Episode 151: Turning your creative passion into your job without losing the joy – with Amani Roberts of The Amani Experience

When you shift from doing something as a hobby to doing it as a job there can be a lot of associated expectations, restrictions and stress that take the joy out of what was once a passion.

Writer, teacher, DJ, and podcast host Amani Roberts explains how he’s kept his love for DJ-ing while turning it into his full-time career.

He talks about the challenges of taking a large pay cut, the benefits of having multiple streams of income and how being able to diversify is what’s kept him in the game.

Today’s guest

Amani Roberts of The Amani Experience

Website: Amani Experience

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Amani Roberts is a Washington DC-born and bred creative, graduate of Howard University, who has been a DJ since 2008.  Amani currently lives in Los Angeles, California, and is the Chief Musical Curator for his entertainment and production company, The Amani Experience.  He is also a partnered streamer on Twitch and produces four different live-streaming shows weekly.

Amani has produced remixes of numerous popular artists and hosts a weekly podcast called “The Amani Experience Podcast” where he interviews creative professionals from all over the world about why they took the leap from corporate life to the creative life.

Amani is also a professor at Cal State University – Fullerton (CSUF), teaching a variety of classes in the School of Business & Economics as well as the Co-Director for the Center for Entertainment & Hospitality Management.  Amani recently graduated from Berklee College of Music (Boston) with a Master’s in Music Business (December 2021) and was named one of Meeting Professional International’s “50 Up & Coming Event Professionals”.

Amani’s first book, “DJs Mean Business: One Night Behind The Turntables Can Spin Your Company’s Success” was released in April 2020.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [2:36] What a chief musical curator does.
  • [5:53] Where limiting thoughts about career possibilities can come from.
  • [6:55] The power of networking to create new career opportunities.
  • [10:18] How to know which jobs will help you progress in your career and the value of mentors.
  • [13:50] How Amani learned about DJ-ing and honed his skills before going full-time.
  • [15:13] How Amani knew it was time to leave his job and DJ full time.
  • [17:10] The challenges of taking the leap, leaving your job and going full-time.
  • [19:13] How friends and family responded to such a drastic career change.
  • [20:49] The amount of time it takes to build a business and make a sustainable income.
  • [22:27] The power of diversifying your income.
  • [26:53] Surprising transferable skills that help in starting a business.
  • [29:20] How the corporate and creative worlds cross over.
  • [31:24] How to stay creative and avoid disillusionment when moving from hobby to job.
  • [36:02] How Armani became a teacher and the benefits it gave him.
  • [42:58] Armani’s goals for the future of his business.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

Episode 151: Turning your creative passion into your job without losing the joy - with Amani Roberts of The Amani Experience

Jeremy Cline 0:00
You're good at it. In fact, you're not just good at it, you're really good at it. And more than that, as well as being good at it, when you do it, it's something where it just gives you such a feeling of joy and fulfilment, that you feel like you could do it forever. Unfortunately, it isn't your work. It's your hobby. It's your creative passion. And it's something which you've just never thought you'd be able to do as your day job. But what if there was a way that you could? What if there was a way that you could turn your creative hobby into the way you get paid? How could you do that so that you still retain your passion, so you don't lose the love of it when you have to do it to be paid? And how can you keep it fresh and exciting, so you continue to enjoy it? That's what we're going to talk about in this week's episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:56
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. If you want to know how you can enjoy a more satisfying and fulfilling working life, you're in the right place. When my cousin got married, she had an epic party band at her wedding. They looked like they were really enjoying themselves, and so, we all really enjoyed ourselves. But it got me thinking, they probably do pretty much the same set week in week out. How would they keep it fresh and exciting, both for themselves and the people they're there to entertain? When you've got a job that seems like it's fun and, frankly, a little bit cool, how do you maintain that when you have an audience to satisfy? That's one of the topics for discussion with my guest this week. Having held management and sales positions in the hospitality industry, Amani Roberts is now a DJ and Chief Music Curator for the Amani Experience, a company which specialises in providing music for corporate and social events. He's the author of DJ's Mean Business: One Night Behind the Turntables Can Spin Your Company's Success, and he teaches entertainment money management at Cal State University. Amani, welcome to the podcast.

Amani Roberts 2:29
Thank you very much, Jeremy. It's an honour to be here.

Jeremy Cline 2:32
So, what's the job of a Chief Musical Curator?

Amani Roberts 2:36
Yes, when we are DJs, and we are DJing events at a club, at a bar, we're consistently and constantly curating different musical experiences for each of the guests, and no two days are the same, we never play the same songs in the same order, it's highly unlikely. So, instead of you know, being the Chief Operating Officer or CEO of a business, my C-suite job for my company is Chief Musical Curator, because that is what I do at its core.

Jeremy Cline 3:07
And how would you determine what you're going to play and what order you're going to play things in?

Amani Roberts 3:13
That is all like feel, in terms of watching the crowd, seeing how they react in a certain song, certain genres of songs, and then maybe following that road for a while, and then switching it up, seeing how they react to different genres mixing in between. Of course, you will have some songs you have to play, because the clients might have specified they want to hear this type of music or these songs. And so, that's different for each different client. And so, really, it's just about reading the room, which is different every time, and it's an acquired skill, it takes lots of time and practice, and then going and following where the room is taking you.

