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In 1982, while still in high school, John Horne began DJing. Nearly 40 years, 2,100 DJ gigs, and 1,000 trivia bookings later, he’s still here, running Jam Machine Productions in the greater Philadelphia area. We picked his brain as follows:

You’ve been DJing a long time. What are the positive changes you’ve seen in the industry? What are the negatives?

When I started DJing in 1982 while in high school, the industry was in its infancy. I started with spinning vinyl and homemade lighting equipment. I had fellow DJs that were my mentors and learned from them, but there was no real networking or education like there are today. I bought DJ books and it evolved from that. Then, in the early ’90s, I attended a DJ Expo and discovered product lines like American DJ and Chauvet. So, for me, it took me a long time to discover products and education. Today, of course, information is instantaneous. The Internet, YouTube and the DJ Expos have greatly helped all DJs improve their technique, skills and knowledge.

And the technology has improved…

The advent of computers, the microchip and LEDs have made possible more spectacular sound-and-light shows than I could have possibly imagined. But in the same respect, the opposite can also be a negative, as more bedroom/laptop DJs have access to the same technology, but not the experience and can cause undercutting and can create a glut in some markets. Some of these DJs were not raised like we were, and learned from others and from their own mistakes. We learned the music and how to mix and read the crowd, plus know how the equipment works and know about back-ups. Unfortunately, some are not patient enough to do this. In this day and age, some want it all now and don’t want to learn the business. I love the newer DJs, who do want to learn to be professional and use the knowledge for the betterment of the industry. That is the future of DJing.

In normal, non-pandemic times, what are your biggest challenges as a business owner?

Maintaining good business relationships, knowing there are some give and takes and not being full of yourself is a constant challenge. Not being stagnate and complacent is another. You have to evolve and change and better yourself, if you want to survive in the business world. Also, being involved in the community is another must. Over the years, I have been involved with several charities and community events that are important to both me and the area.

Pandemic-wise, we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. What’s your experience been like in your market?

The pandemic in Pennsylvania has been a devastating blow to businesses in the state. We have lost many mom-and-pop shops and they are the backbone of the economy. The entertainment business was a related hard-hit industry, as many of us rely on those small businesses to sustain us as well, along with the public events that are standard in the warmer months. My last show was March 14 and the shutdown order came down on the following Monday. The cancellations were enormous. I had 40 shows canceled through the end of May and my summer contract with a local resort was also canceled. I did a total of six shows during the summer – compared to another 42 that was on the schedule. DJ shows were a no-go at any venue, so all I had left was a trivia show and all I had was four venues that were still running. As of today, I am up to six regular monthly out of eight. I lost two permanently and two are still not having any entertainment.

How did you spend your off-time?

Besides still having my essential day-time job that greatly expanded due to fellow employees not wanting to work, or quit, I used my time to update and expand my trivia-show game sets and, thanks to Promo Only’s pandemic sale, I finally expanded my music video library. So when I do start DJing again, that will be a main fixture. Before, I only used video for specific shows, now I can do everyday ones as well – plus I use them in my trivia shows as well. And with the stimulus checks, I did take the chance to upgrade, repair and purchase some new equipment for both shows. Now, I am ready to perform again!

What gear to you take to shows?

An HP laptop computer, an American Audio VMS4.1 MIDI controller, QSC K12 speakers and a QSC CP8 speaker. I have a Samson AirLine Micro Earset mic system, a Gemini handheld wireless mic system and an Alto Stealth wireless system. For lighting, I use Chauvet pieces like Freedom Sticks, Hemisphere 5.1, Circus, COLORrail IRC and COLORband PiX Mini. I also use American DJ products like Sunray Tri LED, Inno Pocket Spots, H20 LED, and Galaxian Laser. Support products include Dragon Frontboard facades, plus cases from Odyssey, Arriba and Gator.

How much longer do you anticipate DJing? Have you thought about a plan to retire?

My original plan was 2022 – that would be my 40th anniversary. The pandemic forced me to look at things from a different point of view. I wanted to just continue doing trivia shows, but sitting around the house made me realize that can be just boring. Right now, as long as I can still have fun doing it and it’s not just a job, I will continue.

How has DJing enriched your life?

Appreciation for various types of music. When I was younger, I never would have listened to the stuff I have to know today. In fact, I have become a connoisseur of music and have a massive library. I have all the main Joel Whitburn research books and I have read them all and enjoy the knowledge I have amassed. I also love to share my knowledge whenever possible to whoever wants to learn.

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