Jimmy Iovine Mastered Outlier Markets

I think of outlier markets as new markets that are both outside the purview of the masses and growing quickly with the potential to be massive. I’ve spent time learning about people who took innovative approaches to finding outlier markets and helping them reach their full potential. This led me to learning about Jimmy Iovine.

He’s a producer turned record label executive turned tech start-up founder. He cofounded Interscope Records, which helped usher various music genres to the attention of the masses. His method was to partner with little-known musicians and independent label owners who understood these genres better than he did. His role was to help them navigate the politics of the music industry and handle marketing and distribution. Interscope has been a massive success. It’s been home to artists and record labels such as Death Row Records, Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, Dr. Dre, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Nine Inch Nails, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Limp Bizkit, and others. All have been huge successes and had a big impact on the music industry. Hip-hop alone has gone from being an outlier genre to dominating global charts.

Jimmy went on, with Dr. Dre, to form Beats Electronics, which he sold to Apple for $3 billion. Jimmy and Dr. Dre saw that streaming and headphones were markets with huge potential. They built Beats to take advantage of this insight. The headphones were a big success, but the Beats music app was what Apple wanted. The technology is the foundation for what’s now known as Apple Music. Apple doesn’t break out the revenue for Apple Music, but the category that includes this service generated $19.6 billion in revenue for the quarter ending June 2022. Apple Music alone likely generates multiple billions of dollars in revenue quarterly.

Jimmy has a knack for outlier markets—they’ve had an outsize impact culturally and generated outsize financial returns for him. His approach was tailored to music, but I think there are elements of his playbook that can be applied to other spaces, such as start-ups or venture capital.