Don’t you just love it when you receive a playlist from a bride and you just know it’s either too long or too structured.
As you may be aware, dear reader, I reside in Cyprus for most of the year and my clients are visiting the island to be married. Usually there are no more than thirty guests at the evening reception with a maximum so far of fifty on one occasion.
usually the wedding takes place between four and six in the afternoon and is followed by a drinks reception and the inevitable photographs including final shots taken as the sun sets which is around eight o’clock in the evening.
Dinner will be served anytime from six o’clock onward and speeches and those sunset photos will be intermixed within the time-line according to the venue and event coordinator’s agreed instructions from the bride.
Cypriot meals have a tendency to take far longer than those in the UK. Traditionally a meal is the time for relaxation, conversation and no one is watching the clock. This can come as a big surprise to visiting families from the UK. Inevitably this time factor eats into the allocated time for dancing. Believe me I’ve been present when the first dance scheduled for 8pm has not taken place much before 10 o’clock.
I guess we could lay the blame for this on the wedding event planners and the venues for not advising the bride or sometimes on the waiting staff for not being organised. However none of this prepares the DJ for the frustrated bride who simply wants to do her first dance and get the party started, especially when she has supplied you with a playlist running to four hours or more of music.
Communication is vital to avoid such situations alas very often the DJ has no or very little contact with the bride before the day of the wedding. All communication is with the tour operator or the venue and the DJ is only given the playlist and expected to fit a quart into a pint pot![ or whatever the metric equivalent may be]
My first reaction to this list was that it contained far too much music. It had a running time of seven and a half hours. I was also concerned about the bride’s allocation of times when music selections should be played. Apart from the early music for dinner I was concerned that her choice would be too much to her taste and not that of her guests. I doubted very much I could stick to this list and provide entertainment for all of her fifty guests. The reception was to be outdoors by a pool and music volume would have to be reduced significantly after 11 o’clock with the party finishing at 12 midnight.
Anticipating not being able to play all of the music I asked the bride to highlight in bold her “must plays” and then proceeded to refresh my memory by listening to the selected tracks and graded them by scoring each track as a 1 = great tune, 2 = definite maybe or 3 = doubtful to be well received.
On the day we juggled the photographs and the speeches by starting with the father of the bride’s speech and then taking the first course of the meal while the bride and groom went for their sunset photos. We then carried on with the other two speeches and toasts prior to the main course being served.
The mood was lively and it became apparent that i would not need to add much more to the older music selections. In fact I opted to introduce her “Other special requests” during the meal and was amazed when people started dancing at their tables and in front of my DJ booth. Before I knew it we had a party on our hands before desert had been served or any of the three spotlight dances had taken place.
We had to put the brake on, call a halt to the open dance and introduce the three spotlight dances. I suggested we start with the father daughter dance so that dad could hand his daughter to her new husband for their first dance. This worked really well. Finally we took the brake off and invite everyone back onto the floor for the third spotlight dance and sure enough our party was back on track.
It turned out that this bride did indeed know her family and friend’s taste in music very well. She was up for a party and so where all of her guests. My challenge was to keep to the time line. I managed this by editing her playlist with brutality. I stuck to her “Must Haves” and then selected according to my own scoring system. I removed over three hours of her music selections while retaining the order of her music choice rearranged into a more acceptable structure which maintained the energy and delivered a packed dance area throughout the night.
Indeed the night was so successful that they asked me to relocate to a room indoors where we continued to party on for another two hours. So I am delighted to say that my apprehension and doubts were unfounded and on this occasion my bride had proved to be the exception to the rule. She really did know better than me. I however used my experience and knowledge to take her idea and programme a playlist which evolved in real-time on the night. Together we produced a fantastic party which I am sure everyone will remember for many years to come.
The first thing I noticed about this playlist is that it had three and a half hours running time and that most of the tracks were popular choices which would work fine. Then I realised my bride wanted them playing in decade order starting with the sixties and working toward the present day. She later added another six current chart hits to the list.
