In the Bay Area of San Francisco, it seems like summer all year long. According to Mark Haggerty, the director of operations for Denon & Doyle Entertainment, the outdoor DJ event season lasts at least from April through November.
“We play music and MC for a 10K run and half-marathon,” says the Pacheco, Calif.-based mobile jock. “We supply four sound systems and a cordless mic for a fitness event held by a local hospital. We play team-building games for a local biotechnology company. We do company picnics for tech companies in the Bay Area and tailgate parties before San Francisco Giants home games, and on and on.” And those are just the outdoor summer gigs!
Further up the west coast in Seattle, the weather might not be so mild, but summertime gigs still seem to abound, according to Adam Tiegs of Adam’s DJ Service.
“We do all sorts of events, but it’s mostly weddings and corporate for us,” he says. “And the corporates are typically doing picnics and casual lunches with presentations. So far, 2018 is better – 2017 was a down-year for most here in the Northwest, but we’re definitely on the uptick again.
“I ask clients to provide cover for gear, whether it’s a couple tents or an awning, in case of inclement weather. As for cost to businesses, these can be just as expensive for companies—with the rental of tents, tables, chairs, linens, catering, glassware and stemware, flowers and décor, portable bathrooms, a dancefloor, staging, staff.”
What does the good weather of the spring and summertime mean to our DJ business? What types of outdoor gigs are we booking? From kids events to tailgate parties, are prices remaining steady? Is demand up, and are people booking events outdoors in order to save money?
These are the questions we asked mobile jocks from coast to coast, and we understandably received varying responses—mostly dependent on the climate.
Over in Detroit, Mich., Corey Rusch with Rusch Entertainment says they work tons of outdoor events, although they are limited to a small window of time.
“Good weather is crucial for summer gigs, especially here in Michigan,” says Rusch. “Around 65-80 degrees is where I want the temps to be during outdoor events in Michigan. We have a really small window of time where weather is consistent like this around here.
“Usually, that’s the months of late June to early August, yet we’ll in reality do outdoor events from May through mid-November. With rain we can’t be too flexible, of course, since everything we have is electronic. Wind also really affects wireless signals, with ceremonies in the middle of a field with gusting wind, etc.”
And, of course, unsavory weather conditions can sometimes throw a wrench in the system for any mobile DJ attempting to perform outdoors.
“Last year, we had a major flood and rain that affected lots of our outdoor events, and one was the last weekend in June, which is usually a safer month for outdoor weddings,” Rusch says. “The storms wiped out roads and flooded properties at which we were supposed to work. It didn’t affect anything except me getting out of there when it was over.”
Another of Rusch’s ceremonies was scheduled to be held in an area where flooding had been forecast, yet nobody told the DJs about the impending flooding until they had already arrived.
“The reception was inside the building and they were taking on water,” he recalls. “Needless to say, everything was postponed a bit and other plans had to be made once the staff arrived at the venue. This storm had even prevented us from driving anywhere near the site of the reception, so we had to hand-carry or cart equipment literally hundreds of yards to the performance area.”
Regardless of occasional weather-related fiascos, however, he says that Rusch Entertainment successfully does a huge number of outdoor gigs—lots of weddings, a few open houses, and various school and corporate events.
“Seems more and more people these days are doing tent, barn and outdoor weddings,” he says. “We thought the barn/outdoor stuff was going to come and go, but I’d say demand is still pretty high. Last time we checked, our numbers are up about 15-percent from where they were this time last year.”
And fortunately for Rusch and other DJs, in the Detroit area the economy is actually pretty strong. “We’re seeing people spending more money on weddings in our area,” he reports. “The outdoor weddings we do are usually beautifully done and decorated in beautiful settings. But weather can be the biggest concern, and if it gets really bad these weddings are ruined.
“But we even do some high-end weddings outdoors in the winter if the couple loves winter-themed stuff. We try talking to couples who are trying to save money by having it outdoors and talk to them about what all goes into it, and when all’s said and done they could have had it indoors reasonably cost-effective compared to all the work and expense required to do it themselves at your home or on their property.”