Jeremy Cline 3:47
So, can you give me an example of, maybe you've played something, and you thought, 'This isn't working', and you've moved on to something else? Kind of what's been the feel, what's been the vibe?

Amani Roberts 3:58
Maybe I was playing like maybe some hip hop music, you know, old school hip hop, whether it'd be like Eric B. and Rakim, LL Cool J, Run DMC, and the crowd wasn't particularly moving. They were kind of on a dance floor, but they weren't like into it, like singing along, things like that. It was a very mixed crowd, African American, Latin American, white, Asian American. And then, I put on some reggaeton and Latin music, and they started to get into it pretty quickly. People love their Bad Bunny, Tay Baldwin, Anita, artists like that, and they were just feeling it, they were singing along, dancing, people were coming to the dance floor. So, that's an example where I was playing one genre, they weren't feeling it too much, so I had to switch and try something else. I tried this genre, and it worked, so we stayed in that kind of space for a while, a good 45 minutes to an hour.

Jeremy Cline 4:49
Let's dive a little bit into your backstory. What was your early career like?

Amani Roberts 4:55
So, my early professional career, I grew up working in hotels. I grew up working in hotels, Marriott International, I worked in a variety of cities in the United States, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami and Los Angeles. And I was an operations, a general manager of a hotel, then I crossed over into sales. And then, I did a lot of great work in sales. And that's kind of my early career, for the first almost 20 years. When I was in college, though, I did want to be a DJ, or I recognised the fact that I wanted to be a DJ, but I just didn't feel it was a legitimate career. I was wrong, very, very wrong. And so, it took me a while to kind of get to it and have the courage to go forward. I eventually moved up to Los Angeles and went for it, which is a whole nother story. And that has kind of led me to where I am today.

Jeremy Cline 5:48
Where did the belief that DJing wasn't a legitimate career come from?

Amani Roberts 5:53
That came from, probably like, just business, being in a business school, going to business college, it's always pounded into you, you want to get a job in the top accounting firms, the top consulting firms, and for me, it was like work for the top hotel, DJing, even parents, people didn't understand it, I didn't understand the depths of what you could do. I might've just thought it was playing at clubs, I didn't realise corporate events, didn't realise teaching people how to DJ. So, it was partly just upbringing, in terms of my youth, growing up, it was partly my limited mindset. I just didn't see it, which was my fault. But in return, the fact that I started later continues to make me very hungry and just realise how fortunate I do have it. So, that will be where the kind of mindset came from. Once I got out to Los Angeles, I was able to see just all the different opportunities and just what was possible, then my mindset shifted pretty quickly.

Jeremy Cline 6:52
What was it that got you into hospitality specifically in the first place?

Amani Roberts 6:56
Yeah, in hospitality, I think, when I was growing up, I wanted to be a chef. So, I wanted to be a chef, but then, I started cooking, and I realised that I didn't really like cooking meals for other people. I was a little bit more singular in my cooking goals. Then, hotels was interesting to me. I was in the hotel management programme at Howard University. I also would coach soccer on the side. One of the parents of the soccer team that I was coaching worked for Marriott, found out that was my major, said, 'Oh, do you want to try to work for Marriott over a summer, see if you'd like it?' One thing led to another, and that's kind of how I got into hospitality. And I stayed because I loved it.

Jeremy Cline 7:39
That's interesting, a topic which comes up time and time and time again on this podcast is the value of networking. And here, you give an example of just randomly coaching a soccer team, and there's a parent there who can help you out.

Amani Roberts 7:53
Yeah, yeah, networking has got me everywhere that I've been in my jobs, even the teaching job at Cal State Fullerton, gigs, I mean, just, you know, networking is the key. You can't do it by yourself. So, if you can have a strong network that can refer you and open you up for different opportunities, sky's the limit.

Jeremy Cline 8:15
So, looking at your career track in hospitality, it looks like there was a general upward trajectory. So, general manager, director of sales and marketing, regional director of sales and marketing, all that kind of thing. Was it a kind of inevitable track, that's the way it went, or was it something that you were particularly good at, and so, you found that you were able to progress up?

Amani Roberts 8:40
I would say it was a combination of both. I didn't do very well as a general manager at age 23, which is very young, then I proceeded on to be director of marketing at three hotels. So, that was an upward trajectory because I was skilled, and also because I raised my hand and said I wanted to do this job, and I put myself in positions where some jobs would be a stretch, so I'd have to learn on the fly I was capable, but it was going to be a little bit of a learning curve. And so, I put my self out there and said, 'Yes, I want to do this job. Yes, I want to move to this area. Yes, I want to open this hotel', and just continue to progress. And even in the final job, regional director of sales and marketing was challenging and a lot of learning. And then, eventually, it got to a point where I said, I kind of want to start to do my own thing, full time, because I was DJing on the side part time, and I wanted to go for it full time. And I could have continued at Marriott, I could have continued, the promotions would have become less frequent, because as you know, the higher you get, the more competition there is, the less jobs there are, but I could have stuck with it and gotten even more promotions and bigger jobs and move to even bigger cities, but it was just something in me that was like, you know, life is kind of too short, very cliché but true, and I want to try this out to see how I feel. Maybe I feel better. Because I was to a point where I was kind of maybe hitting a little bit of a glass ceiling, or just kind of becoming less satisfied with work. So, I said, let's see if we can kind of go full time for this and figure out how it works.

