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Every year the DJ Expo in Atlantic City brings together a diverse group DJs from throughout the nation—and 2013 was no different.

It wasn’t such a long travel for John Horne, of Jam Machine Productions in relatively nearby Huntingdon, Pa., who says it was this DJ’s 13th year of attending the DJ Expo.

“As always, I enjoyed seeing and interacting with my favorite vendors face to face, thereby getting answers to burning questions about lights, sound and other technical issues,” Horne says. “It’s also always nice to meet new DJs every year.

“This year at the ADJ PizzaFest, I got to meet fellow DJs who I shared a table with and got to know very well—one of whom I sat next to at a seminar the next morning, while the other I saw again on the Expo floor at the ADJ demo. It’s great to share knowledge and life experiences with one another to help one another become better.

“After 13 years, I don’t get tired of coming and I learn something new every year.”

We asked long-term DJs and company owners to tell us about their own highlights of the Expo this year. Was it a spellbinding performance at one of the many parties? A fact-filled educational seminar? A new sound or lighting product? Or merely networking with other mobiles, establishing new relationships and hobnobbing with industry professionals?

A professional DJ for nearly 40 years, Denny McConnell of Music To You in Reading, Pa., has been attending the DJ Expo every year since 1990, and says he comes away from each show with new knowledge plus new friends.

“This year the seminars were fantastic, especially those of Steve Moody and Randy Bartlett,” McConnell says. “They were the moderators of their seminars, but the panel of experts was also very interesting and knowledgeable.

“The games seminar by Jake Jacobsen was fantastic, as I came away from that one with several new games I’ll definitely use. Mike Walter and his crew from New Jersey’s Elite Entertainment are always willing to let you pick their brains on how to do something, while the ‘Mock Mitzvah’ with Sean ‘Big Daddy’ McKee was off-the-hook, filled with info on how to do a mitzvah.

“The kids seminar with Rob Peters was also very entertaining, and again filled with tips on how to do kids’ parties, and—if you already do them—how to make them better. The seminars ran from DJ 101 to DJ 1001. There was something for everyone from the newbie first-timer to the seasoned veteran like me. If you think you know it all, you’re kidding yourself.”

McConnell says he especially enjoys the exhibit hall and the demo rooms every year, where he’s able to play with the latest gear and software, such as Virtual DJ’s soon-to-be-released version 8.0.

“There’s tons of lighting, photo booths, speakers—you name it, it’s there,” he explains. “Then there are music services like RPM Top Hits USA and Promo Only, offering the latest in all genres of music and video. I wouldn’t miss it.

“You also have parties every night plus the ‘DJ of the Year Competition,’ which I was fortunate to win the Wild Card Award for several years ago. And that’s on top of all the networking that goes on in the hallways and hotel rooms, which really is where you’ll come away a better person and DJ.”

According to Adam Weitz in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., the DJ Expo this year was not only fantastic, but also electrifying.

“There was an opportunity this year for everyone to get involved with everything,” says Weitz, “and the best part was it showed something that we haven’t seen in a very long time—and that was an economic growth. The reason why people were so excited this year was because it’s become a little bit easier now to enter the DJ industry, with its convenience of equipment and what-not, so it’s brought in a lot of young people.

“Youth always adds a lot of energy to any situation, which is what we saw this year. We also saw a lot of attendees from the past, such as myself, receive just a really good buzz in the air when it comes to new business, growth opportunities, and doing creative things, so we can add to our own multi-ops.

“I thought the talent at Mike Walter’s ‘DJ of the Year’ was the best it’s ever been, I think the challenge was the best it’s ever been, and I thought for the first time in a very long time we saw a true competition on the stage. I’ll tell you the convention floor was really buzzing with a bunch of great new stuff. I think Dragon Frontboards is the bomb, as they’ve got a lot of great new ideas.”

Weitz says that while the DJ industry grows, the annual DJ Expo really shows an awesome opportunity for mobile jocks from throughout the country to expand their businesses—which therefore shows there’s a lot more money to be made in this industry.

“And my company, A Sharp Productions, has been therefore been focusing on event planning—we don’t just do the music anymore, we do it all,” says Weitz. “We really have a great time exposing to people in our seminars to what we can do. Even though I didn’t actually have a seminar this year of my own, I got sucked into everybody else’s seminars, and it was great. I enjoyed participating because I’m an entertainer, and most of the time that’s to me what it’s all about, which is interaction.”

Jerry Bazata of Jaz Music & Entertainment of Oguinquit, Maine, says that, while having attended every DJ Expo since 2001 (and being a featured speaker since 2004), he never falls short of learning something new every year—gaining insight and best practices from others who help him grow his business.

“From year to year,” says Bazata, “it’s rewarding to hear from previous attendees what they took away the year before and, after implementing those ideas, how it helped their business grow. That leads me to the key benefit of participating in the DJ Expo each year, which is networking.

“As a business owner and entrepreneur, meeting with other professionals in our industry enables me to build a network of colleges and friends to seek advice, brainstorm with and help in making the appropriate decisions for my business. It’s rewarding to be looking at equipment on the show floor and have another DJ come up to you and share input or thoughts unsolicited to help you make a decision to buy or not to buy.

“Beyond the DJs, being a veteran of the show, you also get to know the vendors. And over years, they see you repeatedly and reach out to you and network in terms of your needs as a DJ—so they can build better products to meet our needs. So not only are you learning from the vendors, but they’re learning from you, too.”

Bazata says that the DJ Expo has expanded far beyond being just a trade show, which unfortunately has been the mindset of too many DJs for so many years.

“I’m amazed at those who just run in and out to grab a quick deal on lighting and leave,” he says. “When I asked a DJ from New Jersey this year why he wasn’t going to the seminars, he abruptly replied, ‘I already know all I need to know to run my business.’ When I pursued with further questions, he admitted that his business was struggling and he just didn’t have the time to learn new things.

“This is the key benefit for me to attending the DJ Expo: Attending the seminars and networking with others, each year I gain more knowledge and information for those informal meetings in the hallway to a brief conversation on the elevator. I make it a point each year to make a dozen or more new connections, and take away three new ideas to implement in my business and marketing strategy.

A 2006 American Disc Jockey Hall of Fame Inductee, one might think that Ray Martinez of Ray Mar Productions in Goodyear, Ariz., might be one of those few mobile jocks who indeed knows all there is to know about the DJ industry and therefore would find minimal benefit from attending the annual DJ Expo. Think again.

“As I get ready to celebrate my 40th anniversary in the mobile DJ industry in 2014, I’m so honored to help anyone with their business and performance skills,” says Martinez. “This industry has been so good to me and I’m so humbled to know that there are so many DJ entertainers who seek to improve, not only their performance, but also their personal life as well. And I hope I can always continue to make a difference in our DJ community.”

This year Martinez says there were two highlights for him: “The Steve Moody All-Stars” with their tips for better performances, and secondly he was asked by Stacy Zemon to meet with two young DJs from New Jersey, to help mentor them with their business.

After attending trade shows for more than 20 years, Martinez says the reason many DJs don’t attend the Expo is simply because of their ego. “But these guys have to remember that the industry has been around long before they came into it, so they’re not bigger than the industry,” he says. “Believe me, my message is: Don’t believe your own press clippings. Man up, put your ego aside, and know that there’s always room for improvement and learning.

“The day you stop learning is the day you stop living. There are so many professionals who are willing to teach the next generation and hopefully stop them from making the mistakes we made many years ago. We laid the groundwork for them, and hopefully we can now help make their path a lot smoother.”

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