Live streaming is a typical thing today, and there are many platforms where you can utilize it. In this episode, Bree Noble talks with Amani Roberts on how you could elevate your resources in the music industry through live streaming. Amani is a DJ, producer, professor, and author based in Los Angeles, California. Amani started streaming around the first quarter of 2020 and was able to reap the benefits. He built a community, sold merchandise, received donations or tips, and had people subscribe on said platforms to receive a portion of the revenue. Find out how he did all of that and how live streaming widened his influence and popularity. Plus, learn some tips and tricks to make live streaming fun. Join Amani in this conversation and discover why you should consider live streaming in your business and gain fans!
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Elevating Your Resources In The Music Industry Through Live Streaming With Amani Roberts
I am excited to be here with Amani Roberts. We’re going to be talking about the power of livestreaming and how it can amplify what you’re already doing, get you in front of new audiences and generate those super fans. We’re also going to be talking about his experience as a DJ and writing books that are helpful for the music industry. He is a professor, all kinds of cool things but let me let him tell you a little bit about his background to start us off.
First of all, thank you very much for having me, Bree. I’m very excited to be here with you and your community. My background, I grew up in the Washington, DC area. I went to Howard University. I grew up working in Marriott Hotels for almost twenty years. I began to be a DJ full-time at the same time. I’ve been a DJ and a music producer for several years. I’m active in livestreaming. I do a lot of work on Twitch. I’m a professor and co-director at Cal State University Fullerton. I’ve written one book and have a second book that’s in progress. That’s a quick background about me.
That’s a lot of things. As a musician, I always encourage people to stack those income streams. You’ve got your professor job. You’re writing books that take a while and doing other things. With the livestreaming, how did you get started with that?
I usually do a podcast and I interview people in person. We couldn’t do that starting in March 2020 so I wanted to continue that so I started livestreaming. At first, I was doing a livestream of my podcasts on Facebook, Twitch and Twitter. I also began to see other DJs were all livestreaming and trying out things on Facebook and Instagram. We would get cut off due to all the licensing issues and everything like that being cut off.
Twitch was a godsend for us because they do have a public performance license. We can perform live and not get cut off. The video and the recordings get muted out because of the restrictions but at least we can DJ a set for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours, not get interrupted, start to build a community there. That began around April or May of 2020. It was ironic because, in the class that I teach at Fullerton, we covered Twitch and livestreaming. I was all in it, learning on the fly, as we say.Use what you have just to get started. Click To Tweet
I’m impressed that you’ve covered that in your class. I know I got to speak to some of your students. I love that you are covering these topics. Most schools still aren’t doing that. Some of them are trying to get into digital marketing, online social media and all of that stuff. I think some of them are still in the dark ages or they’re focused only on the performance side.
My experience, granted, this was back in the ‘90s but coming out of school, I came out an incredible musician with so many skills. My music theory was like top-notch, all of that, my performing but I had no clue about the business stuff. They taught us not a single thing but I know at Fullerton, you have a music business club, classes and things like that. I definitely want to commend you on that.
Thank you. We want to focus on closing the knowledge gap as you spoke between independent or new musicians. They don’t know everything like record label executives know or people in that field but I feel it’s important for anyone to know how the royalties work, streaming. We even cover NFTs, which popped up in 2020 and were big for musicians. We don’t know if it’s a scam or if it’s true. We talk about that. We talk about the waterfall strategy, anything new I’ll add into the class so that we can be on the cutting edge and knowledgeable. We can then advise other musicians.
Our students will have up-and-coming musicians as their clients. We need to keep them on the cutting edge in terms of knowledge, information and strategies. That’s important for us at Fullerton. We do a good job of that. I’m trying to get an intro to music business class added. That’s something I’m passionate about too at the school.
I also love that you were experimenting with the stuff as you were teaching it. I think one of the best ways is to have that personal experience, test things out and be able to share that with your students. When you were doing that with Twitch, what were some of the first things that you discovered that you started telling your students, “This is why this is going to be helpful for you?”
