When a guest at a corporate party once asked Michigan mobile DJ Corey Rusch to play Eminem’s explicit song “Chloraseptic,” the mobile DJ—realizing the song’s lyrics wouldn’t be proper for that particular audience—politely told the man he didn’t have the tune, and also that it would be inappropriate.
That’s when things suddenly escalated.
“This guy got in my face, claiming I must be a Trump supporter,” Rusch chuckles. “It got a little awkward for a minute. I had to tell him this wasn’t the time or the place for that argument, and asked him what it matters anyhow? He calmed down after that, but I have no idea how it got to that point over an Eminem song.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that you can’t talk politics with clients, because you have a 50-50 chance of causing the clients or guests to not like you right away.”
Since Donald J. Trump was elected President in November, 2016, he’s understandably shaken things up – and that’s an understatement. As an outsider seemingly unable to refrain from speaking or Tweeting whatever’s on his mind – and with verity being a loose notion – Trump has revved up the political debate with political divisiveness at an all-time high.
But politics and personal opinions aside, how has the Trump presidency, in its event-filled 18 months, impacted the DJ industry? What positives and negatives, if any, can be attributed to any economic or social changes in the White House?
Has Trump’s recent tax cut helped with corporate bookings? In terms of bookings, do customers these days feel more optimistic or more cautious? What’s the anecdotal evidence?
DJ Corey says the new tax laws have generated a little extra work for his company, but he believes the benefits of the policy change will be worth it once everything gets straightened out.
“I don’t think much is different right now,” Rusch says of the DJ economy. “Corporate gigs are still coming in like crazy. Supposedly, they were going to cut entertainment out of companies, but they’ll just name it something different.”
Although he says this is an interesting topic, DJ Mike Melice in Ithaca, N.Y., says he tries not to let politics affect his business.
“I’m a firm believer that my success is due to my hard work, and that my failures are so I can learn and prosper in the future,” says Melice. “However, with President Obama we were all required to have mandatory health insurance, meaning that if it wasn’t offered by our employer, we’d have to purchase it separately. [Editor’s Note: Employers with less than 50 full-time employees were exempt.] If you went more than three months without health benefits you would get penalized financially. Being a full-time business owner, this hurt me a lot since I was forced to pay for health insurance for me and my wife out of my pocket, and the price for our health insurance was in the five digits for the year. I’m glad that this is no longer the case – although my wife has now finished school and we’re now both on her insurance policy.
“On the other hand, Obama did legalize gay marriage, which in my opinion has increased the number of weddings that we get to DJ—and most of my same-sex couples spend more on their entertainment.”
This Upstate New York-based DJ says he did see an increase in corporate events this past year, but says he honestly doesn’t believe it had anything to do with tax cuts.
“I’ve been in business for over 15 years,” says Melice, “and the only time I’ve seen a major decline in business was in the mid-2000s under Bush when the stock market completely crashed and many people lost their jobs, homes and savings.”
Politics aside, Adam Tiegs (aka DJ Tgro) says he’s observed no noticeable changes in the DJ economy over in the Pacific Northwest. Business is still good, he says.
“As a mobile who started a business with a focus on weddings, more than 50-percent of my business is still corporate events,” says Tiegs, “although I’ve since then branched out as a lighting guru and video-projection specialist. I still love DJing, but I do this full-time and try to incorporate all of my skills for my clients in a unique way. That’s what keeps me going and keeps the bills paid.”
However, DJ Tgro has, in fact, noticed that some people in the past couple years have separated themselves at industry-association meetings, which might have something to do with the current occupant of the White House.
“This past election and all the corrupt behavior coming to light,” he says, “has definitely brought out the spotlight on those who aren’t ‘cool.’ Social media has had a big impact on politics, but I wish people educated themselves more, reading more about our history and voting for what’s right instead of wrong.
“But business is great, as are the freedoms that I and my family enjoy in America.”
As a person who majored in finance in college and has always enjoyed studying economics, Gregg Hollmann of New Jersey’s Ambient DJ Services says that the current buoyant state of the economy is merely cyclical.
“I personally believe the macro-economy is controlled by the ‘invisible hand’ described by Adam Smith, the Father of Modern Economics,” he posits. “In other words, the current economic situation is a result of economic forces already in place before Trump took office.
