DJ and Producer Megan Taylor
In an industry dominated by men and masked alter-egos, the freckled and red-haired disc jockey, Megan Taylor, stands out not only because of her gender, but because of her overall girl-next-door appearance. As both a DJ and producer at Fig Media, Megan thrives on a busy lifestyle full of creative meetings, artist reviews, and attending and spinning music for events. Although she was not always on an artistic path, Megan is now one of Chicago’s most sought after artists.
As many college students do, Megan made a drastic change in majors while attending DePaul University, switching from mathematics to art. After enrolling in summer courses at the School of the Art Institute, Megan found her passion in video editing and applied for an internship with Fig Media shortly after. When an editor and post-production manager position opened up right as she was graduating, Megan was easily able to transition into the new role. Her hard work and dedication was noticed when she was asked to DJ for a secret concert in Union Station with Guiliana and Bill Rancic, Sara Bareilles, and Maroon 5. With her career growing by the minute, we were lucky enough to steal some advice from the stylish spinner.
Here, Megan tells us how she was able to let her love for music develop her career, instead of continuously questioning what she should do with her life.
What was your first job out of college and how did you land that position?
Believe it or not my first job was at Fig Media, and I have worked there ever since. In college, I switched focus from majoring in mathematics to art. I received a scholarship to take a summer course at the School of the Art Institute. I was originally signed up for 3-D sculpture, but the class was cancelled and instead I took an intensive video editing course. There I fell in love with editing videos. I felt like I could combine my love for puzzles and problems and be creative throughout the process. After I completed that class, I signed up for as many video production classes as I could. I ended up interning at Big Shoulders Production Company and then my senior year I landed an internship at Fig Media. Right as I was graduating, a position opened up at Fig, and I asked to be considered to apply. The position was for an editor and a post-production manger. My application was accepted, and I interviewed and received the position.
You literally do it all! From DJing to producing videos, you have become one of Chicago’s most sought after artists. Can you tell us about all the different hats you wear at Fig Media?
So true—I like to think of myself as a Renaissance woman! I am a producer at Fig Media, which basically means I sell and oversee a lot of our media projects and events. Fig has evolved and grown quite a bit in the past eight years, and being an integral part of the team, I have developed many skills and interests in media. On any given day, I could meet with a potential client about developing a website, have a creative meeting with a major corporate company to create a social media film campaign, or meet with a bride to talk about wedding photography. Today a majority of my focus is on music and deejaying. I started deejaying about five years ago and have developed a substantial career centered around spinning music at events. I do occasionally have concerns that I need to be more focused and that it is difficult for clients to grasp what I do, but I have also found that my many different jobs connect. Content, media, and music all work together, so having an interest and an expertise in these different areas has added a lot of value for clients.
How did you find your niche and passion for what you do?
It is so funny you ask, because I feel like I am still developing my niche and uncovering what I am passionate about. One thing I have learned is that passion is an evolving process, and it’s all about self-discovery. I have always valued working hard and going after interests. I think being that way in and out of college led me to meet people, open doors, and create unique opportunities. I did not let myself get stuck on figuring out what I “want to do” with the rest of my life—I just pursued things that interested me. Slowly I found out what I liked and what I was good at, and one thing led to the next.
My boss, James, approached me to DJ months before I actually started assisting, and at the time, I had no interest in “being a DJ.” Because James is very persistent, and more importantly, held an incredible vision for me as a substantive female DJ, I said yes to experimenting and giving it a try. Once I got behind the decks, my love for music (and maybe control!) got me on board to become a DJ. I slowly developed a style, an understanding of who I am, and learned to translate that at a party.
I think just hard work, high standards, and consistency helped me create a niche for myself. Earlier in my career, I focused on understanding my clients’ vision for an event or party and then translating that into the music and feel I create. I still do that, but now have a lot more confidence to be creative and let my style influence an event. It is always fulfilling to meet a client for the first time, and they understand my style and what I bring as a DJ to an event. I think that is a great nod towards creating my personal brand. But again, I believe I am discovering myself as a woman and as a DJ every day. I believe that the fun is in the discovery and not in the end result.
What advice do you have for others looking to have a career in media (producing, DJing, photography, etc.)?
I believe internships are very important and beneficial to the start of a great career. You can network, gain skills, and play in different positions and fields. We have a great internship program—in fact, 90% of the people working at Fig were interns. But I strongly believe you get back what you put into an internship, so if you have one, make it count. In college, I had two internships, worked several different jobs, studied abroad, and took summer classes at a different university. All of those positions and opportunities served me in different ways. I believe there is nothing wrong with experimenting and trying something on to see if it fits.
I think networking and who you know is extremely important and can open many doors. Sometimes in “media” positions, it is easy to work alone and in front of your computer, but that most likely will not be enough to get you opportunities. I found out that there are so many people that are willing to help out and introduce me to others; I just had to learn how to ask. Sometimes that is the toughest part. I am also an advocate of paying it forward. I always try and say yes to mentoring DePaul students (I serve as an alumni mentor) and speaking at job fairs. I do that because I have had many important mentors in my life that have given me their time and knowledge, and I believe it is important to return that and share what I know.
How have you made such a big name for yourself in a typically male-dominated field? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome to get to where you are today?
Hard work and relationships are extremely important to this. When I first started deejaying it was more for fun or as a hobby, but as soon as I started getting referrals I decided to take things more seriously. I networked with other DJs and asked for lessons, and I bought my own tables to practice on. There was a whole year during which I decided I wouldn’t turn any gig down and booked myself silly. I also started being very intentional about meeting certain people and building relationships. There are so many people in this city that I feel very supported by and owe very big thank you’s to. I think as soon as I started getting my name out there, people started noticing me, and I got a lot of referrals. I also have lots of friends in the PR and marketing world who were so helpful about introducing me and referring me.
