In last month’s issue, Part II of my annual Expo Wrap-Up included tips on how to be a great performer and marketing to Latin events.
But that’s not all that occurred in the Expo seminar rooms this past Aug. 10-14 at the Trump Taj Mahal. Here are some more highlights from that week in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Myths & Methods of Beatmixing
In an annual DJ Expo tradition, veteran DJ Frank Garcia of New York City’s Mainline Lighting and Sound demonstrated three mixing techniques: 1) fade and cue, 2) the break mix, and 3) the beat mix.
While technology and the “sync” key have made it easy to beatmix, Garcia recommends that DJs learn through the old-fashioned method—by ear. He also cautioned that musical programming always trumps technical mixing ability.
Interspersed in the technical instruction, the ever-optimistic Garcia delivered life lessons. For example, while we as DJs tend to play the same records, how you play your records is extremely important.
Garcia recommends taking chances at parties in order to stand out in a sea of thousands of other DJs. While not every chance will produce results, Garcia says “that with failure comes success.” Dropping “a cappellas” is one way for DJs to gain distinction. Finally, once clients trust you as a DJ, you will command pricing power.
Right on the Money—Spinning Country
Alan Kohn from Premier Entertainment in Connecticut has been spinning country music at bars and private events for two decades. So, no—the popularity of country music is not limited to the southern United States. DJs can tap into this niche market by spinning at country-themed clubs, working on cruises, or throwing their own parties at hotels.
Line dancing, an integral part of the country party scene, can be learned by utilizing free online sites like www.copperhead.co.uk and www.kickit.to that offer step sheets and free instructional videos.
In Kohn’s case, he utilizes staff dancers to lead line dances at events, usually recruiting guests from parties based on their skills and charisma. For those DJs who need line-dance specialists for parties, there is a large community of line-dance enthusiasts who can be pulled in on a freelance basis. Kohn also recommends that DJs take dance lessons to increase their skill in this important performance attribute.
Even DJs who do not plan to specialize in country parties can add interactive elements to regular parties by teaching a line dance like “Wagon Wheel,” “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Country Girl Shake It,” and “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy).” Kohn’s Youtube channel (DJAlanKohn) showcases 70 country line dances
Legal Issues for DJs
North Carolina-based entertainment lawyer and former DJ, Coe Ramsey, provided a wealth of tips to help DJs navigate a complex legal world.
First, in order to shield personal assets, DJs should adopt a corporate structure and take great care to separate business and personal accounts. Interestingly, informal partnerships among DJs can sometimes be construed as legal partnerships, imposing certain legal obligations on the partners. When setting up non-compete agreements to prevent departing DJs from taking clients, the terms of the non-compete must be reasonable in terms of duration and geographic scope. If not, the non-compete will be difficult to enforce.
Other useful information included the definition of “employee” versus “subcontractor.” It varies based on state laws; however, in general, if a company controls an individual, they are considered an employee.
A huge benefit for DJs using legal contracts is the increase in professional image. Contracts should contain a provision citing your home state/municipality as the applicable jurisdiction of law.
Finally, with the increased popularity of music streaming services like Spotify, DJs must check the licenses carefully to determine if music may be streamed for commercial purposes. In the case of Spotify, the answer is “no.”
The willful violation of copyright law is a “big no-no”—for example, the owner of a multi-op who purchases a single subscription for a music service and then distributes copies to multiple DJs. Those willfully breaking copyright law can be fined $150,000. DJs frustrated by Soundcloud’s removal of online mixes should consider setting up a radio station podcast.
Write Your Own Success Story
Adam Weitz from Philadelphia-based A-Sharp Productions doled out wisdom based on a career spanning over 20 years.
First, Weitz reminded DJs that the business is a service industry, and that we should have a genuine attitude to serve that comes from the heart. Of course, the business that you will gain from this shift in mentality is huge. While it’s important to work hard on your business, DJs need to work even harder on creating a life plan and finding a work-life balance.
If you make a mistake, be honest with clients and show vulnerability. You will generally be forgiven.
Lastly, to manage his time more efficiently, Weitz has his DJs call a “706 Line” where they leave a message recapping the good, bad and ugly from a gig. This prevents Weitz from having to take late-night phone calls.
Growing Your Business Through Vertical Integration
Keith “K.C.” KoKoruz from Chicago provided details about an alternative growth model for DJs. K.C. was frank in saying that “the days of going out with two speakers to make a living are over.” KoKoruz himself has been expanding by starting new businesses and acquiring existing businesses. All of his businesses are related to the wedding and events industry with his business portfolio including a bridal show producer, a flower shop, a health-and-beauty division and a DJ/events production operation.
KoKoruz introduced a change in perspective by asking if DJs would be delighted to have a 20-percent market share of their local wedding DJ business. Of course, we would, but this is unrealistic for most markets. However, by introducing related businesses such as photography, videography, lighting/decor and event planning, a vertically integrated DJ company could easily gain 20-percent of a bride’s total budget for her wedding day. Acquiring existing businesses, particularly distressed ones, can be done inexpensively.
By vertically integrating, DJs can quickly ramp up their sales to six or even seven figures. A common concern voiced by attendees was how to manage multiple businesses. In K.C.’s case, he utilizes professional managers to run each business on a day-to-day basis, and also has a dedicated sales force. This frees up his time to focus on strategic development and high-level sales and marketing.
KoKoruz recommends that DJs surround themselves with good people, and that managers “delegate or else suffocate.”
When McDonald’s began, it did not ask its customers, “Do you want fries with that?” But the fast-food giant soon learned. Similarly, we, as DJs, should ask our clients, “Do you want some [fill in the blank] with that?”
KoKoruz reminded DJs that “just 5-percent of professionals in any given industry willingly participate in continuing education.” A round of congratulations is therefore in order to seminar attendees who took the time to elevate themselves and the DJ industry.
Gregg Hollmann owns Ambient DJ Service in East Windsor, N.J.