Apple's former music boss just perfectly laid out the company's approach to marketing — and he wasn't even talking about Apple (AAPL)


Jimmy Iovine

  • Music titan Jimmy Iovine seems to have kept the lessons from his four-year-long employment with Apple to heart.
  • “Make quality the priority, not speed. Speed is marketing, but you have to have something great to market,” Iovine told the New York Times in an interview this week.
  • He was talking about how to build a long-lasting career as a musical artist — but he could have been talking about his former employer.
  • Iovine and Dr. Dre sold their company Beats to Apple back in 2014 for a whopping $3 billion. He then helped launch Apple Music, before retiring from Apple in 2018.
  • Iovine also discussed how late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs informed his approach to the intersection of music and tech, even before he ever joined Apple.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jimmy Iovine had a lengthy and legendary career even before he became the executive force behind Apple Music: As cofounder of record label Interscope, he worked with artists like Lady Gaga and Eminem, and as cofounder of Beats, he worked with Dr. Dre to build one of the most prominent names in the audio industry.

When Beats bought Apple in 2014 for a whopping $3 billion, Iovine came along for the ride, helping the company launch its very popular Apple Music streaming service. In 2018, Iovine left Apple to pursue new opportunities. 

It still seems, however, that he agrees with how Apple does business — at least when it comes to marketing. In an interview this week with the New York Times, Iovine was asked the secret to a long-lasting career as a music artist. His answer was specific to the music industry, but he could have just as easily been talking about his former employer.

“Quality — of everything you do. Make quality the priority, not speed. Speed is marketing, but you have to have something great to market,” Iovine told the New York Times in an interview about the present-day music industry. 

Apple is often criticized for a perceived lack of inventiveness: While products like the iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch are hugely profitable businesses, it didn’t invent the tablet, smartphone, or smartwatch, and has long been seen as imitating competitors like Android when it comes to adding new features.

Defenders, however, note that while Apple doesn’t invent these new kinds of devices, it often improves on them, with its famous design-led philosophy and attention to detail making them more palatable to broader audiences. In other words, as Iovine says this week, speed is good, but it’s no replacement for having a good product.

Iovine said in the interview that he he learned the way Apple thought about its products before he even joined the company, from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, famously obsessive about a commitment to design and quality.

Iovine said that his relationship with Jobs and top Apple exec Eddy Cue informed how he approached the intersection between technology and media, first at Interscope, and then later as he and Dr. Dre began to build Beats.

“Steve Jobs used to sit with me at this Greek restaurant and draw out what I needed to do to make hardware. He’d say, ‘Here’s distribution, here’s manufacturing,’ and he’d be drawing on this paper with a Sharpie. And I’d go, ‘Oh, [expletive],’ Iovine told the Times.

As for why he left Apple, Iovine told the Times that he “ran out of personal runway” amid the growth of Apple Music.

You can read the full Iovine interview, where he discusses his concerns over the streaming market and music industry more broadly, here.

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