Spinnin 2000 – Original Version Excerpted From 1997 Edition

August 25, 2009 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Roots in Radio

It was 1952, when radio personality Alan Freed, broadcasting from Cleveland, Ohio, changed the name of his daily radio show from Record Rendezvous to The Moondog Rock-N-Roll House Party. It was the birth of pop/rock radio as we know it. More importantly, Freeds action gave a positive ring to a term that had been coined with derogatory implications several years earlier. That term was Disc Jockey, and it originated as a sarcastic tag for a new breed of radio personalities who began taking over the air waves in the late 1940s.

Radio’s golden age of live programming was fading. Radio stations which had employed large staffs of announcers, actors, musicians and sound effects engineers were forced to reduce their staffs in an effort to trim operating expenses. Subsequently, this meant substituting recorded music for live. Disc Jockeys (DJs), armed with stacks of records and congenial, witty personalities, began filling the void.

Freed’s timing was perfect. As Rock N Roll grew in popularity, radio DJs in all parts of North America and Europe enjoyed star status as they brought this highly energetic music form to young adults. Sock hops were born. Bands practiced in garages in preparation for their chance to perform in a local high school gym or union hall.

Radio DJs were in tremendous demand. On the air, they were busy with contests, requests and dedications. Off the air, they entertained at sock hops, introducing the bands and spinnin’ tunes on a makeshift, portable sound system.

Music, specifically prerecorded music, is the product of the DJ profession. Its the DJ who brings the music to life. Its his (or her) enthusiasm that sells the music to the audience and gets the people involved in it. Its the DJ who encourages each member of the audience to put aside their day-to-day cares and have a little fun. Its the DJ who gives us the music and gets us up to dance!

Branching Out

Today, DJs are not just found on radio. Its now commonplace to find DJs providing music at everything from bars, nightclubs, roller rinks, bowling alleys and carnivals to wedding receptions, birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, retirement roasts and a variety of other functions.

Mobile Disc Jockeys make up the fastest growing segment of the DJ industry.  These professional entertainers, equipped with their own sound and lighting systems and racks of CDs, tapes and records, travel from place to place doing what they love to do and do best: bringing the party to the people! That means being wherever the party is. A Mobile DJ (MDJ) may perform in a local pub one night and at a wedding reception or anniversary the next. Running a Mobile DJ service for profit began, for many, as a hobby. In the mid 1960s, Mobile DJs played mostly for post-game sock hops at the high schools and an occasional sweet sixteen party. How Do You Get Started? If you have never actually watched a MDJ in action, do so soon. As wedding receptions are now the predominant type of event Mobiles do, a good place to observe a performance would be in a hotel ballroom or other party facility on a Saturday night. Many DJs invite interested clients to a live audition of their style. Call a few of the DJs in your area and ask where you could come see them perform. Look in the yellow pages of your phone book for the DJ services in your area (they may be listed under Disc Jockeys, Entertainers or Entertainment Bureaus.

Another good way to get some insight into the DJ business is to tour a local radio station. While there, talk to the program director (PD) and music director (MD). These people can provide you with a wealth of information. Specifically ask the PD to explain the functions of the mixing console. The equipment used in broadcasting is more sophisticated and expensive than what you will use in your Mobile DJ business, but many of the functions are identical.

If the stations chief engineer is available, he will be able to answer most of your equipment questions. Ask him to explain, in laymans terms, how the sound gets from the microphone, record, tape or CD player to the transmitter. Understanding how radio works can be nothing but beneficial to anyone in the Mobile DJ industry. After all, its roots are in radio.

(Although credited with coining the phrase Rock-N-Roll, its thought by some that Freed may have been inspired by the Bill Haley lyric, Were gonna rock, rock, rock, were gonna roll, roll, roll.)

Paid To Party

Operating a Mobile DJ service can be anything you want it to be. It can be a full-time pursuit, a fabulous part time, weekend business or something in between. The important thing is that its no longer just a hobby, its a business that demands a high degree of professionalism from those who desire to succeed.
Being a Mobile DJ is not a “males only” business. Females are quickly proving this to be an opportunity where the sexes are equal. Couples are also taking up DJing as a way to spend time together and supplement their income, while working to reach common goals.

