It’s no wonder that Jimmy Iovine has been the beau of the ball called CES—what would you rather write about, more dumb gadget shit or the smack-talking, paisley-loving head of a major record label?
Mr. Iovine’s big news was that Beats Electronics, the maker of premium headphones he founded with rapper Dr. Dre, is launching a digital music subscription service, called Project Daisy, to compete with Spotify, Rhapsody and the like.
That’s all well and good, and means that Mr. Iovine—not to mention his chief creative officer and former Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor—are going to be big tech news in the months to come. Better still was that Mr. Iovine came to CES ready to regale journalists with tales of his closed-door conversations on the future of the music business with late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.
So what do you need to know about Jimmy? He got his start in the music industry as a recording engineer, producing albums for U2, Tom Petty and Patti Smith, then founded Interscope in the 1990s, invested in Death Row Records, and introduced Eminem to Dr. Dre. Also, seems like he has a thing about being photographed with a hat on.
Somewhere along the line, Mr. Iovine started lobbying for Mr. Jobs to try out a subscription model, according to AllThingsD:
But I was always trying to push Steve into subscription. And he wasn’t keen on it right away. [Beats co-founder] Luke Wood and I spent about three years trying to talk him into it. He was there, not there … he didn’t want to pay the record companies enough. He felt that they would come down, eventually.
As for why he thinks he can thrive in the music game? Because the tech nerds running his soon-to0-be competitors are tech nerds, obviously:
I was shocked at how culturally inept most consumer electronics companies are. And what I also learned is that you can build Facebook, you can build YouTube, you can build Twitter—you can be a tech company and do that. But those [sites] program themselves. Subscription needs a programmer. It needs culture. And tech guys can’t do that. They don’t even know who to hire. They’re utilities.
Meanwhile, Beats notched 40 percent of U.S. headphone sales—and 70 percent of the premium market—according NPD statistics, a coup Mr. Iovine followed up by telling the Financial Times that his competitors “have no idea how to move sound around.”
We may not know much about Beats’ new subscription service yet, but it’s going to be fun to have Mr. Iovine around.