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DJ Bander Talks How To Make Money Doing What You Love, Growing On Social Media & More

DJ Bander is a multi-millionaire investor, entrepreneur, composer, and producer originally from New York and now based in Los Angeles. DJ Bander (Zach Schnall) not only wears many hats but is a wealth of knowledge on a myriad of topics such as finance, digital marketing, music production, and branding. Put simply, DJ Bander is an expert on how to actually make money (real money) doing what you love.

What advice do you have for DJs and producers when it comes to social media marketing and branding?

What I always tell DJs and producers is to focus on production first and make sure that what you’re doing is original work. It’s hard, and even I was tempted when I was coming up as a producer, we had to program everything, it was like drum programming and synth programming and making the sounds and everything. Now, anybody can be a producer because you can take four loops from splice and make a beat and loop it and now you’re a producer. I think that a lot of these young people are not getting the traction with it because people are going to relate to something that sounds unique and original. I think if you really want to separate yourself as a producer, you really need to also study musicianship. Play an instrument, understand music like actually know how to compose and not just be a programmer so that would be the first thing is the best producers are the ones who are brilliant programmer mixers combined with composers.

Then the other thing completing works. Every producer I know, including myself, we have those top 20 tracks we’re working on right now and they’re all so cool but they’re all not done. What my business partner who’s my dearest friend, he has been so good for me in my life, because not only is my partner but he also is one of my top engineers and he knows, he’s every month he’d be like forget your top 20 I want your top five now. I want you to email me your top five songs and then from the top five he’s like, these three we’re getting done in the next 30 days. I want this, next week we’re booking Wednesday in the studio to complete this the next week, this the next week that you got to finish your stuff. You don’t need a hundred great ideas, you need three to five tightly finished records finished, mixed and mastered and a marketing plan for them. So, I think that like really if you notice the producers and the DJs who really shine are the ones who’ve really completed works and I’ve been consistently marketing those completed works.

So, I want to talk a little bit about all your amazing accomplishments that led you to where we are today, one being the remix that you did for Katie Perry that’s huge. Can you walk us through the creative process for that and how did you go about achieving that?

A big thing that I did during that period of time that is really interesting is that my original following from electronic music was actually from remixes. With the Katy Perry one, while it didn’t end up being placed on her actual record it did make the final 10 of all of those remixes. So, it got promoted on all the big channels on Twitter back when Twitter was really popping, so it was on like the Universal pages and on the Katie Perry fan pages. You know, I tell people it’s not as much that my best remixes that were really successful or that I was any more talented at

doing them or that I did a better job on that one, it was almost like certain remixes just worked in the best way. What I mean by that is like that Katy Perry song “California Girls” fit perfectly with the type of EDM beats that I’m good at making. So, it was like the vocals and the arrangement because it was just perfectly done and it was perfectly sitting close to the BPM, because it was popular at the time. I think that it just felt very easy and natural and flowing to build a remix to it. I’ve been sent other projects like where the vocals are just like I love the song but it’s just like oh it’s so frustrating and hard to kind of come up with the beat around it because it just doesn’t sit right.

So, I think with the remixes with that one, it’s a combination of knowing how to really finish and making a solid remix in a fast amount of time. That was another element of it and it’s interesting sometimes when you have time pressure you almost do a better job. I only had like four days to do that remix. I was literally just cranking it out and part of what worked about that was like I didn’t focus on making lots of different instruments because I didn’t have time. I didn’t have time to like try this and try that and fiddle with a thousand different like experimental synth plugins. I went right with my bread and butter with the bass plugin, I know the synth plugin I use all the time. I didn’t try to go outside of my wheelhouse I was like okay I’m just going to focus on a solid hard kick a dope a dope Baseline and smooth pad and that’s it. So it ended up coming out really good because I think I didn’t put any fluff into it. I just banged it out and it ended up coming together in a tight way. So, with remixes, I have so much respect for these guys who just do all these big complex remixes because remixing is really, really, really hard.

