Skip to main content

For Beats by Dre, amplifying Black culture is an always-on effort

Beats Black Futures | Meet the HBCU Directors

Following George Floyd’s death in police custody in May 2020, corporations and brands felt compelled to jump into the fray with messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and antiracism efforts. They took to social media in ways that were often met with eye-rolls, or even open hostility, for their well-meaning but ultimately empty actions.

Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson was so disappointed, he wrote a blistering attack on brands that talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk when it came to their messages decrying racism and a lack of representation. Even Nike, a brand that has arguably done more than most to champion these causes, wasn’t spared Ritson’s venom.

Given that February is Black History Month, we found ourselves wondering: Is it possible for a brand to throw its weight behind the Black community in a way that is seen as meaningful, authentic, and ultimately helpful? And if so, what does that look like?

Beats by Dre, the electronics company co-founded by legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre, has been wrestling with this question for several years. Digital Trends caught up with Astor Chambers, Beats’ newly minted Global Influence and Social Actions Lead, to talk about how the headphone maker is attempting to carve out a new mission for itself that is equal parts talk and walk.

Beats by Dre: Black Futures
Beats by Dre

DT: Hey Astor, can you tell us a bit about your role at Beats? What is a Global Influence and Social Actions Lead and how long have you been doing it?

AC: I’ve literally been here since November — a complete newbie. The role is new, however, the sensibilities that it oversees are not.

If you break it down, global influencers are the collaborations that we do. It’s the thing that’s helped shift and lead culture for years. A big part of the business has been how you align with different creatives from different worlds to stretch your brand into a new space and inspire youth and consumers to be a part of your brand movement.

On the social action side, it’s making sure that the brand is holding itself accountable for the responsibility that it has to be at the forefront of the change that’s necessary. Having one person overseeing both creates an opportunity where you can leverage one to supercharge and authenticate the other. It can really be impactful to help spur the change that we’ve been talking about and seeing.

What are some examples of the relationship between influencers and social action?

Committing to and helping some of the partners that are already within our portfolio, in areas that they have an extreme passion and expertise on is one of the ways we’re doing that. Colin Kaepernick is a brand partner and has been at the forefront with his Know Your Rights Camp. Our Informal series — a content-created platform where we center around educating and discussing implications of social injustice and things to that degree with a number of iconic partners within our portfolio — are just small examples of how we’re going to start to leverage that.

Beats by Dr. Dre Presents: Informal Episode 1 ft. Dotty, Wretch 32 and Unknown T

Beats is obviously best known for its headphones, but looking beyond that, what do you want Beats to represent?

We just had a brand reset, where we identified the three values that we’re honing in on to take us into this next chapter of our future. They make it very clear as to why or how you are seeing the brand and the tone that the brand is evoking in the marketplace: Challenging the status quo — being this challenger brand. Amplifying Black culture in the community and the voices within it. And a sharp point on creatives and the other inspiring youth by being relevant to the culture of today.

It definitely goes beyond music. It represents a credible voice within youth culture that encompasses many influences like fashion, music, art, sport, with gaming being at the forefront of that. Given the history and heritage of the brand, we have this responsibility to contribute to the change, and it needs to go further than just campaign executions.

George Floyd’s murder was a turning point.  Do you feel that, since that moment, brands like Beats and others are suddenly being held to a very different standard than they were even a year ago?

I think a number of brands, areas, and people are, for sure. Absolutely. Rightfully so or wrongfully so. I think that’s a good thing. We should be challenging each other because we’re all contributors to this thing that we call the world.

The expectation, I think, that brands improve both themselves and society from a social imbalance and injustice standpoint is part of being what we call a progressive challenger brand. We have all the necessary tools to be a leader in this space. It’s an intentional approach that also helps, hopefully, to spark a level of contagiousness, with the hope that we can be the kind of standard that other companies look to follow in that space.

It’s not that Beats has the answers to all of the challenges, however, we are very aware that we want to be a part of the solution.