“And as a working DJ, the ‘politics of dancing’ trumps the policies of the U.S. president,” he puns.
That said, Hollmann points to a number of positive things happening since November 6, 2016.
“With unemployment low [3.9-percent in April 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics], individuals are more confident about their job security and more likely to throw private parties—and fancier parties at that,” he points out. “The bullish stock market since Trump’s presidency has also bolstered consumer confidence, with individuals feeling empowered by their higher net worth.”
When it comes to the corporate sector – the segment which suffered the worst after 2008’s economic fallout – Hollmann says that portion of the DJ industry has slowly and steadily been coming back, and continues to progress during the current administration.
“Our company is starting to see the return of more ostentatious company holiday parties,” he reports. “Although the wedding segment is not particularly sensitive to the general economy—people will get married regardless of the economic situations—their purse strings are loose, and it’s been easier to sell high-end wedding packages.
“There is indeed some buzz among small business owners, like myself, that Trump’s proposed tax code for the 2018 tax year will reduce taxes and increase our discretionary income. However, this theory remains speculative, and I don’t yet have the confidence to change spending based on a prospective change in the tax code.”
Mike Walter of Elite Entertainment in Tinton Falls, N.J., agrees with Hollmann that it’s far too early to tell if Trump’s tax cuts will be making a big difference in the DJ business.
“The cuts only went into effect this year and most people plan weddings a year or more in advance, so it’s probably a better question for 2019 or 2020,” says Walter.
“As far as the president having an impact, I firmly believe the saying that ‘all politics is local.’ Other than getting our nation involved in a war or something like rewriting our healthcare laws, presidents don’t impact me as much as my governor and local municipality.
“The economy is good in New Jersey, but our taxes continue to be high, so I guess it all kind of balances out for me.”
Even though his DJ bookings may be impacted by the national economy, Todd Mofree in Schenectady, N. Y., says his company, Party With Todd, has seen a recent uptick in wedding upsells and extravagance.
“People seem to have more money to spend on things they were cutting back on a few years ago,” says Mofree. “Bigger and fancier venues. Larger centerpieces. More in the way of favors and giveaways.
“For me, clients are adding more ‘with-its’ to their packages – more up-lighting, fancy DJ booths, fancy moving heads and club-style lighting. We’re seeing extras that, in the past, they didn’t opt for because, back then, these people were more budget-minded.”
As for political discourse, Mofree says it’s never played a part in his events.
“I’ve always thought it best to keep political jokes far away from the entertainment,” he explains. “You just never know who the guests are. At a recent wedding, the groom’s godfather—a retired U.S. congressman—was in attendance!”
Meanwhile, Ray Martinez (DJ Ray Mar) in Goodyear, Ariz., points to the stock market rising to historic levels as proof that our current President is doing “what’s best for our country.”
“He may not be the most eloquent speaker or politically correct politician,” he says, “but I believe he’s speaking for the good of the American people. I believe the economy is so much better today, and as a result my business has taken tremendous leaps and it’s greatly enhanced my bottom line financially.”
And according to DJ Ray Mar, a lot of the credit also goes to the Bubble Parties he’s now booking during the week. According to Martinez, he booked 18 weekday parties in just four days before contributing to this story.
“Because of the vision of Rob Peters of RPE in Boston to get me signed on as a Bubble Party provider,” he says, “the economy [for me] is much better today.”
As far as any personal impact Trump has made, Mike Walter says the only disruption he’s observed is how much time he finds himself wasting on social media.
“I stupidly get involved in more debates these days than ever and they tend to suck the life out of my day,” he says. “I’m getting better at not doing it, but I still slip up sometimes and think I can convince someone to change someone’s mind—which literally never happens on Facebook.
“Everyone knows what they know – myself included – and we’re not looking for fresh perspectives. But other than that, I don’t think Trump has helped or hurt our business, just like Obama didn’t have much impact on our bottom line.”
Says Todd Mofree, “So it doesn’t matter who the president is. People still get married, get bar mitzvah’d, graduate and have parties. They still book entertainment. Although how the economy is going will decide how big that party is, how many people are invited, and if dinner is surf-n-turf or a potluck.”