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DJ Steve Aoki once maxed out 10 credit cards and was nearly $100,000 in debt

Steve Aoki
Ross Gilmore | Redferns | Getty Images

Steve Aoki consistently brings in six-figure paychecks for a single performance. In 2019, he played over 200 shows and earned $30 million, making him the fourth highest-paid DJ in the world.

But the musician wasn't always flush. His record label, which he started as a 19-year-old college student and focused on turning into a business after graduating, landed him deep in the red.

The label, Dim Mak, was doing well, but Aoki didn't know how to manage a business, he told Luc Belaire CEO Brett Berish in an episode of Belaire's "Self Made Tastes Better" series: "Even though we were crushing it, selling over 80,000 physical copies independently with each release, I was spending way more money then we were making."

Aoki ended up maxing out all 10 credit cards he owned and wound up nearly $100,000 in debt, he told the Wall Street Journal last month.  "I was financially in a bad place," he said.

At the time, Aoki's side hustle was working as an opening DJ, which earned him about $50 a night. He decided to rely on that job to get out of debt and try to keep his label afloat. "I just kept hustling harder," he told Berish. "I kept spinning, throwing more parties … Soon, $50 turned into $100, which grew to $1,000."

Eventually, thanks to his DJ gigs, he paid off all of his credit cards and bought his first car. "That was one of the most satisfying feelings in my life," he said. "It felt like I had done the impossible. It felt impossible to escape the hovering debt and get Dim Mak to a place of financial freedom. I learned you have to think outside of the box, you have to hustle, and you can never underestimate your side hustle."

I learned you have to think outside of the box, you have to hustle, and you can never underestimate your side hustle.
Steve Aoki
musician

He's not the only artist who has experienced financial lows. Nine-time Grammy winner Lady Gaga, who won her first Oscar in 2019, was $3 million in debt after her second worldwide concert tour, which ran from 2009 to 2011.

She eventually worked her way out of the red and is doing well for herself today: She was among the highest-paid celebrities in 2019, earning $39.5 million.

"I've worked hard for a long time," Gaga said during her 2019 Oscar acceptance speech for Best Original Song. "It's not about winning. What it's about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it ... It's not about how many times you get rejected or fall down or you're beaten up. It's about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going."

Don't miss: Lady Gaga, Will Smith and Cher were all broke at one point in their careers

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Lady Gaga was $3 million in debt after her Monster Ball tour
Steve Aoki
Ross Gilmore | Redferns | Getty Images
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