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Biz Martinez: The Business of DJ Bookings

-This interview was originally done in 2012. It's a classic, so we decided to repost it.-

As the music director and talent buyer at one of the hottest clubs in Miami, Biz Martinez has become an influential presence on the dance music scene. We asked him about his booking strategy, and what he looks for in up-and-coming DJs.

Every week, the DJ lineup at LIVMiami is one of the best in the country. How do you coordinate your DJ schedule?

Biz: Each night has an identity or a sound. We start by programming to fit the identity of the target audience for each night, so the nights contrast with each other as much as possible.

Tell us about the DJ booking process. What are you looking for?

Biz: Besides the obvious industry giants, I usually look for fresh and of-the-moment talent that we can introduce and help grow. This involves knowing who’s about to surface in the dance world and/or pop culture. The booking process is simple: the two fundamental intro steps are finding out who represents the artist, and when the artist will be available. Being the first club to make a formal offer on a future star is key.

A-list DJs aren’t easy to get in competitive markets like Miami, New York, and Vegas. A great venue and deep pockets are just as important as having a solid relationship with the talent agents and management.

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Some of the booking fees for artists who play at LIV exceed $20,000 a night. From a business standpoint, how can LIV afford so much for a great DJ? Does table service really earn that much money?

Biz: If you’re looking to book talent near or above $20K in Miami, volume is everything. Table service allows us to take in big profits, ensuring us a return on our investment. Our club and organization are designed for high volume based on per-head spending.

You have several resident DJs who play every week. How did they get the gig?

Biz: Some resident DJs like Ross One have been with us since year one. He’s our most versatile DJ and usually plays our indie dance/hip-hop nights. Mednas is our go-to house music guy. He has an understanding and knowledge of how to warm up a room and play alongside the big names. Both these guys are talented enough to headline their own nights, but they also know the importance of playing their roles alongside special guests. On top of that, they’re human music encyclopedias in their respective genres.

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What are the key factors an up-and-coming DJ should focus on to get booked?

Biz: Get out, network, and see and hear what’s hot—but also get in the studio and make music. Guys like Calvin Harris and Avicii have acquired large followings because they produce big records and play a lot of their own music, from remixes to originals to edits. That’s what makes them special, and that’s what gets them gigs. Eat, sleep, and breathe music.

What’s your advice for someone who is new to Miami and wants to get established as a local DJ?

Biz: Again, get out and network. Get your music in the right hands and get noticed. Promote and market yourself or find someone to help you. Once you land the gig, make sure you deliver and build from there. Be patient, learn how to take criticism, gather experience, and evolve. Chances are, as incredible as your mom says you are, you ain’t no genius.

Do you ever get a phone call from a top DJ’s agent saying, “We’ll be in Miami in three months. Do you have a gig available?” Is that common practice?

Biz: Sure, but it only happens after you’ve established yourself as a player in your market, built a relationship, and earned their trust. It’s an agent’s job to make the artist money and make the artist desirable, but also to ensure the artist is in good hands.

LIV has a successful hip-hop night on Sundays. Do the same rules of DJing apply to hip-hop and house?

Biz: I gotta give it to the hip-hop guys. Those dudes drop three times the amount of records most house guys drop. While house guys seamlessly weave their way through tracks, hip-hop guys slice records in and out every 45 to 90 seconds. Much respect!