Jeremy Cline 10:14
Before we come on to that, tell me a bit more about this raising your hand for particular jobs, so how you chose which particular roles you wanted to go for, what was your selection process in thinking, 'Yeah, this one is going to help me, let's have a go at that'?

Amani Roberts 10:31
I think, early on, it was just jobs that would teach me multiple things. For example, when I was with Courtyard, I was learning sales, I was learning restaurant management and front office. Then I went to be general manager of Select-Service hotel, so I was like everything, and that was an opening hotel, so that was another new skillset, how to open hotel, how to really focus on sales, particularly extended stay sales. That was interesting. Then, I took that job and then focused on primarily sales, but in a destination city, like Miami, an exciting city, which is driven by conventions and meetings. And I did that. Then, I returned back to DC, so I was picking cities I wanted to live in, jobs that offered me a new skillset that I could either develop or gain, that was new, and then also adding in managing people, because I think that's an important skill to learn how to do. If you know how to manage people, that skillset can help you for your whole life. And then, just continuing to add on more responsibility. Once you become like a director of marketing, then you're on the executive committee of the hotel, so you're at the leadership for the entire hotel, working with ownership groups, that's a really, really important skillset, now, working with owners of hotels, management companies. Then, you get to be a regional manager, where it's multiple hotels. So, you have multiple stakeholders that you have to be responsible for, in terms of a sales team, multiple general managers of hotels who are looking to you to provide sales for their hotel, then multiple ownership groups. So, you can see how you're just stacking on top more responsibility, a wider breadth of people that are reporting to you and people that you must report out to, and you just keep building one on top of the other for that.

Jeremy Cline 12:16
Did you have a master plan when you were starting out? So, these are the skills I want to learn, and I'll do it through X number of changes of position and promotion, or was it more organic than that?

Amani Roberts 12:26
It was very, very organic. No master plan. First of all, I didn't even feel I could or want to leave Washington DC, because I grew up there, I was working there, I could have stayed, there's many hotels around that city. So, even the cities that I lived in was not part of any masterplan. I moved to several cities, Chicago, Miami, where I knew maybe one person, I knew no one. So, moving to a city where you know no one is a huge risk. So, that was not part of the plan, because you always want to be around friends and family. And so, it just really, through networking, through learning and seeing what jobs were available, also looking at different jobs of people who I admired and watching their career trajectory, I could at least kind of follow what they did in my own fashion, to get to whatever was next. But there was no master plan. It was very organic in terms of the cities, the jobs, everything, but eventually, I found my way. Yeah.

Jeremy Cline 13:22
And in terms of seeing those whose careers you admired, did you look to get any mentoring from people like that?

Amani Roberts 13:29
Yeah, there was a few, I had many mentors as I was coming up. I would seek advice from them, I would talk to them about different job opportunities, if I was having challenges with a particular job, I would seek their advice or input. So, I've always had mentors along the road of my professional life, and that's been invaluable.

Jeremy Cline 13:50
So, you mentioned that DJing was something which you'd actually started even before you went to college. What did it look like sort of on the side as you were going through your professional career? Was it just a hobby? Were you doing paid gigs? What did that look like before you made the leap to full time?

Amani Roberts 14:09
I was first learning about DJing, practising, learning. Any city I lived in, I would visit where DJs were playing and watch them. And then, when it was on the side, I would take smaller gigs, like little bars, maybe I'd do a wedding for someone, but it was really small, and I was learning, so it wasn't to the level that I'm at now. And that was how I kind of on the side started getting equipment, figuring out how to hook things up, I did some marathons, I was on the courses of marathons when I was first starting. Smaller gigs like that, that just allowed me to see what was possible, figure out what I needed to learn, get the equipment, learn how to use the equipment, practice, figure out how to collect music and make sure the music is good, and go from there.

Jeremy Cline 14:59
Talk to me more about the glass ceiling, which you said you felt like you were hitting, and what your thought process was that led you to ultimately decide to switch to DJing full time.

Amani Roberts 15:14
Yeah, when I was working at Marriott, as I was ascending at a pretty rapid pace, I could tell, and I could see that I was getting to a level of job where my peers, people who had the same job as me had been there for years, that future opportunity for promotion was significantly reduced, salary options, in terms of growing salary, continued to be limited, because you know, once you get up high enough, there's fewer promotions, those jobs are sought after, people don't leave those jobs for years, and you might have to take a step back or two, to go a different route. Maybe I was in sales, and if you want to really ascend to be a general manager, you had to get back into operations. I had no interest in that, I love sales. And so, then life events happen, and you're looking around, you're like, 'You know, tomorrow's not guaranteed, I've always wanted to be a DJ, now I'm in a city where it is possible to do a lot of things DJing. Let's first start on the side.' And then, I said, 'Okay, let's try to go full time.' And then, you go full time, and there's many learnings with that. But that was the glass ceiling, I just continued to see like, and then I wasn't particularly happy either, the job shifted from being about people, I love to work with people, helping people learn, learning from people myself, and the job shifted from working with people to being primarily meetings, spreadsheets and reports and PowerPoints on a consistent basis. And that wasn't very appealing to me, I wasn't enjoying it, I wasn't happy. And I've learned that if you're not happy, especially with work, where you spend the majority of your time, you got to try to figure out a way to make some shifts, some changes, so that you can be happy, and learn and try to put it all together. So, that's kind of the glass ceiling in my perspective and trying to get around it, and then figuring out what can I do to really push and go full time for a DJ.

