When Ryan Burger (the Arthur Carlson of Mobile Beat) asked that I pen this short missive chronicling Mobile Beat’s humble beginning, I wasn’t really sure where to start the story. The case could be made that the publication’s roots go as deep as my own obsession with music, audio systems and broadcasting, and that goes waaaaay back. But that would take all day and comes up lacking (except for a few side stories) in terms of being truly riveting content. So, to save time, let’s jump forward (well, backward actually) to 1984 as I try to piece together, to the best of my recollection, how timing and technology collided to create the perfect storm that led to “Mobile Beat: The Premier Issue.”
Aside from its Orwellian implications, most computer geeks will recall that ’84 was the year that Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer. At the time, along with hosting a morning radio show, I was a partner in an advertising agency and doing DJ shows on the weekends. When I first got my hands on a Mac, I immediately recognized it’s potential, which back then was nothing compared to today. At that time, we were still composing copy on electric typewriters and sending it out to be typeset. The Mac was a really big deal, but aside from making quick work of ad layouts and radio copy, I really couldn’t find a way to make money with it… until some friends prodded me to write a book about how to start a DJ service. From their encouraging words Spinnin: How To Score A Hit As A Mobile DJ was born, complete with a step-by-step guide detailing what to say and what to play at weddings, handy illustrations on how to slip cue vinyl, and really corny chapter titles.
At about the time that box upon box of finished printed copies of Spinnin’ were delivered to my house, something else arrived: A magazine entitled DJ Times. While impressive overall, DJT seemed to be really lacking in terms of content for mobiles. I called up the editor at the time, Chuck Arnold, complimented him on the new publication, and offered to write a monthly column for mobiles, in exchange for an ad promoting my book. We did the deal, but instead of a column for mobiles, he asked if I would do something a bit off beat that DJs would hopefully find humorous. I love writing stuff that’s over the edge, so I delivered him the first six columns in exchange for ads. The good news was, he thought the stuff was really funny; the bad news was, a lot of the readers didn’t. Some even complained that it was offensive.
(Gimme a break!)
At least I had somewhat established myself with the DJ community, so rather than give up, I went right to the top and made a pitch to DJ Times? Publisher, Vinny Testa, suggesting that he do a magazine for the up-and-coming audience of mobile DJs, but he didn’t even nibble. So convinced that the timing was ripe for a magazine for mobiles, I just started making wild pitches all over the place, many that ended with me being told “Don’t quit your day job!”
Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was only one way to get this done. I now had the means (the Mac) and the need (I gotta sell these books!) to start a publication for mobiles DJs. And the rest is pretty much history. I raised the initial cash for production through the sale of ads in the back of Spinnin’ and it’s sequel Spinnin’ 2000. Then, just prior to the launch of the first issue, another Rochester area DJ, Mike Buonaccorso, decided to join me in this insane leap of faith, and left a secure position with a family owned company to try his hand at ad sales for a non-existent publication. To this day, I’d bet the farm that Mike still recalls who bought the first ad from him. Twenty years later and the smell of our dining room stacked with 10,000 freshly printed copies of Mobile Beat remains in my mind. My wife, our two daughters, and myself spent an entire Easter Sunday manually labeling and bundling copies of that first issue for shipping.
We had hoped that once our first issue was out the door that the naysayers would be silent. Not so. Then again, you have to expect that when you try to do something bigger than yourself, the sidelines will be filled with well-meaning folks who would like to see you go down in flames. But we just kept keeping on. For the first few issues, it was touch and go, but God always provided a way and with each issue more subscribers and advertisers got behind the publication. It is truly their support that has made Mobile Beat a centerpiece to the mobile DJ community for two decades. MB
Filed Under: Issues from 2011, Profiles
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