Magazine article Variety

The 'Scope of His Success

Magazine article Variety

The 'Scope of His Success

Article excerpt

Under his leadership, the imprint, among the top at Universal Music Group, has had its share of hits and misses, signed some artists and dropped others, and endured a trio of slip-ups, including the chaotic digital release of rapper Kendrick Lamar's latest album "To Pimp a Butterfly." But Janick has been quietly streamlining the industry giant, which had become diffuse under Iovine, who steered Interscope by sheer force of personality for its entire quarter-century existence.

"I want this to feel like a boutique label, even though we're a major company," says Janick, who parted ways with artists from "American Idol," as well as rappers Azealia Banks and Chief Keef.

But despite the seismic transition of leadership, Janick has managed to keep internal defections and grumbling at bay, suggesting he's been running the label for longer than a year. In fact, he served as the de facto head under Iovine for the prior 12 months, while he learned the ropes. That year turned out to be one of the most dominant periods in the label's history, with an industry-leading market share thanks to massive hits from Robin Thicke, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5 and Eminem.

His first artist meeting at Interscope was with Lamar and his Top Dawg Entertainment group, then preparing to release Lamar's major label debut, "Good Kid, MAAD City," which sold just shy of a million and a half copies on its way to making the artist one of the defining rappers of his generation.

It was an impressive first act, especially considering Janick had been diagnosed with cancer in his first month on the job.

"I had surgery, and came back to work three days later," he recalls, in an interview at Interscope's Santa Monica headquarters. "I act like this is my company, like it's my own money I'm responsible for. It's just how I'm wired. I can't spend too much time doubting myself."

In his first official year as Interscope chief, Janick pulled off a number of new signings, including brash young hip-hop group Rae Sremmurd, Aussie psych-rockers Thme Impala, indie pop chanteuse Ryn Weaver and singer-songwriter Borns. Last fall, he signed former Disney Channel star Selena Gomez, who has already notched her first hit for the label, as a featured vocalist on DJ and producer Zedd's "I Want You to Know." (Janick personally introduced the two.) And after a slip in sales for "Artpop," the third full-length album from Interscope's flagship pop star Lady Gaga, Janick helped her regain her mojo in a most unexpected way - on a jazz duet album with Tony Bennett.

"What's most important to me is being able to spend the time with an artist, and not just trying to get (a song) on every radio station," he says. "(To do that), you have to keep the roster in check, and make sure that you're not doing what a lot of labels have done in the past, where you sign a bunch of things and see what sticks. You sign who you believe in, and you stick with them."

Janick took some static when he was first appointed CEO, for his lack of a hip-hop background. But he's perhaps turned that to his advantage. Interscope maintains a strong roster of artist-affiliated sub-labels, allowing him to defer to tastemakers within their particular fields. Hip-hop producer Mike Will has his own imprint, which brought Rae Sremmurd to Interscope's attention. Rapper J. Cole recently set up shop there. Janick partnered with Pasquulc Rotelia, organizer of the RDM flagship fest Electric Daisy Carnival, to kick off Insomniac Records through Interscope. And Lamar's TDE has already produced another rap star in Schoolboy Q, whose Interscope debut topped the charts in 2014.

Janick was still in grade school when Iovine first partnered with car-racing magnate-turned Hollywood producer Ted Field in 1989, launching Interscope Records on the back of novelty hits from the likes of Gerardo and Marky Mark. By the time Janick founded his first label, Fueled by Ramen, in bis freshman dorm room at the U. …

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