands. "Unlike any other record executive, Jimmy will say, 'Go ahead and do it,'" Dr. Dre told Goldstein. "'We'll deal with the consquences later.'"
Iovine would not ask the Death Row artists to compromise because to do so would have gone against the original mission of Interscope Records. "Our charter was to make deals with people that we really respect and give them complete and absolute control over their lives," Iovine explained to Alec Foege of the New York Times. "We felt that if we did that, we would bat really high." The following year, Interscope formed a distribution partnership with the MCA label.
For the Record . . .
Born on March 11, 1953, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Jimmy Iovine, Sr. (a longshoreman); married; children: one son and one daughter.
Began as recording engineer at the Record Plant, New York, 1973; produced first album for Flame, 1977; produced Patti Smith's Easter, 1978; worked as producer, 1977-1990; co-founded Interscope Records,
1990; formed Farm Club label, 1999; became sole chairman of Interscope, 2001; served as producer for 8 Mile film, 2002; served as executive producer for Inter-scope Presents: The Next Episode television show,
Addresses: Office— Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www. interscope.com.
Always looking toward new innovations, Iovine formed another partnership, this time with Doug Morris, chairman and CEO for Universal Music Group, on November 9, 1999. The duo started a new record label that would attempt to take advantage of both the Internet and cable television media. The initiative, called Farm Club, began with a Web site to which musicians could submit their songs. From there, music fans and industry executives would submit their feedback on the music. Select artists were showcased on a television show that aired on the USA Network. However, the idea didn't take off, and by 2001, Farm Club had shut down.
Despite the demise of Farm Club, Iovine's career didn't slow down. In February of 2001, Ted Field left Inter-scope Records to start his own label and to pursue his film career, and Iovine became chairman of the label. In 2002, Iovine added to his film credits as producer of 8 Mile, which starred Interscope artist Eminem. The following year, he served as executive producer for the cable television show Interscope Presents: The Next Episode, a Showtime cable television reality show about rappers competing to be the top MC; the show created a situation similar to that depicted in the film 8 Mile. "This show allows young hip-hop artists to compete in a way that is most true to the art form, and through that get a real opportunity," Iovine explained to MusicRemedy.com.
By this time, Iovine had expanded his responsibilities, becoming chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, but despite the added responsibility, he hadn't lost sight of his original mission. "I always try to go where the excitement is, where the best music is," Iovine told PBS's Frontline. "I don't care what kind of music it is. I go with the best artist we can find."
(Flame) Flame, Warner Bros., 1977.
(Patti Smith) Easter, Arista, 1978.
(Tom Petty) Damn the Torpedoes, MCA, 1979.
(Dire Straits) Making Movies, Warner Bros., 1980.
(Stevie Nicks) Bella Donna, Mobile, 1981.
(Meat Loaf) Dead Ringer, Epic, 1981.
(Bob Seger) The Distance, Capitol, 1982.
(Tom Petty) Long After Dark, MCA, 1982.
(U2) Under a Blood Red Sky, Island, 1983.
(Face to Face) Face to Face, Epic, 1984.
Fortune, July 7, 1997, p. 40.
New York Times, December 3, 1995; November 14, 2003.
New York Times Magazine, April 16, 1995, p. 24.
"Celebrity Information: Jimmy Iovine," MSN Entertainment, http://entertainment.msn.com/celebs (November 28, 2003).
"Field Ankles Interscope to Sow Own Label," Variety, http://www.variety.com (December 7, 2003).
"Interview: Jimmy Iovine," Frontline, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/cool/interviews/iovine.html (November 28, 2003).
"Jimmy and Doug's Farm Club Harnesses the Strength of the Internet, Cable Television, and the Universal Music Group to Create a Worldwide Record Label for the Digital Age," Universal Music, http://www.umusic.com/static/press/110999.htm (November 28, 2003).
"Jimmy Iovine," The Penguin Biographies, http://www.fleetwoodmac.net/penguin/iovine.html (November 28, 2003).
"Jimmy Iovine Biography," CentroHD, http://www.centrohd.com/bio/bio23/jimmy_iovine_b.htm (November 28, 2003).
"Jimmy Iovine Biography," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (November 28, 2003).
"Showtime and Interscope Reveal What It Takes to Become America's Top MC in Interscope Presents The Next, " MusicRemedy.com, http://www.musicremedy.com/news/ (November 28, 2003).
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