To launch our new content Ten of the Most Powerful Women in the Independent Music Industry, we are proud to present the first on our list, Julia Beverly, the owner of Southern Hip Hop’s biggest publication ‘Ozone magazine’. In her first ever UK interview we discussed (via a late night British phone call to an early afternoon LA) her majorly influential campaign with Ozone in presenting Southern US Hip Hop and we also get some exclusive advice on how success can be achieved if you are wanting to start a media platform.
Some people in the UK may not be too familiar with Ozone Magazine, what for you are the highlights of the magazine?
Well The Source magazine was the first magazine to cover Hip Hop but they were more focused on New York, so we really worked the Southern music, which was our own style. There were a lot of artists that felt like they didn’t get the full recognition that, you know, the New York based media outlets weren’t covering, so we covered a lot of artists who weren’t getting recognition elsewhere.
People who are big today like Jeezy, Rick Ross, T-Pain were all supportive of the brand when Ozone started, we’re part of their real early career and I interviewed a lot of those guys before they really blew up and that definitely helped us to continue having that type of access.
How was your first year in the business?
It kinda started gradually, I didn’t really initially say I was going to start a magazine. It was something that developed out of my photography firm, I was based in Orlando at the time. The magazine actually started through another local publication that a graphic designer had started, they needed some photography and I wanted to get my work out there a bit, so initially it was just me shooting freelance stuff for him. Eventually I started doing a lot more work with that publication, we did that for about a year then we had a difference in where we wanted to go with the work, he wanted to remain local and I wanted to get a bit bigger, so instead of ending that publication I just changed the name and continued to do the work I was doing.
It was definitely a challenge, definitely a lot I needed to learn about publishing, but I think that can be an advantage, when you don’t know what you doing you find the easiest way to do something better than just knowing the quote for quote way on how you are supposed to do things.
Did you study the business a lot to get here?
Publishing? No I didn’t study it at all, I studied English.
When did rappers start taking your serious with Ozone?
Probably a couple of years, I don’t know if there was one specific moment but when I started getting recognition from other media outlets, TV plugs there and there, I’d run into people and they would be like ‘oh I remember you from back when you first started out’ so it definitely takes you time for people to take you seriously. I haven’t had too many bad experiences, people were seeing I was professional with what I was doing and I think that has a big part in it.
What was the craziest interview you have ever done?
There have been a lot of crazy interviews and situations I have done. One of the first interviews I did was with B.G. when he was part of the Hot Boyz with Lil Wayne, at the time he was on heroin, and I didn’t know that, so it wasn’t a very coherent interview. Instead of publishing the interview I wrote about how sad it was to see him in that state, that got a lot of responses from people.
Pimp C when he was in jail to tell his story, that was a really unusual one that they even let us in to interview him.
They are just a couple that come to mind, had some really good interviews over the years.
What is the energy like in the South right now?
It’s definitely a different game, its not as regional as it used to be. Now we are not limited as geographically in the ways that artists get their music out, they have more widespread appeal which I think is a good thing. People are curious to see what the next big movement is because we have over saturated the Southern rap, the drug rap, the bling bling era, I think people are open to see what is the next new movement or what are we going to do which is different to what has come before.
How do you feel about the role of the female in the business?
I don’t think I get a lot of criticism for being a female, I think it makes it a little more unusual. I actually have, maybe not so much media outlet owners, but I have a lot of (female) friends in the industry, I would say there are more females in the industry than when I started out so that’s always good.
You didn’t start out with a hip hop background right?
No I got it into it in High School, Outkast was starting out at the time with their first or second album and that caught me. At the time I was more into Grunge: Nirvana and Pearl Jam, more teenage agnst sort of phase, Hip Hop captured me in terms of the music a lot what they talked about was the struggle, coming from nothing and creating art out of that struggle. Even though Tupac had a different background to me, some of the things he talked about in terms of the struggle is something that anybody could relate to. What he was talking about was more than cars and rims it was the soul that anybody could relate to.
Do you think that is lost now?
You can never make a blanket statement about anything, but I think because it is so oversaturated its harder to find the material from the artists who are really doing it from their heart. There are a lot of artists who are just re – hashing the trending topics we have already heard a million times. You can’t say Hip Hop has sold out but you can say that some Hip – Hop artists have. I think a lot of people saw things like artists getting paid, getting girls etc so it ended up attracting people who were in it for all the wrong reasons. Some people are a bit disillusioned about all the work that is involved, a lot of people think it is like a video something that they would see on TV.
Have you ever heard any UK work?
I can’t say I have really researched it to be honest, I might have to look it up.
I’ll send you some, who do you think we should be looking for out the South now?
I don’t know if they have reached over there but 2Chainz and Future are really blowing up commercially. Not neccessarilly just in the South there are a lot of interests in the LA, Nipsey Hussle etc that have been working for a good time in the industry, there is some exciting new music coming from all over the country not just to specify the South.
What advice would you give a magazine or a blog that wanted to start up now? it’s no doubt easier cost wise than when you started Ozone.
With a blog you obviously don’t have the high overheads you have with a magazine in terms of printing. A lot of people have an idea in their head that they will just get an investor and they are going to give them a big chunk of money. For one: it doesn’t ever happen like that and two: if it did happen like that, I’ve seen a lot of situations like that which dont work either, I’ve seen it where people with huge funding put out one issue of their magazine which is thick and glossy and then you never hear from them again. It important to keep an eye on successful themes.
A successful team is the best way to get a readership and then when you get a readership I think focus on the material and not the funding, if someone contacts you and you turn them straight to advertising costs people get put off, people who like your brand will want to work with you.
What do you see for the future?
We are focusing heavily on online, we have an Iphone/Ipad app where you can check out our back issues. Working on a TV show, a book, and a couple more things to look at attaching the brand to a wider area, it’s a little early to comment on that but we’ll see what works out.
Follow Julia on Twitter @juliabeverly to get entertaining commentary on the US Hip Hop scene and photo’s from her travels in the industry.
CHECK OUT OZONE MAGAZINE HERE: http://www.ozonemag.com/
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