Other than wedding receptions, Mark M. Brenneisen of Adirondack Weddings & Events in Queensbury, N.Y., says they don’t do many outdoor events.
“Summertime does usually have more tented weddings, but we’ve shied away from barns/tents/etc., due to weather issues and heat,” says Brenneisen. “So we mostly work in banquet houses. Our second crew might book out for graduation parties, and BBQs when those kinds of requests come in, but mostly we’re a wedding company so availability for those is limited, as weddings book so far in advance.”
As for clients booking outdoor weddings to save money, Brenneisen says that overall the trend is still going to barn/farm/rustic weddings.
“We do have a few booked this year, though usually these cost as much—if not more—than traditional banquet houses in our area.
“We do have a reception booked that’s a destination wedding in a big barn, and we do several destination weddings each year where clients want to pay for a weekend to have us. We also have one large dual-grad party scheduled for July with a band for two girls whose Sweet 16 I did – and I also did their parents’ weddings.
“We’ll work with repeat clients anywhere.”
Country clubs and similar venues regularly book Scott Goldoor with Signature DJs in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., for outdoor summer parties, though due to inclement weather he says he typically receives one or two cancellations every season.
“On average, we perform at a minimum of 15-20 outdoor summer gigs, pool parties and swim meets,” he says. “They actually do pretty well, and many of them are mid-week events that end at a reasonable time – say, a Wednesday night from 5 to 8 p.m.
Goldoor says one of the most frustrating things he deals with every season, however, is when summer pool parties are cancelled due to weather issues.
“These parties are mostly weather-dependent,” he says, “and our clients are mostly accounts of ours versus a regular customer. So these are country clubs and places who not only recommend our company, but also give us up to a dozen or more holiday events each year – Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, etc.
“But these places usually wait until the day of or morning of the event to cancel or postpone their event. I’ve begun requiring they give us at least 24-hours’ notice, as oftentimes I’m lining up a specific DJ to perform at certain parties where we entertain young and old alike. This takes them off my roster, so I can’t schedule them for a wedding reception or another event for that day, so this often leads to a lost party and lost revenue for both Signature DJs and for my DJ for that event.”
Outdoor events always have the potential to be both extremely fun and very challenging for Artem Lomaz of NinetyThree Entertainment in Roxbury, N.J.
“Weather variance is vital, and obviously the top factor to consider,” says Lomaz, “because whenever we perform outdoors, the luxury of us, our equipment, and our clients and guests being protected from inclement weather is no longer present.
“Whenever performing outdoors, I always have a contingency plan, and require that my clients have one as well. If a wedding ceremony and reception are taking place at the same venue, it’s very popular—especially during the summer or in pleasant weather locations—to hold the ceremony outside before moving festivities inside.”
While having an outdoor event might be a great thought, Lomaz says rain, extreme heat, wind and other inconvenient factors require a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C.
“We were extremely fortunate last summer to see pleasant weather for the outdoor ceremonies that we were a part of,” he says. “However, when it comes to weather, due to its unpredictable nature, I’ll always ensure a contingency plan is in play.”
Back over on the pleasant part of the West Coast, Haggerty with Denon & Doyle says his company’s biggest summertime demand is for large sound systems for high school graduations.
“For some of the schools that hold ceremonies in their football field, 4,000-5,000 people will show up,” he says. “They typically need three or four mics, plug-ins for a guitar and/or keyboards, maybe some mics for the chorus, and about 12 speakers. I use a 12-channel Mackie mixer to handle all of the input, and that’s where my live sound and band-mixing skills come into play.”
Haggerty says he doesn’t imagine people are looking to save any money by scheduling parties in the outdoors, though anywhere in Napa County or Sonoma County people are indeed paying big bucks for summertime wedding receptions.
“I looked back on weddings I’ve done over the past few years,” he says, “and I’d say 70-percent were either completely outdoors or an outdoor ceremony with an indoor reception. Welcome to California!”