Hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Big Daddy Walker, (Big Daddy Walker Productions) is a leading DJ in his area, and has taken the unique step of adding the capavility of performing actual wedding ceremonies to his company’s services.
He shared a little bit about how he converted from a part-time, fill-in DJ with a regular day job, to running a full-time, multi-system entertainment operation…
Big-Daddy Walker: Well, how I got into the DJ business was sort of an accident. I had a great friend, actually a mentor, who was DJing part time, and sometimes he would need help and would ask me to fill in for him when he was on vacation. We actually did a “Blues Brothers” gig together for a while. We did some events for Starbucks and different people.
And he always told me when I filled in for him, that people really enjoyed it and he got great feedback. He had been pushing me for a long time to try and be a DJ. And when the economy kind of faltered back in, for me, about 2006, I had decided—I had some benefits, as a disabled veteran, to go back to school and to get my degree as a special education teacher.
At that point I started DJing to make extra money; then it grew to the point that I couldn’t handle all the business. And we kind of started building—as a joke at that time—Big Daddy Walker Productions.
Mobile Beat: So you did a bit of DJing before starting your own company. How has it been, growing to have other people working for you? Cloning is obviously not an option. How do you pass on your approach to performing, customer service and so on, to other DJs?
B-D W: Well, that’s a great point. I’m hoping that they can get this cloning thing down over in Europe and I can figure this out. But you’re right, I can’t clone myself. But what I can do is show certain things that I have seen work for me, certain DJ attributes that work, and share those with my DJs and kind of show them how to do it but make it their own personality. And the people who have followed what I’ve asked them to do have been extremely successful.
M B: From your website (www.BigDaddyWalkerProductions. com), it looks like you are primarily a wedding company. Is that your favorite “neighborhood?”
B-D W: Well, to be honest with you, I like to DJ anywhere, anytime. But I do love weddings only because it’s a special time in someone’s life and I love to be a part of that. But I just as much enjoy being down at a club or a large event somewhere and really rocking the crowd and watching how the music can take that crowd in any direction I want, based on the music that I play. But we do a ton of weddings because of the quality of product that we put out.
M B: What’s the average in Cincinnati for a DJ, and how do you compare?
B-D W: From what I can tell, hearing what people have told me about my competition, they’re averaging around $750. As a company, we average right around $1,400; and myself, I’m getting about $2,000 a wedding right now.
M B: So you’re already selling a premium with your DJs. How are you able to sell yourself as even one step above that?
B-D W: I offer it, and they say yes or no. You don’t know until you ask, and the reality is they’ve either seen me somewhere, at a wedding or other event, or a friend has told them this is the guy you want. I would say the majority of our business is referral.
M B: You have a nice-looking website, so obviously the Internet means something to you as far as promotion. What about bridal fairs and magazines, and that kind of stuff?
B-D W: I don’t do any bridal magazine advertising. Print has not worked for us. It’s kind of been a waste of time. But we do two bridal shows in the winter that have been successful for us here in Cincinnati. We do Wendy’s Bridal Show, and that’s the first weekend in January. And then the second weekend is one called the Wedding Showcase, and that’s at the Blue Ash Convention Center in Blue Ash, Ohio.
And then there is usually one that we’ll do in the fall by a company called Ohio Bridal Expos. We really like their shows. They’re smaller; a little more personal. Since we build our business on personal attention, it works out nicely for us.
So we do about three shows a year. I know a lot of people do every single show, but there’s so many shows. We try to concentrate on the better-quality shows.
M B: What kind of presence do you usually have at a fair?
B D W: It’s kind of funny. We don’t set up our gear. But we have three different pull-up displays, and two of the side ones are high-quality graphics of our E-V speakers—my wife’s idea, actually. So it looks like we have speakers there… and in the middle is our logo with all the different things that we do. When people come up to talk to us we tell them who we are and what we do and how we can help make their day special.
M B: Your website mentions a unique service you provide, beyond the usual DJ offerings. Tell us about actually performing the wedding, in contrast to just performing at the reception.
B D W: Yeah. That kind of came about when we had office space open up next door. We needed more storage space, so we took that over. We’ve got about 2,400 square feet right now. And my wife said there was a lot of room in there and we should put a chapel in here.
And I said okay because we had been doing some officiating— what I call “same-day officiating,” where guests would call and say, “Hey, I’m in the military, I need to get married today before me and my fiancé go back to the base.” So I was doing a lot of those in our office and my wife didn’t like the fact that they were getting married in our office. She wanted something nicer. So now we have the chapel and we do have officiants that are working with us to offer those services to our bride and grooms.
M B: Are you much of a gearhound? You mentioned the E-V speakers; what else do you use? Are you a laptop-style DJ?
B D W: Yeah. We use laptops. For our weddings we have Pioneer DJM-5000 mixers with the MEP-7000 players, which puts out an incredible quality sound. I really like Pioneer stuff. I also have the Denon MC6000 that I use for mixing video and mixing music, maybe if I’m just showing up at a club and I just need to plug into their unit and play music.
But I do use laptops and typically we use PCs. Virtual DJ—I love it. It’s so simple and it’s got so many tools for the money. I know a lot of the long-time guys would disagree with me and talk about scratching and mixing with Serato and the Tracktor. But for how we run our business, Virtual DJ is just awesome.
M B: Where do you see things going in the next couple years?
B D W: Well, I’d like to kind of spread out a little bit…to find the right people to be able to open in other markets and maintain the quality that we’ve been able to maintain here in Cincinnati. But it’s hard to keep your thumb on that when you’re far away.
We have an incredible foundation. I’ve got incredible people that work with us, that care about our business, care about our clients. I will grow when the right people come along. I’m not going to grow for the sake of growing.
M B: Any other last bits of Big Daddy wisdom for the average DJ that’s out there?
B D W: Well, the only thing I can say—I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but it’s from Zig Ziglar—you help enough people get what they want and you’ll get what you want.
Brides who are looking to step up in quality are much happier than those who paid the low price and had all their guests left early. Decide which avenue works best for you, but I can tell you, I have fewer headaches, more quality time, and a better relationship with my brides and grooms based on the quality that we provide.
Filed Under: Business, Issue #151, Personal Development, Profiles
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