DJ Jerry B’s Blog Mostly daytime ramblings

January 1, 2015

2015 – Happy New Year

Filed under: Weddings — Tags: , , , , , , , , — DJJerryB @ 12:08 pm

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Being a DJ means that you have down time — especially come winter and “off-season”. There is always something to be done. This is the time for new and upgraded equipment purchasing. I do a good amount of research before adding to the equipment inventory, especially now that I am offering rentals. Of course, it’s also a good time to do early work for tax-filing (always such a joy, but I’d rather do it now, rather than waiting until the deadline, which is also just about the official start of wedding season.)

Traditionally, it is also the time when inquiries roll in for wedding season. Many, MANY couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. There are also a few winter weddings on the docket, so it’s a fun time to put energy into those. The website will get some minor tweaks. I’m also happy to have connected with a vendor — a truly gifted Celebrant — and I’m glad to have the opportunity to add her to the links page.

So for me, in every sense of the word, it’s a New Year. I hope yours is as good as mine looks to be.

January 26, 2014

A Match NOT made in Heaven

Filed under: Weddings — Tags: , , , , , , , , — DJJerryB @ 5:47 pm

Client inquiries come in a variety of flavors.  Some include little to no information, some provide the basics and some provide so much background that you feel like you’re ready to do the job based on first contact. That first contact, for me, generally sets the tone of the client relationship and, more often than not, gives me a good indication on whether we could have a good working relationship.

I received an e-mail just a day or two ago and was immediately excited at the prospect of meeting a new client. It was straight to the point: date, time, location.  There was a further qualifier that she was certain she would have many more questions but the first was whether or not I was booked.  Someone who was so efficient in getting the basics to me immediately makes me believe that we are going to be a good match.

I was wrong.

She started off by asking some of the boilerplate questions that suggested that she visited a few wedding “help” sites on things to ask your wedding vendors and that was great with me. She acknowledged that she had never hired a DJ before and wasn’t sure what to ask, so I reassured her that she was doing fine. Then came what was to become the deal breaker.

“Music is really important to us and we’d like to choose a lot of the music ourselves. Is that something you’d be okay with?”

It’s not at all unusual for a client to have strong feelings about their music and many want significant input on various aspects of their day. In point of fact, I stress to every one of my couples that I want their input on as much or as little as they choose to take on. First dance, parent or family dances, music styles or genres for the cocktail and dinner hours, the “must play” and “do not play” during the dance portion of the evening — I want to hear it all and work with them to craft an evening that will be fun, both for them and their guests.

As the conversation went on, it became apparent that they didn’t want to provide input. They want to micromanage just about every aspect of the musical portion of the day (in essence, they wanted to specify 90 to 95% of the music that would be played.)

I felt very much like the Grinch in the Dr. Seuss book. I puzzled and puzzled ’till my puzzler was sore. Why would anyone want to pay a professional, at professional rates, when they have already decided that they “know better” how to do what that professional does for a living?

I realize that there could be any number of reasons they are pursuing things the way they are. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience with a DJ at a wedding or party before. Maybe they have listened to other people complain about THEIR experience. Perhaps they are just terribly self-centered and want precisely and exactly what they want, without regard to what might make their guests happy. It could be that they flat out don’t trust anyone but themselves (not the DJ, not the guests…)

See, here’s the thing. I speak often about how important it is to feel a connection with everyone you hire for your wedding. I could have said ‘yes’ to everything she said during that phone conversation, purely for the sake of trying to land a payday. But I can’t do that. This IS a business and, in this economy, I have to tell you, it’s not easy to turn away the prospect of new business. But I also never lose sight of the fact that my job is to help facilitate one of the most important days in a person’s life. If I can’t approach it with 100% commitment and 100% belief that I am THE person to do the job for them, all of that would would just be marketing claptrap. It’s not.

I more-or-less took myself out of consideration for that couple. To her credit, she thanked me, quite sincerely, for my honesty and candor. I truly do hope that she finds THE perfect person to work with for her wedding.

 

 

January 28, 2012

Choosing Price Over Quality

Filed under: Advice — Tags: , , , , , — DJJerryB @ 2:41 pm

The following statement is borrowed from another wedding professional, but I’m happy to use it without claiming it to be my own:

“It’s hard to promote quality service to people who shop for their wedding vendors like they shop for groceries.”

I had never really thought about some of the challenges there would be in getting the right message out to my potential customers until I heard that. But now those words constantly echo in my head.