Mobile DJs are entertainment entrepreneurs. They enjoy getting up in front of a crowd and having fun. They are right at home joking, offhandedly, with their audiences between tunes. Every DJ has developed a style that he’s comfortable with and that works for him. No two DJs are exactly alike. If they were, they wouldn’t be so competitive.

In simple terms, there are two ingredients to a DJ’s show: the music and the DJ. The music should always be in the foreground. When the DJ gets right on track with what the audience wants musically, something magical happens. Everyone has a great time and, for the DJ, it doesn’t even begin to feel like work.

Opportunities for DJs

The demand for DJs who entertain at private parties is growing rapidly. Many people who previously hired live bands were first attracted to DJs to keep their costs down. Although DJs have a price advantage on bands, avoid the temptation to promote your service as an inexpensive alternative to live music. Good bands offer a certain energy that a single DJ just can’t duplicate. Stay on good terms with the musicians in your area; they can be a great source of referrals.

Aside from price, DJs are also more flexible than bands. Good DJs play all types of music. Regardless of what the crowd may request, whether it be big bands, waltzes, polkas, country, rock, oldies, or Top 40 dance hits, the DJ has something to fill the bill. Only a few bands can competently cover such a range and those that can have no shortage of jobs.

A third plus for Mobile DJs is their ability to play almost anywhere, indoors or out, with very little preparation and setup.

The Basic Necessities

The rudimentary requirements for you to have a successful Mobile DJ business are:

  1. Being able to relax and be yourself in front of a group of people. To be a good Mobile DJ, one doesn’t necessarily have to have a great voice. In this business, its more important to be able to communicate enthusiastically with the audience.
  2. A sound reinforcement or public address (PA) system. A good sound system that can cover an area approximately the size of a tennis court will be more than adequate for most jobs.
  3. A properly complete music library. Be it on record, tape or CD, music is the backbone of the industry. Regardless of what you might encounter, any situation (short of total equipment failure) can be overcome if you have the right music!
  4. A lightshow. Lighting effects and theatrics are becoming just as important as good sound.

Your Options

There are 3 ways to get into the Mobile DJ business:

  1. Do It Yourself. Many DJs learned the business strictly by trial and error. Armed with a simple sound system and a music library based mainly on their own tastes, they set out enthusiastically to play their first gig. By the time the party was over, they realize there is much more to being a DJ than just “spinnin’ tunes.” DJ training has become so important that those without it are finding it harder and harder to get established.
  2. Apprenticeship. A popular way to get DJ “field training” without investing any money is to work for an existing DJ service. Go about this much the same way as you would apply for any type of job. Look through the yellow pages and talk to the owners of the services in your area. Hook up with someone who needs a DJ and is willing to train. You wont make as much money as you would on your own, but good training is extremely valuable.The first thing I suggest to someone exploring the Mobile DJ profession is to learn the business. Im a believer in the axiom that, in order to receive, it is imperative to give. To get the information you need to succeed in the potentially lucrative DJ business, identify “business role models” in your area. Be choosy who you give your time to. Find out whos who. Look for people who are highly accomplished so that, in return for the time you give, youre getting the valuable advice of experienced mentors. You cant purchase the experience and knowledge you will obtain from highly motivated and competent individuals.There are plenty rags-to-riches tales telling how the presidents of major companies worked their way from the mail room to the top of their industry with the help of others more experienced. When you volunteer your time to an established professional in your business, you are clearly making an investment and commitment in your future.â Sheldon Starke, Attorney (specializing in entertainment law)
  3. Buying a DJ Franchise. Some entrepreneurs savor the challenges and risks that come with nurturing a new business. Others just don’t have the patience to wait for their business to mature into a profitable enterprise, they want it now! If your interest in running a Mobile DJ service is primarily “profit motivated,” then consider purchasing a DJ service franchise.A franchise is a system for doing business that includes valuable secrets and information that would take you months, maybe years, to discover on your own. Buying a franchise is like investing in an existing, established business where you immediately assume a management role. There is a fee involved because the franchiser (them) is selling the franchisee (you) the sum total of their knowledge and experience in running a Mobile DJ service.As a franchise owner, you are entitled to some guarantee that the people behind the franchise will educate and train you properly. Before you consider buying, scrutinize the person selling you the franchise. What have they accomplished? Is their knowledge and experience worth the franchise fee? Has their particular mode of operation been successful? How do they substantiate their claims?

