Client Play-lists for Mobile DJs – are they a good idea or not?
I can remember a time long before the Internet, Digital Music and Smart Phones when a mobile DJ was hired to play current chart music and classic dance hits from the “Hit Parade” or “Pop Music” from yesteryear or “Golden Oldies” as the radio Disc Jockeys called them.
Music had longevity back then. A “single” would be released and slowly climb the chart week by week. A tune would often stay in the Top 40 for months on end meaning that mobile DJs only had to buy a handful of records each week to stay up to date.
Building a record collection was a slow process and costly. Very few members of the public had extensive record collections. They simply relied on the radio to hear music and had an extremely limited choice of programs to tune into.
Back then Mobile DJs where expected to have the most popular tunes and the classic dance tracks and people were happy to leave the selection to the DJ with only a minimum mention of a more general indication to their favourite Groups, Bands or preferred genre before the party..
These days music is instantly available, often not even purchased, and spends only a few weeks in a diverse and specialised “Chart” with only a small proportion ever attaining popularity across the broader spectrum of the population.
For some reason instant access and bulging music libraries appears to have given licence to everyone and their son to think they know what music should be played at a party. They think their selections will be liked by their guests and more worryingly some party organisers believe they know when their tracks should be played and in what order. Why?
No professional DJ would ever pre-select and program an evening’s music for a live event where he did not know his audience. He might have certain “sets” of music prepared to cover brief segments of the evening but would rely on reading the audience and selecting appropriate tunes to transition between genres based specifically on activity before him at any time. Spontaneity and the ability to switch between genres is a bench mark by which DJs are measured and more importantly valued. So why would someone hire a DJ and then tell him what music to play?
Would they hire a comedian and tell him what jokes to tell. Would they give him a script and say tell the jokes in this order? I think not. The idea is absurd and so too is the idea of giving extensive lists to your DJ.
If a person is organising a party and they wish to influence the type or style of music they should TALK to their DJ before hiring him or her. They shouldn’t hire blindly via an email or website. They shouldn’t hire based on cheapest price. Hiring a DJ in this way and then relying on supplying a play-list is a disaster waiting to happen. [As is the often suggested brainwave of using an i-pod until the realisation that everyone wants to repeat play the same half a dozen tunes all night!]
A better solution is to share musical tastes with the chosen DJ. Many DJs will welcome a short list of specific tunes to be featured on the night. Ideally such lists should be no more than twenty tracks. This is enough to give a flavour as to the music taste but leaves plenty of room for interpretation and innovation based on the reaction of guests on the night.
Personally I prefer to spend the first hour of a party mixing informally with guests asking them specifically what they would like to dance to this evening. While the background music is on auto-pilot I take the opportunity to get to know their musical tastes and connect with their ideas of what will go down well with them and their friends. This method guarantees we get to play the right music for everyone in the room. The music selection is no longer based on theory or wishful thinking. It is based on real people’s wishes on the night and in the moment. Their selections will reflect their feelings there and then and will be somewhat influenced by their surroundings and the people they are partying with.
Thankfully modern technology by way of the World Wide Web and on-line music providers means almost all requests can be sourced and played subject to a suitable wifi connection. If need be the DJ can purchase legally sourced music instantly and keep everyone happy.
So forget long lists; relax and enjoy the evening. Hire a confident and competent DJ who has testimonials that confirm he knows his music and is happy to play what his audience likes. Leave the crystal ball in the cupboard and trust him or her to deliver a busy dancefloor built with talent, expertise and experience. That, at the end of the day, is why quality DJs can, and do, charge more than their local average disco operators.
There has never been a better time to be a mobile DJ especially if you specialise in weddings. While club and pub work is good regular income the down-side is that competition is fierce and because supply outnumbers demand earning potential is limited.
In pubs and clubs the mobile DJ is working for two clients at the same time [the owner and the audience]. Sometimes the owner’s idea of music programming can be at odds with the audience which leaves the DJ with divided loyalties. This can lead to dissatisfied customers or to a disillusioned DJ and even worse a bewildered boss. Getting everything in harmony is more difficult than it looks. A good boss will appreciate the DJs knowledge, experience and expertise. A competent DJ will be able to read a crowd, be flexible regarding music requests and be a great communicator both on and off of the microphone.
Wedding DJs have a similar situation to manage. Their client is the person who engaged them, usually the bride. Her music tastes may vary and in some cases may have very little in common with her guests. This places the DJ in an awkward situation. How can you please everybody all of the time?
In order to tackle this dilemma we need to explore and understand why bosses and brides believe they know more about playing music in public than the professional mobile DJ does. Of course the answer is that they don’t. However they do have a fear and a lack of trust when it comes to handing over responsibility to a less than competent DJ. In order for us to take command and demonstrate our skill and talent we need to establish ourselves as experts in our field. We need to communicate effectively that we know what we are doing and that we are very good at what we do.
