Tidbits #13 – DJ Culture…

…dance with me. DJ culture, let’s pretend. Living in a satellite fantasy, waiting for the night to end…


DJ Tiësto

I will admit it – being a child of the 60’s, I was trancing to the Pet Shop Boys tunes in the80’s… Dutch DJ Tiesto above reportedly earned 20MM USD in 2011 by headlining blockbuster events. My students at Columbia College here in Chicago (I teach economics to fine arts majors) pointed out that the DJ in the latest Blackberry Bold commercial is someone named Diplo, another mover-and-shaker in the rise of the DJ culture here in North America…


DJ Diplo

DJs have always been big in Europe – I experienced it firsthand living in London in the early 2000s working in the derivatives industry. I still cannot get the snappy beats from Neutrino and Oxide’s Bound 4 Da Reload out of my head (their first hit from 2001 debut album, I believe)… Tiesto and Diplo are two of many DJs whose status now equals that of rock-stars. What led to their sudden and emphatic rise, and is there business lesson in this for us (much like SMB chief editor’s recent flammable post on the Bucket Boys and the follow-up)? From my non-artistic vantage point, there are 3 reasons:



  • Original content – in the past DJs spun someone else’s creations. Now they collaborate with big name artists to produce original tunes and sound. Before they were commodity – now the good ones are true artists up there with Usher and Beyoncé.
  • Scale – there’s only so much you can charge by spinning at nightclubs, whether the content is original or not. By choosing to headline events like Coachella and Lollapalooza instead, they are able to earn more, a lot more.
  • Approach – this hypothesis is from my students. The good ones approach every gig like it’s a business deal. They have a chief of staff, functional specialists and good advisors; they plan, forecast, execute and review what went well and what didn’t; and they keep their eyes wide open for the next big thing¸ whatever it may be or wherever it may come from…

I believe there is a business lesson in this for all of us. By the way, seeing how big they are getting, I doubt this is a passing fad – the trend isn’t likely to slow anytime soon…


About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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