Go ‘Beyond the Beats’ with podcast founders Alec and Samir [Q&A]
“What’s up EDM Champions!”
Standing tall at 113 episodes (and counting), Alec and Samir’s podcast, born in January 2019, has brought electronic enthusiasts an audible medium to digest news and music related to the dance scene. In the context of electronic music and news media, podcasts are few, with much of the related reporting tending to transpire across print or digital publications, like Dancing Astronaut. By foraying into the podcasting space with Beyond the Beats just a little over two years ago, Alec and Samir propelled a nascent idea that took root in a coffee shop into a weekly serial that, in its format alone, underscores one of Alec and Samir’s objectives as co-creators: their constant push to think “of ways to reach dance music consumers in new and exciting ways.”
Needless to say, podcasting is one of them. Media streams are another, and constitute a crux of Alec and Samir’s plans to help their listeners—the “EDM Champions”—feel increasingly connected to the electronic scene in what’s left of 2021. In an exclusive interview, Dancing Astronaut discussed the early formations of Beyond the Beats, the co-founders’ friendship, the growing pains that come with producing a podcast, and what’s yet to come for their platform and its dedicated following. The Q&A interview with the Beyond the Beats founders, who have hosted special guests such as the Radiate application co-founders, Proximity founder Blake Coppelson, Callie Reiff, and Lost Frequencies, to name just a few, is available below.
Tune in to Beyond the Beats on streaming platforms including Spotify and Google Podcast, and follow the show on SoundCloud, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook to keep current on all Beyond the Beats action. Listeners can also visit Beyond the Beats‘ official website to access show notes, playlists, artist spotlights, and more.
You formally launched Beyond the Beats on January 30, 2019. Of course, the Beyond the Beats planning was in motion long before episode one hit streaming platforms. How did the idea to launch the podcast come about?
“The idea was born out of the collision of three realizations:
1. That we both have a passion for dance music that extends beyond casual enjoyment (into borderline obsession territory).
2. That there was a gap in dance music news and culture coverage, namely, a long format, genre-agnostic, intellectual yet fun self-contained source of news and social discourse.
3. That we wanted to get more involved in the music industry.
Once these realizations clicked together, they naturally led us to explore creating a podcast, as it is one of the only mediums that can exude our passion for dance music and embed all the aforementioned characteristics into its very design.
We pulled the trigger on the idea when our research confirmed that there weren’t any podcasts doing what we wanted to do—we saw the point of entry into the dance music scene.”
“If there’s one thing to know about us, it’s this: Alec and I love dance music and the overall scene associated with it. It’s been a part of our lives since we were children and our infatuation for EDM only grew and continues to grow as time goes on. In fall of 2018, we decided that we wanted to get more involved in the scene. We both attend shows regularly, we both DJ, and our conversations were always about the latest and greatest in EDM. We met a few times at a coffee shop to jot down ideas about how to get involved and we realized there wasn’t a podcast about the happenings in the dance music scene. And that’s where the idea for Beyond the Beats started to form. We worked together to come up with the different sections of the show, the name, the logo, the branding, and most importantly, our goals.
Recording officially started in October 2018, until Alec got the news that he was moving from New Jersey to San Francisco for a job. We placed the idea on hold thinking there was no way to make this work since we were on opposite coasts until one day in January, we decided to just go for it and make it work.”
From Samir’s humorous poking at Alec and Alec’s unabashedly cinematic track descriptions, the two of you have the conversational synergy necessary to sustain a podcast. How did you meet, and how has transcending your status as friends to also become business partners changed your relationship since the inception of Beyond the Beats?
“Rachel, if this was an episode of the podcast you’d have all us all drinking with this question!! ‘Synergy’ is one of the words in our drinking game (we have a list of words that when said require us—and the EDM Champions listening—to drink a beverage of their choice. So, cheers!
We met at Rutgers University when we were a part of the same fraternity. We were co-social chairs for a semester, which meant we spent a lot of time together. Through this, we found that we were both crazily passionate about dance music in a school were it was not the most popular, and that we could work very, very well together.
So, from the get-go, we’ve always had this balance of being both friends and business partners. From organizing social events to now running a true business together, it’s the most unique friendship I have! I cherish it more than he’ll ever know.”
“The humorous poking is all in good fun and comes from a place of love! We met at our alma mater, Rutgers University. Alec and I joined the same Greek organization in college, and we immediately bonded over electronic music. Before meeting Alec, I didn’t know anyone else who was as gung-ho as he was about EDM and we instantly clicked.
If there’s one thing to know about us, it’s this: we are friends first, and business partners second. I value Alec’s friendship because I know he can lean on me whenever he needs to, and vice versa. We’re both diving into a world and a business that is centered around a common passion for us and we think that’s a catalyst for success.”
You are currently 113 episodes deep, with an established social media presence on Twitter and Instagram, as well as the platforms where Beyond the Beats can be streamed. Can you tell listeners about some of the growing pains/challenges that come with developing a podcast long-term?
“I could write an essay on all the challenges we’ve experienced, but the most pressing and consistent challenge is bandwidth. For example, when we started getting more busy with the show in late 2019-2020, we were working insane hours just to get an episode out every week. I had just co-founded a startup in Palo Alto and Samir was advancing in his intensive job, getting more and more responsibility there. As such, we realized that we needed to make some changes if we wanted to keep pushing the show to new heights.
We changed the episode release date from Wednesday to Thursday in order to prioritize the thorough completion of podcast production and pre-release work over a mid-week release, made a plan to bring people onboard to help us out (we now have three rockstar team members and plans to add more!), and started streamlining our workflows and processes—just as we would expect to see in an established big company.
