Lessons for Up and Coming DJ's Part 2 - Maximise Your Earning Potential & Stamp Your Brand on Them!

Kenny Gamble shares some invaluable anecdotes & tips on His road to DJ Stardom.

Many folks wondered and asked me how did I survive just playing afternoon sessions?

That's because they didn't see me on Weekend nights at one of the many venues in H. Truth is, I had lots to do which got me more money. I already explained my preference for door percentage deals and only Session offered those, well to me at least. But here is what else kept me busy.

I had a mobile set named Blast 2000 Disco, which I bought even before I knew how to jam. Got it from Radio Limited corner Angwa and Nelson Mandela Avenue, named Baker Avenue back in the day.  It was also the street where I had my first job as a filing clerk at the Rapid Results College in Michael House I think it was.

So my first source of income was my mobile set which I used to do social events like weddings and parties at various venues wherever the people hiring me were hosting their function. The charge there was $600 back in the day. It was the equivalent of USD$600, that makes it R9000 per gig. The mobile set eventually grew into 3 sets which could take 3 bookings at one time. So a Saturday night meant 3 x R9000 in todays money. = R27 000. Saturday night done and dusted.

I would play the 1st and 2nd hours at one wedding, the 3rd and 4th hour at another and the 5th 6th hours at the last whilst my 3 different assistants would do the rest of the gig. Folks wanted to see KG so their booking stated my set would be there all night but I would be playing personally only for 2 hours each. That way


In the afternoon my 50% of door produced another 500 folks paying R5 each I think equaiilng $2500 divided by 2 = $1250 for 6 hours work. Pay = R18750 (exchange rate of R15)

About 1 Saturday morning of the month I would do a record shop album launch or promo between 10am and 12pm, or possibly about 2 corporate gigs during the week. That’s 3 more at $600 = $1800 x 15 todays rand rate = R27000.

At this time almost no other DJ's had an agent or did corporate shows so I practically had free reign.

That makes the weeks total income = R72,750.

Off course it would fluctuate given the seasonal and economic realities. It would be safe to say we can average it to R60k giving u income of R240k per month, give or take a bob or two.

Now u can see I had no need to play night scene for a static Z$850 per night all night. Would have been a monumental waste of time.

So a DJ who is professional and determined to maximize income CAN do it. You just need to focus and know who your target market is. You also need a good agent and vary your offering to those markets. I would play one genre today and another tomorrow. At some u must look corporate and smart and at others u can look as cool as you like. But you must always be professional.

                                                    MARKETING YOUR SELF

Your marketing material must also be spot on. Every function u should have your branding all over. These days pop up pro banners are the latest but we had cloth banners done which hung in front of the DJ Table or stand, with business cards or leaflets on guest tables. I gave away albums etc in exchange for business cards from where I would draw a lucky winner. Then I would work those business cards during the week and ask for recommendations of family and friends numbers. Long before direct marketing was here, I was doing it already.  

So you can see that mine was a career choice which I paid the utmost attention to. Everyone who came to the DJ Box was greeted courteously and I believe I had the most loyal following and best fans of any of my contemporaries. My fans knew they would dance till they drop. I left everything in that DJ Box. Even night time groovers began coming to my Sessions including their big name DJ's!...My total application to my craft packed the place. You can too if you are SERIOUS and respect your folowers. Whilst they were getting down bi time, I sacrificed my teenage years to make sure I provide the backtrack to their memories. I seldom got a chance to do the same.

Do you all you can to market yourself. These days there a million avenues open to enhance your brand and improve your income. But you have to master your craft. Know your music, your audiences. They are not there to hear you play what YOU love but what THEY want.

Introduce new songs regularly according to their tastes, Be the go to guy and try new stuff. I recall I was the first to introduce the music of Brenda Fassie whom every one thought was an American. I was also the first to play Holiday by Madonna. Those days I had 2 Air Zim airhostesses who made sure I got the latest releases from London a couple of hours after they were released there. Zim Clubs are not like SA ones where they play the same old music for decades. Vist any of them and you will still hear Heaven Must be Missing an Angel, a 70's song. In Zim and beyond folks want whats new NOW. I loved the DJ Scene there. Very often clubs didn't even bother to get a band coz the DJ was a revered role. So stay in the lead, innovate. Let them know that you, the DJ, are the one who keeps the party humming.

Next Week I shall share how a DJ attraction packs a basketball court jam whilst luxurious and beautiful clubs with no name brand DJ's will stay empty. I did it. So I know how its done. I will also share with you who I considered a worthy rival and my opinion on my contemporaries. Some interesting feuds and beef with the big names will also be included.