Sometimes when I’m DJing an event, I suffer from a bit of an identity crisis. It usually happens somewhere between the time somebody’s Grandpa mistakes me for the valet and tosses his keys to me and the Assistant Catering Manager shoves a tray full of appetizers in my hand and barks at me to get moving and stop hanging around the DJ booth. When this happens I have to fight the urge to scream “I’m the damn DJ! You know…the one that is going to control the most important aspect of this entire shindig? PARK YOUR OWN DAMN CAR!!”
All due respect goes to valets and servers and every other super hero disguised as a special event worker. They are the miracle workers who make these three ring circuses possible. And they are friends and colleagues. I am one of them. I AM the hired help. So why do I get so bent out of shape when I feel treated that way? I don’t want or need to be treated any better than any other worker hired for a given event. It would just be nice if we ALL felt appreciated and respected all the time. But we all know Utopia doesn’t really exist.
Have you ever felt disrespected by clients, guests or other vendors at an event?
For the record, I have been treated with nothing but the utmost respect at just about every event I’ve done. But let’s face it, occasionally you run up against nightmare clients or guests who really seem to get off on making service providers’ lives hell. Like the client who insisted I adhere only to the 20 songs he had written on a piece of paper despite the fact that the event was 4 hours long. Or the CEO who asked me to play slow songs at a low volume so that his employees wouldn’t dance, which he considered inappropriate!
I hardly ever feel the second-class citizen vibe when performing with my band The Avenue (despite the fact that the vendor meal stipulated in our contracts is usually a deli tray with stale bread in a broom closet). And I’m sure the two lovely ladies who I sing with in the band might remind me that the inevitable ogling and near-groping that they sometimes deal with from the alcoholic reverie of some male partiers could certainly be considered “second-class treatment”. But it seems as though many clients who want a live band for their receptions are willing to pay a premium for it. It’s not surprising then, that the way they treat their “investment” follows suit. Could it also be some kind of inherent respect some clients have for the talent of musicians? We all know that DJs also have uncommon talent and skill as well. But sometimes it feels like some people think of DJs as service technicians as opposed to true entertainment professionals on whose skill hangs the success or failure of an event. Imagine if we could get all of our DJ clients to think of us that way as opposed to glorified bus boy button pushers. They would pay a premium price for DJs as they do with bands and the respect that is afforded by that premium price tag might follow. I have always believed that discriminating clients don’t want cheap things. If quality and talent can be demonstrated, people will pay for it.
In the meantime, how do you handle those times when you’re feeling like a doormat at the very event you’ve been hired to host? In these cases diplomacy and the ability to hold one’s tongue can be skills as important as the ability to program music or beat match. Because here’s the point: you can’t take the doormat treatment personally. People who tend to treat “the help” with what borders on disdain, probably treat everyone that way. Of course that doesn’t make it right, but like it or not, these people have hiring power and host many special events. If you CAN hold your tongue in the face of icy clients and do the great job you usually do, they’ll probably hire you again. Or at least refer you to other people who will hire you. And isn’t that the best revenge”?
So when you feel slighted, take a deep breath, count to ten, put a smile on your face and go fill that dance floor – right after you park Grandpa’s car.