I read the wedding forums and actively participate in a few of them. I hear the same things over and over again. DJs are obnoxious. DJs are all the same. As soon as a DJ hears “wedding” they automatically jack up the price — presumably arbitrarily.

Um, no…

Some (not all) DJs are obnoxious. Some (not all) hairstylists are obnoxious. Some (not all) cab drivers are obnoxious. Some (not all) salespeople are obnoxious. Some (not all) teachers are obnoxious. Notice a trend here?

Anyone who thinks that the demands of a wedding are the same as those of any other event (and, therefore, should be priced the same) have clearly never been involved in the wedding industry. The funny thing is, I’ve never heard a bride say that planning her wedding was exactly the same as planning a party.

I like to highlight what a true professional disc jockey can offer to their clients versus what an amateur cannot. If you go with a professional, you will get peace of mind knowing that they’re ready for whatever you hand them. They have the experience, talent, and know-how to get the job done. You can rest easy at night knowing your wedding day won’t be an experiment for them.

Okay, now help me here folks…what is that worth?

If statistics are to be believed, a couple will spend, on average, between $22,000 and $25,000 on their wedding. Now that’s a national average. Some will spend from several hundred to a few thousand dollars (Kim Kardashian’s little soiree , on the other hand, probably cost upwards of $10 million — but you have to take into consideration that, for that investment, there were 72 whole days of wedded bliss before filing for divorce. My thinking is that the Defense of Marriage Act may be targeting the wrong demographic, but, I digress…)

I read somewhere that Martha Stewart once stated that the entertainment chosen for a wedding is responsible for 80% of the event’s success. I don’t know if Martha ever really said that or how to quantify such a factoid (i.e. did 80% of the guests have a great time while the other 20% thought it was only “meh…”; or will everyone enjoy everything for 80% of the wedding?) What can I say, I tend to take these “statistics” with a grain of salt, but there is still a perfectly valid takeaway from it:

If YOUR measurement of success for a wedding is having your family and friends raving about how good a time they had, the entertainment is a huge priority. Please (!) choose wisely.

November 22, 2011

Off Season has arrived

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — DJJerryB @ 11:23 am

The end of wedding season is always a mixed bag. 2011 was a great year on several levels. I’ve written about many of the couples I worked with and I would say that it was as satisfying a year as I can ever remember. And while one couple in particular made a huge impact on me (and if you are reading this, you know who you are!) I have to say that, across the board, I am thankful to have shared such special days with so many truly good people — I wouldn’t have traded ANY of them. I thank them all again for letting me be a part of their celebration.

And while there may be some small measure of taking a breath as the slow season arrives, it also presents new opportunities.

Inquiries for the following season begin to pick up around the holidays (many people either become engaged or announce it to their loved ones during family get-togethers around the holiday season.) Many dates in 2012 are already booked and, in fact, I am already beginning to turn away couples because their date is taken — probably my LEAST favorite part of this business. Even as I write this, I have several pending meetings with prospective clients who are anxious to hire their DJ.

It”s also a time to focus on the management side of things by looking ahead. It’s a time to plan business purchases, update/upgrade equipment, determine marketing plans, website updates, budgets and so on. I am excited at the prospect of adding uplighting  as an optional service. As a side note, I’m always very cautious about trying to wear too many hats, but this will fit nicely into the service that I provide and is only being introduced after careful consideration and planning.

2012 looks to be another very good year.

July 5, 2011

2012 Weddings

Filed under: Advice — Tags: , , , , , , — DJJerryB @ 6:00 am

It’s hard to imagine that, here in the middle of wedding season 2011, I’m going to suggest a call to action for couples who are planning their wedding next year, but that’s precisely what I’m going to do. The reason is very simple.

Availability.

If you were to believe many of the online planning tools, they will suggest that you can get a DJ anywhere from six to twelve months prior to your wedding. And that’s PARTIALLY true if you plan to pull names from a phone book.  But if you are looking to hire a specific DJ (or photographer,  planner or wedding venue) you shouldn’t think that this time frame is safe.

In my own experience, just so far this year, I have turned away 15 to 20 couples who inquired about dates that I already had booked. I’ve been asked many times over the years why I have never pursued the idea of hiring other DJs so that I can take more bookings. For me, it’s very simple. I am a service provider, not a product. Truly “personalized service” is not a marketing ploy. It’s the heart and soul of my business. I do only one wedding on any given date and so do many other independent vendors.

