Interview Ebro Darden Music Jobs

Ebro Darden takes his craft seriously. Being on the radio is more than talking into a microphone every day – actually speaking is just the tip of the iceberg.

Understanding the “on-air” and “business” sides of radio, as Darden describes it, has helped him progress his career from intern to music and programming director, lead morning show host, and senior global editorial director for Hip Hop and R&B on Apple Music. While many are familiar with the airside, thanks to Hot 97’s ebro in the morning and Apple Music The Ebro ShowBut the business side, explains Darden, is a whole different ball game: You have to be a credible, advertiser-friendly persona who gets great ratings and stays consistent. Unfortunately, not everyone can handle all aspects at the same time. Working in radio might look easy on paper, but it’s not. “Many people lack the focus and ability to be consistent day in and day out,” he notes.

Knowing the media industry on and off the mic has become one of Darden’s greatest strengths over the past three decades. The media landscape may have changed dramatically since he started, but Darden has never wavered: “My experience in radio, from being on the air to programming to understanding how ratings work, etc., helps me navigate my radio shows. different way than someone who is just trying to be talent.”

“As a host, it’s not really about you. It’s about your ability to contextualize and communicate with the audience you serve.”

What does it mean to be Apple Music’s Senior Global Editorial Director of Hip Hop & R&B in layman’s terms?

If I were to describe my job to someone who doesn’t know it, I would say that I help manage a team of individuals programming playlists on Apple Music. There are other responsibilities, of course, but that’s the basic job.

Can you tell us about a day in your professional life?

I wake up at 5:00 in the morning and I’m on the air at ebro in the morning at 6:00 am. I’m live on the radio until about 9:00 or 9:30, then we tap interviews until about 10:30 or 11:00. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I hit the gym for about an hour and a half, then head to my office at Apple Music. On Mondays, I arrive at the Apple Music office around 11:00 am and start doing meetings, do my radio show on Apple Music 1, do interviews, record content, etc., until I get back home.

I’m still taking calls and meetings probably until 8pm. These calls and meetings could be anything from planning meetings with features we want to have for Hip Hop and R&B on Apple Music, to calls about artists and what their plans are, music they might be dropping, or other supportive things going on like the Black History Month, Black Music Month, Latin Heritage Month, the holidays, June Day – all these things are constantly being discussed and planned. This is what I’m doing all day every day.

Tell us the story of the most memorable interview you’ve ever done.

There are a few: Jamie Foxx when he told us about the Mike Tyson movie he was working on, 50 Cent and I arguing about who screwed up the New York Hip Hop scene. Whenever I interviewed Erykah Badu, Janelle Monet, when Dave Chappelle took over my Ebro on the Morning Show just to present and run, when Travis Scott did it… There were a lot of great moments.

“You need to be available, you need to be approachable, you need to understand the bigger metrics for the business and help meet them.”

Did you always know you wanted to have the career you have now, and did school play a role in inspiring you to go down that path?

No I did not. My story is interesting, because I started when I was 15 and I knew I liked music and DJing and that kind of thing, but I didn’t have a specific interest in radio. I knew people based on what I did when I was 15 – which was working at the mall and being a stock clerk – and the radio cats would come and get clothes, so I got an internship. The school I went to had a radio station on campus, so I got school credit for working at the other radio station my job linked me to. I think high school played a role, but college never did for what I do now.

What are the necessary first steps a person must take to build a career as a presenter, whether in radio or not?

I think the first step is knowing that you’re not in music if you’re a presenter. You are a television presenter, radio presenter, whatever platform you are, right? You are in this business. Music is just a different business. Covering the music business is what we do. We cover the music, we talk about the music, we critique the music. For example, a sports broadcaster is not in the sports business as much as it is in the broadcast business covering sports.

The first physical step would be to get an internship or something of that nature at the television station or media outlet you want to host, to understand how hosting works. As a host, it’s not really about you. It’s about your ability to contextualize and communicate with the audience you serve. If you want to develop something that is about you and your opinion, you can do it in your own time and hopefully it grows big enough for you to earn a space in a media outlet that wants to give you space to be that person. Or you just become reliable enough to do it with the medium as you grow.

“Try to be as dynamic as possible in understanding all aspects of the business. Don’t just be one-dimensional.”

What lessons and/or work ethic did you learn after working in the music industry?

I think the work ethic I have didn’t come from this media industry. I think it mostly came from my family and playing sports my whole life, showing up every day, doing my best and being on time and done. And that’s something that any field you get into needs to be available, approachable, understand the bigger metrics for the business, and help meet those. And if you’re doing that, they’re going to want you around because you’re working to help people stay employed and you’re working to grow the business. If you’re just selfish, no one will want you around.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge anyone who’s been in media long enough has had to face is evolving with the business, knowing when it’s time to pivot and knowing when it’s time to ask for help, facing new challenges and redefining priorities. Business changes even faster now with so many different channels creating content, so it’s not specifically about video or audio or about radio or streaming or whatever. It’s about taking your brand and distributing it on as many different platforms as possible, as well as having something that is valuable to one of these companies so they want to build a business relationship.

Is there a secret to career longevity in this industry?

Try to be as dynamic as possible in understanding all aspects of the business. Don’t just be one-dimensional. Don’t just stay on the mic. If you’re on the mic, can you write? Do you know how to edit? Do you know how to choose a song? Can you read the metrics? What are the measures for deciding content selections or rankings? Do you respect ratings and know how to be malleable and change in some way so you can be rating friendly? In general, we’re in business, so it’s about making sure you can help make the business successful.

“Keep an open mind to what artists are trying to do to express themselves, where the music comes from and how you can help expose it, it’s always changing.”

What are some habits you follow on a regular basis to always keep a good headspace for work?

Exercise, sleep and good food and water. Always sleep.

How do you see your work with the music industry evolving over the next five years?

The one thing that’s always changed since the internet came along and now streaming and any social media blah blah blah is where the big hits and new music come from. I think staying open-minded to what artists are trying to do to express themselves, where the music comes from, and how you can help expose it is always what’s changing.

If you weren’t in the media industry, what would you be doing?

I would probably be a professor at a university.

Stay tuned for more resources from music industry professionals – from managers to sound engineers, stagehands and more; the people who make the music world go round without getting behind a microphone.

Leave a Comment