Today, you can become a do-it-yourself DJ simply by downloading a phone app or a computer program. But many moons ago, you had to edit songs together on cassette tapes.
That seems like the dark Ages, but it worked for Shawn Sabo, who is now a hit DJ in the duo Manufactured Superstars, performing Sunday at XS and Wednesday at Surrender.
Sabo not only made mixtapes, he also made remix tapes by laboriously editing together different cassettes.
Through that method, he became so good at blending music, he talked his way into DJing at a roller rink when he was just 11 years old.
And when he grew of age, he moved to Denver and worked as a drum ‘n’ bass DJ.
It was in Denver that he met his DJ-producer partner in Manufactured Superstars, Brad Roulier. That’s when Sabo’s life story exploded.
He and Roulier formed Manufactured Superstars in 2005. What’s more, Roulier had just co-created a music site called Beatport.com, and he brought Sabo onboard.
They and others turned Beatport.com into one of the main sources of electronic dance music in the world. its Web servers use more bandwidth on the West Coast than anybody except Civil Defense, Sabo says.
“Even the biggest bands now – Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack, all those guys – still make sure their songs are on Beatport first,” Sabo says.
“Then they roll it out to iTunes, and the next thing you know, it’s in Absolut commercials.”
Sabo helped the site blossom as marketing VP, up until last year. Sabo is still a shareholder, but he felt he had too many gigs with Manufactured Superstars (100 shows a year) to stay on in marketing.
As huge as Beatport is, it hasn’t made its co-founders Bill Gates rich.
“I wish, bro,” Sabo says. “Beatport was expensive – lots of technology, nearly 100 employees with development teams and customer service in seven languages.
“Every penny we made, we put back in,” Sabo says. “We put everything back in the company, from marketing to hiring the best people, and servers.”
Plus, if someone buys a song on Beatport for, say, $2.45, then 65 percent of that money goes back to the artists and the labels.
Anyway, money is not his motivation. Sabo got into the business for the music. and he and Roulier perform at top gigs in Vegas, Ibiza, Spain, and across the continents.
The duo has a residency at Wynn’s XS and Encore’s Surrender nightclubs, alongside a dizzying number of other top DJ-producers, from Tiesto to Afrojack, Calvin Harris, deadmau5, Skrillex and dozens of others.
“They’ve got every frickin’ DJ in the world. It’s amazing just to be included in that team of superstars,” Sabo says.
They’re rolling out a new single every 45 days, for the next few months. The video for their latest single, “Silver Splits the Blue,” was filmed mostly at XS, starring Vegas native and UFC model Arianny Celeste.
When they perform, they wear matching NASA spacesuits, they spin a lot of songs, and the crowd goes insane.
For Sabo, this all started with a few cassette tapes – and roller skates.
Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. he blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.