There are probably three things I discovered right off the bat. The first thing was you don’t need to go out and buy all sorts of different equipment. Use what you have to get started. I think 50% to 70% of people look at livestreaming and they don’t get started because they’re scared. Either they feel like they don’t have the equipment. They feel that no one’s going to tune into their livestream or that they will start it and no one will show up so it’ll be a waste. I think that’s the wrong perspective. I think you have to start where you are, build a community. If you have 1, 2, 3 or 5 people in your stream then build from that.
Finally, I completely underestimated the power and value of merch. People will buy a t-shirt from you, a mug, a key chain. If you set up a quick little merch shop and you’re streaming on Twitch or online and you offer that, people who like you will buy it. We have the old Kevin Kelly rule. It’s like you only need 100 true fans. You get 1,000 true fans. That is definitely reachable within a streaming platform. I grew my platform from one person following me to now. I have almost 5,000 people that follow. I was finally able to achieve partner status on Twitch after a long road. If you put the work in, it can be some definite benefits.
Let’s talk about merch. What do you find is the best way to offer it on livestream? Do you set it up on your website and send them there? Do you try to keep them within the platform? Does Twitch have the ability to sell things directly?
You can set up different little bots within your stream where they’ll pop up and say, “If you’re looking for merch, click here.” It’ll take them to the shop right away. You can show your merch on the screen. You can have little pop-ups about merch. You can wear it. When you’re wearing it on stream, people are like, “I love that shirt.” That’s the easiest way. You can do giveaways. I did raffles for a portion of giveaway merch. It’s like a slow and steady income but it builds up. Anyone can buy your merch and people can discover you. It’s not like it’s going to give you a substantial amount of money right away. I love how you said about stacking your income streams. It’s something little that’s dripping here and there, brings in things. In one month, you could get a lot of money. You could get half of that but it works. It’s effective. I completely underestimated that before I even started.
What about tips? Do you also take tips as well? We want to make as much income as possible. I know you’re going live three days a week?
Yeah. You can do donations or tips, which is outside of Twitch’s ecosystem. You can also do something like bits, which is within Twitch’s ecosystem. People can give you bits, which is virtual tipping. People can subscribe. You get a portion of that revenue. I get probably the majority of my revenue through the virtual bits that they do within Twitch’s system, subscription revenue and donations. You can absolutely get donations. People would love to send you the revenue directly to your cash apps like PayPal and Venmo.
Once you build a nice following of 50, 70 people and you consistently stream, that’s going to add up. Plus, you’re creating a portfolio of your business live, in person. I’ve had clients watch me on Twitch and I wasn’t aware. When they hired me, they said, “I found you on Twitch. I was watching your stream for many weeks. We love what you’re doing. We wanted to hire you.” It’s real. It happens.
For musicians who aren’t DJs, they can get bookings from people finding them on somewhere like Twitch.
You can livestream on Twitch or YouTube. Those are probably the two most popular and effective. People will hire you to do in-person gigs, even virtual gigs. I’ve gotten lots of virtual gigs too. People will look and say, “We want to hire Amani. He’s streaming this day. Take a look at him for 15 and 30 minutes.” They’ll see what’s going on. It’s like, “I like it. Let’s book him.” It happens consistently.
We’ve already counted at least three income streams here from the livestreaming. What are the subscriptions all about?
I’ll speak specifically to Twitch, where I spend the majority of my time. There are three subscription levels. You have Tier 1, which is $5 a month, Tier 2, which is $10 a month. Tier 3 is $25 a month. People will subscribe to you, which means they get special little emotes, which are personalized emojis. You get half of that revenue. You get $2.50 for Tier 1. You get $5 for Tier 2 and $12.50 for Tier 3. If you advance and become a partner, which is one of Twitch’s exclusive status levels, once you reach a certain threshold of requirements, you can get 70% of the Tier 3 revenue. That’s the split. The split goes up. That’s subscription revenue. That’s your base.
