Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine announced that their massively successful headphone company is branching out into streaming media with Beats Music, a subscription-only service that promises to be the ultimate music companion. Iovine thinks Beats, which launches Jan. 21, will top Spotify, Pandora, iTunes radio and upcoming offerings from Google and Neil Young by offering better curation, i.e., playlists that have been programmed by experts not algorithms.
TIME: Dre, Beats has come so far and is starting to morph into places where you may not have anticipated it going. At its core, to you, what is the Beats brand about and what does it represent in terms of your career and what you contributed?
DR. DRE: Everything in my life has been about sound and making music, so Beats represents just that — the improvement of sound and the dedication to everything I’ve been doing from the day I started. Everything that I do is for sound goals. It comes from my gut. When I’m sitting in the studio, a mix isn’t done till I feel it in my gut. It’s been the same way from the beginning, even when I was DJ’ing, if I heard a song that I wanted to play that I thought would be great in the club that night, I’d have to feel it in my gut. It’s a little bit hard to explain — I guess that’s the best way I can explain it. That’s what me and Jimmy were going for when we were tuning these headphones. It’s just a way that it makes you feel, and we’ve had that experience because of being in the studio for so long. That’s all it is.
TIME: I heard that part of where you developed your ear was by working on car stereos and trying to get that bumping to where you were happy with it.
DRE: That’s just a part of it. I started honing in on my skills from being an engineer – I started as an engineer before I started producing. This guy actually let me use his studio at one time – he just opened his garage door and there was a [mixing] board in it, and he just let me go in everyday and start practicing on it, so that’s when I really started honing in on my skills and learning how this thing works. I just went back and forth every day until I figured it out, and then I eventually started working with musicians and songwriters and artists.
TIME: Does it surprise you at all, that people turned onto Beats in such a big way? Because it’s not like it’s the cheapest thing for people to go out and buy.
DRE: I knew people were going to dig it, but I didn’t know it was going to be this big. I didn’t know it was going to be at this magnitude. I know that people really care about the way their music sounds. So did I know it was going to work? Yeah, but I had no idea it was going to be this massive.
TIME: I wonder, Dre – one thing that happened with your generation of musicians is that they used the medium, i.e. records, samplers, to kind of recreate music, cut it up, dice it, slice it, do whatever they needed to do. With the new generation of digital music, whether it be new interpretations through Beats equipment, or streaming services, digital music – do you see a potential there for people to reinvent that in a way we’re not expecting, creatively?
DRE: I think so, because of all this new technology. Music, records, are much easier to make, much easier to create. All you need is a computer, a laptop, a keyboard and a microphone, and you can go make a record. I think it’s definitely making the process much easier and much better for people that are interested in making records.
TIME: It’s easier to make a record, but is it still just as hard to make a great record?
DRE: Well yes, it’s always been that way. It’s always been difficult to make a good record. To be perfectly honest with you, it’s really about the person that’s pushing the buttons. No matter what type of equipment you have, you still have to have a certain talent to be able to make a good record. Everything that I used to do is a lot easier to do. Everything is a lot faster, and that’s what I’m most excited about.
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