Working at clubs can be very beneficial for the typical multi-system company that normally caters to weddings and other private events. I frequently hear a lot of “wedding” DJ’s say that clubs are a waste of time. Read on, before you jump to conclusions on the pros and cons of doing clubs. In my 17 years of experience, I have had contracts with two clubs that complimented my mobile disc-jockey service very well. In the mid 1980’s, I was fortunate enough to land a contract with a club that had just established themselves as the new “hot spot” in town. We all know how this works. A typical club will reign supreme for a few years, and then the crown is passed on to a different club. It runs in cycles. The club we were playing for had lines of people outside the doors waiting to get in. More specifically, the RIGHT kind of people who get married in hotels and upscale banquet facilities were frequenting this club. This is the time period when my company grew from two DJ systems to five in just two years. It was an incredible run for us, and we probably wouldn’t be where we are today, if it were not for the success we enjoyed during the time we played for this particular club.First, I will outline some of the pros and cons of working clubs. Then, I will provide a few suggestions on how to make them work to your advantage.
First and foremost, I believe that in order for a club to be beneficial to your company, it has to be the “right kind of club”. Why?? The single most important benefit of taking on a club is for the advertising (not the money, as most people would guess). It is extremely important that you be selective on the type of club for which you agree to provide services. The bottom line is to get advertising, and more gigs for your mobile disc jockey business. This means that you need to pick a club that has the type of people most likely to hire you for their wedding.
If you play in the wrong kind of club that attracts the wrong element of society, you are not going to benefit from the promotional aspect. This is why you need to be very careful about picking and choosing the clubs where you agree to play. My ultimate goal is to get weddings and other similar events at the more upscale banquet facilities. I am not going to get that if I play at a club that attracts a “rough crowd”. As you can tell, I am carefully dancing around this issue in order to be politically correct. I think you know exactly what I am talking about. In fact, I will go as far to say that if you associate your trade name with the wrong kind of club, it can harm your reputation and standing in the community. Common sense is the key to making the right choices here.
One common problem with multi-system companies, is balancing the need to keep enough qualified DJs on your staff to cover your bookings, without having too many people. If you keep too few staff DJs, you will find yourself in a jam when one of them leaves you without any notice. If you have too many DJs on staff, you have the problem of some of them becoming disinterested in working for your company, due to the lack of work. Having a club can help you provide those staff DJs with enough work to keep them happy.
One other benefit to having a club, is that the club typically will book you about three nights a week, or even on some of the “off” nights, such as a Thursday. Most DJs have little trouble keeping their calendar full on Saturday afternoon’s and evenings. Wednesday and Thursday nights are another story. This is where a nightclub can help boost the income of your staff and the company as well, on those weeknights when your equipment would otherwise collect dust.
Nightclubs can also be beneficial to the company by providing a training ground for your newer staff members. The typical nightclub in “Anytown, USA” is not normally like the trendy clubs that are often found in the urban cities across the country. This means that you can afford to send someone who has received a sufficient amount of training, but does not yet have the MC experience with weddings to be proficient. I am not suggesting that you send someone who is totally unprepared to do a club. I am only proposing that for staff members who have not yet had the opportunity to get wedding experience, the club and bar scene may be the ideal place for them to begin to establish a reputation.
My company has recently benefited from additional revenue from a nightclub where we currently. This club’s sound system was grossly outdated, and sounded horrible. When we took it over, we were simply showing up with a music library and CD players, plugging into their sound system. This is how they received a “wholesale” price for our services. As bad as their sound system was, my staff played the right kind of music, and started to draw the kind of people we were looking for into the club. However, the sound system was making us look bad, and the only reason we took the club was for the advertising. This was when we approached the club owners and gave them three options:
Get a new sound system.
Rent a sound system from us.
Find another DJ
Since the club knew that they faced spending a minimum of $6000 to $10,000 for a new sound system, they chose option # 2, and we installed a bi-amped sound system, with six full range speakers and two subs. We had most of the equipment anyway, and now charge them a rental fee of $100.00 per night (above the fee for our DJ service). We play three nights a week there, so the company is taking in $300 a week from the club owners, in rental fees alone. You are probably questioning the owner’s logic behind this concept. To be honest, we are too!! But the fact remains, the club owners did not want to front $6000 to $10000 for a sound system. All I can say is that it works well for us.
