Industry Insiders: Damon DeGraff, DJ Director

Damon DeGraff, CEO of DGI Management, on his secret career aspirations, Bermuda, and why Russell Simmons is the man.

What are your New York spots? I would probably have to say the Beatrice Inn. It’s owned by one of my clients, Paul Sevigny. There is great music, great drinks, interesting people. It’s a very cool, chill, hip vibe. My favorite restaurant is probably Indochine. It’s consistent. You can always get great service and great food. I also really like GoldBar. It has good drinks and a great atmosphere. Also, from the beginning, they’ve always tried to put a different slant in their establishment musically than the average club.

What’s your job description? I oversee and manage the careers of artists. I deal with their day to day work and also with the overall acceleration and advancement of their careers. I’m the one who deals with everything. I have other people who work for me, but I’m very hands-on with what I do. It’s a small company, so everyone gets dirty when it’s time to get things done. We started with managing just DJs, and we’ve recently moved into recording artists and some producers. I like to call it lifestyle management even more than entertainment management. I like to manage things that I enjoy and are part of my lifestyle. I’m a huge soccer fan, so I wanted to start a sports division. Now we manage a soccer player for the New England Revolution. We also manage DJ Cassidy, Paul Sevigny, and the Misshapes.

Who do you admire in the music and entertainment industry? I would have to say Russell Simmons. What he did with hip hop was great. He made it into a business. I feel like that is similar to what I’m doing. There have always been a lot of DJs, but I’m known for making DJing into a business and still keeping its integrity — not selling out. It takes a genius to really do something like Russell has. Now he’s branched out into doing everything, from comedy to fashion to websites. He’s definitely a role model of mine.

What positive things are you seeing in the music industry? One positive thing is the increasing relevance of the independent artist and independent music. Independent music in general is easier to buy, it’s easier to find. It’s giving an outlet to creative people who traditionally couldn’t get their music heard, and it’s been somewhat frustrating. I feel like now it’s coming more to a head where they have more outlets.

Negative trends? I guess the negative aspect would be the opposite of that. I feel like the decline of creativity among some of the artists who have major deals hurts the business.

What is something that people might not know about you? That my first name is Curtis, and that I always wanted to be a singer. I never had the nerve to really pursue it.

What’s your favorite place in the world? Bermuda. I was just there for Christmas. It’s my home, and it’s been on my mind a lot lately.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I have a soccer game at 8:15 at Pier 40.
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