“The path of least resistance is a terrible teacher.”
Mick Batyske (who performs as MICK) walks a tightrope between entertainer and entrepreneur. His deejay gigs helped pay for his marketing MBA and subsequent classes at Harvard Business School. The Ohio native used his marketing skills to create his big break with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers just as LeBron James was drafted. He swears that first job with the Cavs wasn’t earned with his musical playlists, but rather the killer pitch deck he created.
Early in his career a top entertainment management firm refused to represent him. He used that as motivation and has been self-managing his career ever since. He claims to enjoy the sales and marketing process – the art of getting the deal – as much as his live (and now virtual) performances and brand marketing/influencer projects.
He has won some impressive gigs, playing music for entertainers like Jay Z, Prince, Will Smith and LeBron James. He deejayed events for Michelle Obama and top venture capital firms and executives like Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz. He has leveraged some of those relationships with tech and VC firms into deal flow and investment opportunities.
When COVID-19 put his live entertainment business on hold – he was sure he’d lose an entire year of revenue. Being a follower of Stoic philosophy, Mick searched for what he could control while dealing with so many uncontrollable obstacles. He realized it was time to refine and redevelop his business and outlined three new initiatives that’s worth sharing with others.
1) Create Multiple Digital Offerings To Connect (And Monetize) Your Fans If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you may have thought about this already. Especially during the pandemic, change the way you provide value to your customers or risk not being in business post-pandemic.
Restaurants need to enhance and upgrade their POS and digital delivery systems. Retail businesses must compete with Amazon’s fast shipping and easy digital interfaces… and the same is true for entertainers. Like many deejays, MICK enjoys going “live” on Instagram to perform for fans. He’s intentionally engaging more with a bigger community. He takes time to be more accessible, replying to more fans, jumping in on more chats, and even gifting people with surprise playlists. The key is to do more than before and keep engaging consistently.
There is a concern that these free shows may have a downside when business returns. Will clients pay premium rates for things offered gratis to the general public now? Brands usually want custom and unique experiences in exchange for those big fees.
Mick knows the risks and as one of the first deejays to maximize private events on Zoom and other online platforms, he expects clients will remember to work with him when in real life gigs return. He brings joy to fans (and is growing his fan base) by doing big events for Verizon, Amazon, Gary Vaynerchuk’s One37PM and others. He’s working with lifestyle brands (spirits, fashion) and private events for clients as far away as Hong Kong.
So helping fans and business partners are the priorities in his digital world right now. Beyond entertainment, his marketing and branding expertise is coming in handy too. It is something he’s passionate about, and speaks on regularly – offering free marketing advice and answering emails and direct messages. He’s now working on a bigger video-based branding and marketing tutorial to help upskill others during the pandemic. He’s doing it to fill a need and knows it may offset some other revenue losses.
Orbis Influencer Summit speech
2) People Want To Feel Good And That Needs To Be Your Top Job
Entertainment is a fun break. The world needs “happy” stories during this crisis and people are drawn to brands that make them feel good. Mick offers an insider’s trick: “I’ve found that my best online performances and engagement have happened when I remove some of the stigma of being an “artist” and started thinking more as the consumer.”
His reputation includes being the deejay who educates fans musically while still entertaining. But right now, providing good vibes beats educating while he’s performing.
“My audience wants to take their mind off of viruses and PPP loans and work from home stresses,” he offered. “I now focus on fun and nostalgia. I play sets that make you want to get up in your living room and dance. I play songs that make you want to go into your backyard and grill.”
He knows many people are spending an unusual amount of time with their families and is structuring musical experiences to bridge generations together. He notices the trend in many places besides his sets, like The Last Dance on ESPN and even fashion (as people find new ways to wear old clothes, as shopping and income are both limited).
3) Use This Time To Strengthen Your Brand
The list of challenges for businesses is long. Reduced sales, need for more space, supply chain issues, work from home, health and wellness of your customers and so on and so on… You can’t control a lot of the pressures the pandemic is causing. What can you do that’s different?
Are you thinking about being better positioned post pandemic? Who do you want to be and why aren’t you there? And is your brand helping you tell this new story?
People need familiarity and good memories now more than ever (see above) but you can tweak your business positioning. Mick recommends adjusting “the inches, not the miles.”
“I like to think of branding (or re-branding) as a long casual drive on a Sunday afternoon. You ultimately arrive at your destination hours later and don’t remember how you even got there. You made small turns, course corrected for traffic, adjusted your speed, and even stopped when you had to… and ultimately ended up somewhere different than where you started.”
It’s the small adjustments that aggregate and compound over time that can make the most change. Mick updated his logo with subtle tweaks, and focuses his large Instagram presence weighted more to attract live fans. He used to focus that social strategy equally split between hi DJ performances, being an entrepreneur, being an influencer and being a father.
Again, the online gigs have taken more time and focus recently as people need more entertainment. Mick finds ways to creatively inform them of when and where he will be digitally performing. More, he’s organizing other entertainers to do more for the community and causes relevant in these troubling times. #mix4change was a one week effort asking deejays to give an hour of their time and have their audiences donate directly to ACLU (and other human rights organizations) that generated over $30,000. That’s taking control when so much is out of your control.
Nobody wants to think about losing a year of revenue never mind actually face the probability. The three strategies Mick shared is helping him win during these times and the biggest take away for success: whatever happens focus on what you can do – not dwell on what you can’t. Challenge creates more than opportunities, when viewed correctly challenges can offer quite an education.