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COMPANY TOWN : Q & A : Vocal Session : Interscope's Iovine Reflects on Time Warner Split

September 29, 1995|ROBERT HILBURN and CHUCK PHILIPS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A: Anyone who thinks this is not about racism is being very naive. There are many more inflammatory movies and rock albums out there than what Dre and Death Row put out. Parents look at the [music] videos filled with young black males and they make their opinions based on other fears that have nothing to do with the music. It's racism, pure and simple.

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Q: Time Warner and other media giants have put out potentially offensive music by other rappers. Why did Dole and others single you out?

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A: We were a scapegoat. . . . We were this year's Willie Horton. A lot of people had something to gain from attacking us, politicians and others. They used it to advance their careers.

If I thought this was about saving children, it would be different. These conservatives aren't concerned with that, otherwise they wouldn't cancel all these poverty programs that help the children.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday September 30, 1995 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Financial Desk 2 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Interscope Records--Suge Knight and Dr. Dre are co-owners of Death Row Records, a rap and rhythm and blues label distributed by Interscope Records. Interscope is valued at an estimated $300 million. The Times on Friday incorrectly reported the value and the company's relationship with Knight and Dre.

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Q: Why is Interscope successful?

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A: Interscope's sovereignty is our entire game. It's a very simple rule, and if you follow it you will win. The idea is to sign people, make a promise to the artist and do everything you can to fulfill that promise. Artistic freedom is important. That's our total agenda. It's not just about Ted and me. It's the whole team . . . starting with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight at Death Row, Trent Reznor and John Malm at [their label] Nothing/TVT/Interscope.

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Q: Will you go into business with another major corporation or try to stay independent?

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A: This is not a baby company any more. This is a label that earns its own money. We can fund this company ourselves. Depending on what we want to do, we could go outside and take on partners, maybe a major. It could be an individual or a group of people. But whatever it is, it is all going to end up with us being able to deliver our idea. If someone buys in, they have to believe in what we are shooting for.

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Q: What have you learned from this experience?

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A: This has been a real gut check. If it was just about money, we could have just stayed at Time Warner. If we had agreed to change our contract with them, we could have sold the second half of the company to them for a minimum of $200 million.

But now we have the opportunity to build Interscope into something even more successful and ultimately more valuable. We found something that works. We now have the opportunity to take it to the next level, by truly empowering the artists and entrepreneurs we link up with it.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

A Record of Controversy

Interscope Records was belittled by industry watchers five years ago when its inaugural albums included "Rico Suave" by Gerardo and the debut release from Markey Mark. Despite the criticism, the company, dumped by Time Warner Inc. this week because of its controversial stable of rap artists, persevered and became one of the most successful start-up record companies ever. A brief look at Interscope:

* Headquarters: Westwood

* Founded: In 1990 in a joint venture with Warner Music's Atlantic Group

* Co-chiefs/founders: Ted Field and Jimmy Iovine

* Employees: 95

* Major artists: The company is home to a variety of musicians, including rock and alternative artists such as Nine Inch Nails on the Nothing/TVT/Interscope label, Bush and Toadies; rhythm and blues groups BLACKstreet and Pure Soul; folk artist Ron Sexsmith, and rappers Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound on the Death Row label. The company also had success with a new album by Tom Jones that prompted a resurgence of interest in the singer's earlier releases.

* Sales: Interscope grossed an estimated $90 million in 1993, $110 million in 1994 and $145 million in 1995.

* Market share: Time Warner's music division stands to lose up to 2 points from its 22.39% market share with Interscope's departure. The founders could affiliate with a Time Warner competitor or strike out on their own.

Sources: Interscope Records, Times reports

Researched by JENNIFER OLDHAM / Los Angeles Times

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