Skip to main content

Executive of the Week: Interscope Geffen A&M Vice Chairman Steve Berman

"Having an artist play the Super Bowl, whether they are the sole headliner or share the stage with others, is always impactful and legacy-building."

With over 100 million people tuning in on TV, stages don’t come much bigger than the Super Bowl — and this year, the Super Bowl Halftime Show delivered an epic performance helmed by Dr. Dre, with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent and Anderson Paak on hand to showcase some of the most iconic hip-hop and R&B songs in history. The resulting sales and streaming gains from the songs performed that night, which also included snippets of songs by Tupac, landed 15 classic albums by those albums on the Billboard 200 this week, including two in the top 10: Dre’s 2001 and Eminem’s Curtain Call: The Hits, each well more than a decade past their initial release dates.


Of those 15 albums, 12 were released by Interscope, the longtime home for most of this year’s Halftime Show performers, an impressive showing for the label founded by Jimmy Iovine and Ted Field and now led by CEO John Janick that is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this year. The label’s yearlong celebration of its catalog kicked off last month with a art installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that paired dozens of visual artists with classic Interscope albums to create new pieces of art inspired by the musical works, and with more celebrations on the horizon, Interscope Geffen A&M vice chairman Steve Berman — who has been with the label almost its entire existence — earns the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.

Here, Berman tells Billboard about positioning the Interscope catalog to take advantage of the massive Super Bowl platform, the plans for Interscope 30, including a limited-edition vinyl series with the exclusive artwork from the LACMA exhibit, and how the Interscope team and Roc Nation came together to pull off the event. “Each artist performed in such a powerful way,” he says. “I’m still smiling.”

This week, 12 classic Interscope albums tied to the Super Bowl Halftime Show performance appear on the Billboard 200, including two — Dr. Dre’s 2001 and Eminem’s Curtain Call: The Hits — in the top 10. What key decisions did you make to help make that happen?

First of all, Roc Nation has done an incredible job pulling together the Super Bowl Halftime show these past three years. It was so gratifying to be able to collaborate with Desiree Perez, Jana Fleishman and the entire Roc Nation team on this incredible performance. The Super Bowl conversations began more than two years ago as we were putting together our long-term plans to celebrate Interscope’s 30th Anniversary. Obviously, it was a dream of ours as a West Coast label to be able to honor Dre and the family of artists that he has worked with over the years — Snoop, Kendrick, Tupac, Eminem, 50 Cent and Mary J — just a few miles away from SoFi Stadium and our Santa Monica offices. Roc Nation was able to make it happen. All of the artists that performed that day are either current Interscope artists or part of the IGA family historically. Each artist performed in such a powerful way. I’m still smiling.

It was very important to John Janick as well as me that we were very well positioned globally at the DSPs. The Super Bowl is a global event. [Chief revenue officer/global head of streaming & strategy] Gary Kelly and his team did an incredible job at strategically and creatively positioning our catalog and really took advantage of what an enormous opportunity it is to have artists playing the halftime show. We saw a spike in chart positioning and streams not only in the U.S. but around the world.

How did this Halftime Show opportunity differ for the label, knowing it included a half-dozen artists from your history, as opposed to one artist like a Lady Gaga or a Maroon 5? Did it expand what you wanted to do across the catalog in any way?

Having an artist play the Super Bowl, whether they are the sole headliner or share the stage with others, is always impactful and legacy-building. It’s still the biggest stage there is for any entertainer. I believe it was Dre who spoke about this halftime being a moment of family coming together. The kinship between these artists is real and years in the making and the performance they put together is one of the best of all time. Having Dre, Snoop, Eminem, Mary, Kendrick and 50, all artists who have spent time on the label, share the same stage together was hugely gratifying for Interscope executives both past and present, one which had incredible cultural importance.

Roc Nation put together an important moment where hip-hop was the centerpiece for the first time in a Super Bowl Halftime Show. It was wonderful that these legendary artists were selected for this important moment.

You also played a big role in the Interscope 30 LACMA exhibit alongside John Janick and Jimmy Iovine, which brought in visual artists to create original works inspired by some of the most iconic albums in Interscope’s history. How did that come together and what was your role in it?

The exhibition was organized by John Janick and Jimmy Iovine along with [Pulse Music Group co-CEO] Josh Abraham and me, from an idea that originated with our partner, The Darkroom’s Justin Lubliner. It was a real labor of love and many of us at the label worked with them for months to ensure that our iconic artists were onboard. It was amazing for John and me to be in a working rhythm with Jimmy again. So much fun.

The complexity of navigating getting these important visual artists paired with music’s biggest names was almost impossible. It’s extraordinary when you think about the fact that Interscope’s music resonated so powerfully with the most successful visual artists in the world, that they all dropped everything they were doing to come be a part of it. The response from the musical artists was equally enthusiastic.

The show was a perfect celebration of Interscope because it was clear that over the last 30 years we have moved culture in a way that has impacted even the fine arts. And to have the support of everyone at UMG behind us as we all worked to make this happen was particularly moving. It was absolutely one of the highlights of my 30 years at this label.

Interscope also re-released 57 titles with that artwork on vinyl in sets of 100 each. What feedback did you get from the response to that limited-edition run?

This was truly ambitious and exciting. We engaged every sector of our company to make this happen including Jason Sangerman and our revenue team along with digital marketing teams led by Gary Kelly and Ramon Alvarez-Smikle, Chris Mortimer, our head of production Gretchen Anderson, and of course our retail team with Alex Reese. In order to let fans participate in the collaborations between fine and musical artists, we thought selling a limited-edition series of the vinyl, each featuring a gallery edition of the new artwork, was a great way to do it. We did this jointly with our friends at NTWRK, with each organization donating 100% of our net profits from the project to the Iovine and Young Foundation which is building a high school in South Los Angeles. So, the vinyl series was also a way for Interscope to give back to the community that has been so important to us. The sales of each edition of 100 have been extremely successful and we’re very happy with the results.