Actions Speak Louder BY: JAY MAXWELL

May 7, 2012 by Jay Maxwell

142-095This year marks thirty years for me in the mobile disc jockey business and it is as much fun today as it was the first time I took my home stereo system and my album and 45 collection to the church dance to help out.

Because of the encouragement given to me by those in attendance at that small function, I got the notion that perhaps I had found something that I had both a passion for doing and that would bring in a little extra money on the side.

Little did I know that it would eventually turn into a lifetime career for me, and give me the flexibility to pursue dual careers—my other career being that of a full-time college professor of business.

When I tell someone I first meet what I do for a living, their response is usually the same, “So you get to play music, how cool.” I’m sure that many of you have heard the same thing from people who really have no clue just how much more a DJ does at an event to enhance the evening’s experience. For three decades,

I have explained to people the many details that a DJ is responsible for at most events. Some of these details might be obvious, others are subtle, perhaps even unspoken. At a wedding reception for example, I tell them that most DJs serve as the wedding reception coordinator if the couple did not hire one. Even before the couple arrives, it is the DJ who is setting the tone of the event with the right music played. Once the couple arrives, the DJ will organize the wedding party as quickly as possible in the order on the bride’s list and then announce them when they enter. Of course, weeks before the reception he met with the bride and groom to learn exactly how to pronounce everyone’s name and the order of the events. Even the song played for the introduction was preplanned to make sure that it is an appropriate song for this day’s theme. The entire flow of the event was planned well in advance by the bride and groom with the assistance and helpful suggestions of the DJ. Getting and keeping everyone on track—both the professionals (photographer, cater, videographer) and the important players (bride and groom, honor attendants, parents)—is the responsibility of the DJ. Sure, keeping people on the dance floor is important; but the ability to create smooth transitions between each section of the evening is paramount to a successful overall event…and it is all in the hands of the DJ.

One of the main principles that I try to instill in my business students is that they will NOT succeed if they are satisfied with “mediocre” in their schoolwork or in their careers. Many students today do appear to strive for mediocrity when they should be striving for excellence. As for the DJs that make up my company, they all strive for excellence. My students know that they should not be shooting for anything shy of an “A” for their grade and my DJs know that their surveys are expected to be returned from the client with nothing short of “all 5 out of 5s” on the survey. Just like there is often only a slight difference between what makes a research paper a B+ and one that deserves an A, there is also only a slight difference between a very good DJ, and one that is outstanding. That difference is in the small, often unspoken, finer points of the performance.

INSTRUMENTAL TO YOUR SUCCESS

The songs in this issue’s list—all without lyrics—each serve an important function and add just the right amount of flare for particular events. Though some couples might want a popular Top 40-type song played for their entrance, most understand that it is easier for their guests to understand the DJ as he introduces everyone if only an instrumental is played in the background. Likewise, playing exactly the right exit song might be just the ticket to seal the evening after the last dance. For example, if the bride or groom is in the military, playing their branch’s song on their way out might provide the perfect ending (based on your re-event consultation, of course). Other instrumentals are listed too, for the garter removal, games, and other event happenings.


TO THE POWER OF TEN

Much of what separates the outstanding DJ from the very good DJ, like these important instrumentals, involves actions performed without words. What I mean by this is that what the audience sees you doing, or not doing, often has nothing to do with what you say or play, but in the small unspoken things that you do that people appreciate. In practice, these are ten essentials that sets apart the outstanding DJ from the “B+” DJ:

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  1. Always smile. From start to finish, you should be smiling— REGULARLY $24.95 + $5 S/H ON SALE NOW FOR JUST $20 +FREE SHIPPING!SAVE $9.95 a natural smile to show that you are enjoying your job.
  2. Focus on the crowd. It’s funny that many times there will be a chair set up for us during the event. First thing we do is to remove it. We are too busy reading the crowd and anticpating our next move to rest.
  3. Never become a guest. You should never eat at an event unless the client basically forces you to partake in the meal. Even then, eat quickly and out of sight of any of the guests. Of course you shouldn’t drink any alcoholic beverages at the party and always decline any dance invitations.
  4. Stand tall. Though I’ve already mentioned not sitting, by standing tall, I mean that you shouldn’t lean on the console or have your hands in your pockets. Remember that your “body language” is always being perceived by the crowd.
  5. Shake hands. When a guest comes up to make a request, shake their hand. People appreciate the touch and they will remember your warm welcome.
  6. Look like the cover of a magazine. Your hair should be freshly cut and styled, with either a fresh shave or neatly trimmed facial hair for the gentlemen. Your tux or other dress attire should be spotless and pressed as fine as what the wedding party is wearing.
  7. Make eye contact. If someone is speaking to you, especially if they are making a song request, look them in the eye. It shows them you respect them.
  8. Listen. Like eye contact, listening to clients, guests and other vendors indicates that you care about their concerns. Listening is also especially important during the consultation, so that you know what the bride and groom want you to play and announce.
  9. Manage time effectively. Part of the success of the event is the flow of the activities. You don’t want to rush things, but too much time between events could lose the attention of the crowd.
  10. Be flexible. Though you will have a plan based on the bride and groom’s consultation, emphasize to them that the timing of the events may have to be changed during the event for various unforeseen reasons. The important thing is for them to have an unprecedented experience. As long as everything gets done, it shouldn’t matter if a few things get changed around if necessary.

So many of the elements of success at an event are like the special instrumentals in this issue’s list—unspoken. The above ten “unspoken” essentials that the outstanding DJ must master to get an “A” on his event must appear to happen naturally, with little or no effort. It is like when I show my business class how to solve a finance or statistical problem. I make it look like it took no effort. Of course it looked like it took no effort because of lots of practice solving the problem. I tell my students that homework is assigned to give them enough practice until solving the problems becomes natural for them too. Likewise, I hope that you will practice these unspoken essentials until they become a natural part of your performance. This way, you can focus on the one thing that everyone already knows we do: spinning the right tune when someone yells out, “Play Something We Can Dance To!”

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Jay Maxwell Jay Maxwell (29 Posts)

Mobile Beat’s resident musicologist since 1992 (issue #11), Jay Maxwell runs the multi-talent entertainment company, Jay Maxwell’s Music by Request, LLC, in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also a professor of Business at Charleston Southern University. His passion for detail and continuous research of clients’ requests can be found not only in this column, but also in his annually updated music guide, Play Something We Can Dance To.


Filed Under: Issue #142, Issues from 2012, Performing