20 January 2013

Ethiopia: DJs Spin for Good Money

Daniel Omar, a.k.a DJ Danny Comoros, began his career distributing new film and music releases on cassettes and CDs, and then expanded to renting movies out of his shop.

Eight years later, in 2006, the now 31-year old, moved on and became a DJ. A year later he had an office, near the Bulgarian Embassy, onRoosevelt Streetin Kirkos District, and put up three billboards; one inMexico, one inMeskel Square, and one in his own neighbourhood, in order to promote his new career.

After nine months of waiting, he finally got a job, DJing at a wedding. They paid him 900 Br, but he says he added 300 Br from his own pocket just to cover the costs.

There has been no data collected to establish the total number of DJs in Addis Abeba. Following the death of DJ Get, two months ago, one of the more popular figures in the business, Daniel started mobilising those in the business to form an association. By January 17, 2013, two hundred and three DJs had registered.

According to DJ Giovanni Fransoni, who has his own show, Global Sound, on Addis 97.1 FM, there are two types of DJs; radio DJs and those that offer their services for weddings, birthdays and club nights.

Disk jockeying, outside of the radio, particularly for weddings that involve a couple from different ethnicities or nationalities, requires a DJ to play songs that represent both groups.

Radio DJs, which came with the advent of FM stations, make money from advertising revenues, which they share with the radio stations. Giovanni, who started with Fana radio and is now with 97.1FM, of the Ethiopia Radio & Television Agency (ERTA), says he did not become a radio DJ to make money, but his revenues were growing steadily beyond his expectations. A 30-second advertising spot costs 300 Br, and a one hour sponsorship 3,000 Br, with the Agency taking 60pc and the programme owners, such as Giovanni, 40pc.

The wedding business, which got Daniel started with 900 Br, would, by 2009, earn him 2,500 Br to 3,000 Br an event. By then he was able to invest 115,000 Br in a mixer, speaker DJ mixer.

Abey Teshome, a.k.aDJAB, who has four billboards advertising his services in Addis Abeba, says that weddings are tough because the DJ will, for example, have to know the seven divisions and their music varieties within the Gurage ethnic group. And these DJs do not come cheap. Three weddings last year were charged at 7,500 Br, 8,000 Br and 15,000 Br respectively, Fortune learned.

The price differs according to the length of time that they are hired to play, and the type of equipment they use at an event, according to Abey. If a lot of amplifiers are used, or if they have to bring their keyboard, then the price can easily reach as high as 20,000Br.

Getting fully equipped has also been the preferred way for Daniel who has seen himself prospering, beyond his wildest dreams, over the last few years. The equipment set he has now, imported fromDubai, cost him 1.2 millionBr.The amplifier has 14 speakers and 8,600watts each. This is a big improvement from the days when he had only one 250watt speaker.

The two DJs also rent out their equipment, charging 1,000 Br to 1,500 Br a day for one speaker, depending on the number of hours used.

Many DJs are also now using dancers at the events where they perform.

Currently the minimum price Daniel charges for an event is 4,500Br.His main expenses are transportation and the wages of the three to eight dancers that he employs.

Wondesen Haile is a dancer at Segen nightclub, in Hayahulet Mazoriya. He makes 150 Br to 300 Br an hour dancing at various events, up to four times a week.

"Even if we may become tired, we secure 3,000 Br to 4,000 Br a month if we dance for three to five hours a day," Wondesen said.

The DJ business has provided a livelihood for different types of people. These days there are also a few Protestant DJs. One of them, Ermiyas Tulu, has an office near Daniel.

"I opened the business, not for business, but to serve the people of Jesus," Ermiyas said. "As far as I know, I am the only [Protestant] to start as a DJ, in addition to another guy who asked to gain some experience from me." However, Fortune has spoken to two other Protestant DJ is inAdamaTown.

Ermiyas manages to make 3,000 Br to 4,000 Br an event, he says, but not more.

Nonetheless, the big money makers are DJs like Daniel. He has offered his services to the African Union three times. He was also the DJ for Yeshi Gabecha, when 1,000 couples were married at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre. In two months he says he is also going toDubaito entertain the Ethiopians there. He will be paid 40,000 Br for four days, he said, plus his expenses. On more than five occasions he has been paid more than 30,000 Br for an event.

Daniel has big dreams for his future, but currently he has his eyes on a big concert that he wants to organise in Addis Abeba, in six months time to raise money for unemployed citizens.

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