Many top artists in the music industry spend years of strenuous work and time to get to where they are. Their journey almost always starts with small gigs in their hometown, before being able to take on a world tour. Long before Steve Aoki was able to close the MainStage at Tomorrowland, he found himself in a bit of a financial nightmare. Pursuing his dream in music was with a doubt fun, but ultimately, costed more than he was making.
When talking with Luc Belaire CEO Brett Berish, on “Self Made Tastes Better”, Aoki explained the difficulties with his label, Dim Mak. Aoki created Dim Mak back when he was 19, a college student at UC Santa Barbara in California. While the business was his dream to continue, it was dragging him into deep debt. Aoki himself, admitted he didn’t know how to properly manage a business but would not give up under the pressure.
“Even though we were crushing it, selling over 80,000 physical copies independently with each release, I was spending way more money than we were making.”
As time went by, Aoki was losing more money, adding to his overflowing debt. Eventually, he maxed out all 10 of his credit cards and hit $100,000 in debt, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal. Still, Aoki refused to give up the music business and continued working as opening DJ. Making on average about $50 a night, incomparable to his present day earnings. “I kept spinning, throwing more parties … Soon, $50 turned into $100, which grew to $1,000.”
After many long nights, Aoki successfully paid off his avalanche of debt, preserving his label. Overcoming this obstacle not only touch Aoki the importance of hard work but also taught him to “think outside the box” and to “never underestimate your side hustle”. Today, Aoki is one of the highest-paid DJ’s in the world, ranked 4th in 2019. His success allows him to tour around the world and even move into the food industry.
Read Steve Aoki’s full interview on ‘Self Made Tastes Better’ here!