Ten things to look for in a DJ franchise:

  1. An exceptional track record with a proven business plan.
  2. An established and promotable trademark or logo.
  3. An exclusive territory.
  4. A complete and concise training program that explains every operational detail that helped the franchiser build his own successful Mobile DJ business.
  5. A toll-free help line.
  6. Three to five different sound (and lighting) equipment packages at discounted prices.
  7. A complete and legal music library or playlist specifying the music your library must contain.
  8. Simple and effective bookkeeping, accounting, booking and scheduling systems.
  9. A complete marketing program with radio, television and print advertisements adaptable to your local needs.
  10. A national advertising program that gets you exposure you couldn’t afford on your own. For example, it would not be cost effective for you to advertise your DJ service in brides magazine; however, as part of your franchise agreement, ads could be run by the franchiser that promote franchises across the country.

A Case of Butterflies

Its a safe guess that right about now you’re thinking this sounds great . . . but, I could never get up in front of a group of people! Relax, you are not alone. The number one fear among human beings is that, at some time, they will have to step up in front of a crowd of people and “say a few words.” The sheer terror of addressing a group of fellow earthlings can make some peoples palms sweat, their heart pound and, in some cases, cause them to freeze totally. This final extreme is known as “Mic Fright” and is characterized by the individual muttering “a-humma-hummahumma” over the PA system.

Ask a hundred experienced MDJs if they ever get “butterflies” (a feeling of nervousness in the stomach) while entertaining and ninety will say yes. The other ten are liars. DJs fear being in front of people just like everyone else, theyve just developed ways to deal with it. Its a skill that comes through experience and self-motivation.

The reason people fear being the center of attention is theyre afraid of saying or doing something that will embarrass them. They are not prepared and dont know what to expect. They lack confidence. Therefore, the most important thing to remember when going in front of a group of people is: Be prepared. Know what you are going to say and try to think ten to fifteen minutes ahead. Its no crime to make notes and use them during a gig. If you stay ahead of the game, unexpected situations wont throw you so far off course that youll need a compass and a map to finish your gig.

Eight Days a Week

Theres not a Mobile DJ alive (or dead) who succeeded just on talent or because they had the best sound system, lighting rig or music collection. Persistence, tenacity and drive are what get the work done. Success will come to all who refuse to quit.

To keep this business from totally taking over your life, its important you set aside “off times” to allow you to get away from the business long enough to catch your breath and keep some perspective. If youre in this full time, youll find its almost impossible to take a full day off each week, consider taking a couple of half days. Determine what parts of the week are least demanding and schedule your time off accordingly.

To be a success in the Mobile DJ business demands:

  1. An honest love of all kinds of music.
  2. The ambition and desire to succeed.
  3. A genuine desire to serve the public.

The people who succeed in this business are the ones who love their work, and that love shines at every performance. Good performances bring the referrals that keep your business growing. Combine this with a solid advertising and marketing program, and your business will take off even faster. As your business increases, so does the paperwork. Keeping track of half-a-dozen bookings each weekend is easy. As your workload and staff expands, however, youll need to develop systems that will keep you on top of your bookings and help you account for your time, money and expenses.

Program for Success

Working long, hard hours in front of a crowd of people who want to be entertained can be very demanding. Regardless of whats happening in your personal life, when its time to entertain, you have to put everything else out of your mind and give it your best. This is challenging at times, but gets easier as performing becomes “second nature.

Becoming a positive person takes a considerable effort. After all, there are a lot of not-so-positive influences in this world. If you start each day determined to keep things in a positive perspective, youll become better able to deal with problems that arise. Youll also find yourself getting greater respect and cooperation from the people who can help you the most with your business. Before you prejudge the outcome of any situation, remember: It will probably turn out just fine, so why not assume that in the first place.

To achieve success, first decide just what success means to you. What do you want from life? Make a list of the things you want to accomplish. Decide what actions youll take to accomplish each one.
Each and every weekend, more and more people are discovering that Mobile DJs are a terrific source of entertainment. As the demand for DJs grows, so does the number of Mobile DJs. This increases the competition. Competition makes us work harder and hard work makes us better at what we do. The best get the biggest share of the market, so be the best.