Last year, Beats debuted You Love Me, a short film directed by Melina Matsoukas that seems to play to all three of Beats’ new values, as well as acting as a manifesto of sorts. Is this Beats’ version of Nike’s Don’t Do It spot?

Beats by Dr. Dre Presents "You Love Me"

I don’t know if it’s our version, but it’s such a poignant, touchy, sensitive conversation to have. The code word for this is, “I wish you’d love me as much as you love my culture.” Our culture gets embraced, but not the individuals within it. There’s a disconnect there. That’s a bold statement and very reflective of where we are positioning ourselves moving forward. I truly see that as being the new standard of excellence for us. Even in the conversations I have with my team, I say, “if it doesn’t give you that feel, if it doesn’t hit that mark, then we need to go back and do something again.”

Is it tricky to figure out how to show up authentically in these conversations, in this space without triggering people’s cynicism, or a backlash?

I was always taught that if you don’t have haters, you’re not doing something right. But it shouldn’t stop you from doing what you feel and know is right for the goal against which you are tasked, which is change.

The You Love Me campaign is a perfect example of that. What it took to get to that and then the outcome of that is very reflective of a bold challenger brand stepping out and saying the things that so many people say, whether it’s in private conversations with their friends, families, colleagues, and putting it on a broad stage to really spark more conversation and awareness on the sense of urgency of how this needs to be addressed.

You Love Me feels like it’s the beginning of something. What is Beats beginning with this film?

It is the beginning of a type of tone and feel that will be consistent throughout the year.

I’m saying that very intentionally, especially given that we’re in February, which is Black History Month. And as you can imagine, every brand is scrambling to figure out what their voice is going to be for Black History Month.

Sounds of War A Short Film by Jazmin Johnson | Beats Black Futures

You Love Me — for our brand — sets a tone of, how are we writing this book of chapters throughout the year? This is our new “always-on.” It has set the tone for us to continue with this type of conversation in different ways. This month, we have our first big project, or as I like to call it, a chapter of the year. It’s a campaign celebrating Black women as the backbone of our community.

It’s a very natural extension of the You Love Me campaign to not only celebrate and love [Black women’s] contributions, but also love and applaud them as individuals.

So when you asked about the manifesto of You Love Me, you’re absolutely right. That is the beginning of the always-on tone that we are going to have and share month after month, and hopefully, day after day within our walls.

How else is Beats supporting the Black community and amplifying Black culture?

We’re in the second year of our Black Creators [aka Black Futures] program. It’s HBCU-centric (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). We’re tapping into this community to provide Black creatives within this space with an opportunity to work in a couple of different functions or areas of creativity.

One is a sportswriting opportunity, one is creating content, the other might be product creation. The resources and opportunities being given at such an early part of their potential career trajectory provide them with a great deal of credibility, and also experience, in this creative space early in their journey, which is a resource that they never would have potentially had prior.

It provides credibility through the association with the Beats brand. [When] people go into rooms after working with us and mention that they worked on a Beats campaign or a partnership with Beats, that’s credibility, that’s currency. That currency might lead them to get a job with another brand. Or more importantly, it might be the currency for them to solidify the funding for a project that they want to do and they’re passionate about.

"Bigger Than Me" A Short Film by Derrick and Erick Wheeler | Beats Black Futures

Is there any part of this that is a message or a challenge to other brands, other businesses, other individuals to follow in Beats’ footsteps and do the same thing?

That’s one of my goals. Like I mentioned earlier, this is very intentional. For me, success looks like how contagious we can be as a brand for other brands to look at us and say, “What they are doing is spot-on. We need to be more like that. We need to do things like that in this space.” That’s an element I’m holding over my own head of a job well done because that’s part of our greater responsibility of collective betterment. We have to set the tone and the example for something that needs to be done.

How do you measure the effectiveness and influence of something like that?

