We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony Liebetrau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’ve found that risk taking in life and risk taking in business are two entirely different things with a wholly separate criteria leveled for each. I’ve often found the greatest, most life-progressing lessons buried in the ashes of failure. A risk taken, converted slyly to a lesson learned (and hopefully applied later). For instance, I decided to try fly fishing because I heard it has Zen baked into its’ crust and also I live in Colorado and they’ll kick me out if I don’t attempt to fly fish at least once within my first decade of residency. Two hours into my quite expensive, guided fly fishing expedition, it dawned on me that, you know what, I’d rather just be out here sitting on a rock and enjoying the view. My hands are too clumsy and dull for the intricate work that tying a lure demands. I loathe the movement required to keep the fish interested in my fake bait and that my patience for staring is more “up at the sky” than “down under water.” And…that’s…okay. I took my risk, I discovered that I don’t care for fishing, I won’t make that mistake again. Life is short. I’ll try a different “only in Colorado” activity that I’m better suited for and that better suits me. For business though, I’m inherently more cautious. I’m building a brand, forging a reputation, developing a style. I’m subject to reviews on Google, I can be taken to task on Yelp. Years of excellent customer service can be toppled by a single bungle. I tend my business identity and health like a helicopter mom on a playground littered with broken glass. A certain amount of business is delivering a reliable, exceptional service (or product) without deviation. That’s consistency and reliability. There’s not a huge pool of folks who want to book a DJ because they want a total, shocking surprise. My work is the part of my life where experience matters because of the rough edges that have been smoothed out, not so much because those hours and hours of practice and implementation have now freed me up to do whatever I feel like at a live performance just because the mood strikes me and I’ve earned my stripes. Risk taking is for rehearsal, once the performance is live, it’s time to bring the A game. That said, if a rolling stone gathers no moss, a completely risk-free stone…does gather moss? Whatever – moss is bad, okay? You can’t survive as an artist, musician, business person, a person person, if you don’t adapt and reach beyond your tried and true. If you become so locked into routine and what “works” that you calcify and close down all incoming lanes. Growth is essential and risk is often growth’s prerequisite. So in this new year, I will try new things, explore foreign ideas, challenge the status quo and my own tendency to leave well enough alone. I vow to experiment, dive into avenues I’ve avoided because of fear, scream into the ether and see what bounces back. But I also promise not to do any of those things on my customer’s dime or time. My risk taking will be done in the shadows, covertly, behind the scenes, like a magician practicing an extremely delicate trick. By the time I unveil my discovery, the potential fallout of the exploration will have been confined, harmlessly, to the rehearsal space. The lessons learned from the trials, rather than laid bare and wriggling in front of paying patrons, will instead be absorbed into a finished product that is informed by them and yet feels wonderfully spontaneous and alive. That’s the goal at least, and the potential reward of measured risk is limitless.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
You can’t force yourself to be passionate about something. When I look back, the world has always been music to me. I’ve always loved life when they’re a soundtrack accompanying it. Sometimes, as in my case, the application of that artistic tendency into a profession can seem cheap and unreal. The hard part is giving yourself permission to do the thing you’ve always felt in your bones was your calling. Then you come to grips with getting what you want which comes with its own set of recalibrations. How do I keep the magic now that I have a checking account getting fed by the thing I used to just do for free and for fun. I promised myself years ago that I would quit once the pre-gig jitters went away. When I no longer loved the creative process of developing a new mix or listening to new music, I’d hang it up. Haven’t got there yet.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’d take them biking along Platte River trail and we’d hit up breweries along the way. Or we’d hit a Rockies game or do dinner and a play down at the performing arts complex. Honestly, some of my favorite things about Denver are the people I’ve met. I’d introduce my guests to my Denver friends and we’d go to a show at Red Rocks, Mission Ballroom, or The Fillmore. I’d take them to coffee at Middlestate, and for lasagna at White Pie.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Aubrey Henderson – my business partner! We started The Get Down together and both took a huge risk in doing so. We didn’t have much time to waste establishing ourselves in a new market (we both became professional DJs while living in Los Angeles) and had to develop an artistic business relationship while building a friendship. It was a leap of faith, a go of gut, a risk. And it ended up being a great decision with all sorts of buried treasure.
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