From putting on 15 events per month to live streaming DJ sets from his bedroom

DJ, promoter and record label owner Luke Priestley took the isolation periods as an opportunity to strengthen his mental health

Luke Priestley, owner of Stereo Brain records and DJ for Metros nightclub, used covid-19 to focus on his mental health
Business without boundaries – Luke Priestley runs events, club nights and a record label! Photo Credit: Sam Cross

While the lockdown restricted access to social events in public, Luke Priestley was determined to keep his music alive noting that some regulars rely on the nights for their mental health.

The 25-year-old, owner of local record label Stereo Brain records and DJ for Metros nightclub in Cardiff, used his work as a coping mechanism pre-pandemic, but was forced to re-evaluate when live events were deemed unviable.

“It was a very big shock to the system,” he said, “before lockdown, I very much thought events and DJing is what I do; music is my life and that’s who I am as a person.

“Lockdown gave me an opportunity to focus on myself and figure out who I am, which did wonders for my mental health!” he added.

Listen to the story here

We turned away 150 people because of Covid-19 passes – that’s £750 before anyone even got to the bar

Luke Priestley

It certainly wasn’t plain sailing for Luke. Making the leap to self-employed just before Covid-19 took hold meant he was ineligible for the government aid that was offered, but also left him without access to the furlough scheme.

Luke said, “The government funding meant that if you’d been self employed for a certain amount of time, they would give you money, but I wasn’t self employed for long enough to get any of that, and I also wasn’t employed by anyone to get furlough.

“There was a horrible middle ground of people that was just kind of forgotten about and I spent most of the 18 months on Universal Credit, just trying to get by,” he added.

Passing the buck

The return of the public to nightclubs in August brought the introduction of Covid-19 passes for entry and, with it, additional headaches for the hospitality industry.

“The first week it came in, we turned away 150 people at the door because of Covid-19 passes – that’s £750 before anyone’s even got to the bar!” the DJ said, “and the website crashed for three hours that day, too.”

There were obstacles to overcome even before live events were able to return. As Luke notes, watching people going out drinking without restriction while being told that he couldn’t safely return to working in live events, was infuriating.

The Stereo Brain owner said it felt like a fuck you to the creative industries from the government, adding that the industry is super undervalued anyway, but that was compounded by the effects of the pandemic.

Stream of conscientiousness

Luke went from putting on around 15 events per month to DJing from his bedroom on Twitch, a live streaming platform.

He admits that seeing people drinking in their rooms as he DJ’d was an odd experience, but the opportunity to take Metros to a wider demographic has led to new fans and extra gigs from further afield.

“It was a really good experience – I don’t ever want to do it again,” he jokes, “but it definitely kept me going.”

But after feeling jaded pre-lockdown and spending so long away from normality in the last 18 months, is the spark still alive?

“Yeah, it just made me realise how much I fucking missed it all, to be honest!”