John Janick

A champion for headliners

How John Janick went from starting a record label in his University of Florida dorm room to Chairman and CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M Records.

Growing up with a father who worked as a doctor, John Janick (BSBA ’01) initially thought he should follow in his dad’s footsteps and pursue the pre-med track as a freshman at the University of Florida. However, a week or two into his organic chemistry class, Janick was ready to rethink his major.

As someone who long had a passion for sharing music with people as well as an entrepreneurial streak, Janick launched Fueled By Ramen Records upon entering UF. A natural pivot from pre-med for the young music fan was to study finance and business in the UF Warrington College of Business.

“I was always somewhat of an entrepreneur and just loved the idea of turning people on to new music,” he said. “I felt like studying business was a broader way to help do that.”

With business classes during the day providing valuable insights into his real world work at night, Janick was able to turn Fueled by Ramen into one of the most successful independent record labels in the world. As his career progressed, he would go on to become the leader of today’s No. 1 record label Interscope Geffen A&M Records, which represents artists like Billie Eilish, Eminem, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Olivia Rodrigo, Kendrick Lamar and so many others.  

Janick’s first office for Fueled by Ramen, which he started with partner Vinnie Fiorello of the band Less Than Jake, was actually in his University of Florida dorm room. Starting off in what was then called 95 Hall, known today as Springs Hall, and later moving to Broward Hall, Janick and Fiorello built their business from the ground up.

“I had boxes of CDs and an answering machine in my dorm room,” Janick recalled. “I was going to school, taking 12-plus credits, and doing 10 hours a day on top of that, building the company. Being at UF, taking all the classes, I was learning as I was going and applying it to what I was doing with the label.”

After completing his undergraduate degree, Janick bounced between Fueled by Ramen’s base in Gainesville to Tampa, where he was working towards his MBA at the University of South Florida. With the two-hour drive both ways beginning to take its toll, Janick moved the Fueled by Ramen headquarters to Tampa, where he continued applying everything he was learning in school to the business in real-time.

“We really were learning by trial and error,” he said.

Despite challenges along the way, Janick was able to build up successful artists, like one pop-punk group in particular – Fall Out Boy. Other Fueled By Ramen bands had similar success and soon Janick partnered with Warner Music Group to expand the label’s reach, moving his family to New York City and working more closely with the major label.

Janick would ultimately sell Fueled by Ramen to Warner, continuing to run the label he founded as well as becoming co-president of one of Warner’s crown jewels, Elektra Records. After three years with Warner, Janick was recruited to lead Interscope Records by its founder Jimmy Iovine and Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge. With that, at age 32, Janick moved to Los Angeles to join Interscope.

As CEO, Janick describes his role as having a hand in a little bit of everything, from A&R and artist development, to legal, marketing and finance. In addition to the details of running a successful record label, Janick also looks at the creative environment at Interscope on a macro level with one of the most important areas being the company culture.

“We have an amazing team,” he said. “My goal is that we have the best team of people in the business, and in that we’ve succeeded. I’m lucky enough to get to work with the best people.”

Additionally, Janick is focused on the music and building relationships with artists so that they can flourish, ensuring that the label is a magnet for the world’s most innovative artists.

“We’re a place where artists can develop and grow into their own vision,” he said. “We are a team who get to work with the best artists in the world in every genre of music and who are highly creative and inspiring.”

His third emphasis is on overall strategy for the company, like how to grow into the future.

“How are we building the company of the future?” he mused. “You have to think outside of the box and have music at the center. We have to think every day that we’re here to help artists execute their vision and become the biggest in the world and as the business changes, we have to be positioned to do that in new ways.”

Building artists to the top pop, rock, Latin, R&B and hip-hop acts isn’t a simple task, though. The most challenging part of his job that people outside of the music industry don’t understand is just how much work goes into breaking an artist, Janick said.

Even after Billie Eilish had sold a million records with Interscope, her success wasn’t quite at the level to catch the attention of one focus group – Janick’s 10- and 8-year-old nieces.

“I was visiting with my wife’s brother, my sister-in-law and their daughters, and I asked them who their favorite artist was,” he recounted. “They said Taylor Swift. They had no idea who Billie was. After I came back to the office, I thought about what they said and knew how much more still needed to be done.”

That next year, Eilish won four major Grammy categories – Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist and Album of the Year. Janick chatted with his nieces shortly after and asked if they now knew who Eilish was – they absolutely did.

“That’s the mentality we have with every artist,” he said. “With my background as an entrepreneur who started his own record label, I understand what it’s like using your own money and being a startup. You have a lot on your back – people’s lives and careers. You have to make sure you’re doing it the right way. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to carry that over into my work at Interscope, using our resources to support artists, like Billie, over a period of several years of development, so that they have the time to grow into career artists.”

The lesson that came out of the efforts it took to build Eilish’s career, along with the dozens of other artists Interscope represents, is one that Janick notes is the most impactful he’s learned over his career – never give up.

“There were so many times early in my career where I was trying to get people to pay attention,” he said. “Or when we faced obstacles in promoting artists, trying to convince people that a certain artist was important. When you’re trying to develop artists, you face a lot of rejection. It would have been really easy to give up and not be persistent, but I kept pushing through, and I’m glad that I did.”

Janick’s years as an entrepreneur and executive have also given him insights that anyone can use to become a better leader. First, and most importantly, build a great team.

“Someone can be a great executive and do great things, but you’re much stronger having an army than being one great warrior,” he said.

Second, be patiently impatient.

“Be nimble, but think about the long term,” he advised. “In order to run a good business, you have to play long ball and think about the future.”

Lastly, have a competitive drive, but don’t take shortcuts in order to win.

“You want to win but do it the right way – with morals and values and treating people with respect,” he said.

At Janick’s core, he’s inspired by two things that have long been critical fixtures in his life – his family and music.

Janick’s wife, who he met during his sophomore year at UF, and three children are the most important part of his life, he said. Janick spends the majority of his free time going to the beach and enjoying activities like tennis or biking with his family. And he still appreciates listening to his favorite music.

“I grew up listening to everything, from punk rock to hip-hop, especially underground and cultural music,” he said. “Sometimes I still pinch myself – I’m running an important company, working with the most amazing artists and people in the world. I get to be a part of all of it. We get to move culture every day. It’s been an amazing journey.”