The best thing to do is get people to subscribe to your channel on a monthly basis. You get half of that. That’s a good base amount of revenue. They also have a system in place where people can gift subs. If you’re watching my stream or we’re watching a friend of your stream, I can gift you a sub to their channel, which means I’m going to treat you to a sub to their channel for one month. You’ll get revenue to gifting subs, regular subs and the people can also sub one channel per month via Amazon Prime. You get 50% of that revenue.
I didn’t know that about Amazon Prime.
It’s because Amazon owns Twitch.Try it out. Don't give up. Stick with it and network. Click To Tweet
How long ago did they buy Twitch?
I think that was a few years ago. They’re very present there. That’s a fact.
That’s another income stream. We’ve got four now. With the partner thing, do you have to say that you’re going to go live on Twitch if you are a partner exclusively?
Once you get the partner status, you can only livestream on one platform. What I do is I’ll stream deejaying. I have game shows. I’ll stream on Twitch. After 24 hours, I’ll put up the stream on YouTube. Go back and forth with Twitch and YouTube. You stream live on Twitch, download it then you wait the next day and upload it on YouTube. That’s what YouTube is good for, in my opinion. The livestream on YouTube is not there yet. They’re quickly adding some more features to compete with Twitch but YouTube is for the repository. People can go and look at it after the stream. That’s the process I follow.
Have you done anything with, say, Facebook Live or Instagram Live? Do you feel like these other two that you’ve been talking about are more the forerunners?
I have a talk show 2 or 3 times a month. I will stream that live to Facebook Live. Instagram Live doesn’t work well with my audience, making sure it works with the camera and everything. It doesn’t work the best. I’m still investigating different ways to use that. I will do Facebook Live for the talk show. We also will do a premiere. If I do a premiere of a game show, I might do it to Facebook Live also but I try to stick to Twitch first then YouTube after. It’s where I’m going.
Do you have any tech stack? Are you going direct or using something like OBS or StreamYard or something in between to add titles and things like that and make the tech part easier?
I use both. For the talk show, I’ll go StreamYard to Twitch right there. I have like overlays and all of that. We have sound effects, all sorts of crazy things. For deejaying and some other interactive shows, I use OBS. Remember, I’m learning all these platforms from scratch. I didn’t know anything. To be honest, I was afraid of OBS because it’s quite daunting.
Me too, I’ve looked at it and I’m like, “This is too many dials and things for me.”
It is. I had a friend of mine, DJ Ivy. She said, “You need to use OBS because your sound quality would improve more than when it’s on StreamYard,” where the sound, specifically when you’re deejaying, is not the best. She gave me a quick 90-minute crash course on OBS. I jumped in and I’ve been learning about it ever since. For the game shows, we are doing some interactive and cool game shows. We use a combination of OBS, Twitch, Zoom and OBS Ninja.
We use all these different platforms because I have someone helping me with those. The way it looks, it’s like a real game show. You have people in the little boxes playing and the noise and sound effects. I’ve advanced very quickly. It’s an intense college program at the university of livestreaming but I’ve come a long way in several months.
It sounds like you could teach a whole class on it now.
It’s getting to that point. It’s funny you say that. I feel that it’s worth it because I don’t think it’s going away. I think this is a new way of live interactive TV, similar to Netflix. I forget the name of the show they have but they have an adventure show on Netflix, which is interacting with the audience, which is popular. This is the future and people will clamor for this moving forward.
It makes me want to check out the game show because I’m super competitive. Give our readers a little bit of information on what the game show is and how they can find it.
In the game shows, what we do now is we have probably about 4 or 5 game shows that we play on a weekly basis. Usually, Wednesday is game night and every other Monday, we’ll have games too. I’ll do Name That Tune. We’ll do Family Feud. We’ll do our version of Hollywood Squares and The Masked Singer. We call it Who Is That Voice? We’re premiering Wheel of Fortune. In the past, we’ve also done a Dating Game. We’ve done a Newlywed Game. We’ve done Survivor. We have all these games that we can do and people like the switch. They like to interact. They like to play along in the chat.