Disco To Go

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Mobile DJs struggled to make do with whatever sound equipment they could piece together. Usually, this meant starting with a musical instruments amplifier or one from a hi-fi or stereo designed for home use. The unit would be customized for the task by changing connectors, adding cooling fans and making a few internal wiring modifications.

Many speaker systems were “home-brew” designs as well, utilizing generic components from old TV and radio sets, discarded record players and outdated guitar and organ speakers. Once a few functioning woofers and tweeters1 were gathered from the trash, they would be mounted in a variety of interesting arrays in anything from an old TV cabinet to a well-crafted plywood box.

An early subwoofer2 system (circa: 1966) was fabricated using a 12- or 15-inch speaker mounted face up in the bottom of a large plastic trash pail. Equipped with its own outboard amplifier, it could be placed anywhere at the site to reinforce the bottom end. It actually worked quite well, but keep in mind that, back then, anything that worked was considered to work well.

Today, professional equipment”like dual CD players, cassette decks, turntables, speaker systems, power amplifiers, wireless microphones and disco mixers (with and without digital samplers)”is readily available either by mail order or at numerous DJ specialty stores.

In Your System

Every Mobile DJ sound system is made up of four parts:

  1. Music sources are the components designed to play back prerecorded music. The music sources DJs commonly use are CD players, Mini-disc players, tape decks, DAT and turntables.
  2. The audio mixer allows the DJ to control the volume (or level) of several music sources as they are simultaneously œmixed down to a single output.
  3. The power amplifier takes the output of the mixer and boosts the volume to a level which is capable of filling the room with sound.
  4. Speaker systems are made up of a number of individual speakers and components within a single cabinet. Their job is take the amplified signal from the amplifier and covert it back into sound we can hear. Normally, a DJ will use two speaker systems. In stereo operation, one receives the left signal from the amplifier, the other receives the right. In monaural (mono), both speaker systems receive an identical signal. For added bass, a single or pair of subwoofers, which reproduce just the lower frequencies, may be added.

Interacting With Your System

A good sound system is one that’s reliable and comfortable to operate. One thing all good DJs have in common is their ability to keep the music pumping continuously just like it was a single four- or five-hour song. Any pauses, holes, or “dead air” during a DJ’s performance breaks the momentum and can clear the dancefloor.

In order to provide an uninterrupted music flow, each individual music track3 will overlap the previous. These overlaps, or moments of transition where one song is fading out while the beat of another is coming in, are called Segues (SEG-ways).

To make tight segues, the music must start at the precise moment the DJ wants it. CD players automatically cue to the beginning of the song. But what if the DJ wants the music to start at a point other than the beginning? By listening through the headphones, a DJ can audition a musical selection without disturbing the song currently playing through the speakers. This procedure, called cueing (Q-ing), enables the DJ to locate precise musical starting points as well as matching beats between two selections.

Preparing For Your First Gig

Now that youve purchased all your components, its time to get ready for your first gig.

Unpack and Check All Components

Carefully remove each component from its box and check for shipping damage. Before you plug anything in, read the manuals. If your equipment is new, fill out the warranty registration cards and drop them in the mail. Make copies of each sales receipt and staple them to the front covers of each manual. Keep your originals in a file for tax time.

Next, plan how you want to organize and configure up your system. If you are working with turntables or top loading CD players (such as Pioneers CDJ-500IIs) setting up on a table top will work temporarily. If you have opted for cassette decks or front loading, rack-mount CD players, a rack is essential. Specially designed DJ racks and cases are available in a variety of heights, with a standard width of 19 inches.

The Right Fit

Before purchasing a rack, determine just what you want the rack to hold. In most cases, your main rack will have a sloping top and a vertical front section.

To keep the weight of the rack manageable, it is best to mount your amplifier in a second rack that can be placed under your work table. With this set up, you can either use tables furnished by the party hall, or bring one of your own.

Installing your components in the rack is relatively easy and requires nothing more than a screwdriver. There is no right or wrong order as to the position of each component. Whatever is most comfortable and logical for you is best. One important consideration is to leave plenty of room behind the components to easily reach all the connection points. As cables tend to fail without notice, youll need to be able to change cables quickly without having to remove any component from the case. If your mixer has connectors that face toward the bottom of the rack, you may need to allow an extra few inches of air space to easily change cables. If you are using a standard DJ rack, with a sloping top and open front, a good design is with the CD player controller mounted toward the front, with the mixer behind. Assuming the connectors for the CD controller are on the bottom, and the connectors for the mixer are on the back, this should allow ample space. In the front of the rack, mount the transport for the CD player, along with a processing unit, such as an equalizer or compressor/limiter, and a powerstrip or lighting controller.

