DJ Irie Spins Himself Into a Brand
Most people know Ian Grocher by his stage moniker: DJ Irie. And if you’ve visited any decent club in the last year, you’ve likely heard him live. Or if you’ve been at any Miami Heat game (he's the first DJ ever to be aligned with a pro sports team), or even on a Carnival cruise ship (he's also the first DJ ever to be aligned with a cruise line). Or lucky enough to score an invite to any party hosted by Jamie Foxx (Irie is the actor’s official DJ). The jet-setting mix master shares his thoughts on marketing, self-promotion and partnerships.
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): What are your current regular gigs and residencies?
Irie: Playhouse in LA; Haze, XS, Tryst and Pure in Las Vegas; Wall, LIV, Set and Mokai in Miami; Underground in Chicago and a few more. I also am the resident DJ for the Miami Heat — I’ve been doing that for 11 seasons — and then whatever Jamie [Foxx] needs me for, but it’s been quiet on that front lately since he’s shooting a movie until February.
NCC: What does being the Miami Heat’s official DJ entail?
Irie: I perform at every single home game and a slew of basketball-related events throughout the season and year. At the games, I play a set just for the players while they warm up. My booth is right there on the floor next to the court. Then I do the tip off and get the crowd amped. I do fan fireups during the game, halftime, special contests and some promos for the fourth quarter.
NCC: And what does your partnership with Carnival Cruise lines encompass?
Irie: This was a big deal. My agency actually now trains every DJ that gets hired for a Carnival ship. I don’t have a schedule where I’m able to be on every ship, though I try to be on as much as possible. Carnival loved my spinning style, so I work very closely to train our DJs to perform at the level I approve of personally. We have a very capable and talented group of guys and girls on each ship, and they’re consistently delivering a performance rivaled by any South Beach, Vegas or NYC club DJ.
NCC: It’s fair to say that your current roster demonstrates your ability to promote yourself well. How does an upcoming DJ build a name and a brand within a new market?
Irie: There’s never one formula, but some of the key things that result in a lot of traction are press, affiliations and constantly promoting yourself. Press is very important. So go after those high-profile publications within your market. You may need to get a publicist to help build those relationships, but when they start to hear your name and see your face repeatedly, eventually they make that connection that you’re worthy of their time, attention and money.
Next, you have to work with the best local partners. If you want to be in the upper echelon of consideration, make sure you are affiliated with like-minded, top brands. Perception is everything.
Finally, if you don’t have a ton of money, just do it yourself. It doesn’t take cash to get yourself out there, but it does take effort. Grab a camera and shoot a viral video of your performances, hand out some cards and mixes. Just make sure you’re doing it all in good taste and synonymous with whatever image you want to create.
NCC: You have a lot of promotional items you give out to the patrons, like glasses, hats and the like. What gets you the best ROI?
Irie: It’s no secret that everyone loves free stuff. But you don’t want to give them something they’ll discard by the time they hit the parking lot. It needs to be useful. People actually use hats. Everyone loves a free T-shirt but are they going to actually wear that T-shirt in a way that’ll pay off for you? Only if it’s very cool. If it’s just with your name and logo, that may not be the best idea. But if you have a unique catch phrase and work your brand into it, that may be a better way to go. Be subtle; you don’t have to put your branding always in front to get traction. The production quality will be tied to your name as well.
NCC: Who pays for those items?
Irie: I’m lucky with my stuff because we have a very successful and larger partnership business where we form sponsorship deals with companies, such as Verizon. They already make a lot of giveaway items, and because we’re locked in to do events with them, I’ll give them some ideas for products and help design them. Right now, we have a pair of glasses co-branded with my name and Verizon’s logo. They’re so popular we can’t even hold onto them. The company will cover the expense of producing them, but the upside is they’re exposed to our audience and everybody is rocking them.