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Turning DJs into a disc of fortunes: How lucrative is DJ Business

The work of a Disc Jockey, known shortly as DJ, attracts mixed reactions and responses from the general public and DJs themselves are sometimes disrespected due to the nature of the job and the perception people have about those who ply that profession. 

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In Africa as in other parts of the world, DJs were labeled as school dropouts or young confused persons who did not know what to do with their lives.

Gone are the days when you dared not stand in front of your parents to express your ambition of becoming a DJ when you grow up. This is because it was not seen as a noble career to pursue due to a number of factors. 

First of all, becoming a DJ did not require any formal training or educational qualification to pursue.

All you needed was to be a passionate lover of music, buy your turntables and get a good sound system and amplifier, and in this modern times, a laptop computer stocked with music mixing software (Virtual DJ) is the way to go.

Also, there is no formal dress code for a DJ. Most at times, you spot them in a simple T-shirt over jeans trousers and a headphone over their heads. 

Secondly, people have wondered if the DJ’s vocation is a lucrative one.

Due to the simplistic way they dress and the manual nature of the job which sees some of them carrying around their machines from one occasion to the other while some play in night clubs “all night long”, a layman would wonder how a DJ makes money.

This perception has been worsened by the way some event organizers disrespect mobile DJs who play at outdoor functions by dictating the fees to pay them without entertaining any form of negotiation.

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The saying that “one is his own enemy” plays out so obviously when it comes to money issues for DJs. This is because some radio station DJs are fond of talking about the meager salaries they are paid by the station and they comically joke with it while on air.

This has given some credibility to the public’s perception that Radio DJs cannot survive without “payola” (a term given to the monies paid by artistes or musicians to the DJs so that their songs can be played on-air).

Thirdly, in as much as the dress code of DJs do not attract any prestige or nobility, some of the names that DJs give to themselves or are given by friends which become brands make one wonder if this job is not reserved for gangsters and immature, misguided youth who do not know their place in life.

In the Ghanaian Disc Jockeying industry, there are popular names which have become household brands such as Kofi Amoako of Starr FM who calls himself DJ Vyrusky, Oceans TV’s Richmond Oduro Kwarteng took on the name DJ Billy Ocean, Former Joy FM’s Victor Kpakpo Addo Jnr also known popularly as DJ Azigiza Jnr (now a Pastor), and Joy FM’s Kwadwo Ampofo whom we all know as DJ Black.

You could also hear names like DJ Sleek, DJ Killer Fingers, DJ Master Flash and many others.

How these DJs acquire these brand names is a topic of discussion for another time and space.

The above points are major reasons for any layman to loathe the idea of Disc Jockeying being an honorable profession to take up.

Here are a few reasons why your children who have passion should be allowed to pursue DJing as a lifetime career.

From the economic perspective, DJ work was seen as a job for school dropouts with no ambition who would just play music on a turntable and be given some coins as the event organizer deems fitting.

Just as recently as about five years ago, some nightclub DJs in Ghana were earning One Hundred Ghana Cedis for a night as a fee for their work.

But today, the trend has changed in Ghana as technology kicks in.

With the knowledge of the digital age and computer software also known as virtual DJ, the professional DJ of today has been empowered to do more than just waiting for gigs or events to happen before making money. 

Besides getting contracts to play at outdoor events such as weddings, funerals, parties, and concerts, there are DJs who are officially and permanently employed by some big night clubs and given monthly salaries.

So, the DJ goes to work on a daily basis just like any other professional with a regular “9 to 5” job.

There are other creative DJs who have come up with mixtapes, which is a collection of popular songs of a particular genre making hits in the country and creatively mixed them together into an album and sell them to make money.

Joy FM’s DJ Black has a record label that produces mixtapes under the name Toontum Mixtapes and this, he says, is a busy way to “stay in the game”. 

In this 21st century, the fortune of being a DJ has totally become enviable as DJs have heightened their celebrity status according to the number of gigs they perform in a year and also the collaboration they have with famous musicians, especially in the hip-hop and hiplife music industry.

Celebrity DJs have changed the phase of the business by now hiring managers, lawyers, and financial controllers to manage their departmentalized business and these professionals are paid on a contract basis.

According to Forbes 2018 list of wealthy DJs, UK’s Calvin Harris was making an annual income of $48 million and was traveling across Europe and Asia performing headline festivals.

Africa was not left out of the list as South Africa’s top DJ Black Coffee was considered the wealthiest DJ and most bankable in Africa.

Apart from being the first South African to win a BET award, he owns a Bentley and several properties in South Africa and the US. He is estimated to have a net worth of about $2 million.

Some DJs have made so much money now that they are into the discovering, recording and managing of young music talents.

Personalities in such categories include famous US-based Khaled Mohammed Khaled, who goes by the brand name DJ Khaled as well as the late Jason William Mizell, better known as Jam Master Jay, who was shot dead in 2002.

For young up and coming DJs who may not want to be mobile or overtly expressive, they could opt for a career in radio as a DJ. Radio Station DJs are executively employed as staff of the station.         

In Ghana, there are DJs who have been playing for years and have now become household names and economically comfortable.

Since the 1980s to date, there have been national and continental competitions organized for DJs and winners who have emerged from such competitions have gained the opportunity to make it big time in that industry.

DJ Vyrusky of Starr FM started his trade on the University of Ghana campus in competitions and has now become an expert in the industry being invited to play concerts and gigs outside the country.

DJ Black has also won awards at numerous African DJ competitions since the early1990s and has never looked back.

His trade has taken him to many places around the world and has also given birth to his own record label and production company called Toontum.

DJ Billy Ocean is another mogul in the business who for years has been both a radio DJ and night club “mixer”. Billy Ocean currently owns a TV Station and still plays at night clubs. 

Finally, the perception that DJing is a job for school dropouts has totally be proven to be a fallacy.

In Ghana, Radio Stations employ DJs and Presenters not based on talent alone but primarily on formal training from an accredited school.

DJs are employed with a minimum qualification of a Diploma in any accredited media school.

DJ Black is a Masters Degree holder and still plies his trade. DJ Vyrusky is a University graduate and still is a DJ.

The dynamics of the Disc Jockeying business are changing and there is more and more youth coming up with innovations to make the DJing industry more lucrative, prestigious and attractive to generations yet to be born and this is a legacy worth celebrating.  

Author: Kwabena Opoku Ohemeng aka DJ Toso is an entertainment writer and professional DJ.

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