ON BEING A DJ-ORIENTED PRODUCTION COMPANY
In life, just as in business, there are clients and customers who you prefer working with, and some, not so much. Then, there are those who you absolutely love working with, and who actually consult you on decisions pertinent to your area of the production.
This is a story of the latter.
Every year, we provide production services for Iowa DECA, which is a high school business and marketing group who’s main objective is to ready students for college, the business world and beyond. This, combined with real world training makes DECA an outstanding organization and also means the students involved with it are very bright, very professional and pleasant to work with. Normally, only sound and minimal lighting and video is required for their twice-yearly gatherings: meaning that depending on entertainment options for the 1.5 day mini conference, their total tab is around $2,000. This cost is discounted because of the days involved (non-peak dates and Sunday/Monday
engagements) and the fact that this particular group has been an account of ours since 2005.
This year, however, DECA combined with the Iowa chapters of both BPA (Business Professionals of America) and FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) to form the “United Student Organization Fall Conference,” which enabled all three groups to get stellar production services, utilize the same entertainment, meeting spaces, and food at a great discount, and also network inter-organizationally to help their members become even more well-rounded.
PREPPING FOR A BIGGER EVENT
Different companies prep in different ways, with some estimating equipment needs based on the schedule and (after meeting with the client) working up a proposal based on what they can provide with the gear they have. Others, like our company, start with a fresh “slate” and really judge what the needs of the client are, and (utilizing industry-standard equipment that will work for a variety of events) will even augment their equipment when necessary to produce an event that’s top notch.
The two keys with any event as large as this, though, are
1.) Understanding the specific needs of your client to a “T” and,
2.) knowing when you can handle an event and when you should pass it off to more qualified individuals.
If you simply are a DJ company who has a few powered speakers and believes a few DJstyle mixers and some basic wired mics will do, please do not attempt production events.
Crossfaders are not found on live-sound mixers, and yes, there is a difference between mic and line impedance.
An important thing to remember is face-to-face meetings, and not just one. They allow yourself and your client to share diagrams, drawings, and schedules in real-time, and also to deal with any questions they might have in person. Email is great, however, when you’re working with higher-maintenance clients it should be only one of many tools used to connect, not the only tool.
Equipment-wise, depending on your
business plan, you won’t want to purchase anything you can’t use at least 10 times in the coming year as a special purchase just for this event. It is also important that you deliver on promises you have made, i.e. if you don’t have the proper video equipment to make the show work, it will build more points to be honest than to fake it.
BOOKING THE BIG EVENT
Once you find out your client’s needs, putting together a proposal that is fair to both your company and their budgetary needs is crucial.
Be very prepared to change the proposal and don’t be offended if your company’s former main draw (in our case, DJing Sunday night for the Dance) is passed over to someone cheaper for one portion of the event, as was the case with this show. The way I figure it, we’re making way more money NOT having to worry about the stress of what song to play and making sure it’s appropriate. If it bothers you that badly, offer to rent the DJ gear, because it will open their eyes to the fact that the rental of your high quality gear would cost them more than they are receiving for their performance.
With full disclosure in mind, we settled on $4,400 for a two-day event (details are in a sidebar). This was a fair price on our end, because it maintained our pricing and rental philosophies (rental=10% of cost of item) along with being fair to the client, because it gave them piece of mind. The client also provided an on-site hotel room at the venue for my two crew members, so they could have a place to serve as “home-base” and take their breaks.
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS
A million different things can happen with a larger show, so you need an experienced crew and also a great attitude. I can guarantee you the hours will be long, but the money will be great, especially if the client is happy with your services and uses you for years to come. The combined United Student Organization conference was broken into two events, one for secondary (high school groups) and the second for post-secondary (college students). The high school event (approx. 1,300 in attendance) began on Sunday at 2:30 PM and ended on Monday at 11:00 AM, where the college event (approx. 150 in attendance) started at 2:30 PM on Monday and ended at 10:00 AM on Tuesday. Technically speaking, the situation called for one main seminar room (also used for dinner and nightly entertainment), and five breakout rooms. each with a projector/screen, one speaker “on a stick.” and wireless lapel, handheld, and headset mics in each.
