Today we’d like to introduce you to Steve King.
Hi Steve, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
It’s an honor to be here, thank you! I basically started DJing just for fun out in our community pool with an iPad on a DJ app. Eventually, someone asked if I ever considered doing it for money and at first, I laughed it off… but I had always been interesting in DJing so I figured I’d give this mobile DJ thing a shot.
When I started out, I had no knowledge of how things worked so of course being an EDM fan, I imagined that my goal would be to play in a festival. I gave myself the name “3L3V8” meaning “Elevate” because one-word DJ names were “cool” and I started playing on online streaming platforms you’ve probably never heard of like Konduit, Slipmat, Grooveo, and Mixify. It was then I learned that those big names you see at the festivals are primarily producers first – they make their own music, and I just didn’t have time for that – if I wanted to stay married anyway. I found a few EDM circles and got to do some nightclub gigs playing House music, but nothing big, and definitely nothing paying. The closest I got to a festival was a 5k “Color Run” where I got paid nothing but what we joke about in the industry as “exposure”, and got my gear, myself, and my car getting covered with colored chalk dust – despite the event coordinator promising that wouldn’t happen.
Eventually, I found a site that at the time was called Gigmasters, now called The Bash, which basically takes leads from clients and sends them to their member DJs/artists. I eventually changed my name to simply “DJ Elevate” since no one understood what “3L3V8” meant and I think it turned off the mainstream crowd, and then at that point I started booking private events more regularly, oddly enough. I started out making almost nothing or DJing in return for products/services – I remember one of my first gigs I was paid in hair care products/services at a beauty salon in Fashion Valley mall. I basically brought my wife in for a shopping spree.
I remember my first corporate gig too – a Christmas party for a large company, and when I think of how ugly my setup was back then, I have to laugh and be a little embarrassed. I did land them as a regular client though where I did their Christmas party every year until COVID hit so I guess I did ok!
Fast forward through some gigs at Korean supermarkets, hookah lounges till 5am, and other assorted fun, and eventually I registered a business name, bought an Internet domain, got insured, and made some friends in the nightlife circle. Today, I do pretty well on the mobile DJ side as a part-time DJ and get to do some nightclub stuff on the side as well. I’ve performed on the USS Midway and at the Hard Rock Hotel, and a bunch of other cool spots all around San Diego and the surrounding areas. I’ve gotten to meet Coco Crisp, Narada Michael Walden, and recently did my first event for a billionaire philanthropist! You just never know what you’re going to walk into with some of these gigs and it’s very exciting!
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It definitely has not been a smooth road. The number one struggle for me has been trying to find the right balance as a husband and father of four with a full-time job to do this DJ thing. I’ve thought about quitting many times. It took some time to build up the client portfolio and start getting into the right kind of gigs and a workable routine and learn how things work between the private event business and the nightclub/bar circuit. I’m super blessed and thankful to have a Queen that’s supported me through all of it who holds down the fort when I’m away just about every weekend.
It took a while also to realize just how much it costs as a professional DJ for equipment, music, insurance, marketing, etc., and then to get to a point where I was turning a profit. And not really having a mentor meant learning many things the hard way and probably took much longer than they should have.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I provide DJ services for just about any event all around San Diego. I think I’m most known for my attention to detail and the prep work I do ahead of time for my clients’ events to ensure they get exactly what they want, and I think my perfect 5-star rating on The Bash over the years reflects that. That’s what I’m most proud of – the fact that I get calls or text messages out of the blue like, “Hey! I was at <person>’s party, and I’ve got this thing coming up, we’d love to book you!” or, “Hey remember me?? We’d love to book you again!”. I think that really speaks to delivering a great experience and frankly otherwise I wouldn’t do it, because the money is just a nice bonus. That motivation I think sets me apart from other DJs who may be in it for the wrong reasons. I also try to push myself to constantly improve on what I have to offer not just from a musical perspective but from an aesthetics perspective as well. I love to see folks walk into my area and see their faces light up like, “Wow!”
Before we let you go, we’ve got to ask if you have any advice for those who are just starting out?
Get Electro Voice Evolve 50s or a similar column array sound system!! I wish I had gotten these earlier – they’re great for small to medium gigs and super easy to transport and setup/teardown. If I started over those would be my first purchase.
Get with an entertainment group or booking site. There are fees involved but the reward will eventually exceed the cost.
Get a mentor!
Treat every personal connection like a relationship and foster it – you never know what opportunities will arise from that.
You’re likely not going to get noticed spinning from your bedroom and uploading to Soundcloud. Get out there and do gigs. Make friends, support others, take the higher road and always do the right thing for your clients. Don’t let other DJs and comparisons distract you from your goals – the only judge that matters is the dance floor and the happiness of your clients. Challenge yourself. Learn the business, learn the technology, and do what works ‘for you’ in your individual situation.
- $400 minimum
- 10% discount for repeat business
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.djelevate.us
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/djelevateus
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/djelevateus
- SoundCloud: www.soundcloud.com/djelevateus
- Other: www.thebash.com/party-dj/djelevate