We had Hollywood Squares. We ask questions and people answer the chat. I noticed that people like that. I’d like to compete. Like you, you’re very competitive. They want to get the answers. Maybe they’re Googling at the same time but we go along quick enough. They can’t do that too much but it’s fun. People engage. I can bring different communities together. If you’re streaming, I can have you at the contestant. All your community will come and support, bring other community support. It helps networking to grow the audience and it’s something different.
Are you doing that as a separate thing because it’s fun or are you tying that into your deejaying audience? How does that fit into the ecosystem of income for you?
I’m glad you asked that. I did it at first to see if I could do it. Remind me to tell you, we also did the award show, which was a major endeavor, which follows this theme. I did it first to see if I could do it. When I saw how successful it was, I realized that I could also pitch this to my corporate clients. I can tell a corporate client, “I can DJ a reception for you. That’s easy. We can do that every day.” If you have a break and instead of letting people walk away from the conference or if it’s a virtual conference, instead of having people, “Let me log off and go for a walk,” we can host a quick little game show. It can be a Match Game. That’s another game show.
We do the Match Game. The one that tells us about Alec Baldwin. We can do Family Feud. Something that will allow the audience and the corporate executives to participate, to show that they’re more human. A lot of times, when you go to conferences, you see people up on stage and talking. They are so far away that they look a little disconnected. If you do a game show as a break, it’s fun. It lets people get to know each other and it’s memorable. I’ve been pitching it to corporate clients and have gotten some interest. That’s down using what we’re doing on Twitch as like a portfolio. This is what we can do and offer your clients.
If you’ve already got a corporate client that you’re doing something for, why not give them more things that they can add on, pay you for and get more per customer?
The goal is to use the customers. You have to offer more options for them to spend money with you basically.
If I were at a retreat or something, I would love to have that as a break instead of sitting around or whatever. That would be super fun. I would want to be showing off to my peers that I could Name That Tune or whatever it is. That’d be fun.
When we do Name That Tune, we also have the lyrics. You could hear it. Round two is the lyrics. Keep that in mind when you’re preparing.Business growth in the music industry is real. It really happens. Click To Tweet
I think I’m better at the Name That Tune part but I’ll have to try it out and see. Let’s talk about the award show.
I give credit to my girlfriend. She mentioned this to me. She said, “We see all these streamers doing great work for people who are locked at home, starting in March, April 2020,” because music can save lives. Music can be very therapeutic. There are many DJs across the world that were deejaying on Twitch, on live from March, April 2020 through now. I didn’t see it for myself. I couldn’t get my head around it. I didn’t think it was possible. Once I did the Dating Game and show I could pull that off through StreamYard, I did a couple of shows, said, “It can maybe work.” We talked about it again. I said, “Now’s the time. A whole year has passed. People built up about a year’s worth of audience and work.”
We did this award show called the Twitch TV Awards. We had 25 categories. We had a call for nominations. The public could vote and put in nominations. We then had a committee of people pick five streamers from each category. We had a nomination show. We had a nomination show live on Twitch. We stream that with the co-host and all that like they did in the Grammys. Our model was the Grammys. We model everything after the Grammys. We have a committee. We had open voting after the nomination show for three weeks and then we had the award show. Once again, I can take this exact program and pitch it to a client because we can follow the exact same procedure.
We have awards. We have a poster with the awards on it. We created special emotes. We did a whole award show with voiceover work and graphics. We did everything. We had the award show. It’s very successful. People from around the world were tuned in. It’s ironic. We had it at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. We had several people win awards that were in the UK and Italy. They were logged on at 2:00 AM their time to give their acceptance speech. It was the coolest thing. There are things we can improve but it was good.
To go back to my students, I also teach a project management class. I used this award show as a case study for us to go through as I went through the whole process. They could follow along and see what the plan was. That’s the award show. We’ll do it again. Lots of learning but it’s a great case study because now I can pitch this to clients too.
