Interscope and Apple Music mega-mogul Jimmy Iovine tells YOU how to make it big in the music industry

Iovine and Dr Dre star in new Netflix series The Defiant Ones - all about their rise to the top

Jimmy Iovine is the music industry. He started out in the 1970s, working as a recording engineer and producer for everyone from Patti Smith to Bruce Springsteen before co-founding the iconic Interscope Records in 1990, signing legendary artists like Tupac. A decade ago he and Dr Dre set up Beats, which was bought out by Apple Music for a whopping $3 billion in 2014. A new Netflix series, The Defiant Ones tells his and Dre’s story. We asked Jimmy how we can be billionaire top dogs, just like him. Now pay attention and you could be paying off your student loan sooner than you think.

Start from the bottom – and work hard

Jimmy: “Firstly I had to learn how to sweep! (Jimmy’s first music job was sweeping the floors of a local music studio.) Then you have to just be willing to work harder than the next guy. No matter how insecure you are just work harder than the next guy or girl and be willing to listen and hear. Don’t think because you’ve done one thing good that your ears can shut off.”

Seek advice from people doing what you want to do

“I still have mentors and I still listen to them. David Geffen was extraordinary to me both in teaching me how to step out of the production world and into the business world. Steve Jobs really taught me how to make hardware; he was generous with me, he would sit with me on a Saturday and say ‘No, no, no – try this, do that’. He didn’t make headphones but he gave me the inspiration to make headphones. He told me I could. I’m listening – no matter how much experience I have I’m listening and I’m of service to the person I’m listening to.”

Always be of use


“When you don’t offer anything you have to be of service to these people. It’s about a certain amount of humility even if you’re faking it. Stay consistent – people want consistency they don’t want your personality in the room. I spent the first five years of my career with John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith and I had no right to be in that room except that I was of service and as time went on I started learning from each one of them how to help the other and as I was learning I was saying I can offer this. I just got lucky, but once I got lucky I didn’t let go.”

Work 24 hours a day

“You need to have two jobs and you say you’ll work for free. I worked 24 hours a day, slept two or three hours a night. I worked at two studios before I got my first job. You have to be willing to put up with that and wait for your moment and just find someone you connect with and get a shot. From 9-6 I’d work and then I’d go straight to the studio ‘til 2 in the morning and be back at work at 9 but that’s what I had to do.”

Make fear a headwind instead of a tailwind

“The fact is I’m terrified quite a bit, especially when I was younger working in those studios. I just trained myself to make that feeling feel good. Knowing that fear will either push you forward or stop you in your tracks – it’s a muscle so you just keep going and realise it’s only a poltergeist. I learned to get more comfortable with it so by the time I got to Interscope I just looked at fear as another tool. I still feel fear but I learned and trained myself to work through it because it is a ghost.”

Have a brilliant idea

“I find young entrepreneurs that’ll come to me with the greatest idea in the world and I’ll back it. I’m not going to put the bit in my mouth and be me, you be me and you do that work and I’ll support you and give you advice.”

Now go forth and conquer. Good luck!