How to Launch a Thriving Music Business with Dawna Konkel

Do you have a background or education in music? Are you a dancer (either professionally or strictly in the privacy of your own home)? Maybe you are just looking for a creative field of work? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I have someone I need you to meet: Dawna Konkel.

Dawna and I met in college when we were both majoring in broadcasting, and both worked at the campus station. During our time at Fort Hays, we became friends and have gotten even closer over the years, thanks to social media. (Side note: Dawna and her husband, Devin, will go down in history for having the most fun and epic wedding in the history of marriage!) Since graduating, Dawna has launched and grown her DJ business into what is (literally) one of the most sought after in the state and I am soooooo honored that she took time out of her crazy schedule to let me pick her brain.

(Note: While DJing is not exclusively work-from-home, it is a flexible field that allows you to make your schedule and decide how much you want to work, which can be a perfect gig for stay-at-home moms with a sound support system.)

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Dawna, we have known each other for almost 10 years now (how is that even possible??), but for those who have never had to pleasure of meeting you, can you talk a little bit about yourself?

Has it really been nearly 10 years now? Wow… where to begin? I grew up in Oklahoma, and right before high school, I moved to Olathe, KS. I went on to college at Fort Hays State University where Annie and I met through a few common media courses and working with the campus TV and Radio stations. I moved back to Kansas City to get married, and fulfill a dream of working for some of the best radio stations in the area including Mix 93.3, 94.1 KFKF, KC102.1, and Q104. From 2012 to 2016, I worked my way up the ladder from intern to morning show producer, on air talent, public affairs director, and being the backbone for the stations by doing behind the scenes work. In June of 2016, I went into business for myself and became a full time DJ for private events. In my spare time, I enjoy playing video and table top games with my husband, friends, and family. I love spending time with my pup, Ollie. We just celebrated is 2 year birthday and 1 year “Gotcha Day” (Adoption Day). I’m very happy it’s summer right now because I try to find my way to be outside and by the water as much as possible. 

Your background is in radio, so what made you decide to switch gears from that to being a DJ?

Well, I first started DJing with a mobile company called Complete Music back in 2012 to get my foundations. I wanted to have something interesting on my resume, learning more music, and have a fun job. As my responsibilities at the radio station grew, I needed to walk away from Complete Music. However, I helped out with the mobile DJ company the radio station had every so often. I quickly became the go to for any 5K/Walks the stations were a part of such as March for Babies, AIDS Walk, and Heart Walk. I also was the go to for school events because I work well with children of all age. I believe that is due to all the experience I had with children from babysitting in high school through college along with being an award winning school mascot from middle school through college.

In 2016, I was ready for a change and needing a full time position. Everything I had been doing was part time. I was interviewing at other radio stations 2 or more hours away. While this was going on, my Father had been dropping not so subtle hints by saying I should quit and be a DJ full time. I was terrified of that. At the time, I had lost all confidence in myself and did not believe I could make it on my own. I also was scared that leaving radio would be a sign of failure, and I had spent so much time in this field… was I just going to throw it all away?

April of 2016, everything changed. Every Saturday for nearly a month and a half I was booked for a DJ event. I made more money with those Saturdays than I did 2 paychecks worth of 7 days a week at the radio stations. I looked at what I was making on average monthly and decided if I could line up 3 months’ worth of DJ gigs that would equal what I made at the radio stations, I would pursue it. With ease, I was able to set up those 3 months. June 3rd, 2016 is when The Dancing DJ was born, and I haven’t looked back. 

When you first set out to be a DJ, did you know you would launch your own successful business or did you set out planning to work for another company?

Back in 2012? No. It was just a hobby, for fun, and a resume filler. It was something new to learn. I love to dance, so I combined that into my DJing. Even in 2016 when setting off on my own, I did not envision how much this career path would blossom for me. I never saw myself in the bars. Little did I know, I love it all and want to DJ it all.

What does being a DJ entail? Those of us who have ever attended a wedding, prom, etc. have seen one in action/maybe even thought of trying it ourselves, but I am guessing there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we may not realize.

You are correct. There is more than walking in and pressing play. Every DJ has their way of prepping for an event.

For private events like a wedding, I will spend anywhere between 5 to 12 hours before the big day working on music, talking with the couple and/or wedding planner, going over the ceremony and/or reception planner, practicing names, etc. That’s not including set up and tear down time of equipment or if I travelled out of town.

For bars/clubs, I will spend a couple hours looking at my music servers, download any new music, then organize it in my “crates” aka folders.

