Working Lives

Working Lives: The Ex-Petrol Attendant Who Retrained As DJ On Youtube

Working lives- DJs

Parties in Lagos, or pretty much anywhere else, wouldn’t be complete without Disc Jockeys – they are literally the life of events given they control the all-important music that guests dance and vibe to. Being a DJ conventionally meant you had to carry around mini-to-large sets of equipment – speakers, mixers, endless wraps of cords – from one event to another. Now, people DJ with smartphones and mobile apps. That has made the space all the more competitive, especially in an urban setting like Lagos. We speak with some of these DJs – with real sets of equipment – on what the industry is like today, touching on how they started, and how the journey has been so far.

DJ Olumide- Meiran

It’s tough these days because even someone like you can be a DJ. The majority of DJs out there just download an app and they are all good to go, unlike those days when you have to get a mixer and all those things. So, there’s a lot of competition in the space.”

Where are you from?

I am from Ogun state but was born in Lagos.

Tell me about your education and what it was like growing up. 

I attended Meiran Community High School, wrote the WAEC exam in 2012, which I passed. And that was it, I could not further my education as there was no money. Growing up wasn’t all that rosy for me because my parents weren’t so rich and so I had to struggle for myself.

How about your family? 

I have six siblings, and we all still live together.  My dad is late, he died from a stroke when I was still young. I think I was in primary 5 then. My mom has been the one pushing through but thanks to God that my father built a house of his own before he died, a 12-room face-me-I-face-you house here in Meiran. We were able to get some money from the rent paid on the house. Without that, I wonder how life would have been for us. 

So, how did you start working as a DJ?

Being a DJ didn’t start off just as a means of survival for me or a ‘hustle’ as Lagos people would call it. I can remember back then in secondary school, I had this very nice MP3 player with a lot of foreign and local songs on it. I was the biggest boy in class and any time we had school parties or Friday happy hour, my classmates were always coming to me to beg me to play. So, it started off as a passion and as time went on, I trained myself, watched a series of YouTube videos and that was it. 

Apart from watching YouTube videos, did you train under someone?  

I actually did, but it was just understudying the person. I had gotten most of the basic knowledge from watching YouTube videos and several DJ tutorials online. I even had this DJ app on my phone that I always used to practice. 

How much did you pay for the training and how long did it typically take you to learn? 

Okay, the thing is, the person I understudied was like a family friend and someone I would call my egbon. So he didn’t charge me a penny. I understudied him for about three years because I wanted to take my time to learn very well. We were always going to shows and clubhouses around town to DJ, especially in Ikeja. It was fun and I learned a lot. I also met other DJs that were willing to put me through. 

How much did it cost you to establish?

The way you said establish is scary. I actually didn’t just start big but on a small scale. While understudying the family friend I mentioned earlier, I was getting little change from him when we played at shows together. I was getting at least N5,000 from every show. That was even part of what gave me more ginger to put my all into being a DJ. So, from the money I was getting, I was able to save up N150,000 those three years, from which I bought a London-used laptop for N120,000 and was left with N30,000.

Also Read: Working Lives: The Petrol Attendant Whose Wise Parents Built a House in Good Times

What other key equipment did you buy and how much did they cost?

I didn’t buy other equipment then because I had used up all my savings to buy the number one key piece of equipment I needed, which was the laptop. So,  I was always renting equipment back then, such as speakers, microphones, engines, generators, and the like. It was not until 2-3 years later after I started off on my own that I was able to buy the other necessities. All of that cost me about N300,000. I am still not done buying though because technology evolves day by day and we have to catch up with it of course.

Did you get a bank loan?

I got a loan but it wasn’t from the bank. It was from family and friends. Everything I borrowed was about N80,000 just to be able to get a studio space too. 

So, apart from your studio space helping to source for customers, how do you get parties/events to DJ at?

Mainly word of mouth. Those I have offered my service to will tell their friends and so on. Plus, I also have a banner in front of my studio, so I get random calls from people to come and play at shows.

I’m curious. What is the competition like in the DJ business?

It’s tough these days because even someone like you can be a DJ. The majority of DJs out there just download an app and they are all good to go, unlike those days when you have to get a mixer and all those things. So, there’s a lot of competition in the space. 

How else do you promote or market yourself?

Apart from the word of mouth I mentioned earlier, when I go to clubs to play, those that come to the party notice me. Some of them approach me to collect my phone number so we can run business later on.

Do you have a manager or make arrangements yourself?  

I manage myself. I don’t think I have gotten to that stage where I need a manager, the cost alone is going to cut my neck off. 

How many hours do you work in a day when you DJ at an event?

It depends on the type of event. Sometimes I spend 5 hours at weddings and then if it is a house party that is going to be overnight, I spend like 8 hours. That, of course, will require more money. 

More money… So how much do I have to pay for your service?

It depends on the type of event I am coming to play at but my charges start from N30,000. For birthday parties, I charge N50,000, for kiddies’ parties I charge N20,000-N30,000, and so on. 

What were you doing before you started DJing?

Nothing much really. I was working as a petrol attendant at a filling station not too far from my house. I was getting N20,000 monthly.

Okay. As a DJ, what’s your best day like on the job?

That would be when I go to a show and everything is set, I don’t have power or issues of any sort, everything just goes smooth. These are the things that make me happy on the job.

And is there any worst day or experience on the job?

I don’t think I have had any bad experiences on the job so far. 

Who are your main clients?

Basically everyone, as long as you have the money to pay for my service. 

How much do you make weekly/monthly?

Well, DJing every week is not certain, it’s just as the job comes. So, I can’t really say the exact amount I make weekly or monthly. 

Ok, so can you estimate what you earn yearly?

Let’s just say I make an average of N850,000 yearly. Also, note that this is a rough calculation, it could be more. 

Wow. And how much do you spend in a day?

I am always indoors except when I have an event to play at, so I hardly spend so much in a day. Let’s just say N1,000 at most, and it’s usually on food. 

Also Read: Working Lives: The Petrol Attendant Who Used to Hawk Akara

No, I am not married. But I am looking forward to getting married soon. Owo lo n dami duro.

Apart from feeding, what other things do you spend money on?

I live alone now, so there are lots of things to spend on from light bills to house rent. And then I also send money occasionally to my siblings.

Let’s talk more about your finances. How do you decide what to spend or save?

I always make a budget but it usually depends on whatever is in my account at that moment. I make sure I don’t spend more than my monthly or daily budget. So, let’s say I budget N50,000 for this month, but then something comes up as an emergency or my siblings need money for something. I will have to bear the cost and cut down my expenses for that month or go back to my savings sometimes, but I don’t like doing that.

So how much do you save in a month? 

It depends on how things are for the month. Let’s just say I save N10,000 every month and if I have excess money, I make that N20,000.

For how long have you been in the DJ business?

I started in 2015, so that’s five years I have been in the business now.

If you could go back in time, would you choose the same occupation?

Yes, of course. I love DJing. It gives me joy when I see people turning up to the music I play while I am at an event.

But do you have plans to venture into something else apart from this business?

Honestly, not at all. I have already accepted the fact that this is what I will continue doing and will generate income for me. The only thing I need to do is improve in terms of getting the latest equipment and then branding myself.

Oluwatomi Otuyemi

Oluwatomi Otuyemi, a Geology graduate from Crawford University, has 5 years experience in corporate corporate communications. He has a passion for storytelling, and investigative reporting.

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