We’re still drafting up what that looks like. But there are some things that you do and you know that it has an impact. For instance, we have a number of places that have been reaching out to us and needing help from a school standpoint or an education or after-school services of youth who are obviously now having to be at home — and everybody has to be at home, parents, all the other children. So you can imagine the amount of distractions that are present in these types of environments. We have a school that we’ve partnered with to provide noise cancellation for youth in their homes to help them focus on completing their work assignments, learning, or their music classes that they’re having to now take at home. A simple tool like that is going to help with the trajectory of retaining, focusing youth moving forward.

Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
Best Prime Day Apple deals in 2024: AirPods, MacBooks, iPads
Best Prime Day Deals

In case you aren't aware, Prime Day deals are officially coming up in just a few days. However, that doesn't mean you have to wait long until the fun begins. Early Prime Day deals are already here. And Apple, which doesn't always offer too many deals throughout the year, is making a their presence fairly well known this year even during early deals. Sure, some of the deals are on refurbished goods, but there are some good brand new items here too. Expect to see Prime Day MacBook deals, Prime Day smartwatch deals, and Prime Day headphones deals, all from Apple, covered below.
Today's best Apple deals

Amazon Prime Day 2024 is scheduled for July 16 and 17. What we know is that you don't have to wait for the shopping event if you need to buy a new Apple device right now. We've rounded up our favorite Apple deals that are currently available, but you're going to have to hurry with your purchase because we're not sure how much time is remaining on these offers.

Read more
Best Prime Day TV deals in 2024: Sony, Samsung, TCL and more
Best Prime Day Deals

Whenever it is time for a sales season, we know that many people look directly to TVs. It's a good strategy, all things considered, because companies like to show off deep cutting deals on their TVs to get your eyes on them. And this year's Prime Day deals are no different than the usual sales season. Sure, you can dive into the minutiae of robot vacuum Prime Day deals or Fitbit Prime Day deals (if you want those items, we highly encourage it) but the big focus is going to be on TVs. Here, we tackle TVs from the most general standpoint, your classic 4K TV. But there are a ton of TV deals going on, so if you know you want something in particular, you should also be sure to check out our selections of Prime Day QLED TV deals or Prime Day OLED TV deals. We also have specialty selections for every size of TV (50-, 55-, 65-, 70-, 75-, and 86- inch TVs all have plenty of offer) you could want. And then, don't forget to pick up a Prime Day soundbar deal to get the best sound from your new system.
Today's best 4K TV deals

This year's Prime Day 4K TV deals officially run from July 16 to July 17. If you can no longer wait for it, there are some bargains that you can shop right now. There's a chance that the discounts will be larger when Prime Day arrives, but if you see the TV you want, there's no harm it taking advantage of the TV deals below.

Read more
65-inch TV Prime Day deals: LG, Sony, TCL, Vizio
Prime Day 2022 tv deals graphic.

There are a lot of TV sizes out there to consider but a 65-inch TV is a pretty common sweet spot among shoppers. And while 65-inch TVs can get a little expensive, there are a lot of Prime Day TV deals among the Prime Day deals going on today, with plenty of 65-inch options to choose from. In fact, there are so many 65-inch TV Prime Day deals worth considering we decided to round up all of the best right here. You'll find them below, and if none of them are offering the right savings for you be sure to check out all of the 70-inch TV Prime Day deals, 75-inch TV Prime Day deals, and 86-inch TV Prime Day deals going on today as well.
Best 65-inch TV Prime Day deal
LG 65-inch 80 Series 4K TV -- $700, was $1,000

For those who want an upgrade to their home theater setup, you should check out the 65-inch LG 80 Series QNED 4K TV. It uses the brand's QNED technology that combines the quantum dots of QLED TVs with LG's NanoCell technology, for the ability to create fantastically bright and colorful images. The TV also offers 4K Ultra HD resolution for sharp details, which is enabled by LG's a7 AI Processor Gen 6 that uses AI to automatically improve the picture and sound quality of whatever you're watching. The 65-inch LG 80 Series QNED 4K TV also runs on the webOS 23 platform to give you access to streaming services, as well as to more than 300 free channels through LG Channels.

Read more