The Chicago music business is a complex industry, in which very few can actually claim success. DJ Geno, protégé and former manager of one of the city’s best rappers, GLC, is one of the few to actually have penetrated this tough market. His credentials include being an internationally known DJ and the owner of a music consulting company. During a recent sit down with him, DJ Geno explained how he made it and what other Chicago musicians can do to boost their careers.
DJ Geno credits Nappy Boy recording artist Shawnna for giving him his first break in the industry years ago. After interning at Def Jam and Interscope, not only did he serve as her road DJ, but her manager as well. As a result of this experience, DJ Geno notes that branding is key for musicians hoping to establish a long-term career in the industry: “By branding myself as a go-getter, ready to do what it took to get the job done, Shawnna and others were ready to give me the opportunities to advance my career. All you have is your image and with so many people trying to ‘get on,’ it’s important that you stand out—in a good way,” he noted.
He also says that networking is another critical piece to breaking into the industry. According to DJ Geno, “it’s all about who you know” applies to the arts and entertainment industries just like any other.
When asked why Chicago remains a second class city, compared to the likes of New York and Los Angeles, ever-faithful to his city, DJ Geno says “Chicago is a first class city, but our mentality has to portray that. Meaning, we have to do first class business with each other. … We need to embrace each other and our resources.”
DJ Geno gives Hollywood Holt his props for being ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing and branding in the industry. “He is smart because he keeps himself relevant even if he just DJing a party. So when you think of party you think of him.” Using the web is a great way to develop a full-fledged campaign for a fraction of the price of traditional campaigns, but with similar results. DJ Geno recommends that artists to take advantage.
It’s hard to break into the industry, but not impossible. With role models like DJ Geno paving the way for up-and-coming musicians and industry professionals in Chicago, it’s now easier than ever.