When the coronavirus shut us down, clubs and festivals ceased, and everyone was essentially forced inside with no definitive end in sight, DJ Times wondered: How is our tribe coping? How are DJs getting by? So, we sent out our “Coronavirus Questionnaire” to DJ/producers from all musical genres to find out.
During the crisis, DJ Times will be presenting the questionnaire responses from talented music-makers from all over the world. Here’s our latest installment, this time from the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis-based radio/studio/DJ talent, Howard “HK” Kessler.
What’s it like where you are? We’ve been on lockdown for two months. As of May 18, non-critical businesses can reopen at 50-percent here. On June 1, restaurants, bars and salons re-open. The weird thing is nothing much has changed in my work day. Most of my time is spent in the studio producing, recording and remixing tracks for my nationally syndicated radio show “In The Mix with HK.” Every second of sound in that show, including all the imaging, drops, liners and artist interviews, is produced and recorded by myself. Even hot remixes on the current hits from other remixers gets some added “HK flava.” When not in the studio, you can find me in the office checking in on affiliate relations, marketing, sales, speaking with record label executives, artist managers and of course reviewing tons of new music.
Have you lost income-producing work? Absolutely. All my live gigs are gone and radio advertising revenue is down 75-percent. My production and syndication company also provides music programming and entertainment consulting to retail clients, bars and restaurants. So that revenue has ceased. With radio stations forced to furlough staff due to COVID-19, we’ve made “In The Mix with HK” available free of charge, to non-affiliate radio stations across America.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? We’re hopeful that our efforts to give back to our music and broadcast community in this time of need will not only strengthen relationships with existing clients and the HK radio family, but open the door to new clients. Additionally, I’ve started work on my follow-up album of all original material.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? Working on original music has been the big thing. In addition, every month I’m serviced with an average of 1,000 new tracks from new and breaking artists and veteran artists alike. So keeping up on new releases is a full-time job regardless of what’s going on. Like a lot of people in the business, I’m trying to figure out new channels for our intellectual property. Now is a good time to look into the future and figure out new ventures. One of the major things that has changed is not being able to go to concerts or clubs and doing interviews with artists backstage or in-studio. In other words, I have my evenings back. That has afforded me the opportunity to catch my breath and have more quality down time at home. Time for musical experimentation, like putting on my recording engineer hat and checking out new plug-ins and programs, exploring composing ideas, all those musical things I’ve always wanted to dive into, but never had the time. P.S. – My garage is not getting organized.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? Music is my life, but I think the impact of how much it brings people together and heals us has become even more evident during this time. Also, how even the little things in life are taken for granted. I think human contact is what we all crave. For me, hanging out with friends, spinning live and watching live music with friends or thousands of strangers and bonding over it has been one of the most difficult things to go without.
What have you done online? Seen anything you like from other DJs? I’ve made my current mix sets from our syndicated radio show, “In The Mix with HK,” available on our website player at www.hkonthedecks.com, as well as archived shows on Mixcloud. I still would like to do a live-stream, but I feel there are plenty out there at the moment. I’d like to wait until that lane clears and do other productive things right now. I have checked out DJ Maseo from De La Soul, Sofi Tukker and DJ Aaron Traylor from Nashville, and love what they are streaming.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? Don’t stop the music and keep the faith. Remember why you got in this business and realize this is an opportunity to connect with music fans and people in general in fresh and creative ways on a personal and emotional level. Challenge yourself to discover a new music conduit.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.