Prime wedding season is from early April though late October. There are only 25 to 30 Saturdays within that time period and those are the dates that book the fastest. If you are planning a Saturday wedding next year, it’s not too early to get your vendors under contract.

 

 

 

February 5, 2011

Blogging

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , — DJJerryB @ 2:35 pm

Although I love to write, I’ll admit that I don’t know if there is enough material to sustain this blog. It is, after all, supposed to be a business blog. I enjoy writing about the couples who have hired me for their weddings, the friends that I have made along the way and the fun (and sometimes terror) that they feel in their planning. But over and above that, what does a DJ write about? Tips, suggestions and whatnot can only go so far. So I decided to do what I do best when I want to learn about something new to me.

I Googled it.

I started searching for DJ blogs that are already out there to see what other DJs have to say. There’s no way that I would ever steal anyone else’s material or style, but I wanted to come up with some inspiration.

I was horrified.

Some have written page after page of text, copied and pasted from other websites. I found at least one that forgot to substitute his business name from the one he stole it from. I guess he didn’t get the memo about the concept of “intellectual property” and I suspect I know where most of his music has been acquired (although I wonder how much scrambling he had to do once Limewire was shut down…)

Some use their blog as a place to directly bash their competition. I guess I really don’t get that at all.  In all of the time I have done this, I have never bad-mouthed another disc jockey to a customer. And trust me, I have seen some pretty sleazy things done by DJs. Like the one who advertises the fact that he was voted “Best DJ” by a particular vendor voting website in Massachusetts — I have been in the business a long time and was quite surprised that such a site existed and I had never even heard of it. I understood a lot better when, after just a little investigation, I discovered that he (the “Best DJ”) was the registrar of that “voting” website. I don’t think those election results were ever going to be in doubt.

I saw one that was heavy on the photographs taken at parties he had worked.  I think that photographs are really useful if they help tell the story. Not so much on this one, since almost every shot was either out of focus, too dark to see the detail, cut the tops off the heads of those in the photos, or were framed so badly that you weren’t exactly sure if the photographer was standing or laying on his back.

I do have to admit that one blog did have beautiful, crystal clear images accompanying the articles. And in every one, the DJ was looking fine… in his white Elvis jumpsuit, wig and sunglasses.

Eww…

December 29, 2010

Picking Songs For Your Wedding

Filed under: Advice — Tags: , , , — DJJerryB @ 10:58 am

This is not going to be about choosing music for your first dance, last dance, the Bride with her dad or Groom with his mom. Perhaps that will be material for another post. This is about picking songs for your DJ to play during the dance portion of your reception. Couples can be all over the map on this one.

I have had a few prospective  customers call me who wanted to choose every song, and, in one instance,  to have them all played in a specific order. No variations and no requests from guests.

Um… okay… why did you call me? If all you need is someone push the play button, you don’t need a DJ.

Don’t get me wrong. I want input from every person who hires me. It’s the only way for me to get to know your likes and dislikes. Make as many suggestions as you like relative to music and song preferences. Choose 10 or choose 100. It’s really completely up to you. And I promise that I will take every suggestion that you offer to help build a play list that will make your reception as fun as it can be.

It has been so overused that I try to avoid using the term “it’s your day.”

Yes, it is your day. If you hire me, you are my boss that day. And it’s my duty to do the best I can to give you and your guests the best entertainment possible. That means being flexible. It means watching your guests and how they respond to the music selections. Choosing the time to change the tempo to try to get everyone on the dance floor. It means choosing different songs or styles because it’s what the crowd is responding to. It’s being able to play a request from a guest because it will add to the energy of the mix. And it sometimes means diplomatically saying no to a request that isn’t right for the moment. These are things that can’t be done by simply pushing the play button.

So you say you don’t want to hear those cheesy songs that every DJ plays? Guess what. DJs don’t want to hear them either.  Believe it or not, when I am getting ready to leave for a performance, the first thought going through my head is not, “Oh boy, I get to hear ‘Y.M.C.A.’ for the 8,000th time!” No talented DJ will ever add those songs to his play list for the evening. A veteran DJ only plays songs like The Macarena, The Electric Slide, Cha-Cha Slide or (ugh….) Chicken Dance because either a client or a guest requests it. Will I play them if the client has said it is okay to accept those requests? Yes I will and I’ll do it with a smile on my face. Why? Because it’s my duty to make everyone feel that there is room at the party for them. That said, you should absolutely provide your DJ with a do not play list for any songs that, under any circumstances, you don’t want to hear. And you should be specific by adding “even if requested by a guest.”