I have previously encountered such lists with a similar structure and was aware that this may not be an ideal way of presenting this music for maximum effect. I had also noticed that the start time was 5.30pm. Upon arrival i was told that was the time of the wedding ceremony and that dinner would not be served until 7.30pm. Fine.
Once again the issue of speeches and time taken to serve and eat the meal were of concern. My bride was very demanding and was keen to squeeze in as much music as possible however she did not appreciate how long the meal would take. She had arranged for a videographer to come back at 9pm to film her first dance. When he returned some guests where still eating their main course which was the third item on the menu that night. Deserts where still to follow and so too were the speeches.
Eventually it was decided to hold the speeches once everyone had finished the main course. Desert would be relegated to after the first dance. I arranged with the bride and the videographer to insert a second dance into the scenario as the first dance was to be a special routine created by the B & G.
It was gone 9.30 before we introduced the B & G onto the dance floor and then invited the rest of the guests [only 24 in all] to join in to “My Girl” by the temptations. The instruction was to carry on with the playlist which i did. Once again I had to be brutal with removing tracks I believed would not work and also rearrange the running order to get best results. I removed one and a half hour’s worth of music yet kept the floor steadily occupied throughout the night. We had planned some slower quieter music for the final twenty minutes and finally finished on a high with “500 miles”
A good time was had by all and we finished on time which was essential as by law in Cyprus you can can not go on after midnight. All outside music has to be off or else you risk your equipment being confiscated and a hefty fine.
I don’t always know best despite my thirty odd years playing music at weddings. Brides sometimes do know better than us. Even with the best of planning time-lines slip. My job as the DJ is to make the music fit. I need to use my programming skills to ensure that the right music is selected and organised into the best order with the most chance of delivering a full dance floor to the satisfaction of my client. On both of these occasions I can honestly say Job Done!
A seminar is usually a taster. It is an introduction or an overview of an idea, a technique, a system, a service or a product The seminar is often given in the form of a lecture and will include the opportunity for questions to be asked of the presenter either during the event or as it is drawing to a close.This structure enables a large number of people to attend and evaluate whether the topic is worth pursuing or not as the case may be. Most seminars are of a duration of an hour or two or less.
Workshops are more interactive and practical. The presenter needs to engage with the delegates as individuals. Therefore usually the number of attendees is strictly limited. Much of the content is designed to be one on one or delivered to small “breakout” groups. People who attend workshops should be prepared to get involved. Delegates will be expected to do some practical stuff related to the workshop theme. A workshop will also include some style of critique. The presenter and the other attendees will be expected to pass opinion on exercises undertaken by the group. A workshop can often be a half day or full day duration.
Conferences can take many forms. Some will consist entirely of seminars while others are a mixture of seminars and workshops. In order for a conference to be viable they tend to be held on a much larger scale. In many instances conferences take place in dedicated venues which are equipped to handle large numbers of people. The venue will also be equipped with state of the art audio and visual equipment and have catering facilities on hand to feed the visitors. conferences can be a one day event or anything up to a week.
Why should I attend?
People learn and evaluate new ideas in different ways. Some people can read an article on-line or in a book and translate the written word into a process. Others are not so fortunate. They need to be shown how something works. Many of us need to be “Hands On” in order to comprehend an idea or method. Seminars, workshops and conferences gives the attendee a chance to ask questions, see for him or her self and seek clarification and support from presenters and fellow delegates. Often other people in the room will share their experiences and knowledge of the subject so that others can reason and evaluate the topic under discussion “in the moment” rather than having to reflect or review what had been presented at a later date.
Cost verses value.
Generally the cost of attending an event is considered to be a legitimate business expense and is therefore a tax-deductible investment in your business. So one way of looking at it is that such education is free and that the real cost to a business owner is his time. Time invested in a business is precious so one would expect an educational event to result in added value to your knowledge and skills. Attending a seminar, workshop or conference will not in its self improve what you do in your business. Implementing new ideas, methods and systems will!
