Three Surprising Marketing Lessons From My DJ Career
I never rocked up at school thinking I was destined for a career as a DJ. In fact, I was set on impressing my parents and becoming a lawyer, with my minor in marketing kept to one side as a back-up plan. But fate has a funny way of working these things out.
Having just returned from a few months teaching kids to play hockey overseas, I found myself back home - at around age 22 - looking for work. As chance would have it, a relative had just launched his own DJ/events company and, hearing of my great love for music, reached out to see if I’d consider DJ-ing a few events. I’ve always been a fan of saying ‘yes’, and this was no exception.
As with all of life’s great adventures, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And what I certainly couldn’t have known was that my fledgling career on stage would become the perfect training ground for my future role running Mint. Yet when I look back now and connect the dots, it’s no surprise at all that DJing was such an ideal place to learn vital marketing lessons. In fact, they should probably teach a module on it at ad school.
So, let’s shuffle onto the dancefloor, and I’ll explain…
Above: A selection of highlights from Jordan’s DJing days.
1. The Moment Is Everything
It’s true what they say—you only get one chance at a first impression. I’m sure anyone working in marketing would agree with the importance of that statement. However, after a few sessions on stage, I learned to take that same philosophy and broaden it out.
Sure, first impressions are important—vital, even. But so is the next impression. And the one after that. In a world so full of distractions, it’s not enough to provide people with one compelling hook and hope it lasts long into the future. It’s through connected but individual moments that you build momentum.
In both worlds—live performances and advertising—momentum is your best friend. It’s far, far easier to take an audience with you when you’re riding on the crest of a wave than it is to generate that wave in the first place. That’s how DJing taught me such a valuable marketing lesson—the most important moment is the next one.
2. Don’t Settle On An Audience
When you’re DJing at private functions, as I so often did, you’ll get used to performing in front of diverse groups of people—often at the same event. And yet, you’ll also get a front row seat to witnessing just how much we humans love connecting with one another and reaching out across those demographic or cultural boundaries.
For a DJ, that’s why you learn the songs that everyone wants to hear deep down. You might cringe when you hear the first few seconds of overplayed top 40 songs from decades past, but by the time that chorus comes around you won’t care, and you’ll throw your arms up in the air and belt out the words just to prove it. You, and hundreds of other people in the room.
For a marketer, that’s why you remember to stay open-minded when it comes to your audience. Of course, targeting and talking to people on a personal level is a useful tool. But you can’t just tell your audience that they’re your audience. You must let it happen organically—and the brand which settles on a defined or unmoving audience is a brand which forgets about growth.
3. Always Be Reading The Room
Early on in my DJ career, I’d take a moment after a show to reflect on how it went. As time went on, I learned to conduct that process in-the-moment and adapt my show in real time depending on the results. Of all the transferable skills DJing taught me, this has probably proven to be the most useful.
This comes back to the earlier point about individual moments. From a DJ’s perspective, your challenge is to keep people on the dancefloor and maintain energy levels in a way that doesn’t burn your audience out early into a show.
It’s a similar process for a marketer. Your strategy and preparatory research are great for informing your successful first impression. But it’s what you pick up on-the-fly after that moment which guides your second, third, fourth, and fifth impressions. You won’t get that knowledge from reading textbooks—you’ll get it from reading the room.
With the benefit of hindsight, the connective tissue between my DJing work and my role today is crystal clear.
Having worked my way up to running my own events space in the heart of Toronto’s Yorkville and hosting events for the likes of Jay Z and Jennifer Anniston to name a few, I learned that one of life’s great joys was helping other people to enjoy themselves. Because of that, I pivoted to the experiential sector, which led me to collaborating with brands. From there, it was a hop skip and a jump to running Mint as a full-fledged marketing agency, leveraging all the expertise I’d picked up along the way. And now, you can too.
When it’s done right, great marketing can feel like the most incredible party. So, let’s get it started.
Category: Events , Sports and Leisure