The biggest story in music over the last decade was the industry’s reconciliation with tech — after a decade fighting the internet, the music business fully embraced it in the 2010s. Streaming has now finally returned the business, which was nearly decimated by the shift from physical to digital formats, to growth.
Perhaps no one has had a broader view of this phenomenon than Jimmy Iovine, the producer and record executive who made the leap to the other side. He and his partner, Dr. Dre, sold their company, Beats Electronics, to Apple for $3 billion in 2014 and helped launch Apple Music, the tech giant’s late entry to the streaming market, which now has more than 60 million subscribers.
It was, from the start, a strange pairing. Apple is obsessively cautious in maintaining its public image; Iovine, the son of a Brooklyn longshoreman, blurts profanities in a high-pitched rasp and is one of music’s great hustler-salesmen. But Iovine, who co-founded the Interscope label in 1990 and led it until he left in 2014, has long been one of the sharpest observers of the tug-of-war between the entertainment business and Silicon Valley.
Iovine, 66, retired from Apple in 2018, and says he has devoted himself to passion projects like the XQ Institute, an educational initiative led by Laurene Powell Jobs, who was married to the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. He has even started taking guitar lessons. “I’m realizing how hard Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen’s jobs really were,” he said from his home in Los Angeles, with a chuckle.
Iovine has also become a dedicated collector of contemporary art, guided in part by David Geffen, his friend and fellow mogul retiree. His most prized work is a 2017 commission by Ed Ruscha, “Our Flag,” an update to one of Ruscha’s perennial subjects that shows a star-spangled banner ripped and tattered — a striking comment on contemporary politics.
“If you looked at the painting and thought it represented the disarray of democracy you would be right,” Ruscha said. “Any flag that flies for 250 years deserves to be a little soiled but nothing this extreme.”