Although he has spent many years building a hugely successful Southern California entertainment company, Jorge Lopez is also known to many within the industry as a business-savvy DJ with a passion for sharing his knowledge through writing and speaking. We caught up with this busy entertainer and talked about his DJ origins and his multi-op philosophy…
Mobile Beat: Jorge, please tell us a little bit about the territory that you cover.
Jorge Lopez: …I’m from J&M Entertainment here in Southern California. Officially, our office is in Valencia, which is about 30 minutes north of LA…But here, you know, “nobody walks in LA” as the song goes, and we travel. So we cover an area pretty much from Santa Barbara to Irvine to the Inland Empire, Ontario, that area. So wecover a pretty wide area, and so that’s why we have the different cities. It’s an SEO aspect, and then also we do actually meet with clients in those areas because we do a lot of promoting and marketing in those areas.
M B: So do you have separate offices or do you visit with the client on their terms?
J L: We basically have our corporate office with our full corporate staff, everything else, is in Valencia. From there I have relationships with other venues where we’re able to use them as satellite offices…So that way, when we do a bridal show, for example, in Anaheim, then we can meet them in our Costa Mesa office and we’re not asking them to drive all the way north, because with the traffic out here, it could be a couple of hours of driving sometimes.
M B: A lot of DJs know you because you’ve spoken at conferences, especially for us in Vegas, on business growth. But how did you get to the point of spreading your knowledge?
I guess, first tell us where J&M came from. By the way, what’s the “M” for?
J L: Well, I guess here’s as short of a story as possible…
Originally the business was J&J Entertainment, and that happened right out of high school, 1980. It was a friend of mine named John, who was an actor and this and that, and he used to DJ the skating rink. And so we came up with the concept of, hey, let’s get a DJ business. So he borrowed some money from his dad, I borrowed some money from my grandfather; we went out and bought a DJ system.
I remember all told, it was $6,000 it cost us to buy our first DJ system. So now you had two 18-year-olds with a $6,000 DJ system. And that was it. We DJ’d for a little while, this and that, and then eventually he wanted to go be a tour guide at Universal Studios, so we ended up splitting up and he went off pursuing the acting career. I was in radio at the time. I actually had gone to broadcasting school and was starting working at radio stations and did so for 15 years, throughout Southern California.
During that time I kept doing the mobiles and doing parties and all. And at one point, a buddy of mine named Mark Brady came to me and said, how come you’re not doing this fullfledged anymore? Because I had to sell some of the equipment when John went away. And Mark reinvested some money; we bought more gear; and that’s where J&M was created—for Jorge and Mark. And then we did the business together for five or six years, and then eventually he was going to go branch out. He wanted to create franchises, and I actually wanted to pursue my radio and acting career, which was doing quite well at the time, so we split up. And what ended up happening was people kept calling me, “Hey, Jorge, you did my sister’s wedding; please do mine.” It kind of wouldn’t let me get out of the business. “Okay, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” Next thing I knew, I was booked every Saturday again.
And then I remember the one day I got a call from somebody who I really liked and they wanted me to do their event and I couldn’t. They said, “Do you have anybody you could refer to me—anybody at all?” And then I realized that one of the guys I was taking with me as an assistant, he could do it. And that was the beginning of multi-opping, where I realized I could start sending another guy out. And then from there I started hiring guys, training and so on, and then started two, three systems and started building that way.
M B: How do you train your DJs?
J L: That’s actually a funny thing, because initially I would try to see if I could find guys that DJ’d already and had talent and skill and all that, and I didn’t have a lot of success with that initially, because they would bring in their talent but sometimes bad habits I didn’t like.
And so I started finding out that I actually had more success finding guys who had great personalities—stuff you can’t teach. Then I could teach them from the ground up how to DJ—music selection, programming, technical stuff, how to coordinate an event, all of that. And then they did learn it “my way,” and they wouldn’t contest it, because the only way they knew was the way I had taught them…I didn’t want to make it where it was so factory-like, where everyone is an exact template…
M B: Describe an average weekend for J&M.
J L: Average weekend for us is five to seven events. Of that, we would have weddings as our primary on the social side. Our business is pretty much half and half now, social and corporate.Weddings are number one on the social side, and second for us is quinceañeras…They come to us for the milestone stuff; you know, the 30, 40, 50, 60th birthday; weddings, quinceañeras, big anniversaries where they want more production, more organization, usually more things involved.
And then the corporate side we’ll do during the week a lot. We do technical production…screens, audiovisual stuff for business meetings or conferences. We do a lot of award shows now, that sort of thing.
M B: How often do you personally still go out? Obviously you’re deeply involved in the business during the week— educating your own DJs, helping out other people across the country. Do you still personally roll out every weekend?
J L: At times, yes. I mean, January, February, March, or first part of April, I might do two, three events in those first three, four months. Sometimes in the “run of the season”—what I call the middle of April through end of October or beginning of November—I might work pretty much every weekend, because I enjoy it.
I mean, there were a few years where I literally did maybe 20 events the whole year, but these last few years I’ve rekindled my passion for performing. I actually love weddings. I love how to present and create emotion and do all of that.
M B: Describe your office situation. It has a showroom vibe, which we featured in an article on office spaces back in September.
J L: You come into our spacious lobby and you have a full set of leather furniture right in the front. There’s a lot of TVs around our place; there’s a TV right in front and it’s already playing a loop of whatever type of event they’re coming in for…”Oh, look at those shots and the lighting,” and what have you.
We have another office right there that’s pretty much all glass…It’s glass because when we’re meeting for say, a consultation, we like them to see another couple who’s already in there coordinating; they’re already at that level. I think all of that creates a psychology of them going, hey, that’s somebody doing something we should be doing. They see how well they’ll be taken care of in the process…
…In the warehouse we have built our lighting demo ballroom, if you will. It’s a large room, 15-foot ceilings, carpet, drapery on one wall. We have all different types of lighting in there. We do a full lighting demonstration, from LED, programmables, gobos, DJ lights, so that clients can see everything they can pick from. And they love it. We call it “the fun room.” They all come out of there having a great time…We also have a couple of photobooths set up, so they come out, they get to go in the photo booths, play around, get some pictures taken.
M B: So what’s the average wedding couple spending with you?
J L: I would say right now it’s about $4,000 to $4,500, probably like an average package for a wedding.
M B: And the average in your market, I’m assuming, is $1,200 or $1,500, ballpark?
J L: I would say out here it’s $1,200 to $2,000.
M B: Where do you see yourself going with this business? Do you see yourself out there gigging 15, 20 years from now, still having the excitement you have for weddings and everything? Or are you trying to train the next generation to take over?
J L: Well, for me, I’ve already been working on an exit strategy…Because of my radio background, I do a lot of voiceover work, and that’s where the technical production events come into play for me, because they’re things that I can produce and design…I do the technical directing…And since we do the video production, I do a lot of voiceover work on that too.
I have an entertainment director, Dave, so I don’t even do all the training anymore. Two or three times a year, I’ll come into some of the training and do a special thing…but really, the entertainment director does his thing.
go to www.jamentevents.com.
Filed Under: Issue #146, Issues from 2012, Weddings
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