Remember the Hustle? Jeff Siber does. That’s back when he started his DJing journey, in Brooklyn, teaching the dance with a DJ partner.
Forty-four years later, Siber is in New Jersey, a partner in Total Entertainment, which books north of $20 million per year.
That’s a lot of parties. We asked Siber some of his trade secrets.
DJ Times: You got your start with the Hustle.
Jeff Siber: It was with a partner, and we did shows in Long Island and I used to put on shows in the Catskills. It was great and then Son of Sam came [in 1977] and everybody did not want to go out, so I started teaching in houses, and somebody came to me and asked if I can do anything more than teaching dancing. So I went out and borrowed turntables and guitar amps and records from all my friends. I had a gooseneck microphone, and I did my first sweet 16. I was 20 years old at the time, and I did it for $10 an hour.
When did you start to make money?
Then I got a break from a friend of mine in Brooklyn who owned a catering hall, two big rooms, and he took me in and I was making I think I asked them for like $200 for a four-hour party. And before you knew it, he was giving me 100 parties a year. After a few years I got up to about $800, doing weddings, bar mitzvahs, doing all kinds of stuff.
Then you moved to New Jersey and started a company.
I was making $800 a party, and at a bar mitzvah showcase I brought the price down for a one day special — $400 a party and I booked 27 parties on the spot. That started my company in Jersey, and I ended up taking on more and more MCs and dancers, and soon I had like 10 or 11 MCs.
I built that company over 12 years and brought it to three and a half million dollars — seven of my employees today have their own company.
You sold that company for how much?
I sold that company in 2007 for $2 million. And at the same time I came into Total Entertainment. I was invited by the owner, my now partner Mark, who at the time was doing 8 million dollars a year.
And that company is doing what kind of revenue?
Let’s just say we’re doing comfortably more than $15 million this year.
What are some of the secrets to massive bookings like that?
You know, I was a good MC, I was a great dance instructor and I was a good DJ. I did everything, but I saw the writing on the wall and I started really getting involved in the business behind the business.
Explain the business behind the business.
I used to go and do wedding showcases and mitzvah showcases and we’d give away a free cocktail hour. I used to charge $150 for it, and I used to call everybody that signed up on my sheet and say congratulations you won a free cocktail hour and I’d end up booking their weddings, and birthday parties, and mitzvahs.
I focused on the business and I looked at the business real seriously and understand I went to Brooklyn College for three years in accounting, but I never graduated. I just understood business.
What other things did you do to scale your business?
I brought my MCs and DJs to my parties, and then when people would call for me on a party I told them I have a tentative party, and then asked them if they remember the guy that was with me on the microphone that day…I told them that he’s free — and they’d say, ‘oh he was great too, I’ll take him!’ And whether they remember him or not, all they remember is that the party I did that day they loved whether it was me or the other guy on the mic. That’s how I built my business and every MC I train that way.
There must be other tricks.
When the economy crashed I started to focus on all the extras. I was the guy that came up with the phrase, as we call it EE — extra entertainment.
That meant anything but the entertainment. It could be lights, it could mean video projectors and caricaturists. It could mean anything you think of. I was focusing on EE — with a client that’s already using you, they already trust you, and they need extra. Go for that bigger piece of the pie.
I always say that I’ve made myself look bigger than I am. Somebody asked me at a wedding, ‘do you have a string quartet?’ I said, ‘oh my God sure I do,’ and I tell them about it, talk about it and I might not even have it. My motto is ‘buy now and worry how to produce it later.’
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