In Conversation With: BEAT Magazine's Hanna Hanra

Carving a niche in the over saturated world of music journalism and publishing to become a widely recognised force capable of conducting interviews, videos and photoshoots with the likes of Beyoncé, Blondie and Danny Brown is no mean feat. 

Hanna Hanra set up BEAT Magazine at the start of the decade drawing on influences from her time working with South London art collective !wowow!. Since then BEAT has cemented its place within the music fan's consciousness using a combination of interesting interviews and a highly styled visual element, with its covers among some of the most attractive out there.

While working on building BEAT, Hanna also works as a DJ and freelance journalist with regular pieces in The Guardian, i-D, Vogue, The Sunday Times and ELLE. 

We had a quick chat to find out what drove her to set up the magazine and the way in which straddling several careers at the same time as a creative is becoming more commonplace. 

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what drew you to publishing and music in particular.

I always loved magazines as a kid - they were such a source of escapism for me growing up in the country in Scotland. In my early 20s I lived as part of !wowow! the South London art collective. We would have big shows and everyone would have an art piece. I never felt of myself as an artist so instead would make a zine to accompany the show. I got into DJing around this time too – there was a night in Camberwell that wanted a girl DJ so I just said I was a DJ and started DJing.

We would do !Wowow! nights too, so everything came together naturally. Later I started a fanzine called PIX and then BEAT 7 years ago. Mainstream magazines started to ask me to write for them and people kept asking me to DJ – I've always just kept saying yes!

What inspired you to start BEAT?

I really felt that there was a disconnect between magazines and musicians – they were either shot in front of a brick wall a la NME or shoehorned into fashion shoots....

Through the changing landscape of print media and the music industry, what are the biggest challenges or opportunities you've encountered over the years while establishing BEAT as one of its leading editorial voices?

We've always been very true to ourselves. It's hard not to compromise but I have always had a very clear vision of what BEAT is, and passing that onto Michael Cragg, who is now the editor – he's really taken that on board and added his own outlook to it to.

What is your favourite part of the process of turning round a new print issue?

Getting the pictures back from photographers is always really rewarding.

How do you balance your time between digital and print?

I am lucky enough to have both an online and print editor. So i spend my time guiding them and working on the commercial side of the magazine.

Do you have a preference for either?

You can't pick your favourite kid!

While freelancing for writers and journalists is by no means unusual, what are your thoughts on the relatively modern way in which many creatives are keeping their options open, sometimes working in the same discipline for a number of companies or working in several unrelated disciplines at the same time.

I think you have to adapt and be adaptable in the modern era – brands and publishers are changing relatively slowly so who can keep ahead of the curve ball other than free agents?


Has there been a particular piece of advice you were given at the beginning of your career that has stuck with you?

Don't be a cunt. Everyone is your boss when you are freelance.

What have you learned from your own experience that you'd like to share with anyone interested in starting print or digital publishing today?

It's really really hard work. And there will be things that you never thought you'd find yourself doing.

Can you give us a sneak peak into what we might expect from BEAT during the rest of the year?

Sorry! Top secret.

StoriesJamal Guthrie