This kind of thing doesn’t come easy to DJs. I suspect most DJs expect to be allowed to do their own thing, after all is said and done their survival is based on their reputation…..or is it. Maybe things have got so bad that the clients are no longer interested in what the DJ thinks. Maybe these days they believe they can hire the cheapest Dj and tell him or her what to do. This includes making music selections [play-lists], advising on volume levels and what to say or not to say on the microphone.Little wonder average DJ fees are at an all time low.
And there lies the nub of the problem. “AVERAGE”
If there are too many DJs chasing too few bookings which pay low wages why would a DJ be bothered to challenge current beliefs and perceptions? To do so would require the DJ to bare his soul, insist that he knows more than his client and is prepared to demonstrate exactly HOW his Talent and EXPERTISE will make a big difference to the outcome of an event.
Unfortunately the majority of good mobile DJs struggle when it comes to marketing what they do and how they do it. Many have day jobs and they simply do not have the time to dedicate toward mastering the sales and marketing skills required to successfully communicate why they should be the clients first choice for a party.
The internet has a lot to answer for.
These days everyone communicates via email, social networking sites and information is exchanged via Blogs and web sites. The whole process of communicating has become less personal and mass media. Where people would once make a phone call they text. everything is dissected into soundbites. Twitter insists on the “meat” without the “Veg”
This week in the Uk a group of mobile DJs are attending a training course. This training has nothing to do with what they do, technically speaking, when playing music. Indeed general opinion is that teaching a DJ what to play and when to play it [with the exception of radio] is an impossible task. Mobile DJs and many club DJs are self-taught and have an instinctive ability to read audiences and make music selection on the fly.Whilst this is not an ideal method of learning a profession it is one which will over time weed out the wheat from the chaff. The competent DJ will prosper while the “Wanerbee dreamers” will fall by the wayside.
The amazing thing about this training for DJs and other training courses currently on offer is that they offer an insight into what customers really want from a service provider. Clients are better informed than they used to be thanks to modern technology. Clients have expectations which they expect to be met if not surpassed by their DJ. Thanks to YouTube they have seen plenty of examples of what they wish to avoid and they are better placed to make value judgements.
So like it or not modern mobile DJs will have to brush up on their presentation skills. They will need to be able to answer probing questions as well as being able to generate trust and confidence before an enquiry is converted into a booking. Modern mobile DJs will be aware that in order to separate themself from the competition they will need to know how to demonstrate just how different they are from other DJs.This may all seem pretty basic stuff to regular businessmen and women, alas it is still virgin territory for many DJs who still believe their music speaks on their behalf.
Today we have the opportunity to meet and learn. Yes many will argue that everything needed is to found out there in hyperspace and can be gleamed for free. Alternatively some DJs are keen to point out that their mates in forums and chat rooms can tell them all they need to know about any given subject so why should they pay good money for CDs, DVD’s, Books, seminars and courses?
For me the choice is simple. There is an easy way to learn or a hard way.
I can spend time trawling the internet looking for information or contacting friends and acquaintances and asking them questions. Non of which will teach me anything, all I will gain is more information more facts. The biggest challenge is what you do with the information. How do you implement the facts and turn them into actions which will improve your business.
I can buy a copy of the Highway Code tomorrow but it won’t teach me how to drive a car or pass the driving test. In order to pass my driving test I will need an instructor, someone with a proven ability and track record of success. Investing time and money with a qualified instructor makes perfect sense. So too does the idea of seeking tuition from people who have been there before you, made all of the mistakes and found a better more successful way of doing business.
If you invest in formal training courses you take yourself out of your comfort zone. You expose yourself not just to the trainer but also to the other attendees. You share your experiences not just one on one but to the whole group. Very soon you develop an understanding of issues which not only impact on you but which are common to the whole group. Together you share points of view, experiences and ideas. Best of all you now have a point of reference.Questions can be posed and support sought not only on the day but subsequently. Feedback and support should be ongoing.
You won’t learn everything you need to know in one training course just like you won’t find the answers to your questions in one book or web site on the internet. the quest will be never-ending as indeed should be your development as an entertainer and performer. Footballers never stop being coached. Singers and actors need producers and directors. Mobile DJs need less ego and more skill. Training / coaching is the key which will lead to appreciation of your talent and your talent is valuable.
Some DJs maintain they can’t afford to pay for training. My response is you can’t afford not to. The cost of a course is the same as purchasing a new microphone or mixer. It can be offset against your pre-tax profits and is therefore a legitimate business expense. The taxman is happy to pay for your training and ultimate success. The more money you make the more tax you will be paying.
This year I will be continuing my training courses for wedding DJs. There will be two in Bolton this May and a couple more in Birmingham this September. Details can be found here.
SEDAbuzz – a full day of learning is once again being repeated this year in June. Check here for details.
BPM DJ SHow will also be providing three full days of seminars covering all aspects of being a DJ – mobile, club and radio. Take a look here.
Also look out for local seminars and meet-ups organised by:
best of luck, remember, DJs who learn more – Earn More – Honest!
Untill the next time, take care.Cheers.