Recession-Proof: Bar Mitzvahs and Receptions by Michael Edwards

May 11, 2009 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Toward the end of last December, a month when our busy company of 24 DJs is normally bombed with holiday work, I noted that an alarming number of our regular corporate clients had either cancelled their annual holiday parties or scaled back their events to the point of gathering around the water cooler on December 23rd with a boom box and some donuts. The dismal results of the 2008 holiday season prompted me to look over our entire 2009-2010 DJ “Master Schedule” in detail. I was mentally prepared to see more of the same.

Sure enough, post-holiday corporate work in January ’09 was also way down from normal, and also missing were the usual “short term” casual parties (impromptu socials, birthday parties and retirements that usually booked a few weeks in advance). Luckily, our missing corporate clients that we checked with weren’t booking someone else. They just weren’t having their usual annual party. Obviously, because their sales were down too, they were just cutting costs and tightening their belts accordingly. People who were still holding smaller private parties were either doing it themselves, finding a DJ wannabe “friend of a friend” or skipping the party and its expense altogether. It simply wasn’t important enough to justify having it under these circumstances.

Unexpected Blessings

Yet, as I slowly scrolled down the entire 2009-2010 DJ schedule I came to an unexpected realization: Things were actually OK. Considering the nation-wide recession we’re all so obviously in the middle of, things looked downright good! How on earth could this be?

Our DJ schedule had some major bright spots. Weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs were still booking like crazy. Despite the black clouds of fiscal doom raining every night over the airwaves in newscasts warning of our country’s dire economic future, our booking schedule was blessed with more weddings and mitzvahs than ever before–and we’ve kept track of them for over 20 years. As I looked more closely, I discovered that the budgets for these “once-in-a-lifetime” events had not moved down from last year’s rates as I’d also expected; in fact, quite the opposite was true.

After digging through all our upcoming bookings, I had inadvertently unearthed a somewhat hidden fact about our business: Weddings and mitzvahs are the most recession-proof of all DJ events!

Milestones Never Go Out of Style

If you give it some thought, it’s easy to understand why. Despite the fact that money is tight and the buying public is looking for ways to cut back and save a buck at every turn, you don’t postpone that special 13th birthday party that heralds the onset of adulthood in the Jewish faith until the stock market improves and your 401K rebounds. You don’t wait to marry the person you love until real estate prices start rising, banks stabilize and the country gets back on its feet. Some things are simply bigger than others in importance. Basic human needs (food, shelter, clothing and DJ entertainment) will always come first. (OK, so I’m kidding a bit…but try having a wedding or bar mitzvah without any of those four “necessities.”) People will usually find a way (and they’ll also find the money) to somehow throw those two particular major parties. They obviously might not spend quite as freely, but our DJ schedule indicates that they prioritize the expenditures that are the most vital to the success of their event. It seems that talented DJ entertainers from a reputable company with a proven track record, great promo material and ample references are still viewed as a worthwhile expense and even a priority!

Are the clients cutting back on other services? Yes, drastically, according to recent survey statistics reported on www.theweddingreport.com. The data, reflecting the change in wedding expenditures from 2007 to 2008, was just reported in February 2009.

Info can be found at:
http://www.theweddingreport.com/m/post.cfm/analysis-of-spending-changes-from-2007-to-2008

Note that the smallest drop in the amount spent on any of the wedding expenses listed was the drop of just 6% on wedding DJs. Consider a 53% drop in the reception food service budget allowance (caterers and reception venues can be heard moaning a loud, collective “ouch”) and drops in most other expenditures, which fell by between 24% to 34% for other listed goods & services. By comparison, our industry made out pretty well. In the current economy, being cut back by only 6% (on average) is practically a blessing.

A Breakthrough in Perception?

The otherwise awful “Analysis of Spending Changes” got me wondering. Could the DJ results should be interpreted to mean that the importance of hiring a good DJ at a “once-in-a-lifetime” event seems to finally be understood by the surveyed clients? Or are those results simply because the average cost of a wedding DJ in America is already so ridiculously low that a 6% drop was all clients could justify in their attempt to cut corners and still get someone half decent?

I’d like to think that the relatively small change may be the result of good DJ salesmanship in our industry, and collective consumer “education” helping to clarify the DJ’s actual role at a wedding or mitzvah. Whatever the reality reflected in this one bit of statistics, we must continue the battle to increase our perceived “value” until it is deemed absolutely crucial to the success of the event in the mind of every client.

Regardless of your analysis or interpretation of the survey results, the fact remains that people are still going to get married or have their child’s mitzvah, even during a severe recession. To capitalize on this fact, DJs have to find ways to justify the cost and the importance of the services they provide and then give the client even more than they expect on the day of the event. Each successful event perpetuates your business tenfold…even during tough economic times like these.

Michael Edwards is the president of Michael Edwards Enterprises, Inc. and owner of www.getadj.com, www.djslastminute.com and www.djbids.com. Full-time since 1979, Mike is one of 24 DJs at his agency in Andover, MA. A member of the Mobile Beat Advisory Board and the American Disc Jockey Association, Mike can be contacted at his office at 978-470-4700 or emailed at info@getadj.com.

Print

Mobile Beat Staff Writer (228 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Issues from 2009, Performing