In a typical wedding reception, you will likely end up with around two hours of open dancing. That will translate to between 35 and 40 songs. Keep those numbers in mind If you have any must play songs for this portion of the reception. If you choose 30 songs that you have to hear, you are not leaving much room for your DJ to show the flexibility needed to craft the music that your guests will remember.

December 9, 2010

Questions to Ask Your DJ When You Don’t Know What to Ask

Filed under: Advice — Tags: , , — DJJerryB @ 11:08 am

Although not intended to be all-inclusive, if you’re hiring a disc jockey for the first time and don’t know where to start, here are a few questions to include in your initial inquiry:

Question #1. Are you available?

I know it may sound pretty basic, but you would be surprised how many times I’ll get an e-mail asking about my rates, style, experience, etc. without mention of a date. None of that matters if I’m already booked. Give your prospective disc jockey the date, time and location of your function before asking anything else.

Question #2. Do you offer a written Contract?

If the DJ you are considering only does business with a handshake, or a wink and a smile, run (do not walk) for the door. The Contract should clearly spell out all charges, what is required, and what is included.

Question #3. Do you require a deposit/retainer to hold the date. If so, how much is it?

Most vendors will require a retainer. It can be a flat dollar amount, but is more commonly a percentage of the total charge (in my experience, between 25% and 50% of the total is the norm.)

Question #4. What styles of music do you have?

Again, you would think of this as a no-brainer, but on more than one occasion, someone has hired me, generally at the last minute, failing to mention that the party has a “theme” — and I’m caught unprepared to play four hours of “NASCAR’s Greatest Hits”…

Question #5. Do you maintain a list of references that we can contact?

Don’t just rely on testimonials posted on a website. As unconscionable as it is, there are examples in which those “testimonials” are not from genuine satisfied customers. Some less than scrupulous vendors have been known to have friends, family or hired reviewers write what they think prospective customers would want to read. Some others have offered deeply discounted (or free) services in exchange for a favorable review. It’s not ethical, and I HOPE it’s the exception, but it does happen.

November 19, 2010

Class Reunions

Filed under: Reunions — Tags: , , — DJJerryB @ 7:26 am

A class reunion is a very special occasion. I have done my share of them. And I have learned that they call for a special kind of DJ, not just an ordinary wedding or club DJ.

The first thing that needs to be understood is that the dynamics of a reunion are completely different than any other type of event. Guests are there to see each other. And they don’t need a DJ who’s shouting and chattering and trying to get everyone involved in the party. The DJ at a reunion has to be a ‘traffic cop’– directing the class members when to sit for dinner, when to gather for photos, and helping the reunion committee coordinate their planned activities.

But above all, the DJ must understand that most people go to a reunion to talk with their old classmates, not necessarily to dance. After the guests have had plenty of time to renew old friendships and relive old memories, then and only then will they be ready to dance. And a professional DJ must have patience and tact to deal with the handful of guests who get frustrated that the dance floor doesn’t fill right away, and who blame the DJ for it. That’s where an amateur will panic and play a lot of inappropriate music to try to force people to dance when they’re not ready.

September 27, 2010

Working and Playing Well With Others

Filed under: Advice — Tags: , , , — DJJerryB @ 12:26 pm

I firmly believe that any good mobile DJ (and one who truly wants to be a GREAT disc jockey) needs to understand that, more than music, this job is about customer service. And borrowing a term from my old financial services days, you have both external and internal customers.

The external customer is an easy one to identify. They are the ones who pay you. The bride and groom, the host, the corporate event planner and so on. And if you want to get work, you better provide them with top-notch customer service.

The internal customer is a different story. When a DJ  is hired to perform at a wedding, or any function for that matter, he becomes a member of a team. The photographer, videographer, florist/decorator, event manager, bartender, catering staff, cleaning crew — all need to have a good working relationship to make it seamless to the external customer. And his role is no more important than any other team member. Some disc jockeys would be well served to remember this simple fact.

Whenever I arrive at a venue to set up, I always make the effort to smile and say hello to every person who is working that day. If you have ever worked in the food service industry, as I have, you know how boring and repetitive (and underappreciated) it can be. A little friendly small talk can go a long way in letting them know that you respect the job that they are doing.

Teamwork between the DJ and photographer is paramount, otherwise special moments can be missed. Working closely with the caterer ensures that their staff can provide the best service to guests.

Having an open line of communication with the other professionals who are on the job will provide a better finished product for your shared customer.

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