Many of us probably look at our favorite superstar DJs and see someone who must be living the dream. International shows, legions of fans, rubbing shoulders with VIPs, it appears to be a very glamorous life. However, many people don’t realize the hard work and countless hours put in behind the scenes to build up a brand. What if you had that lifestyle and it just wasn’t for you? That is the case with Matt Goldman, who left behind a semi-successful DJing career to work behind the scenes where he currently does A&R and product management at Tiësto’s Musical Freedom Records and artist management at Red Light Management.
“My entire family is in the business/finance world, so that’s the path I went down at first. I majored in that, and then I fell into the whole music thing just by coincidence more than anything. I was DJing in college as a hobby with a buddy of mine and that was it. Once I graduated I went on a whim and was like, I want to try and pursue this DJing thing for a little bit. I turned down a couple of job offers, for better or for worse. That’s how I got into it.”
Although it was on a whim, Matt found himself DJing some of the biggest clubs in the DC area (near Maryland where he went to college) and opening up for some of the biggest names in the business. Matt began touring the world with the likes of Tiësto and Alesso and even played Electric Zoo in 2014. However, Matt took a look around, and realized that for him as a DJ/producer, this was probably the plateau he was going to reach. Despite all of the perks that come with being a travelling DJ, Matt knew that life had something else in store for him.
“I did it for like 4.5-5 years. It started as just DJing fraternity parties and bars in the DC area, which was close to the University of Maryland where I went to college. I became a resident at Glow in DC, which eventually evolved into Echostage and Soundcheck, and then HQ Beach Club in Atlantic City a year or two later. That was the foundation for what I was doing and I was able to play direct support for a lot of the big guys they had coming in. That was a good way for me to establish relationships with them and I was able to send them my music when I started producing. So, through that, I had met some of my favorite artists.
In 2011 and 2012 I toured with Avicii for a while for some of his bigger dates, including Radio City Music Hall, and then multiple support dates with Tiësto, which is ironic and awesome that I ended up working for him. Probably the biggest thing after that was with Alesso. I did basically his whole Uprising Tour with him in 2013 and 2014. That was it; I realized it wasn’t really for me anymore. It was awesome, obviously. I had some incredible experiences, but I knew it was not ultimately what I wanted to do for the next 15, 20, 30 years.”
Despite his passion for music, Matt wanted something different out of life. The life of a superstar DJ, or any celebrity, can be glamorous, but it is not a normal lifestyle and it takes a certain type of person to be successful at it. For Matt, he realized that was not the lifestyle that he wanted long-term. That doesn’t mean that Matt was ready to leave the music industry, however. Armed with his finance degree and background, Matt sought a place on the management and label side of things, where all of the trade tricks he learned through years of touring and DJing have proved invaluable in his more conventional career.
“Obviously touring has plenty of fun, amazing life experiences – traveling to places you wouldn’t otherwise see, playing for thousands of people, etc. But, you also have to want that life; it’s not a normal way of going about things. It really grinds you down…it’s not easy traveling like that, which I knew wasn’t for me. I came to the reality that it’s becoming more and more competitive to really be successful at this in the long term…it came time to be realistic about my career choice.”
Although he’s left the touring life behind, Matt loves his current role on the business side. Especially in his work at Musical Freedom where he gets to follow the example of his former DJ colleague and mentor, Tiësto. As Matt points out, many artists and labels have been accused of catering to trends over the years. There is no arguing with Musical Freedom’s track record of success and the star power of their releases.
“I think one of the cool things about working with Tiësto is that he has this knack for finding young guys with new sounds and then he breaks/champions them before other people. So that’s a huge thing for us, trying to stay ahead of the curve, working with the most exciting and right people. That’s becoming harder and harder to do. It’s always been hard, but that’s kind of our M.O. – trying to follow Tiësto’s lead in staying ahead of the curve.”
For lots of millenials out there, we have no idea what we want to do. We’re just going to college because that’s what we’re supposed to do and we don’t want to upset our parents. A lot of times people graduate and don’t work in the field they went to school for. However, as Matt points out, the skills you learn in college will be beneficial no matter where you go. You may not hit a career right on the head the first time out, but don’t fret, you’ll learn something along the way and take it to the next step. The well-lit path is not always the best for everyone. Some people prefer to take a back road with less flashing bulbs and cameras, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you’re satisfied.
“What I found is…even if I went to school for finance and have these skills that I thought I could only use in one sector of the world, I was able to apply a lot of those things to what I am doing now. I think that what helped me the most was approaching DJing as a business, rather than as just a hobby. However, finance and marketing were also things that I always enjoyed. Even when I knew that DJing time was up, that’s what gave me the passion to make a left turn with my life rather than a full 180. It was a much easier transition. Different lane, but part of the same journey.”