Building a sustainable future in the entertainment industry means harnessing your passion, continuously working at building a solid career and always being prepared for the unexpected, say veteran artists DJ Fresh and Gil Hockman. DJ Fresh, who has celebrated more than 20 years in the entertainment business, and independent musician Gil Hockman, both shared the secrets of their success during the first virtual AMPD Masterclass session as part of Old Mutual AMPD Studios events. 

Both DJ Fresh and Hockman stress that in the challenging entertainment industry, the key to ensuring longevity rests on personal dedication, adding value to peoples’ lives and making use of all the tools available to remain connected with fans and audiences.

“The timing of your destiny is never convenient. Opportunity can show up at any time, and you have to be ready and stay sharp. You must always be prepared to take action immediately.” – DJ Fresh

This attitude worked when DJ Fresh was shown an advertisement calling on people to audition for a job at YFM. It was the day before the competition deadline, and he had to join another 1 999 people vying for the position. ”Because I had all my demo tapes and a CV, I was ready.” He won the job and was then suddenly asked to be a guest on a TV show. “I could have fumbled the opportunity, but I was ready.”   

“Find your passion; find your rebellious spirit and fight for your cause. But, remember that the work begins when you get the gig. There is no time to go into cruise control.” 

Other things to bear in mind are that: 

  • You can always learn something from someone else. 
  • You must be respectful of others. Then they will support you when you need help. 
  • You should never doubt your abilities but be ready to learn from constructive criticism. 
  • There is merit in knowing every process in which you are involved. If you are working with someone who specialises in something, learn about it. 
  • Arrogance and complacency and getting caught up in your hype can lead to a downfall. 
  • Take pride in showing up no matter what you have to do to get there. Have your research done and be ready. 
  • Never be stampeded into making decisions and signing documents as hasty decisions can be costly. Sleep on things and don’t cave in to pressure when decisions have to be made. 
  • Stay on top of your finances and keep control by making sure that you sign all the cheques. 

Building on DJ Fresh’s advice, Gil Hockman, says that it is impossible to perform to the highest levels every time you perform at a gig. In the industry, since he was 18, and now living in Berlin, Germany, he makes music and also holds workshops for independent musicians. 

Presenting his toolkit, Hockman says that dreams of stardom are a career’s endpoint. “It is up to you to manage your life and career and to understand all the steps needed to reach a personal dream.” 

“The hard truth is that you have to do most of it yourself. You might build a team, but you need to guide the process,” says Hockman. Amongst his recommendations are to: 

  • Learn to perform at your average. It is essential not to create unrealistic expectations for yourself, and not all your performances will be the best. It is steadily improving your standard, that is important. 
  • Set personal goals in writing so they can be referred to and be compared to the existing situation and modified as needed to reach realistic career milestones.  
  • Build a fan base and get streaming opportunities on media like YouTube and Spotify. Be interactive with fans through social media, and continuously show that you are around.  
  • Take time to build a database and create lists so you can let people know what you are doing and encourage them to place your music on playlists. 
  • Identify your audience and provide them with what they want to hear. Using tools such as Spotify will enable you to compare your music to other artists and have people listen to your music on their playlists. 
  • Move your music across media (playlists, radio and TV, Press and social media) to reach your audience. The good thing is that all media have audiences so that they can also find you. 
  • Research your music and identify who people think you sound similar to. Keep these artists in mind and use Spotify’s ‘also like’ section to develop a following. 
  • Create a research centre, study your genre and what is being played. Seeing which media are conducting interviews will help identify journalists who can be contacted to interview you.  
  • Interact with artists that are on your level or people one-tier above you to create collaborative opportunities and develop together. 

“At the core of everything is your art. If you want to be a professional, act like a professional. Develop good working habits and make sure that you have good work to promote. Setting goals and working at your art every day will result in your skills improving rapidly,” – Hockman. 

For more information about Old Mutual’s AMPD Studios, go to the AMPD Studios website