It’s the end of an era at Island UK today, and the start of another at Island US, as Darcus Beese officially takes the helm at the American version of the company he has served for almost his entire career.
It’s the latest sign of how highly-regarded British execs are across the pond these days. Indeed, he replaces another Brit, David Massey, although their equally-successful styles could certainly be filed under ‘contrasting’.
Beese is already making himself at home over there - he Instagrammed a picture of himself in front of the US logo last week with the caption, 'All day, everyday' - and his UK successor Louis Bloom is already hard at work. Beese's ascension shows the continued value of A&R nous, but may also indicate that the newly-buoyant biz is coming back round to a more maverick approach. Last week, in his explosive Music Week cover story, Lyor Cohen called for the return of the unconventional entrepreneurs, including Island founder and Beese's inspiration Chris Blackwell, who powered the original wave of independent labels. And, while the barriers for entry look much higher these days, the continued streaming boom may yet attract such characters back into the business.
Until that day arrives, Beese makes for a great role model, proof that leftfield sensibilities can still impact the mainstream. His track record at Island UK was strong, both in the A&R department where he made his name and in his willingness to break new ground, such as the pioneering first launch of a UK frontline major label urban division. And, in these days of playlist homogeneity, artists that stand out in a crowd are looking more valuable than ever.
So the man who has helped guide the UK career of acts as diverse as Drake, Amy Winehouse, PJ Harvey and Catfish And The Bottlemen is surely as well-placed as anyone to make an impact Stateside.
“The world has changed and there's nothing you can do about it,” Beese told Music Week back in 2016, as he picked up Music Week’s MUSEXPO European Executive Of The Year award. “All we can do is continue to sign and make exciting music.”
Beese's trademark self-deprecation hides the fact that there’s probably rather more to it than that, especially in a US business that is shifting faster than at any point in its history. But, even as the industry and his own location changes, you suspect Darcus Beese’s brand of inspirational A&R will remain the same.
*To read Beese's full Big Interview from 2016, click here.