Home Tryouts

Learning to set up your system properly and troubleshoot any problems is relatively easy. Once youve made all the correct connections, (as explained in the owners manuals), just turn it on and go to work. There will be times when gremlins will invade and cause your system to his, hum, crackle or remain silent. When this happens, dont panic. Its probably a loose or broken wire or a switch in the wrong position.

Because its quite stressful to troubleshoot system problems in front of a roomful of people, get to know your system ahead of time in the privacy of your own home. The more knowledge you gain in practice, the better off you will be when you have a real problem at a party. Hopefully, you will never experience the high anxiety of having your system die in the middle of a song for no apparent reason. But if you do, think positively. There is very little that can go wrong that you can’t somehow deal with.

The first few hours with your new system should be spent just becoming familiar with all the controls. Plug in and put on the headphones. Try out the microphone and get use to hearing your voice through the speakers. Get the feel of using the mixer faders to bring the volume up and down. Most importantly, get into the habit of watching the VU meters or LED lights on your board. Your owners manual will better explain what to watch for and how to protect your system from distortion and overload.

Setup Tips

  • An easy way to remember what goes where for a proper connection is: Outputs always connect to inputs and inputs always connect to outputs. As most hookup cables are color coded, mate the plug with the jack of the same color (i.e.: red to red, white to white, etc.).
  • If you are using turntables, you can insure the sound level from each turntable is the same by using matching cartridges and needles. Mismatched cartridges can produce different volumes and sound quality.
  • Humming in a sound system can almost always be traced to a bad ground. If you encounter a hum and cant pinpoint the cause try: a) Unplugging one component at a time and reversing the plug in the socket. b) Unplugging your main power chord from the wall and reverse the plug (3-prong plugs wont have this problem). This procedure will also reduce or eliminate the problems caused by CB or radio interference. c) Plugging the amp rack into a different circuit than the mixer rack. d) If the hum persists, consult your dealer or an audio professional in your area. Ground loop hum problems are tricky, but remedies exist.

Microphone Style

How you sound on mic is one area where you will separate yourself from other DJs. Through practice, you will you develop your own mic style. Here are some tips:

  • Touching the head of the microphone to your lips is unsanitary and not good for the mic. Do not touch the microphone head with your mouth or lips. Speak directly into the mic, not off to the side. To be heard intelligibly, speak slower into a microphone than your usual conversational quick-pace chatter.
  • Never shout into a mic.; it causes overmodulation and distortion.
  • Don’t mumble. Enunciate and pronounce words carefully, taking natural breath breaks. Many DJs forget to take breaths.

Watch for nose noise that’s caused when exhaling through your nose into the microphone. Be natural and conversational, but be enthusiastic on mic.

Music: The True Star

Most important to every performance is the music. At a typical job, the music mix may span almost every style and taste in just a few short hours. The key is to cover all the musical bases without a split second of dead air.

Running a tight board is the talent of maintaining a continuous music flow, selection-to-selection-to-selection. The beat will change, but the music never stops. No matter how abruptly a song starts or ends, a DJ who can run a tight board will anticipate it and the audience will never notice a microsecond of dead air. Even when you are talking, there should be music playing in the background. Some DJs, particularly in clubs, carry this to the extreme with Hot Mixes. An example of hot mixing is laying the beat of one song over another (called, appropriately enough, overlaying). When done properly, this makes the two separate tracks sound as if they were produced as one.

Cueing is the method by which you will locate the exact point on a CD, cassette tape or record where the music begins. By finding this point, you can control the precise moment the music will be heard through the system. Professional CD players are designed to locate the initial cue point automatically. However, this may not be the point you actually want. Depending on the selection, you may want to cue further into the song, in order to match the tempo, or get past a non-danceable beginning. Depending on the type of player you are using, you can cue to a point other than the beginning either by rocking the search bottons, or by using the shuttle and jog wheel, if provided.

