Music Industry Careers: Joshua Strand
Name: Joshua Strand
Job: Self employed lighting technician and owner of Metro DJ
Experience: Stage tech team at Murray's Bay Intermediate and Rangitoto College, Volunteer at ZEAL Henderson
Studied: Diploma of Audio Engineering and currently Bachelor of Recording Arts at SAE, supported by delivering pizza for Domino's!
How did you get interested in stage lighting?
It started in intermediate school. I got interested in lighting school shows, so I joined the tech team there. It was purely just a hobby, and I did it with some friends and we learned from each other. Then in college I joined the tech team there and kept working on school productions and dance shows. Around the same time I was doing it at school, I started doing volunteer lighting for rock bands, and also for a charity talent show. I emailed ZEAL and told them I was really interested in doing volunteer work. It was cool because they just let me do whatever I wanted. So I've been with them since year 7.
When did it go from volunteering to getting paid?
I running lighting at events for one of the staff at Murray's Bay who was running his own audio company. With the little pocket money I had, I started buying my own lighting equipment, so I was providing the lighting as well. I also started getting paid work at ZEAL, and investing the money I made in more equipment. That really added value to my business. I was learning to DJ at the same time, and ZEAL asked me to DJ the Auckland Council Disabilities Disco. So that was my first proper gig. I built up a playlist and bought a DJ controller that had software that could run off a laptop, and I charged them $150, but they came back and wanted to pay me double that because I did such a great job. Then they booked me for another one after that, and that's how I got the idea for the DJ company. I started promoting to intermediate school discos. Now I'm more focused on weddings and private parties.
I learned a lot from hanging out with my good friend Jack about lighting and also from YouTube. There's a large community of young lighting entrepreneurs and mobile DJs, so I watched their videos and ended up Skyping with some of them.
What did your parents think when you wanted to start your own business?
My parents have always been supportive of anything I've wanted to do. My dad used to drive me to every gig until I got my restricted driver's licence. My parents didn't push me too hard, they let me find my own interest and passion. That's what will take you the furthest because you're interested in it rather than being made to do it.
When you get a job, do people seem to to judge you because of your age?
All the time! Especially now that I'm doing weddings. The first impression is that they're always a bit skeptical. But as long as you have confidence that you can deliver a quality service, and you're not going to let them down, most of the time I can turn that around. And after the event you can get a good testimonial - that will help build your reputation.
What skills are important for your job?
For lighting, you need to know the technical aspects as well as troubleshooting and knowing exactly how everything is patched in. If something doesn't work, which happens in almost every gig, you need to be able to fix it under pressure. Communication with bands and the people running the event - they'll have an image about how they want it to look, and you need to translate that into technical terms.
For DJing, you need to be able to read the crowd and play to their tastes. You need a good knowledge of music from different eras as well.
You also can't let your feelings get into it if someone doesn't like the song you're playing. You have to keep your cool and be professional. In general, getting the experience and meeting people and networking, that's really important. Being able to do it for real and apply the things you've learned.
I'm studying audio engineering at the moment, so that's the direction I'm headed - working with artists, producing, mixing and mastering in a studio. I've found artist management interesting, and business management as well. So I don't know where it's going to take me. MetroDJ is my testing ground and I'll see how far I can take it.