Networking – the added bonus.
A spin-off from attending educational events is the networking. Meeting and talking to people in your profession can be very therapeutic. You will be surprised at how many others are in a similar situation or who have similar issues and challenges in their line of work. Often solutions are shared in an informal environment over a cup of coffee or a drink in the bar. Simply knowing that you are not alone and that others are facing the same situations can be inspirational and will prompt you to see things in a new light.
Education can be fun.Take off your blinkers, step out of your comfort zone and S-T-R-E-T-C-H. You’ll be glad you did.
Many independent mobile disco operators & DJs aspire to landing a residency but is this really a good thing for the client?
[This refers to private parties and not bars or night clubs]
Traditionally the very term “mobile disco” relates to a DJ who transports himself and his equipment to a venue where he recreates the discotheque atmosphere in a room which would otherwise be devoid of professional sound systems, flashing lights and non-stop dance music. He or she delivers everything needed, including an extensive music library, and the ability to read an audience while keeping the dance floor packed all night long. In return he receives a fee which reflects the fact that this is no easy feat, one which few people can achieve and is therefore financially rewarding.
The mobile DJ needs to find his own work. He is independent and therefore seeks out his clients by marketing his services via word of mouth, flyers, business cards and web sites as well as referrals from satisfied clients. Very often third parties such as venues are impressed with the standard of performance and they offer to take contact details and pass them on to people interested in hiring their venue for a party. This is good news. Venues are keen to recommend service providers who do a good job. They are also happy to refer DJs who work well with the staff and “fit in” with the logistics involved in hosting a party for their mutual customer.
Some venues go one step further and are happy to offer a single DJ to become their “Resident DJ / Disco”. The venue knows who will be playing the music and the customer gets an entertainer who is recommended and is guaranteed to do a good job [theoretically]. The mobile DJ likes the idea of regular work at the venue which means he or she will not need to spend as much time and money on advertising his DJ service and finding his own clients. It looks like an ideal partnership. A win-win situation – but is it?
In an ideal world it probably is but this is not an ideal world. Firstly we need to consider the end-user by which I mean the person whose party it is. Is it possible for one DJ to be sufficiently talented, skilled and experienced enough to cover every type of party offered to him? Is it conceivable that he can deliver the same standards night in night out to the diverse eclectic clientele offered by the venue. Is it likely that the resident DJ would ever refuse to host a party because he admits he is not proficient with a music genre or a type of client?
Secondly we need to appreciate the venue’s position. They are looking to please as many people as possible. If they perceive the entertainment as “Music and Lights” and are looking for a predetermined level of service from their DJ it may well be the case that a “Jack of all trades and Master of Non” is what they value.
In other words the whole idea of resident DJs in venues works for the venue more so than the DJ or their client for that matter.
As in all walks of life there are exceptions to the rule. There are I’m sure Resident DJs who have the wealth of knowledge, skill, talent and experience to provide excellent performances for varied clients. Unfortunately they are difficult to find and their residencies are under threat. They are under pressure from venues and accountants who are keen to take advantage of the DJ’s vulnerability.
Venues are being constantly approached by DJs who want a slice of the action. You can guarantee that a venue will receive requests for meetings or offers of low-priced fees for regular work from dozens of DJs each and every month. These DJs are eager to get regular work, many have full-time day jobs and are therefore not able to spend time seeking work from individual clients. A residency is seen as easy money and they will be happy to undercut the existing fees attributed to the current resident.
All too often the accountants rule the roost and the pressure to reduce costs is too great to ignore. Quality is subjective and as long as none of the end-user clients complain then where is the harm in opting for a more competitive price? Unfortunately once a venue takes this stance the whole situation becomes desperate. More mobile DJs are keen to offer their services and the price keeps being driven down as is the standard of service offered. So what started out as a good idea quickly becomes a bad idea especially for the DJs and the end-user clients. The venues are left with mediocre talent and parties which at best may only be described as average.
