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Interview: Eff The DJ Discusses Growth, Visibility, Brand Leverage And Covid-19

’Rewarding, Draining, Bitter-sweet’’. These were the adjectives Eff The DJ chose to describe the year 2019 in respect to his fledging career. As one of the most exciting DJs in the city of Accra, the afro wearing, digital strategist in the day and a DJ at night showed to be proud of the year he had. But, in typical fashion, Eff The DJ speaks about his achievements with an ‘’it was bound to happen’ tone. Constant growth coupled with his curiosity to learn new techniques- be it in his music curation where his taste-making attributes shine the brightest or accepting challenges that impact his musical range has been a defining attribute of the young DJ, born Franklin Digber. 

’I’d say my range. I opened myself to doing more events that broadened my palette. I did more engagements & weddings, concerts, corporate events, day parties, private dinners and open-air fairs which are currently my favorite’’, he discloses in an e-mail chat when I asked him a question about his growth.

Even though Eff The DJ has become an ubiquitous figure to a section of people, mostly the youthful and out-going demographic of Accra’s socialites, he is still getting used to people recognizing him at places outside of his ‘’office’’.

’I still get surprised when I meet people who are excited to meet me; or are excited to know I’m on a bill or tell me I’ve arrived’’, he indicates in his response. “I usually try to brush it aside but I’m trying to start accepting it’’.

Shot by Selorm Jae

Despite the struggle to adjust to this newfound recognition, Eff The DJ considers the visibility- being easily recognized- as valuable to his growing brand. ‘’People very close to me try to enforce that I have arrived, and they are people I trust so I have to accept it. So yes, Eff The DJ has arrived’’.

This recognition does come with its own pressures as he admits. ‘’I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Ei Eff, we are waiting for your set!’ or people arriving at events asking if I’ve already played and expressing relief when I haven’t. So yeah, the pressure is real. As cliche as it may sound, I take it one track at a time. I just try as much as possible to get lost in the music.

Last year was, arguably one of the best years yet in the career of Eff The DJ. He was booked to perform at various events across the city, including some of the biggest festivals. The progress of Eff would not come as a surprise to those who have been following his career. I have seen him play at various spots for close to three years, and at each occasion, he keeps raising the ante on his performances.

His sturdy performances and his work ethic were rewarded in 2019 and early 2020 when he was booked for three of the biggest music events in Accra: Manifestivities, Throwback Hip-Hop New Year and AfroChella. 

Unlike Manifestivities and Throwback Hip Hop New Year stages where he had played in 2018, AfroChella was his first invitation. According to Eff The DJ, the organizers of AfroChella reached out to him after witnessing one of his gigs in the city.

‘’Seeing that it was the Year of Return, they wanted to bill the best talents out there- it was going to be their biggest AfroChella ever. The organizers caught me at a smaller gig and that ended up being my audition – which I smashed’’. What is interesting is that the ‘’small gig’’ was the first time the organizers had witnessed his DJ’ing abilities.

It is usually the case to witness DJs nodding their head or moving their bodies when playing at events. Eff The DJ is the kind to leave the song on, move to the stage and join the audience in jamming.

It’s therefore, unsurprising to note why they would book Eff or any music concert organizer would book him. He is not just great at spinning records; Eff is a sight to behold behind the decks. His energy is infectious. It is usually the case to witness DJs nodding their head or moving their bodies when playing at events. Eff The DJ pushes the envelope a bit more. He is the kind to leave the song on, move to the stage and join the audience in jamming. Watching him on stage is crazy (in a good way), he sometimes jams more than the audience. And so, when he described himself as ‘’more than a DJ. I’m a Performer” in 2018 that was an apt description.

In this interview, Eff The DJ discusses his career, the highs of 2019, juggling between his DJ gigs and corporate life (“There are days I’d rather be behind the decks than in a dragging meeting that could have been a 3-round email exchange’’). He also wades into how DJs could build on their brand as well as managing himself. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Q: In 2018, you played at two huge events- Manifestivities & Throwback Hip Hop New Year. 2019 saw you playing at AfroChella. Which event were you proud to perform on and why was that the case?

M.anifestivities 2019. I got billed with M.anifest and Burna Boy for the 2nd time in a row. I was also glad to do AfroChella. I got billed with legends; Ofori Amponsah, Samini, Sarkodie and other top acts from Nigeria; Tiwa Savage and Wande Coal and other top DJs; Juls, Nana Kwabena, DJ Mic Smith, Mercedes Benson, DJ Sleek, DJ Putin, iPhone DJ, DJ Loft.

Q: On AfroChella, how did you get invited to be part of the event?

