Pottsville, Pa. – Mick Uranko’s DJing experience is unlike many. When he’s not spinning—and he spins Serato DJ control vinyl exclusively—he’s fighting fires in Washington, D.C.
Since 2010, he’s been working at Engine 21, protecting the Adams Morgan neighborhood. “I work in D.C. for 24 hours,” he says, “and then I am off and live in Pennsylvania for three days, and then my schedule repeats. I absolutely love my job as a firefighter because I truly love helping people.”
At work, Uranko says he deals with situations where someone is having the worst day of their life. “And you and only your crew are responsible for making their day better,” he says. “You learn how to deal with people from multiple demographics, which helps when it comes time to communicating with new clients and dealing with any issue that may come up.”
Thing is, he was a firefighter before he was a DJ. He first became interested in learning how to DJ in 2011 when he was bartending for extra money. “I noticed a common occurrence in the local DJ market,” he says. “All of the DJs that were hired were not like DJs that I’d typically hear when I visited larger cities. The local DJ’s style was simply pushing play and letting the song play out and then repeating the process with a different song. This was consistent in, not only the bar I worked at, but other local bars as well. I saw a big opportunity in my local market to be different than the rest.”
Uranko had done his homework. He’d travel to larger cities just outside of his market and listen to how the resident DJ transitioned. He looked for the crowd reaction. One night at a club in Reading, he met Seth “DJ Backdraft” Gantz. “Seth offered to share his guidance and knowledge by inviting me to assist him at a few upcoming wedding receptions,” says Uranko. “Up until this point, I never really considered DJing weddings, but thanks to Seth’s opportunity, after the second wedding I assisted, I was hooked.”
A few weeks later, DJ Backdraft helped Uranko land his first wedding headlining gig. It helped that DJ Backdraft was a guest at the wedding. “He could provide any help if something went wrong,” Uranko recalled. “I successfully made it through, and I still keep the critique notes that Seth shared with me after it was over. After the wedding, I realized that I can do this and most importantly I can create future opportunities to make more money.”
By Monday morning, Uranko Productions was officially created and open for business. To this day Gantz and Uranko remain good friends. “He’ll be one of my groomsmen at my upcoming July 2017 wedding reception,” says Uranko.
When he decided to get into DJing, Uranko felt like his market was stuck in a 15-year time capsule. “I realized that I could capitalize on my stagnant market by being different,” he says. However, after attending his first local bridal show, and pricing his services above the competition, a realization dawned upon him. “Almost every bride that I met with that day said my prices were way higher than my competition,” he recalls. “I needed more opportunities to back up my work. So, in order to overcome being different, I went outside of my local market to, not only gain more experience, but to build my brand stronger.”
So Uranko attended a bridal show in Harrisburg, Pa., where he met the second-most influential person in his DJ career—Jason Klock from Klock Entertainment. “Just like Seth, Jason offered to meet with me after the bridal show to share his knowledge and offered great advice on how to improve my new business. Not only was he a tremendous help but he offered for me to join his team in Atlantic City at the DJ Expo. I’ll never forget this amount of support coming from someone who I’ve only met for a few days. Attending my first DJ Expo was one of the most helpful business decisions that I have ever made. To date, I have never missed an Expo since my first one.”
One other challenge that presented itself to Uranko with his new business was the perception among some people that his new venture is just a hobby and is a waste of my time and he’d never be able to make a substantial amount of money.
“Up until this point in my life, I was no stranger to taking on life challenges where I have been doubted,” he says. “I am extremely proud to share that I am a 2004 graduate of one of the toughest military colleges in the country—The Virginia Military Institute. My degree, believe it or not, is in civil engineering, for which my faculty advisor told me that I’d never make it out of VMI. Even my own family doubted that I’d be able to make it. When it came time to hearing all the haters chime in about mobile DJing, I would constantly think back to my old advisor at VMI. If you want me to achieve something, never tell me I can’t do it.”
So what did he do? He surrounded himself with positive people. The same year he attended his first DJ Expo, he also met his fiancée, Amber. “From the moment I met Amber, she always reassured that I will one day be successful and that I should not give up mobile DJing. Not only has she been there for me, but to date has never missed helping me set up for a wedding reception in five years!”
This year marks the first time Uranko will be leading a seminar at a DJ Expo, which is set for Aug. 14-17 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. “I’d like to continue sharing knowledge and tips, just like Seth and Jason did for me five years ago,” he says. “Not only do I love helping people in Washington, D.C., as a firefighter, I also love helping fellow DJs build their brand stronger.”
On the gear tip, Uranko uses a wide range of products. For lighting, he uses mostly Chauvet products, including four Chauvet Spot LED 250 moving head units for animation and up to 30 EZpar 64 RGBA units for uplighting. For visuals, he uses an Optoma EH515 HD projector, which does video mapping, wall mapping and cake mapping for weddings.
For audio, he uses two QSC Audio K12 active speakers, two Electro-Voice ETX-18SP active subs, and a dbx Driverack PA2 loudspeaker management system. For playback, he uses Serato DJ DVS with control vinyl, two Pioneer DJ PLX-1000 turntables, and a Pioneer DJ DJM-S9 mixer.
“When guests see my set-up, even before I play, they’ll often tell me that they’re impressed,” he says. “I believe when they see the vinyl and the turntables, it gives me some legitimacy – plus it just looks cool. Spinning the vinyl gives me another point of difference from the competition, and that always helps.”