Each breakout room was used only for one hour on Sunday, and a combined total of three hours Monday, meaning that most of the festivities occurred in the main room, which was constantly re-configured seating-wise based on the type of event being held. The large room’s video display also featured two 10-foot projection screens flanking the stage with two plasma screens on trussing, upstage left and right.
Lighting was also an integral part of the show, with LED wash lighting providing the main stage light, and LED moving heads being utilized as spotlights (atop 10′ truss pillars along the wall approx. 30′ from stage right and stage left).
Audio design for the main room proved a bit tricky, based upon the room’s layout with pillars and major blind spots.
In situations like this, speaker placement is key, and auxiliary speakers serving those spots that aren’t exactly ideal for guests are mandatory. In this case, a major area of concern was directly behind the front-of-house sound mix platform (which also boasted a 4’x4′ support pole behind it). However, with correct sound positioning, I was able to cover the entire area nicely (for presentations and slight background music) with three sets of QSC K-Series K12’s, two K-Subs, and three stage monitors.
PERFORMING THE EVENT
The success of a big event always directly correlates to the preparation one puts into it. A site survey is a must, and even when that happens, you must still be prepared for anything to happen once you begin loading in. At this event, many factors came into play, with the primary problem being the popularity of booking this particular venue over this span of dates.
Load in was rushed, but load out was even more rushed. To complicate matters even more, Tuesday’s seminar was moved into a smaller room due to fewer attendees than expected, leaving our crew to tear out the large “main room” Monday evening while another production company simultaneously set up for Tuesday’s event. Needless to say, freight elevator and dock space were at a premium.
GETTING SOMETHING OUT OF IT
In a very Zen sort of way, it is what it is. Production events like these are much different than large DJ events, because in essence you are simply a technician and you and your crew are just there to set the gear up, tear the gear down, and make sure all runs smoothly. Events like these may seem like a lot of work, but I have to ask you: When was the last time you utilized your gear and your production experience on a random (non-peak) two-day time span to command what it would have taken you three-five weddings to earn?
Sure, it helps that I happen to dig these clients and the positive business values they instill into their student members.
It also helps that the director is a wonderful woman who puts her heart and soul into her organization (all my favorite clients live and breath what they do). But, it is in essence the fact that I absolutely love to provide quality services for our clients and make their lives easier, their shows run better, and their conferences and events more successful because we were a part of it.
Clear Definition of Self
Being known in an area by avery distinct title is always a good thing. It gives clarity to who you are as a company and also helps your customers knew what they can expect. The specific company of that I helm, BC Productions, is known to our customers as Iowa’s only “DJ-Oriented Production Company.” Since re-branding ourselves with this moniker over two years ago, we have opened up our clients minds for add-ons and extras, thus increasing our revenue for events already on the calendar.
An Event Success Timeline
10 Months out – Informed of event, start to brainstorm ideas.
4 Months out – Meet for first time to discuss specifics, send proposal for next-day delivery.
3 Months out – Finalize proposal and send contract.
2 Months out – Inventory equipment needed, order anything that?s needed.
3 Weeks out – Notify staffing of the event 1 Week out – Contact hotel, check about load-in/other events in venue/things to be aware of/deadline for specific presenters and A/V requirements.
3 Days out – Pack for event, with things needed first towards front/ last towards rear, etc. Also remember that you may need to store extra cases, lids, etc. in truck during show. – Final confirmation of details with client.
Day of Show
– Walk through before loading in.
– Load in/set up, and clean up (remember dress code for event).
– Perform event. Maintain attitude.
After Event – Strike/load-out as quickly as possible and be mindful of incoming productions.
Filed Under: Business, Events, Issue #141
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