Jeremy Cline 17:08
How much of a leap was it to go from the part-time DJing that you were already doing to the full-time DJing?

Amani Roberts 17:17
It was a tremendous leap, very big. I had to take over 65 or 70% pay cut, which I do not recommend for people to do. It was very humbling, because it was like I'm starting at the bottom again, it took me many, many years, I want to say six or seven years, to get close to what I was making as an executive for Marriott. It was a tough journey, I had to do a lot of learning. I went back to school twice for DJing. And then, I recently went back to graduate school again. Along the way, I realised that I had to build in some additional part-time earning, whether it be writing, then I became a professor, which might seem minor to some people, but the fact that I'm a professor allows me benefits, which is very important. You know, you need your health care, you need your eye care, dental care, and in the creative space, many times we choose not to really buy or focus on benefits, because we're just chasing the next contract, the next gig. But this helped me out tremendously. So, it was a big leap, it was not easy, there were many, many times when I was questioning my decision. I had had several people when I left the hotel industry say, 'Oh, you'll be back in a year, or you'll be back in two years. We'll see you soon.' And so, that kind of fueled me to prove them wrong, because I was like, 'Oh no, I'm not coming back. This is going to work one way or the other.' So, you have other motivations. So, it was a massive leap, it was very tough. It was very tough. And then, just as I was really, really getting ready to really kind of ascend even further, the pandemic happened, which really kind of changed things yet again. But it was not easy, I can say that for sure.

Jeremy Cline 19:03
I'm sure, yeah. What was the reaction of friends, family, loved ones, that kind of thing, when you said, 'I'm quitting hotels, doing DJing full time'?

Amani Roberts 19:14
They were like, 'Really!? What will you do!? We admire your courage, but are you sure? Have you thought about this through? What about this? What about that?' So, there was some support, there was a lot of questioning, there was a lot of side eyed looks, like, 'Oh no, this is pretty risky, you've got it good.' Even, I would always get friends and family discuss like, 'Well, what about my discount?' You know, people showed their true colours, too. There was some support, too, you know, I had some friends that supported and gave advice and were there and helped just with different tools to use, maybe referred me gigs. But I would say, the majority of people were just unsure or questioning, they just weren't quite, didn't quite get it, and they didn't see it. Because that's a very bold move, and that's not a common move. As you get older, you get more comfortable. And when you get more comfortable, you have no desire to change, it's very risky. Fortunately, for me, I just had myself and a dog to take care of, I didn't have a family, which is part of the reason why I said, 'Let me move now before I were to acquire any of these things.' So, many people didn't see it, there was a few people that supported it, but I'd say the majority of people were questioning like, 'I don't know. Is this wise? What are you going to do?' They were kind of like, 'Well, we'll wait and see.'

Jeremy Cline 20:32
One of the things that very much puts people off making these kinds of changes is the financial side of things. And you mentioned a 65% drop in salary, six to seven years before you were back up to the level that you were before. Were you aware that, I mean, presumably, you were aware that you were going to take that 65% income drop, I mean, were you aware that it was going to take that long to get back up again?

Amani Roberts 20:59
No. I thought maybe two or three years, it would be coming along, I would have lots of opportunities to maybe travel, do gigs everywhere. I didn't realise how long it would take, I didn't realise just how much work I had to put in to build a business, to network, to build a network, to get the network to trust me, so that these programmes and events that happen every year, they'd come back to me for. Which is then why, because it was taking so long, I had to start to do writing, the little social media writing, so some of those clients carried me through. Then, I started teaching at Fullerton, too, and I discovered that the two lives mix very well, it works, it works very well, and that adds more revenue, that gives me more joy. And so, through the struggle, I was able to start to do some additional kind of work that helped me be even happier, and just open up another breadth of opportunity for me. And really, that opportunity, the teaching kind of saved me, it did save me during the pandemic, because that was revenue that was coming in. I didn't have any DJ gigs, because there were no DJ gigs. But then, I started to go on Twitch and get a little virtual revenue. So, it's just all about the journey and how you put the two together, but I had no idea. I thought it would be three or four years, I didn't realise it would take six or seven, and then, I have to hit another obstacle with the pandemic, that would make me start again. But through all that, I was able to learn, I learned the value of diversifying your income, which I think is paramount, I learned that I had many skills that I learned at Marriott and through hospitality, that transfer over to what I'm doing now. I learned that people want to hear my story, so you can become a professional speaker, speaking, get compensated that way. I learned that I could be an author, I could write a book. And all that adds up to everything that I offer. And it's okay. I think, in the past, it was frowned upon if you did multiple things. Like if you were a DJ and a professor, and maybe a writer, back in the day, people were like, 'You can't do that, you need to pick one thing and stick to that one thing.' I think that the perspective has changed, I'm very happy, because now, we have so many other success stories about people that, maybe by day, they work their nine to five, but then the evening time they create clothes, they do fashion, they're a comedian, different things. And that's looked upon more favourably now. That makes me happy because initially, I met some resistance with that, but I stuck to it because I believed it would work. And now, many of those people who had diverse incomes were able to survive a little bit better during the pandemic, instead of being people who got laid off or furloughed and were just kind of stuck. So, that's a long answer to your question.

