Read Jimmy Iovine's USC Commencement Speech (Video)
In the music business back in 2003, we were standing at a crossroads. We could desperately defend the past and keep digging the same hole, or we could open our eyes to the future. Trust me, it’s a lot harder to change directions at 55 than at 25 — and I think your parents will vouch for me. Les inspired me that day to go find my way in a music business that was evolving. The old model was changing. So I began to think that maybe there was some way to harness the culture of the old music industry in a whole new way.
Around that time, I was lucky enough to get to know Steve Jobs from Apple. I was representing Universal Music dealing with iTunes. After three years of hanging around Steve and the team at Apple, I thought I could learn a lot from these guys. They were breaking new ground. They were changing the game. And they were winning.
I noticed how Steve took all the music and videos from the world and built a beautiful shiny white thing called the iPod to play them on. We loved this shiny little white thing. The only part my friend Dr. Dre and I didn’t like were the shiny white ear buds that came with the shiny white iPod because they sounded terrible, sound wasn’t Apple’s focus. So we thought what if we make a beautiful shiny black thing so you can properly hear what’s in Steve’s shiny little white thing? So with my friend, Dr. Dre, there we had the beginning of Beats. It wasn’t that simple, but you get the idea.
I learned even at 50, I had to be a beginner again — and that’s as Zen-like a statement as you’ll ever hear from me. So who believed that Dr. Dre and I could sell hardware? No one. But we believed in ourselves. We harnessed our fear into power and turned it into action.
Today each one of you have an excellent reason to believe in yourselves. You’ve earned a degree from USC. You are graduating from one of the greatest universities in the world. Remember when you grew up hearing about people that are privileged? Congratulations you are now officially privileged. Because you know what privileged means — it means you have an edge. And whatever your background, wherever you come from, you now have the undeniable edge of a first-class education.
But please remember this — your diploma does not represent the end of your education, but the beginning of your continuing education. Continue to listen and learn, with humility not hubris. Because that diploma you hold in your hands today is really just your learner’s permit for the rest of the drive through life. Remember, you don’t have to be smarter than the next person, all you have to do is be willing to work harder than the next person.
So now, that you’ve heard the stories that changed my life, it’s time for an announcement we hope will change some lives for the better in the future here at USC. Walking around USC today, it seems everyone’s a doctor. Which is funny because I brought my partner today who also happens to be a doctor. So in the words of Slim Shady, will the real Dr. Dre please stand up and join me onstage?
USC! Great to be back in my hood — up to some good. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2013!
At Beats, Dre and I have found it really difficult to find kids with an education that encompasses technology, the arts and innovation. So with USC, we’re creating a brand new program right here. It’s called the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy of Art, Technology & the Business of Innovation.
The Class of 2013 is among the first in history to have grown up in our new world where the distinctions between the arts and technology are disappearing So Dre and I are teaming with this great institution to create a new kind of Academy to address this reality. We want to do our part to prepare more brilliant students to do great and unexpected things.
What we need are schools — dream factories — that are broad enough to inspire, challenge and satisfy the curiosity of the next wave of game-changers that have a feel for technology and the liberal arts. That’s what we plan to do right here at USC.
In closing, because I believe in people doing the unexpected and being innovative, I would like to try something that’s never been done at a major graduation ceremony. Rather than quote William Shakespeare or Robert Frost, I close with the words of my favorite poet, R. Kelly, who penned my personal Karaoke anthem. So let tonight be the reward for all of your hard work, and the “Ignition” to a continuing education of the rest of your lives:
Today is your remix to ignition
You’re hot and fresh out the kitchen
You got the entire student body here
You got every graduate here wishin
Parents they might be sippin on coke and rum
And they might even get a little drunk
So what, it’s their USC graduation baby
And tonight they’re gonna have some fun!
So have a fun weekend and a great life and especially a great night!
Peace! We out.