What’s It Like Being a DJ in Las Vegas Right Now?

DJ Maria Romano shares how production and marketing have pivoted as a result of the pandemic

By OTS Staff

Maria Romano was only 11 years old when she started DJing in her hometown of Pittsburgh. What started as playing her friend’s birthday parties morphed into a passion and a career, landing her as a regular performer in the northeast city’s bar and club scene. It wasn’t until the age of 21, when she was visiting a family member that lived and worked in Las Vegas, that she set her sights on making the entertainment capital her home. 

By the time she made it full time in Vegas, she had just turned 22 and hit the ground running—frequenting all the major clubs in town almost nightly, hustling to connect with as many movers, shakers and decision makers in the nightlife industry as possible. This dedication and omni-present lifestyle helped Romano get gigs with Hakkasan Group as well as Drai’s Beachclub, Nightclub and After Hours where she still plays to this day.

We caught up with Romano to reflect on her time in Las Vegas as a resident and headlining DJ, and to discuss what she’s been working on during the last few months when much of her normal work life has been disrupted due to the pandemic, and finally, what she’s banking on in 2021 and beyond. 

You’ve been playing in Las Vegas for a few years. What do you think the biggest difference between playing in a place like your hometown versus the nightclubs you spin at now? 

Everything here is magnified, right? In a Las Vegas club, everything is important. The lights, the music, the VIP hosts, how you set up the club, the layout of the club, everything’s important here whereas back home it’s more of a bar scene so it’s a bit more basic. Also, back home you don’t get this level of tourism. When you’re in Vegas, you’re constantly getting that new overturn of people, so the excitement is always there and it is just amplified that much more. 

How do you feel your style and brand has grown and changed since becoming a regular in the Las Vegas nightlife scene? 

Musically, I grew up playing hip hop, so that kind of worked out for me with my shows at Drai’s because I already had the hip-hop part down. But to play with artists like DJ Pauly D or at a club like Omnia, I had to learn more about EDM music and that lifestyle as a whole for those sets. And overall, I learned more skills as I got older, just from being out listening and taking back what I would listen to from in the club, and then practicing.

The last 10 months have obviously disrupted your regular schedule of back-to-back nightclub performances. Have you still been able to play shows?

Drai’s Lounge is open, which is in the after hours space, but it’s open during regular nightclub hours now. I’ve also been playing at Blume, which is a restaurant lounge in Henderson. It’s been fun and it’s been keeping me alive creatively. I had thought about doing Twitch like a lot of DJs are doing right now, but I like playing for other people in the same room and feeding off that adrenaline. 

What else have you been focusing on during this downtime? 

Two things mostly. Production and my new marketing company, MK Group.

Tell me more about the production journey and your goals. 

It’s something I always wanted to do and I thought I didn’t really have the time. In some ways there were a lot of pros with the pandemic, you know, it got you to do things that you maybe didn’t have the time to do before. Or just didn’t think you had the time to do. Before I was just caught up in my other lifestyle, but now producing is a part of me, so when things go back I’ll be able to do both. 

I’m working with another person on producing, Santino Cardinale, and we’re doing it together. I’m acting more as the executive producer with the creative direction and he’s helping to actually make the music. And so I’ve been working with these two artists, they’re twins Dylan and Dakota Gonzalez, that are signed to Universal. I’m trying to see if I can make something happen with that. I’m in the studio probably three or four times a week now, so I’m putting out as many songs as I can and hoping to get one that the label is into and go from there. Through this I’m learning a lot about the music world, and there is a lot to learn. 

And what about the marketing company? 

I started a marketing company called MK Group with my partner Karla Aguilera. Right now we’re focused on doing marketing for about six different brands, including a local distributor called Pemberton that includes Dos Artes tequila, Embajador Tequila, a whiskey called John L Sullivan and some others. We specialize in content marketing which includes photography, videography and running social media platforms and whatever else is needed. We started it about a month-and-a-half ago and it has been doing good. 

What’s your greatest hope for 2021? 

I’ll definitely still be performing at Drai’s. Hopefully, I’m doing some headlining stuff there now, too and that our nights like Imagine Tuesdays and Thursday nights outside at the beachclub start up again. I’ve been in talks with some other new venues as well so that’s on the horizon. 

And then, getting a song on the charts. That would be ideal and what I’m shooting for in 2021.  

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