Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young can’t sit still.
He’s perched on a drum stool in Jungle City Studios, a facility owned and run by Alicia Keys’s longtime engineer Ann Mincieli. Save for a white baby grand piano in one corner and a wall of floor to ceiling windows showcasing dynamite views of the New York City skyline, the room is an innocuous space—yet it’s served as the birthplace for countless hit records, including Beyoncé’s latest self titled album, Taylor Swift’s 1989, Some Nights by fun., and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience.
At just 31, Jordan has spent significant time in and around the upper echelon of New York’s recording scene. He’s worked on projects with Fabolous, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z (just to name a few). His work has earned him one GRAMMY Award and multiple nominations, and next month he’ll be honored with an induction into Full Sail’s Hall of Fame. Oh, and since 2010 he’s served as the personal engineer to a little act from Texas known as Beyoncé.
Despite these many accomplishments, Jordan has always hungered for what comes next. His latest projects—he’s co-founder of Headliner Magazine and a partner in music licensing platform Skio Music—see him branching out beyond the studio and into adjacent fields. As we chat about his various ventures outside of engineering and mixing he’s, well, swiveling back and forth in his seat, an indication of the efficacious energy that fuels his career at an almost relentless pace.
“The truth is, I get bored very easily,” he says. “So I end up wearing a lot of hats. I spent the first ten years of my career defining myself by the music I’ve made and the artists I’ve worked with. Now, I’m looking at the next ten years as an opportunity to impact the industry in different ways. I’m still in the studio half the time, but the other half of my energy is spent working on businesses meant to help new engineers, producers, and songwriters who are just coming up.”
After graduating from Full Sail’s Recording Arts program in 2005, Jordan made his way to New York City, a place that would provide the backdrop for his transition from anonymous new grad to acclaimed and in-demand collaborator. Four months after arriving in the city, he landed an internship working with Ken “Duro” Ifill, the multi-GRAMMY Award winning producer and founder of Desert Storm Records. Even then, he had one eye on the work and one trained firmly on the future.
“A number of years ago I made a conscious effort to build a brand. For me, that meant engaging with the press a certain way, and making certain career choices. Each path I’ve chosen contributes to that story. I don’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight, but I want to share my experiences to show people how I did it.”
“My hope is that students and those people just starting out will find my feedback inspiring, and they’re able to take away information from what I’m saying and use it to their advantage,” he adds. “I believe when you share this type of information, it amplifies who you are and inspires the people who come after you. My hope is that those people will go on to do great things, and that they’ll go on to inspire the next group.”
Rather than merely leading by example, Jordan carefully chooses projects that position him as game changer. Take Skio Music, a licensing and collaboration platform that seeks to eliminate the middle man from digital rights management.
“It could be anything from a DJ who wants to place a song in a video game, to artists who are looking to hire a producer or a mixer. We simplify the payment process for creatives to be a able to work together more easily,” he explains.
His desire to pursue projects that are good for industry as a whole have contributed greatly to a sense of brand value and trust among his partners and investors. The act of diversifying his interests also has a recursive effect, as it provides an extra foothold of stability in an industry that is constantly shifting.
“In high school, I would drop $18 on an album every week. Now people are spending $10 a month for streaming services, unlimited music, which leaves less money to discover and promote new talent, which narrows the top tier of projects down. You can still have a career in music, you can still do well for yourself, but it’s harder to do exceedingly well.”
That’s why it’s important to seek out new opportunities, he says. He may have trouble keeping still, but in a fast paced industry like the music business, forward momentum often defines success. For Jordan, his personal brand is a dynamic, living thing—something that’s constantly moving forward and changing as it goes.
“When I take on a new challenge or a new task, that’s an evolution of the brand. When I put out music, or mix a record, or start a new business venture, those things add to the aura of my career and who I am, really. So my brand is constantly evolving in the sense that I’m evolving as a person.”