Jeremy Cline 23:50
You highlight a really interesting shift in mentality, though. I mean, some people will look at those who choose to go and do their own thing as it being the more risky option. But as you've demonstrated, you can actually do multiple different things and have multiple different income sources. Yet, a job might seem safe, because it's a regular source of income, it's something which you're getting paid month after month, it's predictable. But if it is your only source of income, as people have learned to their cost over the past couple of years, it's something that can be taken away from you. And if you don't have these backup sources of income, then yeah, you're kind of stuck.

Amani Roberts 24:33
Right, right. I think I read a statistic, I already shared this in my class, that the average millionaire has seven sources of income, seven sources of revenue. And so, if you want to be a millionaire, which many of us, you know, we want to make money, you have to start to create those revenue sources, so that you can work your way there.

Jeremy Cline 24:50
This question is probably impossible to answer, but I'll ask anyway. If your previous self had known that it was going to take six or seven years, rather than two or three years, to get back up to the same level, do you think you would have still done that?

Amani Roberts 25:08
Yes, I definitely would have still done it. I would have probably diversified my income streams sooner. I would have set it up so that as I'm leaving the corporate life, I would have had diverse income streams already set up, and kind of going, so that I would know, okay, this might take six or seven years, you definitely need to make sure that, while you're going full time, you're networking more, you are having to do other things that will bring you revenue that aren't related to DJing, and then also, maybe make decisions a little faster. And when I say that, I mean, there were some networking organisations and networking things that I was doing that I was in for a long time, and I should have probably moved on to do other different things sooner. Like a networking group I was a part of for maybe six or seven years, and I should have probably done that for two or three, and use my time to build on top of that and do something bigger. I should have thought bigger actually, in reflection, because I was so focused on doing sales and gigs in Southern California, where I'm based, whereas one networking part of meeting professionals at international organisation, if I had tapped into the power of that organisation sooner, I could have done things around the globe. I didn't really realise what I had until much later. So, there are things I would have changed, but I definitely would have still left at the same time, and I just would have diversified income streams sooner.

Jeremy Cline 26:40
You mentioned having transferable skills from hospitality to what you do now. What was the most surprising skill which you found was actually quite useful in terms of transferability?

Amani Roberts 26:54
Surprising skill was just all the knowledge about P&L, profit and loss statements, forecasting also was another one, we did a lot of work in forecasting, predicting revenue. Those would be the two, because I applied those to my business right away. And also, they are very valuable when I'm teaching, because to understand forecasting and revenue, that gave me an edge when I was teaching my classes. So, those would be the two that kind of jumped off the page right away. And then, a third would be overall hospitality, just being hospitable, nice to people, creating relationships, which is how you succeed in hospitality, that is how you succeed in the creative space, too. People want to work with people they like and trust and are loyal. And that has helped me tremendously, those three skills.

Jeremy Cline 27:43
It's interesting what you say there about the business skills, because I think a lot of people learn a craft, and it could be a trade, I spoke to someone a few episodes back who retrained as a plumber, and the message I got from him was that you can find people who will teach you the skills for whatever it is that you want to do, but they don't teach you the business skills. And so, having your background, already understanding, that puts you at a huge disadvantage in terms of making it a business success, not just getting better at what you do success.

Amani Roberts 28:24
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think just the business, and it's difficult, you know, luckily for me, I was able to learn different lessons for myself when it was part of not my money, so to speak, it was like a hotel's money or a management company's money, so I was able to learn and really not spend any money, so that was very valuable. But yeah, I agree 100% with you, and just make sure you don't lose the lessons, and you continue to take note of them and apply them in the future, otherwise they go wasted.

Jeremy Cline 28:58
In any kind of creative area, there's going to be the people who turn their noses up at corporate, seeing as being a sell out, seeing it as being constraining your ability to be creative, everything suddenly just becomes out of the box and not innovative. What's your experience then?

Amani Roberts 29:20
No, I haven't run into that too much in terms of people turning their nose up. It does happen every once in a while. I think that, where we are now, as an creative movement, people understand and respect creativity, it's talked about more fondly now in the public. So, you will have some, we call them dinosaurs, who are old school and really look down upon creative and really focus on, you know, the people are stuck to their accounting knowledge, their book knowledge. But if you show them examples of just how creativity can help their business or their company, and I share personal examples how creativity has helped me, they kind of lighten up a little bit and are able to at least understand and relate and say, 'Okay, maybe this will work, or what about this?' They ask more questions. Once you can get people to ask questions, then that's when you understand that you might have them listening, and then that's the first big step, and you can run from there.

Jeremy Cline 30:19
Do you find it at all the other way, that doing the corporate stuff puts any kind of restraints on your own creativity?

Amani Roberts 30:28
Sometimes it does, because certain corporate things, they have requirements, and they're pretty strict in terms of what they can offer and what's required. So, a little bit, but I think that, like I said, if you can show examples, many times I do sessions with corporate people, where it's like how to unlock your creativity, and so, I give them example, and ask them questions about themselves and apply their answers to how they can help their team or the event we're working on, then it helps. I think telling stories and giving examples is probably the easiest way to really get the message across and get them to understand and become involved in the process.

