The Art of DJ Artist Management
Handling the careers of top-caliber DJs and their bookings all over the globe is no easy feat. However, Damon DeGraff and Yoni Goldberg, partners at dGi Management, a New York-based talent management company, make it look rather easy. Founded in 2003, the firm’s aim is to help grow the careers of the people they manage into superstars, as well as to find the next superstars. With a current roster including DJ Ruckus, Jesse Marco, MisShapes, Paul Sevigny, DJ Kiss, DJ Mel DeBarge, DJ M.O.S, David Berrie, DJ Rashida and Rev Run, dGi has no shortage of talent to work with. Goldberg shares some insight as to what clubs should consider when booking a turntable master, what musical trends are currently bourgeoning and why you should consider hiring a nightlife photographer for your venue.
Yoni Goldberg and Damon DeGraff of dGi Management. Photo credit: Emil Horowitz
Nightclub Confidential: What can venues do to make themselves as appealing as possible for a DJ?
Yoni Goldberg: The first thing is obvious: hospitality. Everyone wants to be treated well. A lot of the places my [DJs] love, they do so because of the level of hospitality during their stay. When my artists walk into the Palms in Las Vegas, they’re treated like they own the place. They’re picked up in 25-person limos. Someone books their dinner immediately, sees if they want a spa appointment and more. The people onsite are the people that have been there for a few years. They know our DJs personally, including what drinks to have in the booth, or who not to let near the booth. It’s every little detail. The places that execute this the best are the Palms in Las Vegas and the Borgata [Hotel Casino & Spa] in Atlantic City.
NCC: What’s the second most important thing?
Goldberg: Second is the sound system. At the end of the day, a DJ who doesn’t care about the sound system isn’t a real DJ. Places that DJs really enjoy are ones with a world-class sound and lighting system, and good position of the booth - being center stage. The sound system has to be loud, but it also has to be clear; that’s important. Places like LIV in Miami, Playhouse Hollywood in Los Angeles and MIXX in Atlantic City are across the board favorites of DJs because of all of this.
NCC: Your guys routinely play those venues.
Goldberg: Which leads me to my third point: try and establish a relationship with the DJ that goes beyond booking them for one night. It’s great to book an artist one time for $10,000, but it’s much better to book someone six times for $7,500. I think clubs would be wise to try and establish that relationship by offering multiple dates. Ultimately, the DJ wants to convert fans and if you go to a club in Tallahassee, Fla., once, you’re not doing that. If you go six times, you are. We’ve sent our guys to smaller market places before, always for less money than normal, but they’ve built real fan bases there. Over time, the artist gets substantial raises because they become more valuable to the club. First time they show up, there’s buzz; the second time, people are talking about it; the fifth time, they’re household names in the market.
David Berrie is part of the young talent on dGi Management's roster. Photo credit:Kirill Was Here
NCC: What kind of prices are your DJs commanding?
Goldberg: It varies tremendously, but typically the high end is about $15,000 for a club gig. The private corporate events, which are our core business, consistently bring in fees in the $50,000 range.
NCC: What are the music trends you’re seeing take off?
Goldberg: The rise in commercial dance music has been dramatic; that’s the biggest change I’ve seen over the last 18 months. Two years ago, if you went to Tao in Las Vegas on a normal night, someone is playing three or four house songs - maybe a big David Guetta record - but that was about it. Tonight if you go to Tao, I bet you hear more Avicii and Afrojack than Jay-Z. There’s been a change in pop music that it’s become much more house oriented. Take LMFAO’s "Party Rock Anthem," which has to be one of the five hits of the year. The way it’s constructed is as a house-music song, with buildups and breakdowns; it’s not constructed or produced the way pop music would have been made in 2009.
NCC: You have some other talent on the roster, namely nightlife photographers.
Goldberg: We represent Kirill Bichutsky, from KirillWasHere.com and Merlin Bronques from lastnightsparty.com. They’re very different artists. People want to share their nights with everyone and while nightlife photography probably hasn’t made a 180-degree turn over the past few years, a few photographers have become stars. It’s because they recognize it’s not just about the photography; they’ve created brands. They’re not just taking pictures, they’re curating a style of photography and they’re personalities as well, both through their lens and a social-media presence.
NCC: How often does Kirill work with your DJs?
Goldberg: Kirill is shooting our DJs often but in between he has his own clients and their parties. Clearly our Djs have an active and prominent presence, so it’s only natural Kirill often ends up with them. If I’m in touch with a venue booking a DJ, it gives me an opportunity to offer them Kirill too. He’s an astounding example of a career on the rise. His traffic has exploded, and each year it’s increased six fold over the last one. His site is getting two million pageviews per month. He’s one of the most influential people in nightlife in America and that’s not a stretch.