Making it as a DJ

Jampreneur

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Oswald Soutar is a 36 year old deejay in Montego Bay who is known in the entertainment industry as DJ Blu the Jedi. Those who know him personally simply refer to him as Blu. He has pursued his craft since he was a 12-year-old boy living in Kingston and has successfully made a living from his career.

But thriving financially as a deejay can be challenging. Blu shared his experience and views with the Jamaica Observer about what it takes in terms of dedication and business strategy to succeed in this career.

At the age of 12, Blu would accompany his cousin who was a deejay to parties and events around Kingston. Growing up, his cousin introduced him to entertainment professionals as someone who wanted to enter the business. During his high school years, Blu would deejay for sweet sixteen parties as well as high school and college events.

“I then went on to play with a couple of these big sound systems such as Coppershot and Renaissance with Delano,” he related. “My first regular job was the Asylum nightclub in New Kingston and I would occasionally play at the Quad, which was a sister club of Asylum.”

These clubs were very popular in Kingston at the time but it was on the north coast of Jamaica that Blu would further broaden his horizons. In 2007 he started working with Margaritaville, Ocho Rios. He travelled back and forth between Kingston and Ocho Rios at first, but then signed an official contract with the club in 2008.

In 2009 he started working at Margaritaville, Montego Bay, too, and in that same year then vice president of operations, Stephen Deere, who had thoroughly researched his background, decided to make him the head deejay for Margaritaville.

This new responsibility included all of Margaritaville Caribbean's clubs in Jamaica and outside the island. Blu has held that position since then.

But despite this early success he quickly realised that in order to meet his financial targets he still needed to expand and improve upon what he had already achieved. His young son was living in Kingston and he brought him to Montego Bay.

“With me needing to have my son here, I realised I had to make some money,” he said. “So my son was my first push to do more. He was that extra push.”

Blu also met the woman he would eventually marry and decided he did not want to live in a rented house forever. More than ever, he needed to supplement his income.

Even deejays who work regular jobs with nightclubs supplement their income through extra work or gigs such as parties, functions, weddings, etc and Blu started to explore his options there on the north coast.

“I was branded as the best Margaritaville deejay who could play the club but not the streets, so I had to show I could,” Blu explained.

His first break came when he was discovered by a promoter from Canada who was visiting Jamaica. The promoter observed him for a whole week at Margaritaville and then invited him to play for his sound system, called Konsequence, in Canada. Blu had a good relationship with Margaritaville and they gave him extended leave and additional time to go to Canada where he played dancehall music for a Canadian audience.

It was just the experience he needed to boost his reputation, and when he came back to Jamaica in late 2011 the deejay related that “things were turning and turning for the greater good”.

Although he was making inroads into local events he was aware that he still needed to expand his target market for maximum returns and so he turned an eye to the corporate market.

Another great break came when the general manager of Secrets resort in Montego Bay took notice of him and invited him to be the “preferred deejay” for the resort doing work in the disco and for private functions, events and weddings. Soon Blu was also doing work for leading north coast resorts such as Iberostar, Jamaica Grande, Royalton among others.

This rapid expansion of business came just in time, as he got married in 2012 and had another child. With the extra income he was able to purchase a house through the National Housing Trust (NHT).

Blu will tell you, however, that this success did not just happen by accident and it didn't happen solely because he is good at his craft. To be able to expand your market and cater to diverse individuals and businesses requires a lot more.

“You have to be very diverse and I play everything 'from then till now' and all genres of music,” he emphasised. “You can't be stuck in just one era or genre. That will kill you. That will kill everything you have.”

According to Blu, satisfying various audiences and markets is the key to success. And beyond being diverse with your music you have to be able to relate to your audience, and this means being able to network with different people. Unfortunately, many deejays don't do that, Blu reflected.

“If you really want to make a living from this, you have to go out there and mingle with just about everybody and anybody, see what they are about, see what their culture is, see what their lifestyle is, and then you can capitalise on that as a deejay,” he insisted. “I am not about sitting down and watching another deejay and copying his style. No, I watch the people because that's the thing that makes you. The people are who make you. I have nothing to prove to another deejay. The people are my ego; not the deejay next to me.”

Personal branding is equally important, which Blu says goes hand in hand with networking.

“What I have discovered from the get-go is that branding and image are needed,” he said. “I have a baby son who is about to turn one and he doesn't even say Daddy, he says Blu, because that is the name that everybody calls me,” he pointed out.

Around the same time that he was expanding his markets he also worked with a radio station, Links FM, further promoting his brand and his image.

Social media also had an important role to play.

“Social media impacts your life as a deejay,” Blu stated. “A lot of people coming to Jamaica check related hashtags. People say they have discovered me through hashtags. I get a lot of jobs and inquiries that way. It is a very integral tool in your business.”

Recently he played in Miami for clients who discovered him through social media. Today, Blu's growth has led to him doing events overseas on a regular basis, from places like Texas to Toronto and Montreal. He is part of a sound system and he is also the personal deejay for well-known Jamaican female music artiste, Curvy Diva, with whom he tours both locally and overseas.

Some deejays eventually give up their jobs and switch careers but Blu has declared that this will be his lifelong calling. To do this and to stay relevant, he knows what he has to do.

“When I started to deejay we were using records at the time,” he revealed. “We have gone from records to CDs to computers. You have to stay current, going out there and seeing the market and seeing what's coming as well as being hands-on with new technology. I still have to go to different places to see what the people are about so I can stay relevant where music is concerned.”

He has achieved his success through balancing a full-time job with additional gigs up until this point. He has no intention of changing the formula and he has a lot of gratitude and loyalty towards Margaritaville which allows him the flexibility to pursue various options.

“I am there at Margaritaville until they say, ' Blu it is time for you to go',” he affirms. “I know what the product is, I know what Margaritaville wants and I am making sure Margaritaville gets what they deserve. I am sticking it out with them all the way.”

Blu's success and track record benefit his employers, and their flexibility and understanding allow him to take advantage of other markets to enhance and supplement his income. It is the kind of symbiotic relationship with an employer that a disk jockey needs to thrive in Jamaica.


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