’Seeing that it was the Year of Return, they (organizers) wanted to bill the best talents out there- it was going to be their biggest AfroChella ever. The organizers caught me at a smaller gig and that ended up being my audition – which I smashed. It was the first time they saw me playing’’

Q: As someone very close to the action, how will you describe the attitude of event-goers as well as artists?

Event-goers are an interesting bunch. It feels great to find audiences that are willing to hear things outside of mainstream stuff because those are some of my favorite songs. [The] Only thing that runs through is that you cannot impress everyone so you try your best to satisfy as many as possible. And, with so much going on and new things coming up every time you turn around, it can be tough to keep people coming out every week for your event.

I’ve been getting a lot of ‘Ei Eff, we are waiting for your set!’ Or people arrive at events asking if I’ve already played and express relief when I haven’t.

Q: The new decade has started and Ghana’s entertainment scene has been noticed by the world through “Year of Return” (YOR). Being an entertainment buff yourself, what do you think must be done to sell Ghana music well?

Fresh, and distinct sound – Create a clean distinct sound with our songs. We need amazing songwriting, production, and engineering to meet the standards world music around us is reaching nowadays. Some artistes and engineers like those on the horizon are King Promise, Worlasi, Ria Boss, Amaarae, Kwesi Arthur, MoorSound, Rvdical, MikeMillz, Yung Demz, Boye The Genius, Qub3, etc. They’re a lot but we have a good crop of talents to look at. 

Studying worldwide music trends – Look at things that make songs pop outside of the usual radio, video route. Video apps like Triller and Tik Tok have shown to blow songs up in ways that may not have not been looked at yet. People like their music more interactive now; stuff you can interact and create content with, as opposed to something to simply download and listen to.

Collaborating (down) – Artistes coming together to exchange ideas and create- not just throw me a verse or a beat kind of thing. Like really sitting down and working on songs through the writing and production process. I’ve come to realize [that] we may be making some very fire music, but it doesn’t get heard as much because these songs are not from mainstream artistes. If these guys collaborated more with some of these other not-so-mainstream artistes making brilliant music, we could lessen the gap between the mainstream and non-mainstream and hopefully reach both audiences.

Shot by Selorm Jae

Planning, Execution, Access to mainstream media platforms – Have well-planned approaches to song releases, promotion and sustenance. Network more to try to meet more mainstream audiences. With the attention Ghana has received from the YOR noise, there were celebs floating all over Accra. Some of these guys have access to more mainstream media channels that could amplify the reach of our music. 

There is no formula to blowing up. You can follow all the steps and still flop. No formula exist for anything in this 2020. If it works, good for you, but there are certainly no rules. 

Q: Some people don’t know but Franklin has a 9-5. What’s it like balancing your DJing career and the 9-5?

It is not easy. There are days I’d rather be behind the decks than in a dragging meeting that could have been a 3-round email exchange or spend time working to move Eff The DJ brand forward, but it feels good to also be developing other areas of your life outside of your passion field. 

As my career has progressed, I’ve had to mature as a professional as well. I’d have to admit I’m not always in the right mind to operate

Q: Do you have a manager?

 Lol nah I don’t.

Q: So you manage yourself? What’s that like managing yourself?

It was okay initially but things got busier with gigs and adding a few more projects like the podcast, music production and merch. It got overwhelming at a point. I had to employ simple tools on my phone like calendars, reminders, and spreadsheets to keep track of things. It might seem simple but I haven’t always been the most organized person, so as my career has progressed, I’ve had to mature as a professional as well. I’d have to admit I’m not always in the right mind to operate. On such days I’m grateful for people who believe in and advise me. Shouts to Benewaah, Omi, Nhyira, FXP, House No 3, and a few others. I love them to death. 

Shot by Selorm Jae

Q: What happened to your podcast? You started excellently with some great episodes?

Whew, an attack (laughs). I’m working on it. A lot of things were spontaneous last season but I’ll be resuming soon. I admittedly lost steam because it’s not the easiest moving part to manage with scheduling, guests, getting the production right and all that. I also wanted to put a little more structure to things so I give the best episodes in a more timely manner. 

Q: How is your podcast different from those which already exist in the market? What’s your favorite episode so far?

The podcast tries to analyze and draw parallels between events occurring in other well-known markets like the US or UK and our industry. I also get to highlight major achievements or projects from some of our artistes who don’t particularly get the right amount of credit (in my opinion) for their efforts. My favourite episode so far might be with Ria Boss – ThankGodItsEPMania where we highlighted her fire back to back EP run in 2018, and compared to other noticable project runs worldwide. 

