DJ Z from The DJ Booth
As I was thinking of ways to make this blog more interesting, I figured it would be great to get the perspective of someone who is exposed to new artists all the time. I instantly got the idea to interview a disc jockey. But, I knew I couldn’t just choose any DJ, because I owe it to you all as readers to get input from someone with a wealth of experience in the music industry. It’s for that reason that I chose Brian Zisook.
Chicago native Brian Zisook, better known as DJ Z, is the Vice President and Editor in Chief of The DJ Booth, LLC. Not only has DJ Z interviewed nearly every major hip hop artist out there (including Kanye West and Akon), but he has also chatted with several of today’s hottest R&B artists (John Legend, Ryan Leslie and Robin Thicke to name a few). Given his years of experience, I knew he would offer an excellent point of view about today’s music. DJ Z kindly answered a few questions about independent music, what aspiring artists should be doing, and artists we should be checking for right now. Here are his responses:
Mimi Soul: What would you say are some of the ways music has evolved over the last few years?
DJ Z: Unfortunately, over the last several years, I think the evolution of new music has slowed down. Most mainstream urban music strives to fit into a known and well-liked “category.” This formulaic way of thinking, for the most part, has hindered the ability of major label artists to truly control their artistic expression. In terms of what we have seen, which could be considered “evolution,” there is a lot more dance-oriented music. The BPM (beats per minute) counter is a lot higher for singles these days; if a DJ cannot mix a song into his/her set, it’s likely because its BPM count is too low (or the record simply isn’t very good).
Mimi Soul: What is something that you think few people know about the music business?
DJ Z: With the amount of artists trying to break into the industry, it’s easy to assume that the record biz is a giant. What people need to understand, though, is that the gatekeepers (DJs, radio programmers, website managers, and bloggers) who double as tastemakers are few and far between. Once you step through that door, it’s easy to see that the industry is indeed much much smaller. If you don’t know how to network properly and use connections in mutually beneficial ways, the chance at long-term success is slim to none.
Mimi Soul: I’m sure you receive lots of demo cds in the mail. How do you know when you’ve heard a really good one? What type of sound catches your attention?
DJ Z: Great question. First things first, your material must be mixed and mastered. The cost of mixing/mastering (by a professional) isn’t cheap, but if you want someone to take your music seriously this is an absolute must. Second, the submission e-mail or mailing needs to be straight to the point and organized: Artist name, song title(s), a website address, and proper contact information need to be included; without all of this information, we immediately trash the submission. Again, artists need to show they are serious. As for the material itself, it needs to possess that overused and totally cliché “it factor.” Having worked in radio for several years, prior to programming DJBooth.net, I learned what makes music appealing to broad spectrum of demographics. In the end, though, there isn’t a universal sound that equates to a hit record (otherwise, I would be a rich man).
Mimi Soul: What are your thoughts about the independent music industry?
DJ Z: Independent artists and labels are the future of this industry. In the next several years, I expect to see a sharp decline in the amount of artists who are signing with majors. With the digital age of music upon us, there is only one perk that a major record label can offer an artist that is unattainable on an independent level: media branding. These labels (for the most part) know how to use their years of experience, in order to brand their roster of artists on talk shows, radio programs, newsprint features, and magazine spreads. In the favor of the indie artist, however, is the more popular and highly trafficked Internet. Unlike these other mediums, online promotion (if done properly) can be handled without any cost to the artist. Plus, with all the money you save that doesn’t have to be spread across thousands of employees, you can reinvest in your own product and improve your chances as future success. See Tech N9ne as the perfect example.
Mimi Soul: Could you name a few r&b artists that you think we may not know about and should check out soon?
DJ Z: I have forever been a HUGE fan of R&B music, so coming across a brand new (either signed or unsigned) artist is always a highlight of my job. Some of the most impressive young talent includes Melanie Fiona, Adrian, Kevin Cossom, Pure, Drew Sidora, Daniel Merriweather, Mateo, and Razah.
Thanks for the interview DJ Z! You can keep up with DJ Z by joining the 750,000 unique monthly DJ Booth visitors.