Formulating Strategic Partnerships, Alignements and Dependability. - Lessons for Upcoming DJ's Part 3


This article aims to demonstrate the importance of creating empowering networks for serious up and coming entertainers but the principles can be applied across other fields too.

The ability to form strategic partnerships, correct alignments which boost your career and developing a reuptation for trustworthiness, is key in the career of a profssional Disc Jockey. It cannot be emphasised enough.

That is why signing a contract with a venue or event, taking deposits as bookings and assuring those hiring you that you WILL be there, is a key element of your success. Reliability is priceless. When people know that you will be there as arranged, it encourages even more others to book you. Those who have alread experienced your reliability also become brand ambassadors as they feel confident to recommend you to others.

I recently read about a photographer in Ennerdale in Johannesburg, who took deposits and full payments for once in a lifetime events like weddings and 21st Birthday parties, but then either vanished or took the pics and still hasn't supplied them to his clients. This is a catastrophy. In my DJ Days, it was simply something I never even entertained. Weddings cannot be replayed or re-staged, neither can milestone birthdays or events. So to execute your brief is a matter of life and death. You simply cannot afford NOT to pitch. Especially when you have taken payment.

For 7 years I spent my Saturday afternoons glued to whatever DJ box I was contracted to, only missing the few days I would be out of the country to replenish music supplies. Even in that event, I notified my principals long beofre the time and arranged that an able assistant DJ in my employ would cover for me. I arranged with my door staff to make sure everyone I hired was paid and that the difference was banked. That way I began to develop a reputation as someone who can be depended on. Whenever our Avenues FC had games on Saturday mornings, I would ask Darlington Masenda or Carl Narsi to open whilst I was away scoring goals and enjoying soccer with Misty Baba, OB Mtinde, late Ramsey Manuel, Robert Laurence Mpinyuri, Jerome Gambo, Paul Beaukes-Chikozho, Chiza Narsi and the rest of our team. Straight after the game, a quick shower and a waiting Rixi Cab was on hand to take me to Bretts or Archipelago. Club owner Steve Doran never once had to wonder where I was. 

Which brings me to communications. ALWAYS keep your employers informed on whats going on. Call them up again on the affected day and assure them that all is taken care of. THEN make sure it IS taken care of before you go away. Naturally some DJ's you ask to step in will try to impress the boss in your absence but having a two year contract will make sure they must wait their turn. Unfortunately loyalty only stretches so far in this industry. I made sure my contract's were water tight so I had no worries there. Besides when I got back I would have new grooves to blow whatever competition there was out of the water. Thats how many "rival" sessions folded. The onslaught by the G-Force was simiply too much lol.

If you miss an event for which you have been paid, Can you imagine the cost of replaying the whole wedding just so you can do what you were paid to do yonks before the event? ...Do you even REALISE the damage you have done to people's lives and to your brand?..That is why you must keep your word, honour your commitments and execute your brief professionally. You had enough lead time to organise your life. These days I would sue someone blue for doing this to me or you!

If you do not have enough latest music, make sure you establish relationships with those who DO. A quid pro quo does the trick here. In the time I had difficulties to source new music as frequently as I normally did coz the two air hostesses who brought my material in had left Air Zim, I teamed up with Tommy Dutch who also had a respectable collection. I would play the afternoon jam using both his and my collections. Even Dennis Cubbitt would bring his along. Then in the evening I would let Tommy take mine with him to his night time gig as I had no club commitments at night. The exchange of music made both him and myself deliver excellent shows even though we were in a temporary drought phase which was correct soon thereafter. But it made us survive.

Weddings and parties much preferred more commercial music so I would be ok in letting him keep the outright dance hits. Our partnership saw us begin to attract night time revellers to session. I noticed most night time DJ's who were radio celebs were now coming to my afternoon gigs, not out of choice but because we started pulling their followers there. This led to words and beef with two of the leading night-time names who must have though this kid KG had balls to stand toe to toe with them! But they stayed the whole show, quite a few times too, whilst I never or seldom attended their jams at night. I will venture to make the idle boast that session turned rivals into fans hahaha!

So form those partnerships and keep your word. Disappointing others who were there for you will cost you big time. When I eventuallly left Zim, I handed the afternoon gig to Tommy Dutch not because he was the best of a lot that included Mr C, Dralington Masenda, Hitman Sengende and even Tich Mataz who regularly came around to spin a few tracks, but because I had formed a relationship with Tommy that made it easy to trust him. He made thousands from the audience and very successful show I built from scratch over the years he ran session after I left. So great relationships can earn you money and goodwill.

Don't beef with potential life-savers. You need alliances in this game even today. And never ask to play a set at another DJ's gig just to show you are better than him or her. You are not on the poster that drew the audience there so chill. At a recent gig in Harare, one such guy came up and asked to jam. I let him do that. But only because I had so many people I wanted to chat to so we let him play whilst we took the money. I didnt even listen to him as I saw a competitive spirit. What I do know is if I reall wanted to, I would have done to him what I did to many before him. But I hadn't seen some of my beautiful friends for a while and thought hey, "Let him work, as long as I take the pay." Up till now, he aint never got a mainstream club contract and only plays in the hood. So there was no competition to begin with. I would have smoked him. Djaying is not just the ability to mix songs on the fly. These new cats don't get that. You need a whole lot more than that, especially if you gonna be smart-ass enough to try and take on the experienced ones. You have to use every one of the 101 tricks time has taught us. Your MIC, the most powerful vibe creator, needs to work for you. That means you need to get that voice sounding universal and doing much more than just introducing songs people already know everytime u play them. You need to bring it all to the table showman. If the song is making them dance then it ain't you doing the job.  

The DJ I had prepared to hand session to had let me down big time through behaviour that seemed disloyal. We have since spoken and I informed them why I did it. In his defense he admitted he was still immature and didnt see the bigger picture. I love this guy and it was sad for me to bypass him and hand my hard work to someone else but business is business. Luckily we have since made up and I explained the reason for my decision. This guy would have been massive, a cross cultural continuation of the mult-racial vibe session created. But it is what it is. At least we got our friendship back.

So as your reliability and strategic partnerships strengthen your brand, be kind and good to your clients. They have lots of other DJ's they can book but they choose you because your reputation precedes you. Never become buddy buddy with them or their guests and deliver what they paid for. 

But be the consumate professional. Be on time, Ask them for a favourite songlist BEFORE the event and make sure you have the songs. Nowadays its easier to get any sone requested but back in my day there was no You Tube or Tubidy so the advanced fave hits list of the people booking you, made it a whole lot easier especially if you told them that you would definetlyhave MOST of what they asked for. Get branding for your DJ stand that has your name and numbers on. Look smart. dont dress up like a fan when you are the star.

Do all this and you will see business growth as people begin to recommend you to others for the little things that can make you big.

PS: Next article I will speak about my relationships and rivalries and how I learnt to manage each individual who falls in this category for my greater good.

*Kenni Gambo aka DJ Kenny Gamble is a former Zim Club DJ, host of the popular Session show. He is also a former radio personality and is now CEO of his company Xpress Mart, which also owns new Social Media site Koolooma.com and Free Classifeds site Mahala-Ads. An accomplished conference motivational speaker on the SA Circuit, he is also the author of How to Achieve Your Dreams and Conquering the Odds. His first novel is called Kingdom of Andiro and is due out next month.  He can be contacted on + 27 74 257 4518 or on email kg@xpressmart.co.za