There’s also the Power of CollabPilations episode where we talk about compilation projects using the then just released Dreamville project – Revenge of The Dreamers 3 – comparing and contrasted against the impact of other solid compilation releases from here like Hammer’s The Last 2 Compilation and Lil Shaker’s Birthday Mixtape. 

Q: Being a fixture within the entertainment scene, what’s your honest view on the role of journalists and bloggers in advancing our art?

It’s hard to be authentic on the scene now more than ever because it’s such a numbers game, so crazy respect to those still keeping it real. The role I’d say is to spotlight new and upcoming talents, shows and performers, while commending mainstream artistes on their good work, and calling it how it is when they’re not feeling it. You know, essentially producing quality information for anyone who really wanted to know what was really happening on the ground if they were picked from anywhere in the galaxy and ran a search on our industry. 

Q: What about the artists and their team in promoting their own works? Are they doing enough?

Being a DJ and having to release my own music, it’s hard to say if they’re not doing enough or not. I used to think artistes ‘weren’t doing enough’ till I dropped the #IFKR project and realized, it involves a lot of work.  You NEED TIME, MONEY and ACCESS to resource people and platforms to promote, appear in public, shoot videos, crunch your numbers etc.

It’s hard to do all these on your own unless you’re being funded, leveraging on relationships, or your music is genuinely undeniably so fire that people want to support you on their own accord. Or, you happen to catch some ‘virality’ somehow. Not everyone has such privileges or gets this stroke of luck. So, it’s not a simple call.

Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming DJs? 

Work smart AND hard. It’s 2020. There’s much more to gain with direction and application of the right tools and channels. It may also be easy to get lost in the illusion that you don’t have to be good technically. Trends move in cycles, and what may be working for you today may not work for you tomorrow. I’d advise you to have strong technical fundamentals, but nothing is set in stone, so just try to stay ahead as much as possible. 

Build solid, useful relationships.  I’m not the best at networking but the relationships and connections I’ve built and made over time have really come through for me in various ways; securing gigs, getting into venues, access to more people of influence, getting higher leveraging points off recommendations, discounts and passes on various services etc. Networking more with people you come in contact with could do a whole lot more for your career than you could imagine. 

Be professional. Same way you experience a product or service and keep mental notes of your experience to decide whether you’ll use it again is the same way people treat you as a DJ. Be punctual, be appropriately dressed, and give your best to please your audience, be trustworthy. Communicate timely and adequately with your clients. Professionalism goes a long way to ensuring re-engagement.

Know your value & learn to negotiate. Negotiate the best terms for yourself, whether it is monetary or other forms of payment. Be creative with it because you can leverage things like your social media following, request brand partnerships, guest passes, etc. Exposure is not always a bad thing if you work around it. Check out this article from HarmattanRain for tips on leveraging exposure to your advantage.

Q: Which artistes are you banking on for great things this year- both old and new acts?

I’ve got money on Gyakie, Chief Kellz, Khalifina, Queen Ayorkor, Elsie Raad, Jay Cliff, Yung D3mz, MoorSound, and $pacely. Ko-Jo Cue is doing a madness off his heat from ‘’For My Brothers’’; Maayaa and Ria Boss are giving us flames this year. Bosom P- Yung caught viral heat off being a meme but I’m impressed with his music so I wish the best for him this year, if this coronavirus pandemic leaves us alone expeditiously. 

Q: What is your personal expectation for 2020-How much grounds are you ready to cover?

Gain more popularity on the international front, learning to MC during my sets. I’m still not comfortable with my voice but we’ll get there; have some of the most talked about content, events and performances.

Q: We are not living in normal times as you know. The CODVID-19 is wrecking havoc and throwing plans out of the window. As someone whose job includes playing at gigs, how’s this impacting you?

Man, the supreme ghetto of ghettoes. Everything has been thrown out: concerts, brunches, weddings, open-air hangouts… everything. All gigs currently out the window with no sign or hint of when things will get back to normal, if they ever will. CORONA PLEASE LEAVE US ALONE:”

Q: How are you coping so you don’t get bored?

It’s such a weird time chale. I try to keep a daily routine though, not successful all the time. I enrolled in some online courses so I’m trying to finish those while working on stuff under the Eff The DJ brand. I’d also top it off with a couple of shows and that’s it. I’ve started going on IG Live to keep busy and it has turned out more successful than I expected. I’m currently doing Trap’n’B nights on Tuesday and the Friday Night Jam on Fridays. Tune in!

Q: We are seeing a battle of producers/beatmakers etc. Will Eff get on any battle? If so, who do you pick?

Hahaaa. I think I’d like to do a battle where I play the hits for someone else but don’t think I’m DJ Battle ready yet.

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