Confessions of an Expo Junkie by Stu Chisholm

May 11, 2009 by Stu Chisholm

A multi-angle view of the Vegas event

You’re bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, your feet feel like you’ve been walking across broken glass, your arms and shoulders ache from carrying luggage, your buns have that numb feeling from too much time spent sitting in shuttles, trams and airline seats and your head swims with all of the raw data you’ve mined from seminars, books, demonstrations and good conversations with your DJ colleagues from around the country. You’re spent physically and the bank account is dry, yet you feel that the week ended all too soon and can’t wait until the next time. You hate to admit it, but the signs are obvious: you are a DJ expo junkie! I know. It happened to me.

At the Podium…

This year’s Mobile Beat DJ Show and Conference In Las Vegas was a stand-out; one for the history books. Despite the weak economy that even has Las Vegas casinos in a tizzy, a hoard of DJs from around the country descended on the Riviera Hotel & Casino to enjoy hot deals on gear, see the legends of entertainment at the parties, take in the sights and sounds of the Vegas strip, and above all, improve their businesses by attending the numerous seminars, workshops and demonstrations. While I don’t have any stats at my disposal, from a personal standpoint, the show was an unqualified success!

This year I was in the unique position of experiencing the show from both sides, not only as an attendee, but as a presenter. On the Monday before the official open of the show, early arrivals were treated to a few bonus seminars by Paul Kida, Shawn Kelly, David Beal, and Rob Peters & Mike Fernino. Oh, yeah, and this new guy… me, Stu Chisholm.

Although I’ve presented a few small seminars for DJ groups and other organizations in my local area, this was my first major talk at the industry’s biggest annual DJ gathering. I’d prepared my speech, titled “Supplement Your DJ Income…WITH DJ INCOME!” well in advance, just as seriously as I’d prep for any major gig. Based on my new book, The Complete Disc Jockey, which also debuted at the show, I wanted to show how it applies to the soft economy and how it might prevent working DJs from abandoning the industry in search of a livable income. I’d even created my first ever Power Point presentation! I think I had even more fun than those in attendance, and maybe even did a good job since nobody had to be shaken awake at the end. My only regret is that it went by so quickly! There was a lot of material I just didn’t have time for. Directly outside of the main seminar rooms was the Mobile Beat bookstore where my book, and roughly 16 other ProDJ publications were being offered. (If you didn’t make it to the show, they’re all available online at the Mobile Beat bookstore!)

…and In the Seats

When Tuesday rolled around, I was once again just another face in the crowd, taking in excellent seminars by Andy Ebon, Jim Cerone and Jorge Lopez, and attending the national ADJA meeting with host and President, Dr. Drax. As with all expos, I faced the difficult task of having to pick and choose between seminars, selecting topics that best suited my business needs, skipping less pertinent presentations. What impressed me the most as the show progressed was the stunning array of topics! While the focus was definitely on business, marketing and the economy, other topics ran the gamut from remixing and editing, wireless mics and controllers, a DMX workshop and electrical power management, to website design and optimization, games, and an interactive improv workshop to add a touch of comedy to a performance. All in all, one of the most power-packed groups of seminars I’ve seen. I only wish I could’ve seen them all!

On Wednesday, hundreds of DJs were lined up, chomping at the bit for the dealer’s rooms to be opened. Somehow I managed to be first in line as the rope was dropped and we poured in to grab up all of the tremendous freebies and great deals from everyone from American Audio to Yamaha. It was a bit like those crazy brides at those bridal shop sales! Some of the best prices I’ve ever seen anywhere were being offered up. I’m sure that many dealers were amused when I would answer their quote with, “Is that ALL?” I’m also sure I’m not the only one who spent too much.

Feast of Booths

Some of the highlights from my perspective were the amazing new lasers from BlissLights, who were offering compact, battery-powered versions of their “spray” lasers including a neat little hand-held version for just over $50. LED lights were the name of the game in the Chauvet, CheapDJLights and DJS rooms, where my friends grabbed-up a (hand) truck load of ‘em! Demonstrating a neat rope game for DJ Zone, Paige Vanderpool had visitors tied-up and getting up-close ‘n’ friendly! (You’re a patient guy, Sid!) There were plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” coming from the X-Laser booth, and DJ Sparky B was on hand offering up hourly specials at the ADJ/American Audio booth. If road cases were on your list, Odyssey and SKB were offering amazing show specials, and a newer company, Marathon Pro Audio, was showing off some interesting new case designs, too.

