All successful people have been on a journey of ups-and-downs to make it to the top and everyone will have their own stories on how they overcame their struggles. I wanted to share some of the more interesting journeys successful DJs have had, these aren’t always your typical rags-to-riches story, but ones I hope you find inspiration from.
1) Eats Everything: A ‘local hero’ after years of failures…
Daniel Pearce, also known as “Eats Everything” is arguably one of the most successful DJs to ever come out of music-hotbed, Bristol. He’s always been involved in music and has spoken about going to raves from a really young age – this was where his passion for music and DJing really started.
But it wasn’t always easy for Dan. Although he had been DJing for years and got his first pair of decks when he was just 12 years old, his career didn’t take off until he was in his 30s.
In a previous interview with Bristol 24/7, he explains he started producing his own music long after he started DJing. Dan had been trying to make in as a DJ all throughout his 20s, bouncing from one dead-end-job to another he decided to give his musical career one last shot in 2011, when he released ‘Entrance Song’. “It had been my one last chance to give music a go before sacking it in for a sensible job.” said Dan.
“I have only been successful for the last five years, before that I was just doing regular jobs, but I was rubbish at them all, and got sacked from every one because the only thing I was interested in was DJing. It’s been a very fast and sharp trajectory from a nobody to ‘I’m doing pretty well for myself’.”
Fair play to Eats Everything, persistence pays off.
2) Duke Dumont: From ringtones to Radio 1
Duke Dumont has spoken a lot in interviews about having the right attitude for success in the industry. He seems like a character who’s really focussed on working hard and claims to have turned down offers to move to LA in fear that he’d stop making music.
Duke Dumont was formerly a semi-professional footballer and competed for Great Britain’s youth team at Judo, but he gave up all of his sporting interests for music. During his time trying to make it as a musician he got a job with o2, as a ringtone creator.
Duke was eventually sacked by the phone company for “spending to much time on Myspace” according to the man himself. He now claims this was his “Karate Kid” moment, he’d been turning hits into ringtones for 2 years – he knew what elements were needed to make a great dance track.
“I don’t come from money. I took out one loan in my entire life, and that loan was to get my first laptop to make music, and I made it pay off. I learned how to make music for like 10 years—if I had another job, I’d do it on the weekends. I never stopped.”
3) Calvin Harris: M&S shelf-stacker to the ‘World’s biggest DJ’
Calvin Harris is always dominating our radios & charts. In 2013, 8 of his tracks from his album (“18 months”) were top 10 in the charts – beating the previous record held by Michael Jackson. His estimated net worth is predicted to be around $110million.
Calvin is from a small town in Scotland in Dumfries. He suffered from a chronic fatigue illness during his teens which prevented him from going to school for over a year. After education he moved to London, and funded his music career by working in M&S in Clapham, his London career failed and he ended up moving back to Dumfries.
In 2007, his big breakthrough happened – an album titled “I created Disco”. He took advantage of social site, Myspace, to get himself out there and EMI snapped him up. All 14 of the tracks on the album were recorded and produced from his bedroom, using an Amiga computer. It’s claimed that his parents had no idea he was even making music – until they received a call to the house phone from a head of A&R wanting to sign their sons music.
4) Dillon Francis: Penis Graffiti Artist to DJ
Dillon Francis, who’s released on Dim Mak, Mad Decent, OWSLA and more has had a very different past to most. His father was an entrepreneurial herbalist and Yugoslavian immigrant’, who was very strict on his son during his childhood. Dillon claims that even at 15, he didn’t know any swear words.
After years of strict regime and being wrapped in cotton wool he typically rebelled and found a new pastime in Graffiti. For years he drew ‘dicks’ all over Los Angeles under the Graffiti artist name of “Hymen B Laster”. After quickly realising penis art wasn’t a sustainable career option, he moved back home with his parents and focussed on making music – this small sacrifice was what helped him propel his career to where he is now.
“I’m gonna be a music producer, I swear to God. Let me stay in the back house for a year, and if this doesn’t go anywhere, I’ll return to school.”
5) Steve Aoki: Who’s Millionaire Father never gave him a dime
Steve Aoki beat the Guiness World book of Records in 2014 by becoming the most travelled musician in a single year. He performed at 161 shows in 41 different countries.
Aoki used to play for his college badminton team and graduated with a BA in Feminist studies & Sociology. His father, Rocky Aoki, was the founder of the Benihana restaurant chain in America and had an estimated wealth of over $80 million. but he never supported his sons desires to work in music. Despite his family wealth, Steve had to make it on his own.
“My father always had an open-door policy, and when I would come to New York, I would always [go] to the house to hang out with him,” he says. “But that all changed when Keiko (Rocky’s 3rd wife) came into his life. I rarely got to see him — none of us did. The door was locked. You couldn’t even reach the window. That really hurt.”
Steve Aoki’s sister, Devon, is also a famous model.
6) Skrillex: Bullying, adoption & running away from home
Some love him, some hate him but there’s no denying the success Skrillex has had in the industry. Skrillex was brought up as a Scientologist and took several courses based on the teachings of L Ron Hubbard. Although no longer a Scientologist, he claims to still follow a lot of their teachings.
At 14 he was home-schooled because he was bullied, at 16 he decided to run away from home after finding out he was adopted. He later joined various rock bands where he sang & played guitar in them with relative success. After suffering from vocal chord problems he decided to try his hand at electronic music and later released his EP “Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites”.
There aren’t many ‘quick-wins’ in this industry and I wanted to write about some of the DJs that have made it big from having a good work-ethic and never giving up on their goals.
I wrote this post to prove that anyone can make it, I have a chapter in my upcoming ebook (more info coming soon) dedicated to attitude. If you’re attitude is right, you can make it to the top. These guys above had the drive and determination to make things happen – take inspiration from what they’ve achieved.
No matter what position you find yourself in, you still have the chance of making a career out of this industry, follow my advice in the upcoming months and your chance of success will be more & more apparent.
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