The Future of Interscope

Jimmy Iovine's gone. But the label he helped build isn't missing a beat

Your company is losing one of the biggest names in the business, a genuine titan who has tight personal ties to scores of top-selling artists and has put out many of the highest-grossing albums of the last quarter-century. So you're freaking out, right?

Wrong. Jimmy Iovine's exit from Interscope Geffen A&M as part of the Apple-Beats deal may have robbed the label of its house guru. But the transition to the new chairman/CEO, John Janick, 36, is going about as smoothly as a succession could. That's due in no small part to Iovine, who saw it coming - he was in talks with Apple CEO Tim Cook long before word leaked - and put a strong plan in place.

In fact, Janick has been "100 percent running" day-to-day operations for at least a year, says an insider at Universal Music Group (UMG), Interscope's parent company. Indeed, the source credits Janick, who only arrived in the summer of 2012, with propelling Interscope to its first No. 1 ranking among U.S. labels last year. (It tallied a 7.7 percent market share in album and tracks - albums plus track-equivalent albums, or TEA, according to Nielsen SoundScan.)

That doesn't mean it's all smooth sailing ahead. Iovine's reputation was critical in helping Interscope build its formidable talent base. Will.i.am credits Iovine with convincing The Black Eyed Peas to sign, despite much more lucrative offers from other labels. "Jimmy was like, 'Look, Will, you can go sign for a million. I'm not going to give you that kind of money - it's ridiculous. But I promise if you sign with me, no matter how many records you sell, you can always make records with me until you guys get it right.' " That kind of personal power may be hard to replace. "When you lose someone of that caliber, it has to have an impact on the company," says Sony/ATV Music Publishing chairman/CEO Martin Bandier. "It's like the Yankees losing Robinson Cano."

And some industry executives question Janick's hip-hop pedigree, speculating that Interscope could lose traction with rap artists - one of the label's strengths through the years. (It has been ranked as the No. 1 or No. 2 rap label in the United States every year since 2009, according to SoundScan.)

But for now, Janick, who was unavailable for comment, is drawing rave reviews - and also is reflecting well on UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, who wooed him from Warner Music Group, where Janick spent 16 years helming Fueled by Ramen (Fun, Fall Out Boy).

Warner fought hard to hang on to Janick, according to a source, but was outmaneuvered and outspent by Universal. "John wanted more and had bigger ambitions," says a former colleague.

As he faces a future without Iovine, Janick can count on one of the more stable management teams in the business. "Interscope still feels like home," says Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager. "A lot of people we've worked with since the beginning are still there." U2 and Kendrick Lamar are said to be readying albums - which should help the new boss ease worries about Iovine's exit.


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