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ISLAND'S DARCUS BEESE TALKS TO SBTV

Island Records U.K. President Darcus Beese has had a front-row seat during the huge changes the music industry has gone through during the last 20 years, having started his career in 1993, and he shared plenty of interesting observations in an interview published today by Jamal Edwards’ web discovery channel SBTV

Beese—one of the top execs featured in our U.K. Spotlight special—discusses his A&R process, his approach to artist development and how the Internet has “mediocr-icised” talent. The high-profile interview is the second big news for SBTV today, following the announcement that it’s joined Apple Music as a curator in the U.K., meaning the company will will create playlists and host its own Apple Music channel.

In the interview, the outspoken Beese tells Ash Houghton that the Internet “hasn’t democratized talent, it’s mediocr-icised [sic] it,” by making it easier to find an audience as a musician… in A&R, it’s your job to find the exceptional stuff, [and that’s] harder to find because there’s a lot of very good stuff on top of all of that, with a load of great stuff piled on top of that, and then there’s a lot of shit in the way of all of that.”

Beese is all about drilling down to get to the “exceptional stuff,” he says. “If someone picks up the next chapter of the Island Records book, I want there to be a chapter in there for the era that I lead Island in, and that means, as much as I gave you some microwave food, I gave you some good, good food too. Some people want to be Simon Cowell, and others want to be Chris Blackwell—I want to be Chris Blackwell.”

While that policy may serve him well these days, it took Beese six years to get his first hit, Sugababes’ #1 single "Freak Like Me," released in 2002. Since then, he’s had success with Taio Cruz, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Rizzle Kicks, Dizzee RascalBen Howard, James Morrison, Robbie Williams and, perhaps most notably, the late Amy Winehouse, whose career he helped cultivate from the very beginning. Recent signings include long-time Sony acts Leona Lewis and Will Young, along with spoken-word artist George the Poet. And last year, Beese was awarded on OBE in Her Majesty’s Birthday Honours for services to the U.K. music industry.

His A&R nouse is all about “refinement” he told SBTV, and signing “people off of good music, being good people and having a good work ethic.” Artist development, meanwhile, is all about taking acts from album “one, two, three, four, five, [not] getting them from the street in to the label.” For more talk including grime’s commercial viability, streaming services and radio, click here.

BEESE’S BACKSTORY  

Darcus Beese officially arrived at Island in 1993 as a tea boy (though he actually started work there in 1988 during his days as a hairdresser). Then a tap-dancing, stage-school wannabe, he dreamed of becoming part of the music and entertainment industry.

While hairdressing, he came across people who worked in A&R and thought the idea of going out and finding bands for a living was cool. Networking at parties got him into labels to blag records, and when someone left the promotion department at Island, Beese was there to fill the vacancy.

He joined soon after owner Chris Blackwell sold his then-independent label to PolyGram U.K. and lived through the Universal buyout in 1998. After a long tenure in A&R, Beese was named Co-President of Island U.K. in 2008 alongside Ted Cockle. When Cockle slid over to the top spot at Virgin Records U.K. in January 2013, Beese became Island’s sole President. 

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