Ironically the mobile DJ has become his own worst enemy. In chasing what seemed a pot of gold he has helped devalue the pricing structure and played into the hands of the accountants. Clients are suffering as standards fall and all DJs are being tarred with the same brush.
Good news. All is not lost. There is an emerging breed of DJ who is carving a new path through the doom and gloom. The new thinking is based on individual personalised marketing. Some DJs are now opting to offer their services as preferred suppliers to a venue. They are looking for referrals based on a client’s needs. They are prepared to offer their services directly to the end-user client but not to be held to ransom by the venue. Developing this relationship also means that the venue would be encouraged to offer a selection of preferred supplier DJs to their clients. This would create competition based on talent, service and professionalism. It means customers have a choice. They can make an informed decision based on their needs and not the needs of the venue.
Overcoming the accountants may well be a stumbling block. In order to become a preferred supplier the DJ may well have to offer a commission or finders fee to the venue. This is not uncommon in the industry and if all is above-board and transparent then it is an acceptable cost of doing business.
If I were planning a birthday party, corporate event or a wedding I’d be suspicious of a venue offering me a resident DJ. Who are they to tell me who will entertain at my party. They don’t know me or have any idea what my tastes are. Choice is what I want. Let the venue recommend by all means but please leave the final decision to me.
Let me apologise in advance if this blog has offended any of my fellow DJs. It was not my intention to offend anyone. My aim is for all of us to reflect on the state of the market as it is today. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to know our limitations. I write from experience.
Think of me as poacher turned gamekeeper. I have held residencies in venues. I admit to becoming complacent. It’s so easy to think I can play the same music on Saturday for a wedding that I played on Friday for a birthday party, How difficult can it be – play the current chart music and throw in a few requests if I happen to have them, right?
I have been a multi-operator / agent. I’ve been shafted by DJs who worked for me and screwed by venues who wanted to reduce my fees.I’ve booked DJs who have proved inconsistent and unreliable. I’ve worked with some fantastic talented DJs who are much better than I could ever hope to be.
The debate will continue of that I am certain. However the question still remains. Are residencies all they are cracked up to be. Whose interests do they best serve – the DJ, the client or the venue?
Answers on a postcard please – or you can leave your comment below.
There has been a great deal of debate regarding mobile DJs who are turning their attention toward expanding their services and presenting an alternative to the current choice of formal toastmaster and hotel duty manager, or family member, acting as a MC. So what is the difference?
Geoffrey Cornwell is a well-respected toastmaster. His website offers this explanation. “A Professional Toastmaster is trained to find out what you want and to then liaise with everyone involved on your day. He will work with all parties concerned and with your guests to ensure that timings and arrangements are complied with as you have requested them. He will work closely with your photographer, caterer and other services to ensure that the day runs smoothly. Your Toastmaster will guide you through your day and look after your guests to ensure that you enjoy a stress-free special day.”
He goes on to explain, “I will be available to advise you in etiquette and protocol from the day that you decide to use my services. I can call on a wealth of experience to help you make decisions about your big day. I will liaise with the other service providers to ensure that we are all working towards the same goal, which is fulfilling your wishes and giving you the best day of your life.”
An M.C. (Master of Ceremonies) generally will make announcements only, which will not necessarily be personal to the bride and groom. According to The Free Dictionary an MC is
How well are you really connected with your prospective customers?
In the early days before the internet mobile DJs or “Discos” would place advertisements in the local press and also be listed in directories like Yellow Pages or The Thompson Directory. Since the introduction of the internet these advertisements have largely disappeared to be replaced by websites and “catch-all” portal sites designed to capture leads and forward or re-direct the client to the DJ service.
So nothing has really changed. The process is one where the disco places itself in public view and awaits potential clients to find it in among the dozens, hundreds and thousands of other DJ services to be found on the world-wide web. In fact the situation is probably worse now because of the sheer number of businesses who use the internet for marketing.
However all of this new technology tends to still be mainly one way. Traffic is being driven to your site. However most of that traffic is derived from mass marketing. Very few of the visitors will actually be converted to customers.
