Years before Amani Roberts became a management lecturer at Cal State Fullerton and associate director of the Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management, he was a professional disk jockey. While he was a hospitality management student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the mid-1990s, Roberts saw a performance by Biz Markie and was moved to try his hand at spinning records himself. Eventually, he went on to found Amani Experience, a global DJ company.
In his new book, DJs Mean Business: One Night Behind the Turntables Can Spin Your Company’s Success, Roberts relates being a DJ with the startup world. He creatively compares the different time slots of a DJ set (from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) to the different stages of starting and growing a business.
“The book shows you this through the eyes of a DJ – myself – as we experience one night in a club in Hollywood,” says Roberts.
Roberts discusses his book and his role at CSUF:
You draw interesting parallels between DJ sets and the startup world. Can you briefly describe your thoughts on this?
There are many more similarities between a DJ set and growing a business than you realize: from first starting out (at 10 p.m.) and building rapport with new potential clients to using nostalgia (throwback hits at 1:30 a.m. in DJ terms) to reinvent a business. In the startup world, you must troubleshoot (11 p.m.) when issues occur and potentially pivot to a different service or product offering. In the DJ life, we have to pivot numerous times throughout the night to ensure the crowd stays engaged. We can never let the music stop!
How did teaching help you become a better DJ?
First, DJing and teaching are all about reading the room. If your students are not responding to the teaching techniques you are putting into practice, you must adjust and find a different way to engage with the students. If a crowd isn’t feeling the type of music that I am DJing, I must shift into a different genre and work to get them engaged and involved.
Second, our students at CSUF are very up to date with current musical trends and consistently share with me new and upcoming artists I need to know. It’s like my own musical advisory board, and I am fortunate to have the access to such musically intelligent students.
Tell us about your work at Cal State Fullerton.
I am just very honored to be a professor and associate director of the Center for Entertainment and Hospitality at CSUF. I am also very proud of the work the student Music Industry Club and Behind the Scenes club are doing on campus. Also, I host a slow jam DJ set at 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights and stream it live on YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and Facebook.