HITS Daily Double


Three generations of Island leadership: Darcus Beese, Chris Blackwell and Ted Cockle

“You sign what makes you excited, what’s different—not what’s in the marketplace now.” That’s Darcus Beese explaining his A&R philosophy in a 2012 interview with The Guardian. His most celebrated signings—Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons and, above all, the uniquely gifted Amy Winehouse—make it abundantly clear that this Island Records lifer and current label chieftain walks it like he talks it. During a career spanning more than three decades, Beese has become renowned for finding and nurturing innovative artists whose music has stood apart on the radio and the charts.

“Darcus is as passionate today about his artists and team as the day we first met,” Universal Music U.K. chairman/CEO David Joseph said in Music Week last year. “He embodies the maverick spirit which has always set Island apart as a label.” Joseph’s recent comment to HITS was more personal. “If you ever find yourself wondering what words and thoughts are going through his mind,” he mused, with obvious affection, “they will be ‘radical,’ ‘truth,’ ‘culture,’ ‘I’m feeling this,’ ‘I’m not feeling this,’ ‘legacy,’ ‘family,’ respect,’ ‘chicken and fries.’ And it’s often a combination of all of these, beautifully blended together.”

“Twelve years ago, we went on a historic run together that included Amy Winehouse, Florence + the Machine, Jessie J and so many others,” Republic head Monte Lipman proudly proclaimed earlier this summer. “I will forever be indebted to Darcus Beese.”

Like sportsmen of yore who spent decades in a single team’s uniform—Ted Williams with the Red Sox, Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, Ryan Giggs at Manchester United—Beese has spent his entire career under the Island palm tree. Climbing from intern to assistant to A&R exec to label head, first in the U.K., now in the U.S., Beese has emerged as Island’s go-to man, a presence not unlike the label’s founder, the legendary music man Chris Blackwell.

“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,” Beese told SBTV.com in 2015. “Some people want to be Simon Cowell and others want to be Chris Blackwell—I want to be Chris Blackwell.”

And in 2018, after being named President of Island in the U.S., he told Music Week that he’s had his chances to leave, but he has no interest in going elsewhere. “You cut me and I bleed Island. I wouldn’t work anywhere else.”

Read the full profile here.