So how do you connect with potential clients?
I would suggest that you have to go and find them. Identify who you want to provide services for and then research where they hang out. Which shops bo they use, which restaurants do they eat in, what hairdressers / stylists / beauty / grooming parlors do they frequent. For wedding DJs this would include which Bridal shops, venues, photographers, cake makers, chocolate fountain suppliers and wedding car operators. All of these suppliers are constantly talking to their customers. Usually they have secured their client early on in the process of making arrangements for the wedding. Alas choosing the entertainment is further down the list which is not good. However by being connected with these service providers hopefully they will be able to refer and recommend you and your DJ service to their client.
Targeting brides who are already shopping for services is more proactive. Just think about the number of customers there are out there who you never get a chance to contact. How many weddings are there each weekend in your town or city? I’ll bet most DJs have no idea. How many are slipping through your fingers? You can’t be in more than one place at a time so it makes perfect sence to have a trusted professional relationship with as many other professions as possible.
Who is talking about you right now.?
What about all of the other professions who may come into contact with a future bride today? Financial advisors, insurance salesmen, travel agents, printers, florists, marquee hire and outside caterers are just a few who spring to mind. How well are you connected to these businesses. Do they know what you do/ are they confident and happy to recommend you? Will they mention you without being prompted?
A third-party referral is very powerful.
Imagine when the phone rings or you receive the email and the person opens the conversation with, “I was talking with my hairdresser and she told me to call you”. Not only is the caller a genuine hot lead it is also a qualified lead. It comes with a recommendation which instills value from the outset. The following conversation will be about how you can serve the callers needs and believe me price will not be a major factor.
Easier said than done?
Like many simple ideas the theory is fine, unfortunately the practise of turning theory into reality requires hard work and will take time and substantial effort to achieve. I am currently working with a small group of independent DJ s who have dedicated themselves to building relationships both inside and outside of the wedding industry. We will be working together to create an environment where third-party referrals will become their main source of business. The aim is for them to slowly reduce their large-scale web activity and replace it with an entirely performance & referral based model for generating new business. If you would like to join us in this venture please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
How did it come to this?
Almost all DJs insist that they do what the do in order to fill a dance floor. They are passionate about their music selection and their ability to mix music seamlessly. So why would they want to get involved with hosting what is basically a talent show or lack of talent show to be more precise?
Karaoke first became popular in Asia. The idea was designed for self-entertainment. Small rooms or booths were constructed which had the equipment required installed and people paid by the hour to rent the facility. This was ideal and meant that only those in the booth were inflicted by the others. It was essentially a private form of entertainment.
Soon household versions of Karaoke machines where on the market. The idea, once again, was to allow individuals the opportunity to sing within the privacy of their own home in the company of friends and family.
So how did this phenomenon transcend to the public house or wedding reception. Why did there suddenly need to be a host or operator? More importantly why did DJs want to forego their talent and skill in order to allow complete strangers to use their PA systems and abuse their microphones. What is the satisfaction of an empty dance floor and a tuneless singer?
Could it be I wonder that incorporating karaoke into a disco evening is a lazy cop-out? Is it the case that the DJ knows it is difficult to keep a dance floor filled for five hours? Maybe allocating a couple of hours to karaoke is a way to warm-up an audience in such a way as to almost being grateful when it comes to open dancing to the latest hot tunes?
You may have already guessed that this is written with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek but non the less there must be a good reason as to why DJs like karaoke so much. Where I live almost every bar offers karaoke. Even solo singers and double acts now offer karaoke as part of their evening entertainment. Again I ask you, why would a professional singer want to share a stage with an incompetent amateur?
Yes, I know people like to see others cringe and suffer. I understand the attraction of karaoke. What I can’t understand is why professional entertainers have been dragged into the whole process. Why can’t karaoke be as was originally intended and be do-it-yourself?
And before you ask, yes i have hosted karaoke parties in the past. Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and have moved on. It’s a shame others have not!