Jeremy Cline 31:09
I think one of the things that puts people off doing a creative pursuit as their career is the fear that they're going to lose the joy of it. Because it's very different doing something as a hobby, where you're not relying on getting paid for it or anything like that, to doing it as your job, you've got to turn up with the goods, it puts that extra pressure on you. Have there ever been times since you made the switch to doing it full time where you felt disillusioned, you're kind of not being true, that you kind of lost the fun of what you had when it was a hobby?

Amani Roberts 31:50
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That's a great question. I think that's common. From the DJ life, you know, you have certain gigs that you do, at a club or a bar, where you're supposed to play all Top 40 music, you can't do this, you can't do that, so many rules, so you're not able to be creative. You have corporate gigs, or you do social events, like a wedding, where I pretty much have a playlist, and the bride and groom want to hear these specific songs, the mother of the bride or groom might want to hear these specific songs, so you have to play that. What has helped me has been a couple things. At least, you know, in your muffy kind of schedule of gigs, try to put one or two in there a month, where you have the ultimate freedom to just play what you want to play. If you can do that, that's spectacular. Another benefit is your live streaming, now I stream my DJ gigs on Twitch, usually Fridays and Sundays, I do talk shows Monday and Wednesday, but in those gigs where I DJ Friday and Monday, we can play what you want to play, it can be whatever theme you want, you have an audience there, so you can see you're still learning and practising. I think that has been a magnificent way to make sure that your creativity still has a chance to grow, you can practice, you can try things, you don't need to be put with all these rules that certain other gigs might have. And that's been a godsend, that's been great. That will continue to be a part of my process, so that the creativity has a chance to flow and grow, and it's not limited by these other gigs. We have to do these corporate gigs, we have to do these other ones, because you have to have food on the table, and you want to grow your business. But if you have another outlet, where you can play what you want to play, you're researching music, you can test out things, and then maybe there's some songs that you're playing through your creative gigs that you can then bring over to your corporate gigs, that's what you want, to be able to bring them back and forth and do that. That's been able to help me get through that. But absolutely, there have been times, burnout is real, there have been times it becomes very monotonous, so I mean, we've talked about the word diversify a lot, you have to diversify that type of gigs that you have, too, so that that will allow you to recharge, reinvigorate yourself. Another thing that really helped me, we haven't had a camp in the past three years, 2020, 2021, 2022, is our volunteer to DJ camp for kids. And so, you go out to kind of like the woods, and you're there with a whole bunch of other DJs, but you're there with kids that want to learn. And you're there teaching kids at this camp, and they have different perspective, they have different music they like, and that would be for a week. And that whole week, that would fire you up and keep you energised for almost a whole year. Because just the process of being away and being with children and other DJs, so you can learn and talk and ask questions, it helped out so much. So, yes, my answer to your question, and I kind of shared a couple of ways just to kind of get through that, so that you can get to the other side.

Jeremy Cline 34:50
I love that. I love the idea where you can just introduce diversity in everything you do. Yeah, I can see how that would definitely stop you getting bored. And something which you said also reminded me of a previous guest. Her advice on the mindset was where you kind of think about the corporate work, the work you have to do to put food on the table, as being almost like the patron for the other stuff. So, it's in the way that artists used to have patrons, and they would do the portraits they were being paid for, and that was what enabled them to pursue their art. You kind of do the same, you do the stuff which is enough to enable you to do the more creative kind of thing.

Amani Roberts 35:38
Yeah, I agree. Great, great example. Great analogy. Yeah, absolutely.

Jeremy Cline 35:43
Where did teaching come into it? How did you start that? Because I get the impression that's quite a big thing of what you're doing now. You've got the book, you're teaching people how to make a career out of this. How did that first show up fo you and how have you integrated it into what you do now?