Remixing is harder than making original pieces of work because you have to adapt your production to another producer and vocal arrangement. I’m a big fan of chess, remixing in a way reminds me of chess and the fact that like you can be a great chess player, but if you’re not used to the style of the opponent that they’re that they’re playing you’re going to lose, they’re going to smoke you. They’re coming at you and they have a different strategy way of handling it and that’s the same thing with remixes. If you don’t know how to get into the mindset of another producer, you’re never going to be a good remixer.

What tips do you have for artists or people who are just starting a brand when it comes to financial management, because you did mention investing in yourself putting money into different things, but how do you make smart financial decisions while still having fun staying true to your brand enjoying life?

It’s hard. Look I mean I’m not going to deny it’s very hard, the economy is getting more difficult I was very lucky. I’m a little bit older now, but I was very lucky that in the early stages when I when I when I started making money, I was very frugal with it and I reinvested it and I saved it. I mean that’s the most important thing the first and foremost thing that I that I teach young people who are starting to make money or figuring it out is you have nothing to prove to anybody else the only thing you should want to do with your money is to be able to enjoy looking at your accounts going up and seeing those that your investments are doing well. You don’t need to prove to other people things with cars or clothes or lifestyle.

The main mistake that young people make as their money income increases is they try to match it with their spending and in many place they exceed it. So if they’re making you know 5,000 a month they live a 7,000 a month lifestyle you know when they start making 10 they try to show off a 12 to 20,000 a month lifestyle with 10 coming in. That’s a huge mistake. If your spending only goes up by about 20 to 30% of your earned income, you’re always going to have money. It’s like simple math. It’s like you know calorie deficit you know so it’s like if you are always saving more than you’re spending or at least making sure that your savings rate is at a strong level you’ll always be in a good position.

So, that’s the first thing and the second thing is you have to be able to provide a service and a skill set. People want to just be paid for their art and unfortunately, we don’t really live in that world as much anymore. You must look at it as more that you give your art away to monetize your brand and that’s something that a lot of young musicians don’t understand so they’re focusing on making music but you really need to focus on services. Meaning like what is it that you offer to other people that is monetizable. Part of my success is that I have a range of service skills. Obviously, I’ve invested in real estate that’s not as much service but I understand how to put my money to work and to do something with it. I’ve learned how to do marketing, I know how to engineer, I can make Productions and do vocal stuff for other artists and clients. So, there’s a lot of different things that I can do. I’m a consultant, I’m a business investor consultant so I focus on providing value to other people and I think that’s something that young people really need to focus on. If you’re a great beat programmer, awesome, figure out can you know figure out a way to monetize your services for other big producers. Or let’s say you’re a really great producer at making uh Tempo changes, okay dope, I would like especially like when I get a big remix project there’s a lot of there’s a lot of things that I wouldn’t necessarily want to do with my remixing like that I don’t need to I’d rather focus on programming so I would pay a younger producer. I would say, “hey could you get these vocals to like 128 for me” and then I’ll just pay you for that and then I’ll focus on making the track and the remix. So, the young people that I know who are doing well in the industry know how to monetize their service. Then they can always earn money. So that’s something that’s important.

Then when it comes to investing in your brand, it is something that’s important to do. It’s a tough reality but if you don’t put money into your stuff, it’s really not going to go anywhere. People look at these people who are just posting videos and getting tons of views and they’re like wow like how they do like to be honest if you look at if you deep dive a lot of these girls these beautiful young girls that have like insane views on Tik Tok most of them if you notice have come from some money. Someone invested in them, they had Tik Tock ADs, they did something to get the ball rolling to make their stuff get more viral. You don’t see like them on very inexpensive phones in like crummy little apartments and they have like a million something views. There’s no shame if you must work a regular job or have to do something to get the bills paid so you can invest in build this brand. You can start a side business, that’s even better too. So, it’s about building your value and um you know really just focusing on that and making yourself something that you can always monetize with beyond the music.

This interview was originally published on the Drop Bass Not Bombs podcast and an excerpt has been transcribed for this article.

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