You’re building all kinds of income options here with trying out these new things and like, “Now I’ve done this. I can pitch it to clients. I can explain to them why it’s cool and why they would want to do it.” Is there anything else that we haven’t discussed on the livestreaming? I feel like you gave them a good masterclass about why they would want to get livestreaming or, if they are already livestreaming, why they might want to consider Twitch for doing their livestreaming because there are all of those income options that are built-in.
I think the only thing to add is more like a mental mindset. Try it out. Don’t be discouraged if there are 2 or 3 people in your stream. Share it with people, network with other streamers, almost spend more time in other people’s streams than you do streaming yourself. I think that’s one thing that’s missed and don’t be afraid to network and work with smaller streamers. I started as a small streamer. It has taken me a year and a half to grow. I got to partner status.
This was after applying for it five times and getting declined. I got accepted the sixth time. You have to stick with it and have some resilience. I feel that Twitch is another platform. If you’re going to be on Instagram and promote your services, what you do, if you hit me on Facebook or Twitter, you absolutely should be livestreaming, especially in the music industry. There are some of my favorite musicians that I’ve discovered, like Jane Reel. She’ll sit there, open her lunch, eat her lunch. She’ll sing a couple of songs, take requests. She’ll show the process of how she writes music and people love that. They love to see that.
There are also music producers on there that do phenomenal things. Illmind, the producer, Bus creates Flipside. They all are showing their process. Kenny Beats and that’s what people are looking for. They want to learn. They want to see how you do it. They want to get closer. This allows for one-on-one or 1-to-100 interaction. My main message is to try it out, don’t give up, stick with it and network.
You make a good point because that’s the same thing that you need to do in any situation where you’re new. If you’re trying a new social media platform, go into other people’s streams or other people’s feeds, interact and make connections because at first, you’re not going to have a lot of people commenting on your stuff. You’ve got to put yourself out there and bring people over by them, seeing that you add value. You know that you’re interesting.
Be authentic and good things will happen. Be patient too, which is hard.
Let’s talk a little bit about deejaying because I know that you’ve written a book about deejaying. I’m assuming you teach becoming a DJ as a business. Those of us who are musicians, I have no experience in deejaying but I love music and I’m a podcaster. I ran an online radio station. I was like the mixed tape queen when I was a kid. I have some musician friends that have gone this direction and it could completely be another income stream. Maybe talk a little bit about how you can figure out if that’s the right direction to go.
In terms of deejaying, if you have the equipment and have the desire to learn, it can be very fruitful financially and also personally like deejaying and playing music for me. Seeing when you play a song and people are singing along and then you drop the vibe and people are still singing along. That’s a warm feeling there that is hard to duplicate. If you have the ability and desire to learn, it can be very beneficial. It comes back to like networking. I would not be where I am as a DJ without networking.
A good example would be I was deejaying in front of about 4,000 people, downtown LA at X-Box Plaza for a client that I acquired through networking. I’m a part of a couple of professional associations like Meeting Professionals International. I’m also ASCAP. The musical one is what I’m a part of. For meeting people and working with them back and forth someone came to me and said, “I’m having an event a LA. I know you through MPI. Can you DJ this date?” I said, “Yes.” It worked out.
I got my start deejaying in clubs through another DJ colleague who wanted me to come and open up for them, which is very so much in the music industry where I played from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM. He took over from 11:00 PM to 1:30 AM. There are different ways to get into it. I also attended Scratch Academy so I could learn all the fundamentals of deejaying and build a strong foundation. That set me up because I know how to DJ. I can scratch, blend, juggle, mix, programming, all of that. I could do all those things.
I wouldn’t have learned that if I didn’t go to Scratch Academy but because I went to that school twice, once for deejaying and once for music production, I was able to build a strong community of people around me that refer me. I can learn with. I can talk to them when I have tough times. I think you add all that up. If you want to be a DJ, it’s possible. You have to put the work in.