Amani Roberts 36:02
Yeah, teaching has been life changing, absolutely. I grew up, my father was a professor at Howard University, he was chairman of psychology department. I had no interest in teaching, I wanted to get as far away from what my dad was doing as possible. Then, as life would take you, I was on the board meeting Professionals International, Southern California Chapter, I was vice president of membership at the time, we had a goal of acquiring more student members for the chapter, just to help our chapter become more youthful, just to help our chapter understand new ideas and perspectives that were possible. And I visited campuses around Southern California, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Poly Pomona, Cal State Long Beach, UNLV and the TISOH, The International School of Hospitality, we visited them, helped them out with different events, spoken classes. It was funny, I helped out Cal State Fullerton with a spring event that we did, it was very successful, and we got members. One, I think it was like a Monday or Tuesday, I was at that DJ camp for the week, I got an email from a professor at Cal State Fullerton, he said, 'You know, we had a teacher who resigned suddenly. Would you be interested in teaching this money management class? Your experience matches up very well with what the class covers, and we think you'd be a great fit.' And I was like, 'Okay.' I learned to say yes to opportunities, so I was like, 'Okay, yes, let me at least apply, see what they say.' So, I go through the application process, I talked to them on the phone, via Zoom, they're like, 'Okay, we want to move forward, we're going to do a background check, we'll let you know.' Now, keep in mind, this is July, the semester starts in like eight weeks, seven weeks. So, I'm just sitting here waiting, just saying, 'Okay, well, they'll get back to me, I'll keep doing my thing.' And eventually, I think it was maybe three weeks before the semester started, they said, 'Okay, we're good to go. We'd love to have you as a professor. Here's a syllabus from a past class. We'll see you on the first day of class.' And they say, 'You have two days orientation. So, you go to orientation.' You know, like, oh, my gosh, I have to plan on class, I've never taught at the high school or college level, what am I going to do? You go to orientation, and you meet other professors who are pretty much in the same place, it was adjunct professors, you're just there for the first time, you're just doing it. And someone from the union came by to see us at the orientation. And they're like, 'Yes, if you teach six units, which is two three-credit classes, you get full benefits.' And I said, 'Is that true? What did they just say?' Because benefits can be very, very expensive, and they cannot be high quality. And so, someone said, yeah, I had to check with the programme leader, the orientation leader, she said yes. I waited till the next day, went to HR, I said, 'I just want to confirm, here's my name here, the classes I'm teaching, do I get full benefits?' And like, 'Yes, you do.' It started like, if I started at August, it started at the end of August, or whatever. I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is amazing.' And so, I didn't even plan on that. So, I started teaching these two classes, entertainment, money management, it was Tuesday from one to four and four to seven. So, back to back, for six hours, it was very, very challenging. But somehow, I did well. The kids responded, I did well, so they asked me to come back another semester. Next semester, I think I had a class at 10 to one, and then four to seven, so I had a break in the middle, so I could go do work in the middle. And that went well. And then, I'll never forget this class, I think I had 29 students, from four to seven, we were in this building that was a haunted building, you had to take escalators up to the fifth floor, but the class was amazing, the kids were responding, ended so well, you get graded, your scores were good. And so, after that class, that was semester number two, they asked me to help direct the Centre for Entertainment and Hospitality Management, too. So, I was able to get a little bit more stipend, I was co-directing this centre, and things were going well, I was teaching. The following semester, they said, 'Well, we have an opening for another class, we think you'd be a good fit for. Do you want to pick up a third class?' I was like, 'Okay, I could do that.' And this is pre-pandemic, I think. I think it was before the pandemic. Or no, no, this was after the pandemic. So, there was two things going on there, they asked me to pick up another class, and they said, 'However, we want you to keep teaching here, but you're going to need to get your master's degree, because state and the accreditation board requires from all of our teachers, after you're here for a semester, to take care of your master's. So, I had applied to school to get my master's, and I was going to pick up a third class. And the process starts to go to Berklee College of Music in Boston, one of the most famous music schools, and I was to get my master's in music business, because that's a passion of mine, and I'm taking my master's, I'm teaching this third class, project management, and it goes well, I do well again, I had to teach this class for the first time, virtually, in the middle of the pandemic, we were just on Zoom, every Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 in the morning, when you think about students, first of all, they don't want to wake up, and second of all, the class is on Zoom, they're going to mute their camera, go back to bed. But somehow, I was able to keep the class somewhat engaging, it went well, they asked me to teach it again, and then they gave me another class. And so, now, I teach four classes, I'm the sole director of the Centre, and so, I've created a new class for our university, and just like for people who aren't aware, creating a new class in the California State University system is very difficult. It's taken me over a year to create this class. So, the fact they were going to offer it in the fall of 2023 is a big accomplishment. So, that's where I am now. I just found that teaching, the flexibility that you get as a teacher, because you can have some classes online, you go to class during the week, you can arrange a schedule, so it's like morning time, it fits very well with the DJ life. Because most of the gigs are in the evening time, weekends, so you're not really teaching, if you can balance where you're grading your papers and when you're grading, it works very well. So, this is an example, I knew then, because I had learned in the past about diversified income, I could see, a-ha, this will work. I could just go to school on a Tuesday, an off day pretty much, I can go to school just on Thursday, so pretty much Friday through Monday, I'm free, I can grade papers when I'm on the road, it fit. Because I had experienced before about diversification, I knew, I recognise things. So, that's kind of a long story about teaching, how I got the job, how I continue to have it, and how it fits with my DJ business.

Jeremy Cline 42:38
We talked a bit about the master plan. Where do you hope that things will have settled in, you pick a time period, five years, 10 years? What would you like the Amani Experience and Amani Roberts to be like in a future time period?

Amani Roberts 42:58
Definitely, like full time DJing where I'm getting the proper rate for the proper gigs, full time teaching, because I can manage both, so I can kind of cover that. And then, still writing, writing additional books or whatever. And then, I'm setting up this programme, where it's going to be an online course, online community, where I'm helping up musicians learn about the industry. Because I feel that there's a big knowledge gap in the music business where we have artists, and then you have the labels, and in the middle, there's a big knowledge gap, because the labels, they know how the business works, they understand how the business works, how owning your own material, your own masters, everything, how to create long money, long income for the labels. I just want the artists to learn the same things, and there's a huge knowledge gap, because most artists just want to create and get their music out there, but they need to learn, so they can make better decisions. So, those are kind of three things that I want, the DJ life, teacher life, and then growing my online programme to help musicians learn about the industry. It's always changing, but there's some basics that aren't being taught, because the knowledge is, there's no kind of school for that. I want to try to fill that gap if I can.

Jeremy Cline 44:14
That sounds absolutely amazing. And it's one of those things that it still surprised me that there is that knowledge gap, so I think with you coming in to help people, I think that's just going to help artists immeasurably. As you've been through your journey, have there been any particular resources, books, quotes, anything, which has really made a difference as you've made this pivot and built out your own business?

