This DJ and radio veteran is building a new kind of broadcast empire with the futuristic mindset "music is technology."
Scott Keeney, better known as DJ Skee, prides himself on one thing. He "finds a way to make it happen." The Minnesota native, radio and TV personality, and music executive founded Dash Radio in 2014. He aimed to advance radio past your terrestrial signal and into a new era. Skee has worked with some of the world’s biggest DJs, artists and radio personalities to bring consumers a free radio platform molded just for them.
Find Your Grind spoke to DJ Skee about networking his way to the top, his passion for music and his goals for Dash Radio.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What was your high school hustle?
Anything I could do. It all revolved around finding things I loved and was passionate about. I was always a "sneaker head," and the way I could get a lot of my Jordans was by reselling them. So I would go wait in line and get exclusive early releases and sell [them] to other people. I fell in love with music and started DJing because of an engineering class I randomly took in high school. I was making mixtapes, having fun and doing what I loved. Through all the connections I made and by working hard, I landed my first job.
What is your average day?
The average day for me can range. I like to have those hours in the morning before there’s a lot of action and activity where I can reflect, brainstorm and get ready for the day. Then, it’s usually straight to the office where I run in and out of different meetings. I may have to fly out to a different city that night; I may have to go DJ somewhere; I may have to go do a TV show.
Whatever it is, no two days are ever alike, which is cool. I try to have a core routine on the road. It keeps me focused and keeps me in line to make sure I’m eating right and getting my exercise because those things have been so helpful in my life. I feel like when I don’t do that I don’t perform as well, so I treat my body and my mind like a well-oiled machine — the same way an athlete would.
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
Building something from scratch: watching it go from an idea [and] everyone thinking you’re crazy to actually being something viable, legitimate and real in that world. It’s almost like having a baby. That’s also the most challenging thing because when you build from scratch there’s not necessarily a road map. I definitely try to listen and learn from others, but no two paths are going to be the same. You’re going to make a lot of wrong turns; you’re going to spend time doing things that aren’t necessarily the most beneficial; and you’re going to fail a lot of times. You have to learn from those, react fast and keep it moving.
What are the first steps in launching a business?
First, make sure it’s something that makes sense, will work in the world and is something you’re ready for. I’ve had plenty of ideas before, even when I was a kid, but I wasn’t ready to just start a business at that point. I had to go work in the industry, go learn, network and work my way up.
Even though my current project is Dash Radio, I couldn’t have started this if I hadn’t been on the radio for 10 years beforehand. That foundation gave me the network and knowledge to launch my own business. Ideas are easy, but it’s tough to go out and actually execute those without the network and team around it.
I’m just a kid from Minneapolis who’s living the Hollywood dream. I never expected any of this, but I went out and made it happen through hard work, through networking, through years of building and basically making my way up. You have to trust yourself, but it’s also about making these calculated decisions and calculated risks. It’s not going out and saying, "We’re going to go jump over the Grand Canyon." Practice and know when you’re ready to jump and have a realistic shot.
Tell us about Dash Radio.
We think Dash Radio will be the future of broadcast radio. My foundation since the time I was 16 was being on air. When you look at radio, it's the last technology that hasn’t shifted from analog and still uses FM antennas to digital. But all that’s happening with the connected car and with home speakers, so we saw an opportunity to come in while everyone’s been focused on the streaming space and focus on building a live audio product and basically going over the top and empowering the best DJs, the best talent and the best artists in the world to create their own stations and curate it and go directly to their fans.
There’s no one telling them what to play, what say on the air or what to do. They really have all the freedom in the world, and we provide the whole platform, the resources and the distribution. For the consumers, they get the best radio experience unencumbered by commercials, all for free and directly to them wherever they listen — whether on a home speaker, in a car, or with an app.
What advice do you have about networking?
Networking, as you’ll learn in business, is probably the single most important thing you can do. People like to do business with people they know. With that being said, you can’t just go straight to the top. Find the right people and figure out what you can offer them.
People approach Steve Rifkind every day asking for jobs, but it doesn’t work that way. I connected him with at the right time and sent him a whole list of ideas that I had for his record label that he didn’t ask for. He loved it so much and saw that I was taking initiative. He was like, “Look, I just need to have you around. Come work for me.”
Networking is about realizing when those opportunities happen and taking advantage of them. But instead of asking for something, give something.
How is your personality a good fit for what you do?
I think we’re more transparent than ever nowadays. I always try not to be the old-school music business guy that’s like, "I’ll tell you what you want to hear and then go stab you in your back." You can’t really get away with that anymore because of the internet and because people talk a lot more now.
I’ve always tried to be kind and treat people with respect. At the end of the day, we’re all equal no matter what level and status we are in the business world. At the end of the day, we’re all made from the same thing, so I don’t try to look at one person as better than the next. I just try to be friendly and kind and build and be cool with everybody.
Is there a common theme across your body of work?
When you look at my resume now, there are a lot of things on it. You might ask what tech has to do with music and with investing, but everything kind of works together. Whether it’s a TV show that promotes the radio platform (which creates content for the TV show), it’s all this never-ending circle. Especially nowadays. A lot of these boundaries are blurred, and it’s all one and the same.
What would you tell kids about choosing a path?
Follow your passions: You’ll find opportunities from that. There have been times when I’ve gone out and tried to make money, for the intention of making money, and it hasn’t necessarily worked. But if I follow my passion, and obviously find business opportunities within that, that’s where I’ve been most successful. If you’re totally confused and can’t figure out where to go, I’d say try a little of everything.
I think one thing that’s so important right now is coding. I remember taking a basic HTML website class in high school. That still helps me today because even though I’m not building our sites, I can still speak the basic language when I’m talking to our programmers.
What do you look for in a potential colleague?
There has to be synergy in terms of personality, somebody that’s very respectful, has a vision for the future and also is a self-starter. I’ve experienced everything I’ve done pretty much through startups with shoestring budgets. We’re not a major corporation blessed with hundreds of millions of dollars. And even if someone was an executive at one of those major companies, if they don’t know how to become a self-starter, pull things out of the air, build ideas on their own and then turn them into reality, then it might not make sense for us. We always say, don’t bring up a problem without figuring out a solution. There’s a solution for everything, and you just have to go out and find out how to make it happen. That’s my philosophy.
What does it mean to Find Your Grind?
Find something you love doing, that you can do the rest of your life, that you can also get paid for and turn into a business. My grind is music and DJing. Through that, I built a radio business that we want to take out and make the standard for what radio broadcast is in this digital era. And it came from following my passions. Even though I didn’t realize it when I was running around selling shoes, that was my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s finding your passions, going out and following them, doing whatever it takes to just make it happen.
A Northern Virginia native, Anna looks forward to studying communications at James Madison University. Her main interests are photography, journalism and supporting the Washington Nationals.