Jimmy Iovine is a sound geek.
The former record producer and current chairman/CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records has long been obsessed with audio quality. He admits to going through painstaking lengths to ensure that the various sound systems in his home, office and cars are all optimized for maximum fidelity. So it's no surprise that Iovine is frustrated by the disposable white earbuds and low bit-rates that dominate today's digital music landscape.
"When you realize that a whole generation of people are listening to music for the first time ever-ever-through those tiny, tiny earbuds, you realize we've got a problem," he says, his voice rising with emotion. "In the last decade, everyone's been focused on the stealing. But that's just the record industry losing its business model. What's happening simultaneously, and not enough people are paying attention to, is that it's also losing its soul through the degradation of sound."
About three years ago, Iovine decided to do something about this, teaming with legendary hip-hop performer/producer Dr. Dre and audiophile audiovisual hardware firm Monster Cable to create a line of headphones called Beats by Dre. The idea was to apply all the elements that go into making a hit record to the business of selling headphones-great sound, fashion sense and star power-and in doing so bring the focus back to quality over convenience.
"I felt it was the weakest link," Iovine says. "With a bad file and a bad-sounding computer, you have at least a shot at pumping the emotion back with a good pair of headphones."