Experimenting with platforms and possibilities can lead to better gigs DJ
Chief Musical Curator: The Amani Experience
Professor, California State University, Fullerton
President Elect, MPI Southern California Chapter
Co-producer, “Community Keynotes”
When the ball dropped on January 1, 2020, Amani Roberts was preparing for what looked like the biggest year ever for his DJ business. The adjunct professor at California State University, Fullerton, was also set to release his book, DJs Mean Business, and was planning a world tour for speaking and teaching.
Then everything was canceled.
“Emotionally, it was very difficult and still is,” Roberts concedes. The first hit was watching the business falling away. Plus, he fretted about his health. “I live alone with my dog, and I worry if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it…” he trails off with a chuckle.
He clarifies: He has friends in San Diego, but the pandemic year marked the longest he has gone without seeing his family on the East Coast. He also isn’t able to play soccer, a beloved pastime. “It has been mentally draining to stay positive,” he says of the emotional roller-coaster over the last 15 months.
In true form, though, the educator and entertainer got busy. He started livestreaming on Facebook, InstagramLive and Twitch OBS. He created new shows, including “Community Keynotes,” one on dating and a modern take on “The Newlywed Game.”
Experimenting with those platforms, equipment and formats taught Roberts executive production, livestreaming and technology. Testing tricks to keep students engaged helped him build his microphone skills. “Learning from scratch is very humbling, but you get better next time,” he says.
In the midst of the pandemic, Roberts was sworn in as president-elect of MPI Southern California Chapter. That added a whole new level of stress and connection. “You have to stay connected even when you are feeling emotionally fried,” he says.
Pre-pandemic, Roberts was already trying to figure out how to get his master’s degree, so he could qualify to be a full-time professor. The pandemic gave him time to focus on his virtual studies for a master’s in music business from Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I am trying to set it up so when things go back to in-person events, I will be a full-time professor and DJ—the two things I love,” he explains.
As an entrepreneur, Roberts sees his hard-won experience as an upsell for when he is back in the ballroom. He worries about maintaining his rate—the DJ-ing business has gone through a reset and people are now offering their services on the cheap. One upside: He discovered the power of offering merch on his website, which can make you money even while you sleep.
“You have to know your worth and add tax,” he quips.
His advice to that unsuspecting January 2020 self? “Don’t hesitate to step into it. Make mistakes. Take it in little pieces. Embrace the people you meet online (not literally).”
He pledges that the post-Covid Roberts will be more selective about what jobs he takes, with a focus on quality, not quantity. He will continue to stream on Twitch and hopes to pivot those skills to hosting interactive games at hybrid corporate events.
Note: This is one of a series of stories about people transforming their normal. You can read more on SmartMeetings.com or tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.