One might not expect the Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs to have as a hobby spinning house and electronic music at dingy New York City clubs. But in the latest “Math & Magic: Stories From the Frontiers of Marketing” podcast, David Solomon explains, “I wanted to learn the history of the music, so I went to a friend in New York that knows something about the music business—and he suggested I meet with Paul Oakenfold. So I’m in Los Angeles, he’s been in the business for 30 years, we were roughly the same age and we hit it off.”
In this latest episode of the weekly podcast, hosted by iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, the head of the leading financial firm discusses how he was rejected twice for a job there, how he has changed the culture to appeal to a younger career demographic, and his leadership style.
But the most intriguing anecdote in the podcast conversation surrounds his curiosity about the finances of a Vegas nightclub—and how that lured him into the electronic dance scene. “I spent a lot of time in my banking career in and around Las Vegas. I was very involved in financing the development of a lot of the big buildings and entrepreneurs that were out there,” Solomon begins.
About a decade ago, when Steve Wynn’s Encore was opening, there was a discussion about the nightclub Tryst in the Wynn hotel in Vegas. “It was going to make a monstrous amount of money in a given year,” he says. “I started asking questions, how is that possible, what is going on that a nightclub can make that kind of money playing recorded music?” He was told that brand name DJs were being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a night. “I looked at the economics and thought wow, what’s going on?”
He adds that at this point, he knew nothing about dance music, but the genre was expanding and DJs were becoming celebrities behind the turntable. “I was out there in these clubs a handful of times trying to understand the business model”—but ultimately, it was the music he was drawn to, not the financial side, he says with a laugh.
“I started looking at it and exploring it,” Solomon says. Oakenfold suggested he buy decks and experiment with mixing the music he loved—offering to “talk me through how to do this as a hobby. I started doing this on Sunday afternoons; someone would come to my apartment and teach me how to mix music.”
Some five years later, Oakenfold was coming to New York to play a major club and connected with Solomon. “He said, ‘I hear you’re getting pretty good. Why don’t you take an hour in front of the guy that’s opening for me?’ I had never played in front of anyone. And Paul says, ‘By the way it’ll be 11 o’clock’ there won’t be anyone there.’ So my kids and some of their friends were there and that was about it. And I was lost in the moment,” Solomon says.
From there, “I started knocking around New York, DJ’ing in some pretty dingy places.” A New York Times reporter caught wind of his hobby and wrote a story about the Goldman Sachs Chairman spinning records. CNN Business, Business Insider and The New York Post have also covered the unusual story about the “secret DJ.”
From there, Solomon decided to create a small imprint, Payback Records, with his own work and that of a couple other mixers. He has released multiple singles under his moniker “DJ D-Sol,” including “Don't Stop” and “Feel Alive,” both of which have charted on Billboard Dance Singles. All proceeds going to addiction charities. “I wanted to see if we can do some good with it,” Solomon tells Pittman. “I could be playing golf on a Sunday afternoon, but candidly, I’d rather be in a music studio.”