To cue a cassette, put on your headphones, select cue on your mixer, press play on the cassette deck, and listen for the beginning of the song. When you hear the first notes, quickly stop the tape, take it out of the machine and manually back it up about one-half inch. Put the tape back in the deck, press pause and play. When you are ready to play the track, bring up the volume and release pause. If you use cassettes, you may find the best procedure is to cue up your cassettes prior to the job.

Hot Mixing

Some DJs take mixing to the limit. One such DJ is Cameron Paul, a former San Francisco Club DJ whose credits include the remix of Push-It, by Salt-N-Pepa. According to Cameron Paul, A remix is made by taking an existing song and modifying it, by digital sampling, or by adding a new drum, keyboard or other track, to create a different version of the same song. This is accomplished by Beat Mixing or Overlaying and its one of the things you can do to give your DJ mix a dance club feel.

Heres how: By using the pitch controls on your turntables or CD Players (this is tough to do with cassettes) you can match the beat of one song with another. While the first selection is playing through the speakers, listen to the next song in your headphones. Move the pitch control until the beats are right on top of each other.

Use the faders (or the crossfader) to bring one song up while the other fades out. Beat mixing works best when you match two songs that have a close number of beats per minute (BPM). To determine the number of beats per minute, use a watch or timer. During a 60 second period, count the number of upbeats and downbeats in a particular song. This can be tricky, especially if youre not sure if youre counting upbeats, downbeats or both.

Tips on Remixing

  1. Never try to match the beats of two songs with more than a 4% or 5% difference in speed. The lower the BPM numbers, the lower percentage to allow.
  2. Mix at a logical place, during a break or fade.
  3. Try to mix songs within similar keys.
  4. Practice each mix several times in your headphones before playing it to the crowd. When the beats are right on, slowly fade one turntable up, while fading the other down.
  5. As you get more experienced in Overlaying, youll be confident enough to Slam Mix. In a slam mix, rather than fade the two racks together, the DJ abruptly brings up the volume on the incoming selection, before fading out the one that was playing.

Flanging or Phasing

By playing two copies of the same song simultaneously, you can create a spacey whooshing effect. Start the first copy on turntable #1. Put the second copy on turntable #2 and listen to it on cue. Move the stylus from groove to groove on record #2, until you find the exact point at where that record #1 is playing. Using the pitch controls, match the speeds of the turntables so that what you hear on cue is identical to whats playing through the speakers. Once the speeds are matched (you may have to try several times), bring up the fader for turntable #2 so that both copies are playing through the speakers at the same time. With the pitch control, slowly speed up one of the turntables. As the whooshing effect begins to sound like an echo, slow the turntable down slightly and the effect will repeat. If your board has a digital sampler, youll be able to produce the effect for CDs and tapes as well.

Back Beating or Doubling

Using copies of the same song on both turntables, you can create an echo effect by having one of the two songs lag behind the other by two, four or more beats.

As you did with phasing and beat mixing, match the speeds of the two records using the pitch controls. While listening on cue, gently tap one of records so that the vocal falls behind that of the one playing through the speakers. Take it back just far enough to create an echo. Put the beats right on top of each other and fade it up. Done properly, youll hear a single beat with two vocalists, one singing in real-time the other repeating each line a moment later. This effect can also be produced by a digital sampler.

Talking Over the Music

Now that youve mastered the music, start working on your talk overs. Open your mic and set the volume so you can be heard when you bring down the music level just a little. For a good talkover, your audience should be able to hear you distinctly and still hear the music. Dont fight the music or try to yell to get on top of it. Bring the music down when youre talking and back up as soon as you finish.

To hear how its all coming together, set a portable cassette deck on the floor and record a few segues and talk overs. When you play it back, youll get a good indication of how youll sound to the audience.
Background Music Tapes Before you tear down your system and pack it up for the road, record two 90-minute background music cassettes. These are handy if you need music to play while the party guests finish their feast or if, for some unforeseen reason, you need a little extra setup time. A good background cassette will be a nice upbeat blend of ballads and pop instrumentals spanning the years from the thirties to the present.

Diverting Disasters

Its a fact, stuff happens. You may soon learn how one hundred party guests react when the music suddenly stops because you pressed the open/close button on the wrong CD player. Or maybe itll be seeing how they look at you across a silent dance floor because you forgot to cue up the next song.