You put in the work and found the training that you needed and that allowed you to connect with the people that ended up being connections for you down the road. That’s true of anything that we want to learn in music or life. I don’t have a lot of experience with the deejaying as livestreaming. I know this is a big thing now because I have friends that do it but I don’t quite understand it. I get deejaying live. That’s fun and exciting for the people that are at the event. Why do people tune into DJ livestreams?It takes a lot of work to be a group and be consistent over a long amount of time. Click To Tweet
They tune into DJs livestreaming for the DJ, the people they’re going to see in the chat and the music they could be exposed to. Deejaying and livestreaming are not easy. If you’re regularly deejaying out at a club, bar or party, you have to play to the crowd but you can see the crowd. You have to manage to make sure your sound is okay. You have to manage the music you’re playing in the crowd. Whereas livestreaming, you got to make sure your sound is okay. You got to make sure your camera’s okay. You have to make sure that you’re marketing your stream so people will show up. You have to make sure that when people do show up, you shout them out in the chat and you continue to engage with them.
You have to create different things like emotes and channel points so that your stream is very interactive. You have to have some cool overlays. You don’t have to. There’s a DJ I know, Kevin G, who didn’t have an overlay for a long time and does phenomenal but you have to do something that catches people’s eye on the screens that they stay engaged. For deejaying, normally in traditional aspects, you’re quadruple tasking. I don’t know the proper word for livestream but you have to do 6 or 7 things at once consistently. It’s a lot.
You have to watch and do all sorts of things. You have moderators that will assist you in making sure the chats stay safe but you’re playing music. It’s like you’re playing your own virtual concert. People are in the chat, commenting, coming and going, cheering, putting up emotes. You can feel the energy because it’s through the chat. It’s different but it’s cool. It’s easy. It’s safe. You’re at home. You can use a green screen. I’ve acquired a green screen. I use a green screen for different graphics. It’s like your own personal show. Your stream is like your own personal venue. You’re welcoming people into your venue. You want to make sure that they feel at home and that they keep coming back.
People basically come for the community of like-minded people that like similar music. They also come for being exposed to new music that they wouldn’t necessarily get exposed to. I was comparing it to like, “Couldn’t I pull up a Spotify playlist of the music that I might like and listen to that?” I was trying to figure out how we were using the interactivity of the livestream to take that to the next level.
I think if you asked 100 DJs, 99 out of 100 would say the reason they love to stream is that they could play whatever they want for however long they want. When we’re out in the field, we are restricted on playing what the promoter or the club owner, the club manager wants us to play or our clients want us to play. Whereas when you’re livestreaming on Twitch or whatever platform, you can play whatever you want and the people are there for it. You can hear rare cuts. You have vinyl DJs. I could play freestyle music, salsa. I could play go-go music from DC. You can’t play that music in a club or on a public platform for very long. You will get escorted out of the venue.
I’m a big Mariah Carey fan. As a celebration of getting a partner, I played six and a half hours of only Mariah Carey. I couldn’t do that in public. That’s the beauty of it. You can play whatever you want for however long you want. That is very therapeutic for us DJs. The people love it because they hear the rare grooves, the real tracks they would never hear out in public or on the radio. We know about how Spotify, the playlists aren’t that natural. You get paid to place and all that. This is more organic and natural, in my opinion.
I’m getting this now. This is more like comparing it to being an artist. It’s like having to play covers or certain things versus getting the opportunity to play your originals in front of people that appreciate that.
Yes. It wants you to play it again and wants to know why did you write this lyric? Why did you sing this? What’s the next song you’re going to write? Let’s write it together. That’s what it’s like.
For those interested in the deejaying part, you want to let them know a little bit about your book.
DJs Mean Business, that’s my book. We take you through the time slots of a DJ set, 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM. Every fifteen minutes, we relate it to growing a business. I’ll give you two examples. For example, at 10:00, we’re starting in the club. We’re getting to know all the patrons that are in the club or bar. We’re warming up. It’s the same thing in business. When you first start off a business, you’re trying to identify your avatar, your ideal client and who you’re looking for. We get to one of my favorite chapters, which is 11:00 PM to 11:15 is troubleshooting. As a musician in DJ world, there’s something that always goes wrong, livestream or live.