Weekly in general, I am constantly listening to music on the radio, Mixcloud, Pandora, and Youtube. I also spend time in my basement trying to learn how to scratch on my turntables and in general, get better at my craft.

How do you market your business? You have become one of the most popular and sought after DJs in all of Kansas!

When I first started, it was only word of mouth and Facebook posts. Quickly, I realized knowing your social media platforms, your audience, and what time of day to post content is the key. I now post on all social media formats, but try not to post too much of the same content on them. Facebook is a little more professional and family friendly whereas Snapchat is a little more on the wild side.

You will never see me push the female DJ aspect. I could get more followers if I would use #femaleDJ on my posts, but that’s not my goal. I want others to hear my talent. I want to be seen as a DJ… no gender required.

I am very grateful to my friends and family who gave me a chance to DJ their events. These have turned into recommendations to strangers. Recommendations and client loyalty is priceless to me.

In my profession, the product I am selling is me. So, whenever I am out in public, I am always “on”. I never know who is listening or watching, but I am always prepared for when opportunity presents itself. For example, I was buying shoes at the mall, and the gentleman assisting me started to ask questions about my job. Before I knew it, he asked for my business card because he wanted me to DJ his wedding.

Can you walk us through one of your "normal" (if such a thing exists!) work days?

This question made me literally LOL. I am racking my brain on how to describe what is normal for me.

A Non-Gig Day: My “weekend” is typically Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I try to enjoy to simple things of being a house wife – cleaning, cooking, you know, the boring things. I will go to the gym, answer emails, get caught up on any paperwork, and spend time with Ollie, my husband, friends, and family.  I will still take time to listen to music as much as possible, go down to the basement and practice on my turn tables. I will also go out on my days off. I try once a week to go out and support my fellow Kansas City DJ friends at their events. I have ambitious goals with my career so I am constantly trying to learn something from them.

A Gig-Day: The normal routine any working person goes through, get up (might be 11am or Noon) and get ready. I will either get ready in silence or listen to the genre of music I know my gig will dominantly want played. If time allows, I will look up more music to download if needed. My husband will help me load up the Kia with equipment then head to my gig. If it’s a private event, I will be on location an hour and a half early for set up. If it’s a bar/club, I will get there 30 minutes before start time. Promote on social media what I am up to, especially if it is an event wanting people to come out and party with me. Then it’s show time. Play, have fun, dance. Deal with drunk, happy, and rude people. Sometimes, I will call it a day after a private event and go home. Other times, I will go out and hang out with my DJ friends while they play.

What advice can you give to moms out there who are wanting to start their own business, whether it be in the entertainment field or otherwise?

I will be really blunt. Most importantly and simply, do it and do it unapologetically. Only talking about it means nothing. It will take a leap of faith. But, if you’re smart about it, the whole process is extremely rewarding.

Don’t fear failure. I had a hard time with this. If I messed up, I would ‘thought spiral’ myself into oblivion. Over the last year, I have a different approach to failure. It teaches me what not to do next time, what doesn’t work. Think about it… when babies are learning how to walk. They fall down (fail) more often than they succeed. Adults keep encouraging babies to keep trying and cheer them on regardless. And finally, when they learn how to walk, that’s it. They learned more from landing on their bottom. So, when I “fall down”, instead of beating myself up or being hesitant of trying again, I try to laugh it off, say to myself “Whoops, I won’t do that again”,  and move forward. I have to encourage myself. I have to mentally treat myself well. It has made all the difference.

Lastly, the phrase my Father has been driving home to me since I began my business and my pricing – Know Your Worth. Do not offer discounts in hopes it’ll drive business sales. Do not perform events for free or exposure for friends and family. I have learned in this field, for whatever reason, people believe prices are negotiable. My bills are not negotiable, neither is my pricing. True friends and family will not ask for a discount.

Do you have a certain work-related memory that stands out as being your favorite?

I have 3.

My first solo event back in 2012 after finishing my DJ training. It was a school Prom. Those kids were so much fun to work with. They asked me to dance with them numerous times throughout the dance which sparked my passion to dance while I DJ.

My first appearance at Ale House. I was opening for my mentor and getting my feet wet in the bar/club scene. It was a big moment. Several DJs came out to hear me for the first time because I had been a little secret up until then.

The times I have unknowingly played for Kansas City athletes. There have been a handful of times that I would be DJing and about halfway through the night learn that either Chiefs football players, Royals baseball players, or Sporting KC soccer players were in the club partying with me. It gives me goosebumps, and I love it!