Amani Roberts 44:43
Yeah, I was able to learn about this one book. It's a pretty popular book, but I love it. It's called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It's a book where you can take it chapter by chapter, and you go through, and you learn different things about yourself, it helps you unlock your creativity, it takes you back to a time period when you were most creative, when you were a child. Talk about the 20 things you'd love to do, what are some things that you loved to do in the past that you just stopped doing because life gets in the way, you're working, it takes you through what did your room look like when you were a kid, how can you decorate your office the same way, what can you do to unlock your creativity. I think it's a phenomenal book. Many, many people in the creative space just swear by it. I've done the whole book and activities two or three times. But it's interesting, because as your life changes, as you experience different things, whether it be personal life, professional, your answers will change. So, you know, you can always do it again. I recommend kind of going through the book with a friend or a colleague, so you can learn together and compare and hold each other accountable. I think this activity is phenomenal. I do a day in one of my classes, where it's called The Artist's Way Day, where I take the kids, and two hours and 45 minutes, probably two hours and 50 minutes, we leave early, you know, we have a little bonus, and we answer a lot of the same questions that are in the parts of the book together, we share, we talk about what we've learned, because my goal is that, these are young professionals that are getting ready to enter the world, and if I can share with them the fact that, try to keep doing some of the things you love to do, especially if it's not related to your job, as you go through your career, you will be better off, you'll be happier, you'll be more creative, because one of the things I've learned is that many of the things that I loved to do as a younger person, I've just stopped doing because I make excuses, I don't have enough time, I've let my work get in the way. But if I were to add those back in, I can be more creative, more productive and a happier person. So, I want to give them the message to try to do their best to hold on and keep doing those things as they work their way through school. Not school, through their work, because most of the students I teach at this one class are about to graduate. And they get it, they understand it, and we just have a great conversation, we just had it last week, ironically, the week before Thanksgiving break. It's fun, I will give away two copies of this book and my book and a Starbucks gift card to the two students who are the most vulnerable and most open. It is just a fun activity. Last semester, it was one of the favourite weeks for the students. This semester, I think they liked it as well, they're just really tired, because it's been a harder semester. I love it. It's fun, and I just love to share this book, and I think this resource, I just swear by it.

Jeremy Cline 47:24
Brilliant. That sounds absolutely fantastic. And I resonate a lot with that, this idea of going back to what you've enjoyed as a child and what you've forgotten or felt that you had to let go, I think, yeah, that's so valuable. Amani, where can people find you? Where would you like people to go if they want to get in touch?

Amani Roberts 47:42
With my socials, @amaniexperience, so my name, Amani, A-M-as-Marry-A-N-I experience, one word, on like Instagram, Twitter, while Twitter's still here, the Facebook, and then also LinkedIn, Amani Roberts, you can check me there. My website is amaniexperience.com. I stream on twitch.tv/amaniexperience, three days, three or four days a week. So, those many places to find me, if you reach out, please say hello, I'll converse back and forth with you. And that's just the easiest way to catch me online.

Jeremy Cline 48:17
As always, I'll put links to those in the show notes. Amani, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your story. There's going to be a lot of people, I think, take a great deal of inspiration from this.

Amani Roberts 48:27
Thank you very much for having me, Jeremy. It's been a pleasure, I love the questions you asked. So, thank you for that.

Jeremy Cline 48:33
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Amani Roberts, of the Amani Experience. Amani is a great example of what can happen if you combine creativity with a business brain. It was clear from my conversation with Amani just how important the business side is. I mean, come on, that's what he teaches. And I loved what he was saying about transferable skills. On the face of it, you can't really see that much of a link between running a hotel or being a director of sales in a hotel business and running a DJ business. I mean, yes, okay, they're both in hospitality, but that's where the similarity seems to end. But Amani made it clear that there are transferable skills that he picked up working in hotels, which he now uses in his DJ business. And there's a much wider lesson there. A lot of people think, 'Well, I've got lots of experiences in lots of things, but I'm not really good at any one of them.' And the point is that many of those skills are going to be transferable to whatever it is you do. And it's that combination which will make you successful. I also thought it was great that Amani brought up the idea of having multiple streams of income. Hopefully, the past couple of years have taught us just how dangerous it can be to be reliant on that one source of income, typically a salary from a job. If that job gets taken away from you, then so can your source of income. So, looking at ways that you can get income from multiple sources is a great way to protect you from that eventuality. You'll find a summary of everything we talked about, links to the book which Amani mentioned, and also a full transcript, if you want to go back and read parts of it, and you'll find those on the show notes page for this episode, which are at changeworklife.com/151, that's changeworklife.com/151. And I haven't asked this for a few weeks, but it would be amazing if you could leave a review, preferably on Apple Podcasts. People rely on reviews for knowing whether or not something is any good. And certainly I do, whenever I buy something from Amazon. If you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts, then that'll let people know that the podcast is worth listening to, and you'll be doing your bit to help us spread the word. And you can find a direct link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts at changeworklife.com/apple. As always, there's another great episode coming your way in two weeks' time. So, make sure you've subscribed to the show if you haven't already, on Apple Podcasts there'll be a plus button, and whichever app you're using, there's going to be an obvious way to subscribe to the show, so make sure you've hit that Subscribe button, and I can't wait to see you in two weeks' time. Cheers. Bye.

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