INTERVIEW:Tessa Young aka DJ Tessa
Updated: Apr 26, 2022
🎧 Tessa Young is DJ & Founder of Prism DJs, a collective and booking agency, based in Long Beach and serving the Greater Los Angeles area, representing a diverse and eclectic roster of women DJs. PRISM DJs' mission is to create a supportive network for women DJs and advocate for gender equality in the music industry. With a network of 30 women, the agency provides soundtracks for private parties, weddings, retail and corporate events.
🎼 I am both a DJ and a talent booking agent.
As a DJ, I perform and play music for corporate events and weddings.
As a Booking Agent, I book DJ talent for corporate events and weddings.
What sort of purpose do you feel in your job and/or why do you believe your line of work is
important and meaningful?
Through independent research, I've found that women make up about 16% of the DJ industry. PRISM DJs have provided gig work for numerous women in the Greater Los Angeles area. This helps them to earn additional income to support themselves and their independent DJ businesses. I’ve also found that clients want to book women DJs; they simply didn't know where to find trusted, vetted, talented DJs. By running a company that solely books women DJs, we contribute (slowly but surely) to increasing the percentage of women who make up the DJ industry.
What is the most exciting part of your day-to-day work?
There are so many exciting parts of my day-to-day work. Every day is completely different. I have two jobs that work in tandem with each other as a DJ and as a booking agent.
I love getting event inquiry emails and pairing clients with a DJ that is a perfect music match for their event. I also enjoy work that others may consider mundane, like preparing contracts and invoices. My lifelong passion is music. As a DJ, I love curating the perfect musical atmosphere for a client’s corporate event or wedding. This satisfies my creative side.
I feel so fortunate that I can combine all my skills as part of my career!
What do you think the future of your industry looks like, let's say in 15 years? What impact
will it be making? How will it be different from what you do now?
In 15 years, I truly believe the music and DJ industry will be more gender-balanced, diverse, and inclusive. Representation is so incredibly important because it is proof that there is a place for us in this industry. Regarding how the music and DJ industry will be different from now, I can’t quite answer that because I feel like there is no replacement for live events. Although there may be more virtual or metaverse events in the future, nothing will replace the live and in-person experience.
When did you decide you wanted to enter this field? What steps did you take to make that
decision a reality?
I have always loved music, collected music, and owned DJ equipment since 2002, so
transitioning into my DJ career felt very natural. Although, I never thought of DJing as a
sustainable career when I first started. For me, DJing was a fun side hustle in 2009. I quickly
realized how profitable it could be if you worked hard at both the business and creative aspects.
In 2009, I worked as a legal assistant at a civil litigation law firm in Downtown Los Angeles. On Thursdays and Fridays, after work, I would DJ at local lounges. Then, I started getting inquiries for weddings and small private events on weekends. So, I was working a full time legal job, DJing on Thursday and Friday nights, then the occasional weddings or private events on Saturdays and Sundays. I can’t believe I had that much energy!
When both my full-time job and DJ side hustle became too overwhelming in 2011, I transitioned to a part-time legal assistant and part-time DJ until 2015. Once I could fully support myself from the DJ income in 2015, I was able to quit the legal
assistant job. At that same time in 2015, I started PRISM DJs, the booking agency.
From 2015 to present, I have been working as a DJ and the owner/operator of PRISM DJs!
For any students, age 12-18 who thinks your job sounds interesting, what advice would you
give them to help them learn/train/explore your field?
Students and teens love music and the thought of DJing! There’s so many ways for them to learn, train, and explore the field. They could start by watching YouTube videos of DJ interviews or instruction videos. They may find inspiration on social media apps like TikTok or Instagram. Access to equipment may be the biggest barrier, as it can be expensive. Parents of students, or the students themselves, can research local workshops or DJ classes open to teens. Beat Junkies Institute of Sound in Glendale is a great place for in-person or online classes (https://www.beatjunkiesound.com/classes). PRISM DJs may even hold a workshop in Long Beach in the near future! I volunteered for Camp Spinoff in 2018 and 2019 (pre-pandemic) which is a DJ summer camp that offers scholarships to teens. I hope Camp Spinoff will take place again once the pandemic subsides. It was such a cool experience! You can check them out here: https://campspinoff.com/
Are there any organizations, communities, or movements that create synergy between you
and others in your field, here in the City of Long Beach?
Here in the City of Long Beach, we have amazing women DJs in our network like DJ Ka3na (https://artslb.org/artists/dj-ka3na/) who DJs and throws events regularly in Long Beach. We also have our Long Beach LGBTQIA+ community members and supporters, DJs Ohla
(https://www.instagram.com/djohla/ ) &
Tonee Macara (https://www.instagram.com/toneemacara).
And of course, how could we be DJs without the amazing Long Beach record stores like
Fingerprints Music, Record Box and Twelves?!
What makes Long Beach a great place to live and work as it relates to your industry?
Long Beach is a great place to live and work because it is right in the middle of Los Angeles and Orange County, where most of our events take place. We also have the Long Beach Convention Center, which holds numerous events requiring DJs. Our team was excited to DJ there for the California Charter Schools Association Conference in March 2022!