Jimmy Iovine on Beats-HTC Mobile Deal: ‘It Reminds Me of the Relationship Interscope Had With Atlantic’

From L to R: Jimmy Iovine, Peter Chou, Dr. Dre

“The record industry has screwed up so many things in the past, we have get this right.” Interscope-Geffen-A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine is talking about the future of high quality music delivery: through mobile phones – both an idea whose time has come and a move long overdue. And with the announcement of a $300 million strategic partnership between Beats Electronics, the company co-founded by Dr. Dre and Iovine in 2006 which manufactures high-end headphones, and HTC mobile, an emerging competitor in the Android smartphone market, it looks like someone is putting their money where their mouth is.

“When I was looking for a partner, I wanted to see which phone manufacturer was coming on really strong and a leader in this category,” Iovine tells the Hollywood Reporter. “Everyone across the board came back with HTC -- both from a tech aspect, which is very important, and just fundamentally as a great piece of machinery. This is a big step forward.”

Heading up the Taiwan-based HTC is chief executive Peter Chou, who says powerful 4G networks are allowing superior audio to “drive the user experience going forward” and that his company has been focusing on smart phone innovation for more than a decade for this very purpose: providing a “holistic, centered” experience.

“It’s very simple,” adds Iovine. “You can't take a $400 dollar phone and have an ear bud on the other side that costs 60 cents. The math doesn't work. That’s the problem with digital music: the sound and emotion of your music is only as good as its ecosystem… You wouldn't make Avatar and watch it through a grainy screen, or in 1D.” Still, he cautions, “the record industry's transformation into the phone as a delivery system has to be done with integrity -- that goes for the sound, the speed and the ability of the phone, it all has to work for us. The service has to be great, not some mathematical formula that is just okay.”

While HTC is taking a majority stake in Beats, Iovine and president/COO Luke Wood will remain autonomous. “It reminds me very much of the original relationship Interscope had with Atlantic,” says Iovine. “It’s a similar dynamic.”

In Chou, Iovine continues, “you have a guy that runs his company from the top down. People respect him and follow his every move. These big consumer electronic companies, most of them are culturally inept. He does more than you know.”

Indeed, during his time in Los Angeles this past week, Chou played Dr. Dre in ping-pong. Who won? “Whoever wrote the check,” Iovine laughs. But in all seriousness, the trio has big plans down the road. “Dr. Dre is a pioneer in sound who happens to be a rapper just like George Lucas is a pioneer in sound that happens to be a director. At HTC, these people are incredible. There is nothing like cool talented people -- it is the greatest gift in the world.”