DJ Neekola is probably more plugged in than any DJ you know.
The D.C. area performer has done computer work since she was 21 and has consulted for the Pentagon, Justice Department and State Department. But with working in IT, “I wasn’t allowed to be very creative,” she said.
So, over the years, she moonlighted as a DJ.
“It gradually became a business where I was earning more money,” Neekola (aka Nicole Gallub) said. By 2010, she had transitioned into music full time. She was soon playing in European night clubs, spinning as private DJ for a Swiss soccer team and running her own record label.
Then came the day when she wanted to settle down. “I kind of shifted gears and became a local DJ,” she said. “Now I do mostly fashion shows, corporate events and fashion clubs around town.”
As glamorous as it sounds, the gig came with a heavy dose of indignities.
One day, Neekola agreed to perform a show in Missouri for $1,000, she said. “It was great, because I was just starting out, and I thought that was a lot of money.” But then, she overheard the owner of the club saying, “I had to pay $8,000 for this girl.” She realized her agent had pocketed most of the money in the transaction.
“When you deal with another agency, they’re in control,” she said. “There’s no way to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”
That’s where Pelonkey comes in. The website is a platform that lists performers of all sorts, from dancers to MCs to aerialists. Event bookers can search by specialty and location to book a performer.
On the other end, Pelonkey provides legal support for the performers in case there are hiccups with the contract. Its legal team might, for instance, send out a collection agency to catch non-paying customers or advise performers who need to resort to legal action. For its services, Pelonkey charges 5 percent of the transaction on both ends.
“The artist should be ultimately in control of their career,” Neekola said.
DJ Neekola still performs — she’ll be DJing Tuesday at the We DC music showcase of local artists at SXSW — but she is concentrating on Pelonkey, orienting her “passion more towards trying to fix the industry than pursuing my own career.”
After graduating in 2012 from Christopher Newport University in Virginia, her sister Ciera Gallub moved to D.C. to help with DJ Neekola’s performing act, and eventually with Pelonkey. “My sister convinced me to leave small-town Richmond,” said Gallub. “She just wanted me to see the world more.”
Now, Pelonkey, which is based out of 1776, has a full-time team of six, with Gallub serving as COO and DJ Neekola as CEO. The company is working on designing the third iteration of its website, which launched for a second round in beta in early 2014. The new site, which switched from Ruby to .NET, is being designed by Crystal City-based BAM Technologies and is scheduled to go live in April.
For now, the platform mainly lists DJ Neekola’s professional connections, but the new website will support a national network of performers. Pelonkey is currently bootstrapped, running on investments from DJ Neekola.
“Once we have a good bunch of people in our database, we’re going to start planning our launch party,” said DJ Neekola, ever the performer. -30-