When I realized that I wanted to become a DJ at about 13 years old, after watching Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” video, I knew there would be sacrifices. First off, there was only one DJ in our school. His name was Ricky Mondelli. He played every school dance throughout middle school and high school. He wasn’t what we would call a mixing DJ, more like putting popular records in order so people would dance. The slow fade, from one to another. He would get on the mic and say things like: “Up next: ‘Born To Run’ by The Boss!”, or play the popular ’80’s hits of the day, early hip hop, pop, freestyle, rock, maybe some new wave to keep people moving. I had no idea where he got his equipment, maybe a Radio Shack or some electronics store, but I knew there was no chance I could persuade my parents to get me a turntable/ mixer set up. I wouldn’t get that until the mid ’90’s. So between that time I sacrificed. I worked in a Supermarket through high school and college and for years after. Although it was decent money, benefits, paid vacations, and steady work, I hated it. It was in a resort area, so the summers were hell. The barrier island closest to the store brought down tens of thousands of people to vacation every year, increasing business to unbelievable proportions. This caused you to have to burn yourself out with work. It was union, but they did nothing for us. On the job I severely hurt my back, but continued to work after my recovery. I eventually moved an hour plus away, doing a reverse commute to the job for two years wondering what the hell I was doing. I felt trapped. Luckily, after 15 years, the company offered to buy out some of the old time employees and I took it. I still didn’t feel successful. My next business endeavor was an independent brick and mortar clothing/ skateboard/ record shop. Blood, sweat and tears for six years, and I still didn’t feel successful. I started touring with a national act after the business venture until about 11 years ago. I still didn’t feel successful. After the band project imploded, I needed to forge my own path. That’s when I started FleaMarket Funk. Originally a forum to highlight my record finds, it took a turn when I adopted the funk/soul/ jazz/ hip hop/ reggae indie route and stopped focusing on myself. I promoted myself and gigs on the site, but when I found the niche the site took a path I never thought it would. I still didn’t feel successful. I felt like there was a lot of work to do, a lot of hustling to do, and I was right. It is a hustle. Like I wrote earlier this year, the hustle is real. Now we are approaching the ten year mark here at FleaMarket Funk and I finally feel successful. But how do you define success?
You could, and this is a true story, be playing the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles one night, and the next weekend playing a strip mall in Alliance, Ohio at a place called, wait for it, Mango’s, the next.
A technical definition of success: a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity. Ok, this one way to look at it. A lot of people say, well if you’re not making money at it, you’re not successful. My accountant, or should I say my ex-accountant would say that. If you’re not making money it is considered a hobby. But hold on a second Tex, I’m in the black here. Ok, it’s not breaking the bank, but we’re running a profit kid. If you’re doing something purely to make money, IMHO, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Money is necessary to survive, but being an artist (any DJ or musician is just that) is no guarantee that the money will flow. In fact, sometimes it flows and sometimes it doesn’t. You could, and this is a true story, be playing the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles one night, and the next weekend playing a strip mall in Alliance, Ohio at a place called, wait for it, Mango’s the next. Not just playing it, but playing it in some balcony that was stuffed with volley ball equipment where you had to move to even get your turntables in. Yeah you can say, well, it’s your booker’s fault, or even your own fault, but what I am saying, is money isn’t guaranteed. But even after all of the ups and downs touring extensively, playing for 5000+ people or 5, finally I feel successful. I feel like I’m making a contribution here with FleaMarket Funk, impacting people on the daily with unique content, spreading positivity through mixes, live shows, lectures, consulting, and my podcast. It’s a grind, but i feel like I wouldn’t have it other way. You need to shape your own destiny, stay in your own lane (after you find it), and grind, grind, grind. It’s not always a recipe for success, so you may have to change it up to get where you want to go. And let’s not forget, sometimes the one who works the hardest isn’t the most popular, and sometimes the one who is the most popular doesn’t work the hardest. Don’t be set back by that. I am by far, not where I want to be, but i am certainly on my way. Always learning, always trying to keep busy, and most importantly, loving what I do. You can do it too. The trick is just to not give up. A life in the arts is one of the hardest ways to make a living, and success for me, is not all about how much money you’re pulling in. It is about a peace of mind, a satisfaction, and a love for what you do. How do you define success in your life? I’d love to hear it in the comments or through social media.