July 29, 2014

How a DJ builds a business in 2014

Title slide bg wide

Say hello to Shammy Dee, Contactually's new favorite DJ

I first talked with Shammy in late May. Even without having met him, I liked him immediately. He was vibrant, genuine, and had an infectious energy. He was also a proactive Contactually user. By our second conversation, he had already used Contactually to follow up with a contact and book a gig.

"If you don't use your network, there's no use in having it," Shammy told me. "The ability to bucket each contact given the wide range of worlds that I'm in allows me to compartmentalize everybody and allows me to say, "Oh, I know somebody, let me refer you." [Bucketing] gives me the chance to revise all my relationships and not let them go for a year or five years [without my talking to them]."

Hence the gig he landed.

I wanted to learn more about Shammy, so I asked him about how he got started, and where he is now.

He had always been drawn to music, he told me. When he was in school, his mom made him promise not to pursue music as a career -- only on the side. He promised, then found he had to renege. Music was his passion. He couldn't give that up.

So he didn't. "There's a fear I think when it comes to the arts that you can't be successful, that you can't make a living doing music, no one's buying music anymore, there's so many people that want to be an artist," Shammy told me. "I live in Los Angeles where there's a lot of people trying to make it happen in acting. And no, not everybody makes it. But the thing is, saturated industries or not, you gotta do it because it's something you really wanna do."

Shammy started DJing in clubs and on the radio in southern California. He expanded to larger clubs, then private parties, then events sponsored by major brands and celebrities. Cultivating a network of referrers was important, and so was following up.

Shammy Dee, awesome DJ and Contactually customer.

But what drives Shammy forward is not just the success but the experience. He sees his shows as dialectic. He may be directing or guiding the show, but it's the audience that determines the ultimate course. Action, reaction, action, reaction.

"It's that energy exchange, that ability to move people, to create an energy, to shift an energy," said Shammy. "I've had people come to me in the middle of a set and say to me, "I just had the worst day, but your music has brightened me up." I've had people as a performer say, "Your performance has helped me break my silence." That was a very powerful moment for me. And the ability to, as a DJ, when I'm controlling my crowd, say, my crowd is here, and I can take them here... it's such a feeling. I can feel when the energy's gone, I can feel when it's leaving, I can feel when it's building ... it's not as technical anymore."

This sense of constant change and the need for adaptation and evolution has instigated changes in Shammy as well. Recently, he said, his philosophy has shifted.

Inside the mind of a DJ

"Before, I'd be like how am I performing, am I getting the notes right, how do I sound," said Shammy. "Me me me me. But I've realized it's somewhat irrelevant when you think of how you connect to the audience and tell that story. [Now] I'm not worried about if I'm doing it right or wrong but if I'm telling that story."

This, noted Shammy, was the difference between being a DJ and being a performer. "The difference is that as a performer, I'm telling my version of whatever song it is. [Different people can have] different takes on the same song, but it's your take that defines you as an artist."

Contactually helps Shammy find gigs, and then... well, he takes care of the rest.

Shammy credits his acting teacher with sparking this recent shift and pushing himself to open himself up more to the audience.

"I'm becoming vulnerable to a degree, but it's that vulnerability that people can relate to," reflected Shammy. "So in that sense I'm able to really move people in a deeper level than just dance...It's in that vulnerability that you're able to carry the audience somewhere."

Part of Shammy's ability to connect with audiences comes from his genuine interest in people. While the entertainment industry often highlights individuals, Shammy explained, it's at its core a relationship-based industry dependent on building and maintaining strong connections with other people. His career started at small venues and snowballed via referrals, and it continues to grow because of the relationships he's made -- and kept -- with the people in his network.

I asked him what was, in his opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind when building professional relationships. He responded instead with what was most important in building lasting relationships -- a key difference.

"[Have] a genuine concern and curiosity for the other person," Shammy said. "It's about helping and giving -- giving in such a way that can help contribute to the other person's growth. That's what makes it last. It's the small things that make a two degree shift that can completely change the trajectory of someone's path."

What's next for Shammy?

In the future, Shammy plans to create more original music and write and produce for other artists. He reflected on where he started and where he is now. I pointed out how extraordinary his path was, and I asked him what advice he would give to other people who have an unrealized dream. He used himself as an example. His path to success wasn't without its own barriers and challenges.

Another successful follow-up.

"The fear is it's impossible and that you can't do it and they haven't seen anyone else do it," he said, "but I'm here, and I'm making something work, you know? So I think it's about being able to put your dreams in action. Start figuring out ways to actively do it, with or without the support. People want to do this thing but never fully execute, and that's where dreams stop. That's where everything dies. The principles are the same across the board whether you work in finance, whether you're a teacher, whether you're an artist. if you want to excel at the craft, you've got to put in the work and you've got to put in the time. Keep putting in that work to make your artistry grow. Watch and something will happen. So don't give up."

Shammy certainly hasn't. Want to see him perform? We're hoping he'll come to D.C. In the meantime, you can catch him around Los Angeles and San Diego.

And before you do, one last illustration of Shammy's commitment to the people in his network: I asked Shammy for an interview, and he responded with an offer to create a special Contactually mix of our favorite songs (you can download it here). Talk about building a lasting relationship!

Shammy, you've got us hooked. We're going to take a risk on being corny here: Thanks for following up!

[box type="bio"]

Want to learn more about Shammy Dee and his music?

Check out Shammy's site, sign up for his email list, and of course... tell him Contactually sent you. Thanks Shammy![/box]