It wasn’t quite the night before Christmas, but it was the busiest Saturday evening during the December holiday party season. The afternoon found me preparing for my upcoming evening performance which was to begin at 6:00 PM at an upscale hotel.Across town one of my DJs, Jason, was on his way to another prominent hotel for his expected 4:30 set-up and arrival. Shortly after 5:00 he called to inform me of a “gridlock” situation that was developing on the freeway due to an afternoon of snow and freezing rain. As the temperature dropped and the skies darkened, so too did the possibilities his timely arrival. Then moments later, Jason called again, this time to tell me about an accident (fender bender) that he had just gotten into. Apparently the surrounding vehicles were experiencing the effects of black ice on the roadway.
By this point I was already on the phone with the event organizer for Jason’s party, who was very understanding of the situation-many of here coworkers were also caught up in the ice storm that was slowly developing into a very serious area disaster.
Shortly after 5:30 I received yet another phone call from my DJ who informed me that the fender bender was resolved, but his four wheel drive vehicle had now slipped into an icy ditch on the side of the road. To make matters worse, he was boxed in by several vehicles that had crashed around him. He was only about five miles from the hotel.
Realizing his 6:00 start was not going to happen, I was again on the phone with my very understanding longtime client. She was most helpful and agreed to dispatch one of her company vehicles to retrieve my DJ and his equipment. The only problem with this idea was the underestimation by all of us of the serious road conditions that represented the worse case of black ice the area had seen in more than 30 years.
By 7:30 I was hopeful for a successful retrieval and an impending set-up and start to the performance. Unfortunately a call came from the other driver, informing me that after two hours of driving he had only made it about three miles…still two miles shy. The plan was scrubbed and he proceeded back to the hotel.
While performing a party myself, I discretely began to call other DJs knowing full well that I probably wouldn’t find anyone available to cover for my DJ, since this was the busiest Saturday evening of the Christmas holiday season. Naturally, I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get things going now one-and-a-half hours into the event.
At 8:00, the company party organizer called again, this time to ask me for the “password” for my DJ computer system. I was very confused, wondering how they had my equipment-but they didn’t have my DJ. The AV representative at the hotel had informed her that Jason had left his equipment “locked up” in the AV storage room Friday night after his performance at the same hotel.
My state of disbelief boiled up into extreme displeasure with my DJ who had neglected to inform me that his equipment was already at the hotel. Knowing that this was definitely against my company policies, I can only surmise that he did not want to get into any more trouble than he was already in.
After some choice words for Jason, I then proceeded to get Jeff (the AV guy) on the line and walk him through the set-up procedures to get some music up and running. It was 8:00, but fortunately they had a delayed start to dinner because of the many others who were also delayed because of the ice storm.
By this point it was looking as though there would be a sound system in place with no DJ. Not exactly the way we like to do business; but considering the circumstances, this was the best “show must go on” scenario.
I asked Jeff what time he got off work and was happy to learn that his shift was to finish at 10:00. Naturally, I seized the opportunity to ask if he would like to make some extra money after he punched out for the evening. He agreed and I walked him through some quick instructions for utilizing the software effectively. My plan at this point was to keep Jeff in this emergency role until I could get there around midnight.
After my party concluded at 11:00, I quickly packed up and headed over to the other hotel which was only about three miles away. I arrived to see Jeff doing a great job with a full dance floor. I checked in with my very understanding longtime client and jumped up on stage to immediately offer an energetic welcome to the audience. I continued to “rock the party” for the next hour-and-a-half.
I paid Jeff a very generous amount and thanked him profusely for “saving the day.” I realized that night that back-up DJs and back-up equipment are useless if transportation to the event location is impossible. Although my contract protects me from “acts of God,” I felt compelled to offer my client a partial refund for the difficulties that could have been avoided.
My first reaction to Jason’s error in breaking company policy (by storing the equipment at the hotel the night before) was tempered by the fact that this act of disobedience likely saved the day for more than 100 guests who planned all year long for this celebrated event.
This event has reinforced my belief in that “there is no such thing as cancellation” on the part of a DJ. The only cancellation that is real is one where people are turned away at the door because the party organizer has cancelled the event. For me, the delivery of DJ services is like the US Mail. No matter what the condition or delay, we must always get the music there by whatever means of brainstorming or problem solving that is necessary to complete the responsibility. There are simply too many people that depend upon us to make their special moments truly special.
Filed Under: Issues from 2006, Performing
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