Once you find a club that you feel will benefit your business, it is time to negotiate the terms and conditions under which you will provide your services. A written contract is mandatory in order to prevent any misunderstandings in the future. Personally, I will not provide our services for even one night, without such a contract being signed by the club OWNERS. Managers are not qualified to sign such agreements; owners of a club are not bound by a manager’s signature on any contract. If there are partners in the club, all partners must sign the agreement.
The first thing that I would cover in the contract is an agreement that the club owner agrees not to hire any of your staff members directly. Trust me, if you agree to provide your services without such a provision, it will come back to haunt you. I speak from the voice of experience. Other items that should be covered in a club contract include:
Insurance liability coverage – Get the club manager to agree to assume any and all liability from any injuries or damages as a result of any act, error, or omission made by the disc jockey in the course of providing their services. Clubs are greater risks, as far as lawsuits go, and you can keep your insurance rates lower, by shielding your insurance company from having to pay damages for accidents that occur at the club.
The fees for each performance, payment method (cash only), and when payment for each performance is expected should also be covered.
If the club elects to advertise your disc jockey by name, they must use the company name in conjunction with the DJ’s name in the ad. Remember, you are looking for advertising and future business as the main reason for doing the club. Frequently, one particular DJ will become popular, and the club will be inclined to advertise him or her by name. This provision ensures that your company gets credit as well. We were able to get one club to post a sign with our company name on the DJ booth. This results in us getting publicity seven days a week.
Provisions for failure to appear and late starts for performance should shelter you from liability other than not receiving payment for the portion of the performance lost.
A provision to give you control of canceling your services in the event of bad weather should be included. I remember more than one time when the club manager expected us to drive in two feet of snow to play, because they had a good crowd at the club. The safety of your staff should be covered.
Standard legal provisions that the club agrees to pay attorney’s fees, court costs, and interest in the event that you have to take them to court to receive payment.
Try to get the club owners to make a commitment for a six to twelve month period, as a condition of you giving them a “wholesale price”. While this may not always be possible, it is most desirable.
Once you have a signed agreement, you need to have a joint meeting with the club managers/owners, and any of the staff DJs you plan on sending to cover the club. The music format must be worked out in advance. All parties must agree on what kind of music you are going to play, as well as the type of music that is prohibited.
In my experience, the type of music that you play determines the type of person that frequents that particular club. For this reason, it is necessary for you to set standards for your staff, and educate them on the importance of sticking with the format. After all, you have trained your staff to play a variety of music, and to take requests to please the crowd in front of them. You will have teach your staff to go against some of the concepts that you taught them for playing at a private event, where you cater to that specific crowd. This can sometimes be difficult, and requires close supervision and a lot of preaching on why you need to play a given type of format (not necessarily play the music that gets the crowd dancing that particular night).
It is equally important that you get the club managers to “buy into” your music format. Complaints are certain to come in from the people who frequent the club or bar. In order for it to work, the club manager has to back you up, in telling the person that your music format includes only certain types of music. If the club manager caves to the client, and comes up to the DJ asking them to play a song that doesn’t fit the format, you will never attract the upscale crowd that you are looking for. This is one of those “stay the course” type of concepts that requires a long-term commitment and discipline.
There are two problems that are frequently associated with a multi-system company taking on a club. First, the DJ tries to apply what works at a wedding to the club, and more likely, tries to apply what works at a club, when they do their next wedding. You should take extra care to educate your staff that the latest and greatest dance mixes that jam the floor at a club will not be as likely to work at a wedding. The effective multi-system supervisor will head this problem off before it develops by providing staff with the necessary training.
The other problem that frequently arises is that you will find clients and club staff members comparing the different DJs that you send to the club. I have found that the “regulars” get attached to a certain DJ, and when you send anyone else, they tend to criticize this person’s abilities with little or no merit. Then, the “favorite” DJ’s head begins to swell, and he thinks that he is the only one that knows how to play for that club. Once again, you need to warn all staff members that this is likely to happen, and that they should take remarks made by the club staff and regulars with a grain of salt. Emphasize the importance to your regular DJ that covers the club that he or she must refrain from bad-mouthing the other DJs. After all, if they want a night off, they have to be able to send someone else to cover the club!
The ultimate goal for a multi-system company who ventures into the club scene, is to gain favorable publicity that will result in future business for your mobile DJ company. This will only happen, if you pick the right club, and play the type of music that attracts a mid to upscale clientele. If you play your cards right, you may very well see a surge in growth of your company. That’s what happened to us, and we have been the area leaders in mobile disc jockey services ever since.
Note: This article originally appeared in the DJ Times, and has been reprinted with their permission.
Filed Under: Performing
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