People, processes, and prioritization are the key pillars to mitigating bandwidth issues. These pillars not only allow you to grow something fast yet sustainably, but also allow you to balance work with other aspects of your life.”
“This is going to be pretty common advice that you hear in the music industry but it rings true for us—’consistency is key.’ Running the podcast and the social media channels is a lot of work and at times, it can be overwhelming. It’s very easy to get lost in all the work that needs to be done in putting together a show every week, but eventually, you will fall into a routine and schedule that works. Once you find that routine, it does become easier, but it takes time to find a workflow that works. However, if something is not working, then you need to make an effort to change it. A prime example of this is when we first started the show, we were releasing episodes every Wednesday. We’d record the episode on Sunday and turn it around in 48 hours. If you’ve listened to our show, you know there’s a lot of production value associated with it and that takes time. We realized that 48 hours was not sustainable for either of us, so we gave ourselves an extra day by releasing episodes on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays. That was a change that was made in order to ease the workload and promote a better work/life balance.
The number one thing I learned from Alec is that it’s okay to ask for help. I’m the kind of guy who likes to do everything myself; I take a lot of pride in my work. However, as we poise ourselves to grow Beyond the Beats into a larger media platform, we recruited help and put together an amazing team that extends beyond just the two of us. We’re very thankful for all the effort that our three team members have put forward and the future is looking very bright, especially because we have them with us.”
How has your process changed over the past 2 years since Beyond the Beat‘s launch in 2019?
“Besides what I mentioned before with the episode release schedule, the process changes we’ve made are largely internal and have to do with streamlining communication, business planning, and role development for team members. We’ve always run things professionally (it’s one of our most important pillars), but now, I think we have much more of a sense of direction. At the beginning, it was just two guys chatting about EDM and seeing where it goes. Now it’s two guys chatting about EDM with a kick-ass team, coming up with big plans.”
“I would say that for the most part, our process has remained mostly the same in the way that we produce the show. We have streamlined some processes to reduce the time that is spent on more administrative tasks. We’ve made changes to the show that we think improve the flow and make it a much more fun listening experience. Anytime Alec and I make a change to the show, we give it very careful consideration, because in the end, we want everyone to enjoy the Beyond the Beats listening experience.”
Thinking about the medium, in the context of dance/electronic music and news coverage, digital media (specifically music/news-geared websites) has been the predominant format. Dance/electronic-focused podcasts are notably few in number. What enticed you to choose podcasting as your preferred medium and why do you think that there is not as much healthy competition in the podcasting domain vs the website domain, for instance?
“On top of the converging realizations I mentioned earlier, we saw that the podcast medium allows its hosts to foster an intimate relationship with their audience. There’s something incredibly connecting about allowing people to be a ‘fly on the wall’ during a conversation. Interestingly, the feeling of connection is two-way. People feel connected to us because they hear all of the thoughts we’ve had for a week. And because people are so in-the-loop with our thoughts, whenever we interact with them, it’s like we’re talking to our friends.
Now, as you mentioned, there aren’t a ton of podcasts in the dance music industry. I imagine that this is the case because of the technical challenges and learning curve associated with producing a weekly show.
Since we cover the news and new music, there needs to be a new episode every week. That means the turnaround time for planning, recording, and editing the show is very short. For example, we record on Sunday and publish the subsequent Thursday. This is just for our regular episodes, not the ones where we have guests! While the turnaround time for written articles is also very short, there tends to be less moving pieces and less technical requirements than recording a podcast episode. For instance, we need a dead silent room to record and each episode will take a few hours of editing. To learn how to juggle the behind-the-scenes work alone takes a lot of time and trial and error.
While this might be a deterrent for creators to hop into the podcasting realm, we hope the success of our podcast shows people that it’s doable and inspires them to give it a go!”
“Our goal with the Beyond the Beats platform is to be different with the way we’re reaching EDM lovers all over the world. Alec and I love to talk and we especially love talking about this beautiful scene. We were doing it all the time before we started the podcast, and we’re doing it even more now that Beyond the Beats is a thing.
Podcasting is a very intimate medium; you’re being inserted directly into a conversation and it’s just you in the audience. That’s how raving feels sometimes—you’re at a show and lost in the atmosphere and the music. We’re trying to mimic that sort of feeling through our show where the listener feels like they’re on the same wavelength as us.
I think a lot of outlets see podcasting as an outdated media format, but we think otherwise. Putting on the show takes a lot of work, but we believe that the format, the energy, the fun, and the conversation have created a recipe for a great show. We’ve been working on the show and tweaking it for over two years now. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but we think we found what works to make the show feel like something new and not just another podcast.”
Looking ahead, how do you envision Beyond the Beats growing?
“Oh wow, we have such a big pipeline for Beyond the Beats. I can share that we will be piloting two new media streams sometime this year. We are also working on new ways to support the artist community in ways beyond coverage on the show.
Although I’ll be cryptic on the specifics right now, just know this… we’re taking steps to create an ecosystem of experiences that transforms the way that EDM Champions stay connected with the dance music scene.”
“We’re always thinking of ways to reach dance music consumers in new and exciting ways. We are planning to roll out two new media streams this year that we think will help EDM consumers feel more connected with the scene they are a part of. Our goal is to help our audience see that EDM is so much deeper than just the music and the live experience. There is no genre in music that is more connecting than electronic music, and we’re always working on ways to help EDM Champions (our audience) feel a deeper sense of connection with the scene that they are a part of.”