Since 1994 Jimmie Malone has been running a single-op DJ business in Binghamton, NY. Of course, the load-in is a lot easier than it was 25 years ago, but the competition has become more fierce.
10 years ago his company, Exceptional Receptions, was the only one in his market offering photo booths and video screens. Now there are DJs in his market — and all over the country — that make more money on their photo booth business than anything else.
We asked him to explain how he’s stayed competitive.
Jimmie Malone: To stay relevant you have to keep looking for new ideas. Now I’m offering sparkler fountains, dry ice, a theatrical snow effect, and more decor related items like wine barrels and decorative furniture like thrones for the sweetheart table.
DJ Times: What trends do you see in the DJ business in the last year?
The “farm wedding” is still very popular and more couples are telling me they want to keep things simple. Many of the gaudier wedding trends like the bouquet and garter and dollar dance have all but disappeared.
“To stay relevant you have to keep looking for new ideas — sparkler fountains, dry ice, a theatrical snow effect, decor items and decorative furniture.”
DJ Times: You offer video love stories for clients. Have you been able to increase the price for it?
The video love story continues to be a huge hit when we include it in the festivities but it is very production heavy. I use a Canon 70D DSLR and Sennheiser lavaliere to record them and edit using a combination of Vegas Pro and Adobe Premiere. I just bought a Microsoft Surface Studio 2 with a massive 28″ touch screen with pen input to help with all of my production tasks. Video editing and graphic design (think photo booth prints and monograms) have both become a big part of my job.
As a result of all this time to produce them, I have had to raise the price — and that means fewer love stories this season. This was somewhat intentional to free up more of my time during the week for other projects.
“I don’t feel like we have too many “bottom feeders.” No one I know starts for less than $1,500 and prices north of $2,000 are common.”
DJ Times: Have you increased your prices recently?
I experimented with lower cost weddings in 2019 that included far less production, like video editing. The intention was to increase the volume of weddings but spend far less time preparing for each event. What I found is that I did roughly the same number of events as I did at higher prices. Ultimately I think I left money on the table and many of the weddings I booked would have still hired me at a higher rate even without all of the labor intensive extras.
For 2020 I have raised prices across the board and I’m seeing an increase in the number of bookings.
“Many of the gaudier wedding trends like the bouquet and garter and dollar dance have all but disappeared.”
DJ Times: You’re a solo-op. How many gigs are you booking and what’s your price structure?
I DJ at about 30-35 weddings a year and 5-10 non-weddings. There are a lot of events I pass on like graduation parties and bars to keep dates free for higher paying jobs like weddings and corporate work.
In 2019 my average wedding was $2,500 — which is down from 2018 by quite a bit. Because I didn’t see the increase in volume I was expecting, I have made a course correction and bookings for 2020 are averaging just shy of $3,000. I was surprised to find bookings increased. Keep in mind, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Rentals like photo booths make up more than half of my business and my company will do 80-100 photo booth rentals a year.
“I experimented with lower cost weddings in 2019 that included far less production.”
I also think I’m fortunate to work in a market where I don’t feel like we have too many “bottom feeders.” Most of the DJs are commanding premium prices. No one I know starts for less than $1,500 and prices north of $2,000 are common.
DJ Times: Aside from video love story, what are some other ways DJs can incorporate video into their events?
You can go crazy with video and it does get to be a bit of work to put it together but the end result is worth it. I’ll create custom slideshows for the formal dances. It’s beautiful to see moms cry at baby pictures as they share a dance with their son! Sometimes I will include photos and even video clips into wedding party introductions. Why limit yourself to a funny story when there was a video of the moment you can just show? I even had a bride’s brother who was serving in active duty record a toast. It was coordinated with the bride’s mother and a total surprise for her at the wedding. Moments like that are amazing and far beyond what guests are used to experiencing at weddings.
“I’ve finally learned that to grow, you have to do what you’re passionate about and be willing to turn other tasks over to someone else.”
DJ Times: It’s engagement season. Do you do any specific push to attract brides?
I am fortunate to be able to keep busy on mostly referrals from other vendors and last clients. I still do bridal shows to get some of my more unique offerings out in the public eye. In the next year I will be looking to hire someone to handle my social media. I’ve finally learned that to grow, you have to do what you’re passionate about and be willing to turn other tasks over to someone else. Too many of us try to do it all and you can’t love or be great at every part of your job. If you are willing to take a hard look at your own weaknesses, and social media is definitely one of mine, they don’t have to hold you back.
Prices: $2,500 (down from 2018)
Upsells: Video love story for $500