Promo Only, TM Studios and Top Hits U.S.A. were all handing out sample CD and video product and great incentives to sign up. Next, you could take those discs over to the Denon display where DJs crowded in to scratch, beatmix and otherwise play with their latest hardware. Not to be outdone, Pioneer was across the room demonstrating their new line of media controllers. In typical Pioneer style, these all boast an on-board array of special effects usually available only as add-on processors. They also had an excellent offering of video-capable products for the VJs in the house.

My friends and I also spent some time (and money) with DJ Skirts, Frankenstand (who was handing out the best Velcro ties I’ve ever seen!), Froggy’s Fog, GCI, Numark (great demos!), SixStarDJ.com, Skeffingtons (with amazing tux shirts!), Screen Works and Windy City Novelties (who made us blink, glow and flash). What truly impressed me the most was how all of these dealers were supporting the industry every bit as much as they expect DJs to support them! Low prices were beyond low, often going into the sub-basement, and freebies, give-aways and extras flowed freely. I, for one, appreciated them even more since the economy has been every bit as tough on the vendors WE rely on. Truly commendable!

On Party Patrol

At the end of each day, and not to be missed, were all of the special entertainment and parties that have become a signature of Mobile Beat shows. To get attendees introduced to Las Vegas-style entertainment, Monday night’s Welcome Party featured the Dueling Twins Piano Show. This ain’t for the Liberace and Jazz crowd. These women (extremely HOT twins, Kim and Tamara Pinegar) threw down thundering renditions of everything from “Johnny B. Goode” to “Baby Got Back.” (Yes, on pianos!) A gracious Dr. Drax invited my fellow Michigander, Lane O’Neill of Acclimated Sounds, and I to catch all of the action from the V.I.P. area and our ears are still ringing!

Tuesday night concluded with the ProDJ Showcase featuring three music legends: Ron Dante (former lead singer of “The Archies”), Otis Day & The Knights (of Animal House fame) and the original white boy rapper, Vanilla Ice. To mobile DJs who spin oldies, Ron Dante holds a special place in our hearts, as his song “Sugar Sugar” has remained a staple at almost every party. He also sang on the song, “Tracy” by the Cuff-Links, which I once used for a friend’s wedding reception. (You guessed it: Her name was Tracy.) Otis Day & The Knights gained national fame when they appeared in “Animal House” in 1978, and they’re still going strong! They pounded-out a high-energy set of oldies, funk and soul, all with a definite rock & roll edge that younger bands might envy. The evening was capped-off with Vanilla Ice who sounded as if almost no time has passed since his last hit way back in 1991.

The most anticipated party of the show each year is the American DJ Customer Appreciation Party, and this year did not disappoint! DJ Sparky B acted as host, not to mention spinning more tunes than even he had planned, while presiding over a guest line-up of DJs who took turns pumping up the crowd. Another frequent fixture at Mobile Beat events is DJ Toad, who also took a turn on the 1’s and 2’s.

The grand finale, as always, was the many thousands of dollars worth of prizes that were given away. First, the ADJA offered-up two brand new Denon HDC-2500 media players and other goodies worth well over $2,000. Then Ryan Burger and Mike Buonaccorso of ProDJ Publishing stepped onto the stage in the dealer’s hall and opened up the floodgates, handing over a huge array of prizes, including a complete sound and lighting package that not only had all the bells and whistles, but a pile of lights to boot. And no, I didn’t win…again!

Throughout the show is the ever-present allure of Las Vegas, and it is nearly impossible not to take in at least one show, take a few spins on a slot machine or play a few hands of cards. (I even heard tell of a poker tournament for DJs, although I seem to have missed it.) The buffets are still fairly cheap and plentiful and there is always something to do, any time of day or night. As I write this it’s been less than 24 hours since I arrived back at home, but I’m so inspired by MBLV.09 that I’m already making plans for 2010! I suggest that you do, too, and bring home what your business needs to stay healthy and grow. See you there!

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Stu Chisholm Stu Chisholm (45 Posts)

Stu Chisholm had been collecting music since he was about eight years old and began his DJ career in 1979. After much hard work, trial-and-error, and a stint at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, he studied the DJ arts with famous Michigan broadcaster, Bill Henning, at a local college. Stu interned at Detroit’s rock powerhouse, WRIF. To his radio and mobile work Stu later added club gigs at Detroit’s best venues, and voiceover work. He has shared his extensive DJ experience through his Mobile Beat columns, as a seminar speaker and through his book, “The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional DJ,” released in 2008.


Filed Under: Events, Issues from 2009, Profiles