• The Beast: Dan Hutton
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The Beast: Dan Hutton

You probably wouldn’t recognise Dan Hutton if you saw him on your morning coffee run, but his publication, ‘The Beast’, which he owns and runs with his brother James, is one of the most recognisable and iconic magazines in the Eastern Suburbs. The Beast focuses on the local area and community, striving to include something to suit everyone’s taste within its one hundred or so pages each month. Dan’s relaxed, friendly, no bullsh*t attitude, along with the obvious hard miles himself and James have put in to get the mag to where it is today, definitely deserve credit, not to mention a bit of notoriety given all the great local people they’ve interviewed…

How did you get started?

James worked as an accountant for Fairfax, so he got a very vague idea of how magazines work while he was there, at least form a financial perspective. While he was there he had an idea to start a commuter magazine in the city. He ended up spending a fair bit of time in Bondi and thought there was a gap in the market for something. I was at university in Canberra while we were thinking of doing this. I was studying commerce (accounting and finance) and hating it, so I left with one subject still to go in my degree and started The Beast. I started a little student discount booklet at uni, so that gave me a good insight into the production of a publication and how to sell ads. 

James had already worked a couple of years in a 9-5 job before we started. At the time I was 23 and he was 26, so we thought, ‘Lets have a crack now while we're used to being poor and living off nothing!’

It was pretty tough times; I was sleeping on the floor in a shitty (haunted) house on Bondi Road, just living out of my swag. After that, we moved to a place in Coogee, and even then I was sleeping on a futon that I found on the side of the road. After about a year I finally had enough cash to buy a secondhand Ikea bed and mattress for about 100 bucks from some dirty backpacker who was about to head back home to the UK.

We were working full time on the mag then. It was hard yakka - it took a good couple of years to get some momentum. We've been going for over 10 and a half years now, but a lot of stuff happened in those first 2 years - they seemed to go for as long as the past 8 and a half have! It was very much month-to-month back then as we struggled to sell enough ads to cover our costs.

We started off doing 10,000 copies and we were just dropping the mag off to shop fronts in the area, but we couldn't compete with the Southern and Wentworth Courier, which were doing over 40,000 copies. We eventually bit the bullet and went up to 40,000 copies and started doing mailbox drops, then we grew it to 60,000 so that our circulation was significantly bigger than theirs. As more advertisers came on board we could produce more magazines. We currently circulate 61,000 magazines each month, the majority of which are mailbox dropped.

Did you always intend it to be a free publication? 

When we first started out, there were a lot of publications aimed at backpackers. There was also the Wentworth Courier, which didn't really fit the Bondi mould; it was more targeted at the Double Bay area and the harbour suburbs. Then there was the Bondi View, which was a decent rag, but it was a bit too political and negative a lot of the time, and it only focused on Bondi. There wasn't really anything around focused on the beach strip from Bondi to Maroubra, and that was kind of our thing - to focus on the local beachside suburbs.  

What made 'The Beast' the chosen name? 

Originally I wanted Bondi View (which was obviously already taken), but I actually thought that had a good ring to it! The name 'The Beast' is actually an abbreviation of 'Beaches of the EAST’. At first we thought it might come across too strong, but it turned out good. Even after 10 years a lot of people still don't know that it’s short for beaches of the east. 

Do you carry out all the interviews for The Beast? Are there any memorable ones? 

Yeah, I do pretty much all the interviews myself. I think the early ones were the most memorable. Back then I was still quite starstruck by famous people, I guess; nowadays I don't really get that giddy about it! We actually interviewed Anthony Mundine down at his old man’s gym when ‘The Block’ in Redfern was still a bit scary, He was just about to fight a world title fight and we watched him train for about 10 rounds, then he sat down with us. He talked with us for ages. I'd only seen his personality on television and he was completely different in the flesh; he was an absolute legend. He was great bloke and it was a really good interview. It was pretty scary for two naïve white boys rocking up to The Block at 9 o'clock at night back then too, especially with camera gear and a laptop, which were pretty much the only things of value we owned! 

Vanilla Ice was another good one. As a kid I’d have never thought I’d end up interviewing him. We ended up having breakfast with him when he came into town and he had some amazing stories. Everyone takes the piss out of him, but he's actually a really nice bloke - he's got a pet kangaroo too! We've also had Malcolm Turnbull on the cover a couple of times. While he wasn’t PM at the time, I can now still say that I’ve interviewed the prime minister. I might have to give him his third cover, just to make it official!

Is there anyone you'd like to interview that you haven’t yet done? 

There's a level of famous person we still want to tap into to. It would be nice to get Russell Crowe on the front cover, for example, or Cate Blanchett or Hugh Jackman; Aussies who are all really killing it on a global scale. I'd definitely like to get Rusty on the cover. I've actually interviewed his ex-wife, Danielle Spencer, at his house before, and he came home while I was there, but I didn’t hit him up. I even handed him a Beast through his car window once when he was picking up his boys up from school and I was delivering magazines in that area. He probably thinks I’m some kind of stalker.

I’d love to get David Gyngell, boss of Channel 9, on the cover too, but he doesn't really do any media. I’ve interviewed his wife too. I've seen Gynge in the surf plenty of times, but I’ve never had the balls to ask him for an interview. I don’t think it’d be appropriate to hit him up when he’s out enjoying a few waves. 

Given that the mag focuses on the coast, are you and James big surfers? 

I’ve got a two-year-old, so I don’t surf as much as I used to, but I still try to get out as much as I can. James surfs heaps. He's a junkie. He’s the biggest frother going around. To be honest, we're both pretty shit surfers (by local standards), but we love it. We're originally from the country so we didn't grow up surfing. We grew up reading Australian Surfing Life and Tracks (when it was on newsprint) and dreaming of living on the coast. It's pretty funny, we grew up like seven hours from the beach, yet still our rooms were covered in surf posters!

What advice would you give to someone starting a business? 

Forget about the rest of your life for a while - ha! You've got to be committed. If you've got another job and you're doing only three days a week, you're business probably isn't going to flourish. Eventually you've got to take that leap of faith, go into it balls deep and have a real go; it's hard work. You should approach with a level of caution and don't just throw money around - a dollar saved is a dollar earned, they say. We started with literally nothing. We designed a mag on a laptop and went around to a zillion businesses and I think we sold about $6,000 worth of ads in the first month, which was what we needed to print the first mag. I’d recommend talking to lot of people and getting as much advice as you can. Make sure your idea is watertight and know who your competitors are. Always know where you're finances are at and what everything costs; that'll help you to avoid any unsuspected surprises. Be nice to people too. We've probably pissed off a few people along the way, but not intentially. We've been burned a few times too. A lot of people try to separate their business morals from their personal morals and make out that they’re two different things. I disagree. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re a c**t in business, you’re a c**t in real life. Integrity is priceless. Being open and honest is essential. When something goes wrong (and inevitably it will), be accountable for it. 

Do you have a highlight from your time running The Beast?

Probably the first time we paid our printing bill on time - it took a long time to get that stage!

What does the future hold for The Beast?

We want to keep the mag growing and we want to develop our online offering, but we’re still big believers in print. The digital world is going nuts, but there’s something indescribable about a tangible product that you can pick up and read, flip through the pages and maybe keep in a bookshelf then look back on it years down the track. Each edition of The Beast is a little time stamp of what’s been happening in our ‘hood and I think that’s something worth holding on to. I think there is is still a need for something like that.


You can find The Beast each month in your mailbox or in over 300 friendly Eastern Suburbs retail outlets. 

 Find out more about The Beast at www.thebeast.com.au and follow @thebeastmag on Instagram.




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