DJ Trackstar: Honest Hustle and Quality Control

Posted by Justin Boland on Jul 29, 2009 | 0 Comments


JB: What are the most useful tools you’ve found for keeping your life in the music business organized?

DJ Trackstar: My phone for allowing me to obsessively double check my e-mail, texts and missed calls for anything I need to be doing that I’m not, wherever I am…

iTunes and Serato for keeping and organizing playlists set for upcoming mixtapes as well as spinning out, plus being able to have a record in multiple crates at once—that’s the least talked about benefit to Serato I think: No need to reorganize crates for different crowds…

Google Reader for sorting through all the new music that’s released each day…I think one of my main roles as a DJ is to filter through the trillions of songs available and try to find the best of the best, and through reader I can keep track of what’s out there, what I want to listen to, and what’s good…

This is the one that makes me sound crazy, but it’s also the most important: I keep a text document on my desktop that’s about 10 pages long where I make notes for mixtape concepts, samples for beatmaking, vocal samples to scratch on choruses/intros, tracks I want to put on a mix or play out, hosting targets, marketing ideas, people to contact, books to read, movies quotes to use as interludes, and anything else I need to not forget. Obsessive I know, but I find it invaluable…

JB: How do you keep that text document organized? Do you ever print it out, or do you have a regular upkeep routine to get rid of completed tasks?

DJ Trackstar: Organized? Ha, same as my music collection—nothing makes sense, but I usually know where to find what I’m looking for. I do print it out every few days, cross things off, add things to it, and then update it before printing it out again.


JB: You’ve done a way better job than most DJ’s with getting connected nationally and leveraging the internet to do that.  What do you attribute your success to, beyond the raw talent?

DJ Trackstar: Thank you for even saying that.

First off, it all starts with the music and the presentation. If I didn’t have a professional quality project every time, I couldn’t expect artists to take me seriously. Hopefully they are already somewhat aware of me through reputation, but if not, I know that when I hand them a CD, I’m putting my best foot forward and will hopefully impress them with my product immediately.

imageHonestly the most basic part of making the connections I’ve made has been pure effort. Some people don’t reach out to artists that could help them—they don’t want to look like a fan, they are afraid of rejection, whatever. As far as rejection…it’s part of life. For every dozen e-mails or phone calls that aren’t returned, someone gets back to you with something to build off of…and if you can’t take a few setbacks to get what you want, you’re in the wrong business.

Also, I truly am a fan of all the artists I work with. I only reach out to folks I appreciate, not just because they are more well-known than I am. I find it a lot easier to approach people if I’m genuinely a fan of them. I could try and get a mixtape hosting from Lil Scrappy, but that would feel forced.

Even The Smoking Section—long before I became part of the Crew, TSS was my favorite blog. Obviously it was beneficial to me, exposure-wise, to get my stuff posted there, but mostly I just wanted to see my mixes on my favorite site. I was fortunate to fall in with TSS just before the site started to really get extra major, so luck and timing plays a big part, but since I read it every day, I also saw that it was a well-run site that had potential to do big things. That co-sign has been really valuable for a lot of reasons.

Managing relationships is the most important thing you can do in any business—I learned that from my dad. Having an instinct for what to ask for when, and who could help connect you with the people you are looking for. There is a promoter here in St Louis, Wes “Solo” Allmond, whom I watched connect with people and maintain those relationships for years, and seeing how he was able to succeed through who he knew was a really valuable experience.

I’m also really persistent. I know how it gets out here doing music—everyone’s busy, and you can’t count on always being a priority, so I stay on top of communication. You have to humble yourself and even bug folks when necessary. It’s not always that they don’t want to do what they said they’d do, sometimes there’s just so much on their plate they forget. I like to think my persistence shows folks that I’m about my business.


JB: Do you feel like St. Louis has an organized, focused movement, or do you wish there was more unity and collaboration on the city level?

DJ Trackstar: In St Louis we have some great artists that don’t fit the Nelly/Chingy mold-Rockwell Knuckles, Vandalyzm, Wafeek, Black Spade among others, I could name so many-and they do support and collaborate with each other. There is a ton of amazing music that comes out of here, and talent across the board-DJs, Producers, MCs, singers…

I don’t know if the problem is a lack of unity so much as there are just too many artists to unify. Past that, for each artist, there is a friend who calls him or herself their Manager, a Hype Man, and assorted other associates. Add in the producers and DJs on the scene and there just aren’t that many fans—not that we aren’t all still fans of hip hop and of each other, but to thrive a scene needs pure fans who don’t necessarily pledge allegiance to any certain artists careers. Crowds at shows seem to be filled with folks who are “involved” in the scene/industry. Everyone’s got an angle, trying to network or sell product as much as enjoy some music.

There are efforts to mobilize and focus, but they are hard to maintain. My dude Finsta is always trying to unify the scene through radio and live shows, and Tech Supreme just started, which is kinda like St Louis’ Fake Shore Drive. Its just hard to get folks to work together for a common cause when they all are reaching for the same unlikely goal-a career in hip hop. At some point self-preservation always seems to kick in…

JB: Do you think that “self preservation instinct” is valid? Do you think hip hop has become so oversaturated in 09 that someone else getting shine really DOES mean less shine for you?

DJ Trackstar: There are countless opportunities in the game, and we motivate ourselves differently. I think we all create our own opportunities to an extent, and personally I don’t spend much time considering who is my competition, outside of pushing myself trying to get to a point where I’m truly competing with the J. Periods, the Green Lanterns, the Mick Boogies of the world. I have faith that as long as I do MY thing, MY way, and stay consistent and make good decisions when faced with a challenge, I’ll get to where I need to go.

At the same time, I definitely understand the philosophy behind the self-preservation mindset—I was a serious distance runner in high school, and that’s ALL I did, go after the runner ahead of me, take him out, then find someone else to key on. I just don’t subscribe to that theory in my music career. No-one does quite what I do, and there are enough fans of my style of mixtapes out there for me to eat. I just have to find them, and no-one can get in the way of that except me.


JB: What are the most common mistakes artists and promoters make when they’re reaching out to you and submitting tracks?

DJ Trackstar:The first rule of marketing is always know who you are selling to…if you send me an e-mail promoting your new song “Bitch Get On That Pole”, you obviously haven’t done any research as to who you’re promoting it to. I understand that a lot of the songs that I get are automated lists of hundreds of DJs, but I get personal e-mails sent to me, asking me for spins on songs that are blatantly not within the scope of what I normally do.

Also, any phrase like “you need this in your crate”, “new smash single”, “club banger”, etc is a real annoyance. I only NEED your record if its already truly a “smash single” and “club banger”…in which case you wouldn’t have felt the need to spend $250 on a e-blast to 20,000 “tastemakers”, 19,975 of which will probably delete it immediately. Don’t tell me how to feel about the record, be polite and respectful, ask me to listen to it and I’ll make up my own mind. 

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Music by Justin Boland