So when Universal Music Group Chairman Doug Morris asked him to take a trip up to Cupertino, Calif., to check in on Apple Computer ruler Steve Jobs' incipient online music distribution system, Mr. Iovine was intrigued.
Mr. Jobs began "without securing licenses from any of the labels, but I told everybody I knew we should support this guy and show the technology companies what we could do if we got behind them," Mr. Iovine says about the birth of iTunes.
After arranging a lunch at his Malibu home for Mr. Jobs and U2 in `03, the seeds of a $20 million marketing campaign that would promote the band's forthcoming album, its customized iPod and Apple's iTunes site were planted.
"This wasn't a commercial sponsorship, it was a co-branding experience," Mr. Iovine says of the ubiquitous TV spots directed by music video veteran Mark Romanek featuring "Vertigo," the first single from the band's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" album.
The promotion helped expose the album at a time when radio playlists are tightening and MTV is turning away from programming music videos. When "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" came out last November, it sold close to 840,000 in its first week.
"This was a win-win-win situation," says Mr. Iovine of the arrangement, for which U2 received no money upfront, but a "substantial" royalty on sales of its customized iPod, along with Interscope. "U2 and Interscope got to sell the album and the iPod, while Apple got to market iPods and iTunes."
"We want our audience to have a more intimate online relationship with the band. ... With iPod and iTunes, Apple has created a crossroads of art, commerce and technology that feels good for both musicians and fans," said the band's frontman Bono, when the deal was announced. Mr. Iovine cites Bono as instrumental in making the deal happen, along with guitarist the Edge and manager Paul McGuinness.
As Mr. Iovine explains, the spots enabled a younger audience to discover U2. While inducting the band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, even Bruce Springsteen marveled at how his 14-year-old son was singing along to "Vertigo."