As one of the world’s richest musicians, Dr Dre became a billionaire through his love of music, despite struggling at school. His lack of academic success led him to his first job as a DJ and the start of his meteoric rise to the top.
With an estimated $800 million fortune today, as the founder of Beats Electronics and Aftermath Entertainment, he was listed by Forbes as the second-richest hip-hop producer and artist in the world in 2019, behind only Jay-Z. He has won six Grammy Awards and was ranked at number 56 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The kid from Compton, California, made his fortune through music and electronics – particularly with his Beats by Dr Dre headphones line, which he sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014. Although he became a hip-hop billionaire, he reportedly used some of the profits to pay off debts, leaving his $800 million fortune today.
He has invested heavily in property, owning a string of mansions in Los Angeles, including paying $40 million for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s estate. He’s also a great philanthropist, making multiple charitable donations.
Together with Beats’ co-founder, Jimmy Iovine, he donated $70 million to start a new school – the Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation at the University of Southern California.
Where it all began
Born Andre Romelle Young, in February 1965, he struggled at Centennial High School in Compton, where his poor grades led to a transfer to Fremont High School in LA. He had planned to enrol in an apprenticeship programme at Northrop Aviation Company but failed to get the required exam grades.
This was how he came to focus on entertainment, attending a nightclub called Eve After Dark, where many DJs and rappers performed live. He became a DJ himself in the club and became Dr Dre, which is a combination of his previous stage name Dr J and his first name. He referred to himself as The Master of Mixology.
His love of music helped him learn how to become an entrepreneur, as he began to forge a career from what was essentially a social pastime, demonstrating that academic success wasn’t necessarily an indicator of a good entrepreneur.
Identify your strengths
DJ work led to an alliance with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1984 (his first step on the road to success), followed by NWA in 1986. Dre’s success grew, thanks to his ability to identify and develop his strengths. He knows that when you’re struggling to get ahead, you should re-evaluate where your strengths lie before going any further.
His music career expanded when he became a top record producer and audio engineer, working with some of the top talent in the music industry, including Snoop Dogg, 2Pac and Mary J Blige. He produced Eminem’s ground-breaking albums, helping to launch his meteoric career.
Dr Dre’s success, as well as being a result of his personal skills and expertise, has grown from his collaboration with similarly talented people. This is useful business advice as you grow your business and build your team – a successful leader is only as effective as the team he or she leads.
Protect your assets
His business acumen taught him a valuable lesson – hang on to what’s yours. From the outset, he combined entrepreneurship and artistry by ensuring he earned royalties from every record he produced. It turned out to be a very shrewd move.
With royalties from all the records that he produced, including massive hits like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, Dr Dre made sure that his work as a producer provided a constant stream of revenue. He advises to never jump into partnerships without protecting what’s yours.
Putting him at the top of the consumer audio technology industry, he made his billions through his Beats by Dre products – he built brand appeal after partnering with Iovine to launch the range in 2008. They then founded the streaming service, Beats Music.
Importance of branding
In one of the biggest industry deals in history, Apple acquired the company – a deal made possible because of the brand’s swift rise to the top. This was because of Dre’s talent for savvy branding. Beats by Dre were more than just headphones – they were aesthetically pleasing headphones, crafted with a beautiful design.
Dre did some celebrity branding to ensure the headphones were worn by some of the hippest people around, like will.i.am and LeBron James. It was a marketing masterclass, which Dre pulled off by tapping into his extensive network of entertainment luminaries. Never underestimate the importance of brand identity!
Talking about his success, he famously said it was a lot to do with finding your own unique selling point. “You just have to find that thing that’s special about you – that distinguishes you from all the others – and through true talent, hard work and passion, anything can happen,” he said.
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