These simple errors result from the fact that were all human. Embarrassing mistakes? Yes, but they only sting for a second. What if something major happens, like your car breaks down on the way to a gig or your system just quits? The best defense against these types of disasters is to have a plan and know how to react.
Possibly the most stressful situation a DJ can encounter is to have his vehicle die on the way to a job. If this should happen to you, immediately notify your client or leave word at the party hall where you were headed. They may be able to send someone to your rescue. If not, call everyone you know until you find someone who can help. If all else fails, call a cab. When you know you have a ride on the way, call the hall back and tell him youll be there shortly. Once youre set up and ready to go, phone a garage to get your vehicle. The important thing is to let the client know whats going on and make every effort to get there as quickly as possible. In this business, Reliability is Job #1.

The next worse case scenario takes place at the party location. You arrive on time, the client is pleasant, your system is working great, even the food was good. The evening is just starting to click. The dance floor is filling fast and the group is ready to kick into high gear. All of a sudden your system just dies stone-cold quiet.

This is absolutely the worst thing that can happen, but dont panic, its not the end of the world (although you may wish it was). First, check your music sources. Are they getting power? Most components have a pilot light that glows when the power is on. If not, push the start button to see if anything happens. If it appears the music sources are not getting any juice, look to see if someone, maybe even you, accidentally kicked a main power cord out of the wall. If the main is okay, check your multi-plug extension strips.

If power is getting to the music sources, the trouble could be with your mixer. Are the needles moving or LEDs flashing? Check each and every switch and fader. Did you bump something into the wrong position? If youre not getting anything from the board, it may be a short at the main output jacks. Try the tape outputs. If you cannot get the board to work properly, connect a cassette deck directly to the equalizer and play a tape while you plan your next action.

If the board is okay, check the amplifier and equalizer. Are they getting power? If not, are the power switches still in the on position? If thats not the cause, check the cords, fuses and circuit breakers. If you need to replace a fuse, turn off the amplifier, replace the fuse or reset the circuit breaker, and then turn the amp back on. If everything is getting power and appears to be working properly, then start checking (and replacing, if necessary) the connector cables. Follow the complete audio chain from each music source to the mixer and then from the mixer to the equalizer, to the amp, to the speakers.

If everything seems in order, there are only a few more things that could be causing the problem. If you have an out board equalizer, push in the bypass switch. If you push in the bypass switch and still hear nothing, the problem is probably with either your mixer or your amp. These components dont fail often, but like all components, they do fail.

If the problem is humming, buzzing or a dead channel, it may be a loose turntable ground or faulty connector. If one speaker is dead, the cause could be the board, amp, equalizer or a speaker. Start by switching speaker connections. If the dead speaker comes back to life, the problem is either the amp, board or equalizer. Switch the connectors that run from the board to the equalizer and equalizer to amp. Through the process of elimination you should be able to track down the problem.

Once youve found the cause, decide if you can fix it or live with it. Broken wires and connectors and blown fuses are commonplace, so be prepared by bringing spares. If the problem is a dead channel in your amp, try feeding the live channel to both speakers. If a speaker blows, you can limp through the event with just one, at reduced volume. The one component that can put you totally out of business is the amplifier. If all other components in the system appear to be working, but theres no sound from the speakers, the problem is the amplifier. If the amp has a thermal protection circuit to protect it from overheating, it may cool down and come back on in ten to fifteen minutes.

Properly diagnosing equipment problems takes a combination of knowledge and common sense. Arm yourself by reading your equipment manuals. Concentrate on the sections dealing with trouble shooting. When faced with a major problem, the important thing is: Don’t Panic. . . Do Something. If all else fails, CALL IN YOUR BACKUPS! What Backups? Every DJ needs to carry some kind of backup system, just in case. There are a number of inexpensive mixers on the market and, although they may not offer all the features to which you are accustom, youll still get through the night. The same is true of your home stereo receiver. It may not be the best, but in a desperate pinch, its better than nothing.

