New York City, Cannes, London, Miami, Los Angeles, Dubai, and … Youngstown, Ohio? Yup, Mick Batyske has played some of the most glamourous and famous locales all over the world, but his roots are a little more rustic.
In this working-class midwestern town you’d be more likely to hear the hammering and hydraulics of a steel mill than a bass-line beat, but that didn’t stop Batyske from following his calling to become one of the world’s most in-demand DJs.
In fact, Batyske says that his decidedly unflashy childhood prepared for him for a lifestyle where he has to connect with the diverse audience that attend his shows worldwide. “I think growing up in the Midwest, without the coastal sensibilities, gave me a versatile upbringing that allows to me to fit in anywhere,” he remarks.
Of course, he didn’t start out hopping from continent to continent playing parties for People Magazine, New York City’s Fashion Week or at the Super Bowl or NBA All-Star game. Instead, he started small, playing instruments, most notably the drums in his parent’s basement, working to a bigger goal. “My entire deejay career is obviously based on rhythm,” he explains. “If I didn’t have that musical skill set at a young age, the DJ stuff totally wouldn’t have happened.”
With Youngstown’s music scene devoid of any world-renowned bands or artists (save the Bell brothers of Kool & the Gang fame), Batyske looked elsewhere for inspiration, to the likes of Philly’s own Jazzy Jeff, who made Batyske want to be a DJ. He got a chance to spin his first records while a student at John Carroll University, located just outside of Cleveland.
Not only is Cleveland home of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, at that time, it was also home to LeBron James, who was taking the NBA by storm. Following in his fellow-Ohioan’s footsteps. Batyske also joined the Cavs as their official DJ in 2003. From there he moved to Brooklyn, New York and started spinning for A-listers, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Will Smith to name a few.
In a world where instant gratification is the norm and everyone expects one TikTok video, YouTube video or performance on a reality show will make them a star, Batyske’s steady and earned rise to the top of his profession is both refreshing and a testament to his mantra for success. “Patience. Progression. Professionalism,” he states. “That’s what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.”
As with most creatives and artists, Batyske is always making something new, curious and adventurous, all traits that have led him to become both a brand ambassador/partner and startup investor sought the world over for his style, class and artistry.
KEEP IT REAL
He may have come a long way from Youngstown, Ohio, but there’s no doubt that the Midwest values and ability to work hard he developed there are keys to his impressive accomplishments.
Take for instance the number one thing he looks for when he’s investing in a company. “For me, it’s all about the people,” he says. “Obviously, the idea has to be great. And I need to see traction. But I truly have to rock with the people 100%.” Some of the brands he’s put his name behind include Anchor, BPM Supreme, Dot Dot Dash, Quicknode, and Tiny Organics.
Instead of focusing on the money or the bold-faced names attached, he uses a similar criteria when he needs to choose a brand to work with or define the goals for a collaboration. “It has to be something that actually makes sense to me,” he explains "Would I wear this / use this / buy this? People know when stuff is fake and I’m too old to do the fake shit!”
Relying on his gut and his heart to tell what is the right thing to do has led to a lot of success in these fields, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy to kick back and relax. Midwesterners are also known for their work ethic and Batyske always looks to add more to his plate, or as he would put it, “keep progressing.” During the pandemic, he launched a podcast in partnership with Maxim and has had guests like Jon Batiste, of Run DMC <DMC and legendary DJ D-Nice.
Another way he’s looking to diversify his personal brand is by continuing to build his speaking career. “I’ve done it a lot in the past, but never really made it a focus,” he says. “I’d love to sign with one of the bigger speaking agencies and talk to brands / conferences / schools on the impact that creativity and curation can have on your life. It worked wonders for me!”
This probably won’t be the last iteration of Batyske’s career. “Leave yourself room to grow. You don’t know who you will be in two, three, five, 10 years,” he says. “So don’t pigeonhole yourself.”
FAMILY BEFORE FAME
DJ, investor, speaker, influencer. Batyske’s got a lot going on, but his most important job is being a father to his son Myles, who he calls the coolest kid the world. Seeing that his child has already worked with dad on collaborations with companies like Beats, Hypebeast, Foot Locker and Zegna and together they wrote D is For DJ, a best-selling children’s book, Batyske is probably right.
But if it looks like Batyske is the one helping his son, dad says it is really the other way around. “The most incredible North Star you can ever have is a child,” Batyske says. “It helped me remove some bad habits and created a million new good ones.”
One of those areas of his life his son and self-described “bestie” helped him with was his ability to enjoy things. “He’s my mini-me in every way, but funnier,” Batyske notes. “I’ve learned that he can bring joy into every room, whereas I’m kind of a curmudgeon. I’m trying to lighten up and be like him.”
Since his number one priority is to spend time with Myles and, as a “solo entrepreneur” as he calls himself, he doesn’t have a management or marketing team to rely on, Batyske makes sure he runs his days with precision.
“I’m big on being organized. Google Cal is my friend,” he explains. “I also use a standard normal notebook (paper and pen!) to recap each day and keep track of the micro progress. Believe it or not, it really helps!” He adds, “Also, my wife Carolyn is just a genius who keeps me in line.”
He also tries to limit his phone use, opting for tangible, hands-on entertainment like playing vinyl records, reading comics and books and playing Legos with Myles. When he can get away from longer periods of time, it’s traveling with the family or playing outdoors, like sled-riding or snow-tubing in the snow.
Preferring minimal, simple tones, quality materials and a great fit, not to mention versatility, his cold weather style correlates perfectly to the Triple F.A.T. Goose brand. “I don’t think you need to look like an Olympian in 24 bright, neon colors just because you want to do a winter activity,” he laughs.
In this day and age of everyone promoting themselves as something they are not on Instagram or TikTok, this idea of substance over style isn’t what you think of when you say DJ, influencer, brand ambassador, etc. But that’s not what Batyske is about.
“I think as beautiful as my relationship with my family seems on Instagram, in real life it’s actually exponentially better than that,” he says. “We are inseparable and I’m so lucky to have them.”