We couldn’t get signed up until five minutes before the show. Something always goes wrong. How do you keep the music going without stopping? It’s the same thing in business, maybe something’s going wrong in a business and you have to shift to sell some different services but you can never close your business and start it again. How do you make shifts or pivots? I don’t like the word pivot but how do you pivot and keep going?
It keeps going on my favorite chapter. My second favorite chapter is nostalgia. I love to play slow jams at the end of my sets because it helps people end off the night on a high note and reminisce. Maybe people are there trying to find a mate that can help them along that way but you’ll see businesses that use nostalgia. It’s the same effect. Old Spice is one of my favorites. They’ll use old music in their commercials. You can look at Adidas with Stan Smith’s shoes that are popular. Different brands use nostalgia. Super Nintendo will do things that bring back old customers but also attracts new clients. How can you use nostalgia in your business?
We take you through that and then the book is over. I have a chapter on feedback. I used to drive for Uber. After I would DJ in the clubs, I would then turn on my little Uber meter, take people home who are in the same club I was deejaying at. I’d ask them, “What’d you think of the club? What did you think of the music? Did you like it or didn’t like it?” As we end the drive, I’m like, “By the way, you know I was the DJ tonight.” That’s a fun challenge. That’s all in the book. I recorded the Audible version with a bonus. I have one of my good friends and colleagues, Melissa Majors. She interviews me after each chapter. That’ll be in the Audible version that should be out soon. That’s my book and now I’m working on the second one.
Did you ever have anyone say, “That music was horrible.”
Yes. I had this one guy who said, “The DJ didn’t play enough music to get the ladies on the dance floor.” I said, “That’s interesting. What would you have played to get them on the dance floor?” He gave me a few song suggestions. I said, “I appreciate the feedback. I was the DJ tonight. I’m going to take what you suggested. Come back in a couple of weeks and see if I’ve improved or see if I’ve done better.” He was right. I had to play certain songs he mentioned. Tanasha was one song. He said, “You got to play Tanasha. The ladies love Tanasha.” I did it and it worked. I said, “You’re right. Thank you.” If we can be open to feedback then we can truly grow. Most of the time, people are very positive but we live and learn.
I wanted to end on this because I thought this was interesting. I know you’re writing a new book about R&B groups and why there aren’t many now. It’s interesting. I watched that show. It’s This is Pop Music or something. I watched the one on Boyz II Men. I was like, “It’s true. They were huge in the ‘90s but there aren’t much around now.” Why do you think that is?
There’s a lot of reasons. I think that in the late ‘90s, early 2000s, especially when the music industry was going through probably its lowest time. It took that big dip once MP3s came out and leaks happened. I think that the record labels made a decision to go after, promote and do hip hop because it’s cheaper to produce. It’s fewer members of groups to corral and more challenging. When you dig deeper into it, I feel that the recession hurt Black R&B groups more because they make their name by going to the mom-and-pop record stores, doing album signings and little shows there. We don’t have many mom-and-pop record stores anymore. That’s gone. We don’t have a record store as much anymore at all. They used to be Best Buy. Now it’s all streaming.
Let me ask you this because I know you live near it more than I do. Have you ever been to Rhino Records in Claremont? You got to go there. It’s so nostalgic to me to walk in there. It’s like a real record store.
It’s great. We need more of those. That went away so that hurt it. It’s cheaper to do that. You have the introduction of social media and YouTube got to be big and that’s a very individual thing. People can stream and do things individually on YouTube. You do the covers like Justin Bieber. He got big that way. You add that in. The final wild card, which I discovered doing research, is that if you look at the top four African-American magazines, you have Ebony, Jet, Essence and then Vibe. All four of those magazines went out of business from 2002 to 2011 or ‘12. They came back in some digital form. When you take away a total of ten million monthly subscriptions that would promote Black R&B groups consistently, that’s a huge hurdle to overcome.
