Big Business

Interview with DJ Louie DeVito about marketing strategies and promoting DJ careers. DeVito talks about staying up on the trends of the music industry and music and marketing in order to keep the cash flow going strong.
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When I first started spinning, I was only making $100 a night, so I really couldn't afford to live on my own and had to move back in with my parents. But I kept at DJing and releasing mix CDs, and what really put me over the top was the success of N.Y.C. Underground Party Vol. 3 (Elastik, 2000). It is the biggest selling mix CD of all time, even outselling Paul Oakenfold. I was able to buy my first house and a couple of cars with that money.

While you could depend on a manager or count on a label to come up with a marketing plan for your releases, you don't rely solely on other people to make the most of your career. What is important to maximize your success?

As a DJ, it's essential that you believe in yourself, take control of your career and promote your name everywhere you can. Today, the Internet is more important than ever before. Myspace has been an incredible venue for promotion, but as new Myspaces pop up targeting select niche groups, it's important to keep up with the changes and be visible on those sites as well. It also goes without saying that all young DJs should have their own Websites. Websites are invaluable because they're a quick and easy way to broadcast your information (bio, photos) and your accomplishments (latest releases, press and awards).

You targeted five major club markets with 60-second radio spots to help spike CD sales. How is that more important than playing hundreds of tour dates?

I wouldn't say that is more important, but advertising on the radio allowed me to reach so many more people very quickly. Even in the biggest club, you are only playing for 2,000 people. A radio spot could reach over 50,000 people, and it was important with this release because I had the hottest song of the moment on it, Melanie C's “I Turn to You.” I needed to strike while the song was hot, and radio allowed me to do that.

The radio-marketing campaign worked for N.Y.C. Underground Party, Vol. 3 because it was perfect for the time. It was summer, and everyone was listening to the radio. It was also before the Internet was making such a huge impact on the dance scene. If I were to release N.Y.C. Underground today, I'm not sure I would pursue such an aggressive radio campaign. I would likely put a great deal of the marketing dollar into online advertising.

How does a good marketing plan help you build your audience?

So much of it is about timing. You really have to be up on what's hot with the kids, and that can be difficult. Sometimes MTV is hot; other times, radio or online is. I remember last winter when satellite radio was the thing. Now, people aren't listening to satellite radio as much. Right now, I'm doing a lot of Internet marketing — Myspace and Websites such as Clubplanet. Today, the Internet is the best place to find the people who like the music you produce and spin. But even that has signs of changing very soon. I'm keeping an eye out on video, Internet TV sites and podcast programs like Feastoffools.net. Many in the dance world may not have heard of them yet — and I'm not even an avid listener of the show — but they just won the People's Choice Podcast Award, and they're gaining strong visibility with young people nationwide. That's what I mean about the importance of staying up on trends. As a DJ/producer, or any artist for that matter, you have to be half artist, half businessman. You can't just rely on your team, even when you have the best marketing team in the world behind you, which I'm lucky enough to have.

What was your marketing strategy for the Live at Pacha CD you recently released?

This CD is a lot of touring. Pacha's a strong name — especially internationally — and it carries tremendous expectations. Pacha fans would not respond to radio or even Internet marketing. It's all about the experience with them. They want to experience the night first — and then they purchase the CD to relive the experience. I just came back from Russia and Spain. I will be going to Dubai and the Ukraine in the next few months, too. It's a lot of work, but the Pacha CD [Louie DeVito Live at Pacha Ibiza With Sarah Main, (Pacha, 2006)] is representative of the music I truly love to spin. I do love Dance Factory, Level 4 (Dee Vee, 2006), too — it's classic Louie after all — but Pacha represents the new Louie.

How did you learn what does and doesn't work for marketing and promoting yourself? Have you discovered any books on the subject that have helped you with your career?

I wish there was a book but unfortunately, there isn't. Trends change too much. I think if a book were written, by the time it was published, it would be old news. I still make some mistakes, but everything in life is a learning process. I rarely make the same mistakes twice, but I admit sometimes I still overspend on licensing music. Sometimes I just have to have a song on my album. But I try to be more cautious with the money I spend on a release.

Have you made any mistakes or seen any DJs make mistakes in the business that you'd like to see them avoid?

The biggest mistake is to make a big deal out of your mistakes. DJing is a business, and you're going to make errors in judgment. Sometimes it might seem like the end of your career — especially if it's a public mistake, and the press goes to town with it. But honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a career end because of a mistake — stumble, sure, but not end. Life is full of blunders. You just gotta keep on keepin' on.