Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, Dre's music mogul business partner and selector of American Idols, have donated $70 million to the University of Southern California to create the University of Southern California's new Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, a four-year undergraduate program very much of our innovative academic times, more or less designed to find the music industry's next savior — or anyone who thinks they can beat Spotify at its own game.
"The four-year program will feature four core curriculum areas: arts and entrepreneurship; technology, design and marketability; concept and business platform; and creating a prototype," reports The Los Angeles Times's Randy Lewis, who notes that the first 25 undergraduate students selected by USC will enter in fall 2014. With engineering and computer science meeting business and the arts, the still-in-the-works curriculum seems all about startup ideas and cool internships, culminating in an incubator-style senior "Garage" year. So, yes, it sounds like Dre and Iovine are building a hub for the entertainment world as kind of mini-undergrad version of Stanford, that overwhelming birthplace of tech geniuses and startup gurus — and not so much looking for the next Eminem or Lady Gaga.
And when you think about this duo's transition from producers to business moguls, it's not that surprising of an idea — even if it is a very, very generous gift to the university. Then again, these two are making lots and lots of money together as co-owners in Dre's Beats headphone venture. In 2011, The New York Times's Andrew Martin reported that annual sales were approaching $500 million, and Forbes reported last year that the bulk of Dre's $260 million net worth came from those headphones. And considering the paltry sales of a music industry besieged by disruption, Dre and Iovine are banking that it's easier for the industry to mold its own disruptive entrepreneurs than it is to pick its next artist out of a hat. "It came out of us trying to find people to work for us," Iovine told The New York Times of the gift. "In this case ... the kids are the product." Iovine added. So forget Google's new streaming music service or new hip-hop holograms — Vinyl Alley might just be the next big thing.