Nicole John considers herself an ordinary mom with an unusual job. John is from St James and is a full-time karaoke disc jockey.
What is a karaoke disc jockey?
Well that is a question John says she gets constantly. However, she is happy to enlighten anyone wanting to know more about her chosen profession.
“People usually equate disc-jockey as someone with a microphone in hand, playing music and stirring up the crowd behind a turntable. However being a karaoke disc jockey is a tad different, John said.
“There are some similarities but it is two separate professions,” she added.
“I don’t use a turntable. The tools of my trade are my laptop, mixer and speakers. Microphones are set up on the stage but are used by the people coming up to sing karaoke. I set up the music they have selected and get the crowd ready to receive them, however, I don’t sing. I am the ‘prep’ person. I work behind the scenes so the person on stage singing can have their moment in the spotlight and feel like star,” John said.
“The attention is not on me but on the singer. I don’t really play music as such however there are times when I may have to do a little hosting but I basically put up the words on the screen to make it easier for the singer. It is kind of like a library and I am a librarian. The person comes and selects what book they want and I get their selection and put it up on the screen,” she added.
“To be a karaoke disc jockey, you first have to know a wide range of music and not just the ones you like because people come to the clubs and will select all kinds of music so you have to be ready. From the oldies like Frank Sinatra to more current tunes from Alicia Keys or Rihanna, you always have to be ready. Of course having appreciation for music is a plus,” she said.
John has been a karaoke disc jockey for the past six years and though it pays the bills and helps her explore her creativity, she admits she still gets strange looks from people who wonder if it is a real profession.
“Just going to bank for a loan or applying for a house is difficult at times. The little section that asks you, what is your profession I put karaoke disc jockey and then I get skeptical looks from the teller who is not even considering if I qualify for the loan but is now curious about my current means of employment. This often leads to more questions and it has gotten to a point where I now simply say, I am self-employed,” John said.
She said, “Being a karaoke disc jockey is not something I always wanted to do. It was something I kind of fell into.
“I did mostly business subjects at school and looked at teaching at one point, however, I moved on and did sales for a little while but I yearned to do something more. My friends and I love karaoke and one night when we were out and I had an opportunity to do karaoke, I froze. I just could not do it. I did not have the confidence in myself back then to do it, however after I got over that hurdle, my friends encouraged me to do it and when the opportunity arose again, I excelled,” she said.
“I got my first karaoke job in Diamond Vale and realised that this was something that combined my two passions: people and my love for entertainment,” she said.
“I think I have the most wonderful job in the world. If people are stressed or depressed, I try and put a smile on their face. They come out and sing, have fun and relax,” John said.
“My boyfriend says I get pay to party and in a way he is right but the hours are long and like any other profession there are challenges. Dealing sometimes with rowdy men is not pleasant so having the patience and wherewithal to be a professional can be tedious at times but I’ve learnt to overcome these hurdles when they arise,” she said.
John admitted that her mother while she was alive was not too thrilled about her choice of career but she still supported her and wanted her to be happy.
As a mother herself of a seven-year-old, she admits she would not like to have her daughter become a karaoke disc jockey given the challenges faced in this profession.
“It is a great profession but it is something you really have to apply yourself and have a passion for. I am fortunate that I could do this full-time but not everyone is as fortunate. There are times when there are slow periods and you have to still find ways to make money,” she said.
John noted while some people may not take karaoke seriously, there is a strong following in Trinidad.
“It is a lucrative industry if you understand the business. I enjoy what I do and like my mother used to say, hard work; brings reward,” she added.