I also always hold high standards about pulling off a great event. Everything matters, from the way I carry myself, to the music, to the fun I have, and it all pays off. When I do a great job and satisfy or blow a client away, it will lead to another event. I also have a great team behind me. There are many other Fig DJs and artists who have offered me all kinds of support and have helped me to grow. I am incredibly grateful to each one of them. I like to do things on my own but have learned how to open up and include others. Eventually, I started to create a certain sound and style at my events that I think people understand. I intentionally create different vibes at parties with cutting edge music. I try to find music that people will be standing at a party and need to know what song I am playing. I do my research and try and stay on the edge of music. I remember sitting in the audience at a fashion show for Fashion Focus one year and thinking, I have to DJ this event. Last year I deejayed the event with live musicians. It was incredible, but I had to be very intentional about creating that pathway for myself. I also don’t stick to one type of music or event, and challenge myself by mixing that up. I like to test myself so I can learn more. Being a female has been challenging at times and has also been an asset. Several times people have not taken me seriously, and other times, I think people are drawn to book a female DJ because it is different. My goal is for people to know me through my music and personality.
Congrats on winning a Telly Award for a video you worked on! Where do you find inspiration to continually produce fresh, exciting content?
I really can’t take credit for the content produced. I work with a very hard-working, talented team that holds weekly critiques of all work. At the meetings, everyone is encouraged to give honest and critical feedback in support of our clients projects and goals. The vulnerability of the artist is always encouraged. I believe these discussions and dialogue have developed amazing artists and directors at Fig. James and Michele Gustin (founders and owners of Fig) are very talented and creative artists, so the environment is created from their practice. I add value by understanding my clients’ goals and needs. Before I jump into anything creative with my team, I need to see how the media or content will influence and move them closer to their goals. Today it is easy to make content, but in making successful content, I will sequence through the idea to the way the viewers will see it and be influenced. I also pay attention to what is around me and notice what compels me. The Telly I was a part of was for a collaborative project with Billy Dec when he was launching the Underground. We made parodies of the Mac commercials and launched them as viral videos. This was when social media videos were just starting to take shape. I love partnering with clients like Billy because they want to take risks and pull off something that is different.
Describe your typical work schedule. What does a day look like in the life of Megan Taylor?
No two days are ever the same. Usually I wake up in the morning with a strong cup of coffee and a workout. I jump on a team phone call with the owners of Fig and two other producers for a daily team check in. I will have a few meetings with potential clients and planners or a creative meeting for an upcoming event. I will check all of my favorite blogs, listen to new music and artists, read reviews, and then post to my own blog and one I collaborate on: thesoundbastards.com. I will check in on current projects I am overseeing and make sure we are on target. I will have a phone call with our DJ Manager to make sure all of the details are confirmed for setup or that I have an assistant for an upcoming event. Then in the evening I will most likely have an event to DJ. In that case, I am planning an outfit, prepping music, arriving early for testing and setup, and then spending my nights spinning music, usually for a private or fashion event. If I have the night off, I usually have dinner plans with girlfriends at a new restaurant. I usually feel like I am running from one thing to the next, but I have found I am able to hold a lot of details in my head. One of the most important skills I think anyone can learn is how to troubleshoot well and think creatively. I do sort of thrive on a very busy lifestyle, but I always have to know when I have some down time in my future. I also am all about recharging with people, so I schedule in time with friends and mentors, and I have a life coach.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
There are times in the middle of an event when I will have a profound moment and just know I love what I am doing. I will be struck by the people, energy, music, and vibe, and I just love that I am an influential part in creating something unique. I like the act of deejaying because it is so in the moment. I never know what will happen in 15 minutes, and I like how present I have to be. I like how there is no program or “right way” an event is supposed to go.
How would you still like to see your career evolve, if at all, in the next year?
I would like to continue with all of the amazing events I book but add in more events outside of Chicago, specifically in New York and L.A. I would like to develop more relationships with international brands and also tighten up my own brand. I also see myself collaborating with more musicians and other artists. I just love the DJ and drummer or violinist combination. I also would like to use my brand and music knowledge to do more programming for restaurants, hotels, and stores.
Best moment of your career so far?
There are several, but one of the best was this past spring when I was chosen to be the DJ for a secret concert at Union Station. Caesars Entertainment threw a huge launch party in four cities for a new rewards program. Basically, I deejayed sets in between hosts Guiliana and Bill Rancic, Sara Bareilles, and Maroon 5, and an opening set to pump up the crowd. It was a bit surreal, because I was the buffer when they switched to live screenings and concerts in other cities, so I had a director that would cue me and cameras and lights would point towards me. I honestly bounced from being terrified to excited moment by moment. The event was amazing to be a part of, but what also made it a special night was that I really felt like all of the hard work I had put in paid off. I got an incredible referral, and that opened the door. The other DJs in the other cities are very well respected, so it felt incredible to play at that level of artistry.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
I would tell my 23-year-old self that it is ok to not know what you want to do with the rest of your life. I think that was a misconception that I had and that a lot of college graduates have. I think a lot of college graduates are expected to have their lives figured out and know what their career paths look like. I am still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. I believe finding yourself and your passion is a process. I put unnecessary pressure on myself when I was in my 20′s to figure out a “plan” because all of my friends seemed to know theirs. I found happiness and success by trial and error and moving toward things I was interested in. I know not everyone is like me, but I think I am finally ok with not having a traditional career path and have realized my job is to stay open to what is presented.