You add all those factors up and it’s not financially prudent for record companies. People want to go solo first and then maybe create a group second. Look at Silk Sonic. Bruno Mars has them. That might be the new model of the future. The book is on why they’re no longer any Black R&B groups on the Billboard Hot 100 since 2004. As you spoke about that documentary, This Is Pop, Boyz II Men and TLC in the ‘90s, which is the heyday, are the only two Black R&B groups to achieve diamond status in terms of sales. No more after, no more before. That was the heyday. It’s going to take a lot to come back consistently. I’m not sure if it will happen but I love the research and interviewing people. It’s fascinating. It’s the topic for my thesis in grad school. I discovered so much information. It makes you shake your head but makes you say wow at the same time.
It’s super interesting about the shifts in the industry. There are still groups but they’re not necessarily Black R&B groups. For example, Pentatonix. They’re huge. I was thinking when you were saying that it makes more sense that people are going solo because it’s cheaper to have one member and then they can go livestream directly. They don’t have to try to figure out how to be virtual and sing together. I was like, “Yeah, that all makes sense.” Pentatonix is doing great. Why do you think that there are a few groups that are doing well even though they may not be Black R&B groups?
I think that the music public loves groups. We love groups. We love to learn about the different members, see them work together, see them in videos, dancing. It takes a lot of work to be a group and be consistent over a long amount of time. I think the way that our world is shifting is that people would rather do the work and have the benefit themselves than to put the work in to be in a group, do all the choreography, go on tour together, get along with someone for 5, 7 or 9 years. That’s a lot of work. Once you see in ways you can do it by yourself, you don’t want to go back. I think that’s the challenge. We haven’t even talked about songwriting and getting all of that revenue, which is a whole different topic.
Are you going to split it evenly, even though some of the people in the group are writing most of the songs? It does get messy.Once you see in ways you can do it by yourself, you don't want to go back to being in a group. Click To Tweet
It gets messy quickly. What you see in a way where it doesn’t have to be messy, you’re like, “I think I’m going to go do this.” It’s less stressful and easier. Groups are hard. Hopefully, we find some people that want to put the hard work in because I feel that it could be even better than going solo, in my opinion.
I’m such a pop music culture nerd. I had to talk about this. I know it has nothing to do with what we talk about on the show. I think it’s super interesting to people that are into that thing like I am. Thanks for indulging me on that. I’m looking forward to your book.
Let people know, how can they find you? How can they come to watch one of your livestreams? How can they connect with you on social media?
Social media is @AmaniExperience on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch.TV/AmaniExperience. My website is AmaniExperience.com. My streaming schedule is Sundays at 8:00 PM Pacific, 11:00 PM Eastern and then Mondays and Wednesdays at around 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific. That’s when I stream and sometimes, I do pop-ups. You can find me on Instagram, reach out. LinkedIn, it’s Amani Roberts. That’s where you can reach me. My book is on Amazon, DJs Mean Business. There will be an Audible. Reach out and I’ll always respond and chat with you.
Where do we find the game shows? I want to check that out.
Wednesday is game night. Usually, the first three Mondays of the month is also game nights. For example, we’re doing the Wheel of Fortune on Monday and then Wednesday, we have the Match Game and that’s a fun one. That’s like the show that Alec Baldwin hosts. That’s game night. Wednesdays you’ll have games every week.
It’s Amani Experience if you want to go out and check him out and watch all the cool things he does on livestreaming and how he’s monetizing multiple streams of income from one show.
I love how you say stack the income streams. I’m going to borrow that with your permission.Stack the income streams. Click To Tweet
You may borrow it. Credit me. Thank you so much. I’m glad we got together and talked about this.
You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure, Bree. Please continue to do what you’re doing. I share your work with my students. It’s very valuable. Keep it coming.
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About Amani Roberts
Amani Roberts aka DJ AmRo aka AmaniExperience is a DJ, producer, professor, and author who is based in Los Angeles, California.
You can catch me live streaming on Twitch three days a week (Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday).
I am currently getting my Masters in Music Business from Berklee College of Music (Boston) and writing my second book focused on the disappearance of Black R&B groups from the Billboard charts.