In addition to a backup amp and mixer, you need to have:

  • At least four sets of extra patch cords (RCA type hook-up cables).
  • Various adapters to convert RCA plugs to RCA jacks, or to 1/4 plugs, making it possible to configure cords to your need.
  • No less than two replacement phono needles/or two back-up CD players (the portable Walkman type work fine).
  • Gaffers tape or duct tape. To tape down cables and, if necessary, to hold things together.
  • A small tool kit with flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, pliers and a wire stripper.
  • Extra fuses for each unit requiring them.
  • Extra speaker cables with proper connectors on them.
  • Six Alligator clips and a spool of heavy-gauge wire that can be used to bridge a damaged audio (NOT AC) cable or for grounding.
  • Electrical tape.
  • One inexpensive back-up mic with cord.
  • Two three-prong to two-prong 110-volt plug adaptors — not all places have 3-way 100-volt outlets. NEVER break off the third prong!
  • An extra turntable headshell with cartridge and needle mounted.
  • A small bottle of aspirin.
  • An extra key for your mode of transportation.
  • A flashlight.

Someday, you will have a need for at least one of the items listed above. Its better to be safe than sorry. Your first job is just moments away, so youd better get ready.

Tip: Normally, you should allow at least a half hour for setup and give yourself a half hour for each ten miles you need to drive because you may need the extra time to correct any problems that may occur during travel or setup time.

Opening Night – original text excerpted from Spinnin 2000 – 1997 Edition

For the most part, your booking calender will be filled with jobs from the following categories:

  1. Wedding receptions. These may account for a large percentage of your annual business. They demand a little extra selling and service and a range of music that covers all categories. In fact, you may have to play a lot of music you dont particularly like, but the rewards are worth it.
  2. General private parties for families, organizations and corporations. This includes everything from birthdays and anniversaries to corporate Christmas parties, bowling banquets and retirements. The music mix will be similar to wedding receptions but more varied, depending on the median age of the guests.
  3. High school and college gigs. These are a good source of business during the winter months. A larger sound system is usually required along with a light show and lots of Top 40, rap, dance and alternative music.
  4. Pub and tavern gigs. These can also help pay the bills when the bridal business is slow. Bar jobs normally pay much less than the standard rate, but if its a steady gig, playing three or four nights a week, it adds up. They are also a terrific opportunity to pass out business cards and pick up higher paying mobile jobs. Youll never know what type of music youll need for any particular pub until you get there. Play as many requests as you can and bring the rest the next time. Handling the Crowd As a DJ, your job goes way beyond just playing the music. You are the leader, director and organizer. From start to finish, youre goal is to keep the party moving. You accomplish this by: 1) Knowing what to say and when to say it. 2) Programming and pacing the music. 3) Wrapping everything around your own personality and style. Every DJ and KJ is different. Each develops his or her own technique for motivating and directing the crowd. The first concern of most beginners is, What must I do to get the crowd going? Along with a variety of dance music, youll need to play the dreaded party hits such as The Macarena, The Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, Bunny Hop or Alley Cat. These may seem horrendously outdated to you, but not to the crowd.

You will enjoy far greater success with every crowd if you have the right attitude and confidence in your ability. If you have fun, so will the guests. Even if you are going through a rough period in your life, you’re still expected to put on a great show. Be approachable. Smile! People like people who smile. The best DJs are entertainers.

Get Away From the Table

The first step you take toward being a good entertainer is the step you take away from your setup. Be personable, walk around, talk to the guests and ask for requests and dedications. Tear down that wall between you and your audience. Let them know your’e there to entertain them whether they like it or not!

Is this to say that every performance will be 100% party perfect? Of course not. There will be times when you just cant get the people started. This commonly happens at class reunions and retirement parties because, instead of dancing, the guests are more interested in catching up with what their friends have been doing for the last twenty years. If you are having a particularly tough time, ask for help from the person who booked you. They know the people and can sometimes succeed where you cant. If you can get three or four people on the dancefloor with a little arm twisting, the others will join in. Wedding Reception Format Of all the different types of jobs youll play, wedding receptions are the most involved; but they follow a predictable pattern.

At most receptions, you will be required to fill two roles. In your usual role as DJ, youll be taking requests, playing the music, leading the Hokey Pokey and doing what ever else is necessary to motivate the crowd.
You will also be the MC, where you will be responsible for introducing the bride and groom and the wedding party and making sure all the traditional activities of a reception take place at the proper times.

Appropriate dress for weddings (and most other functions) is a suit or tuxedo for males, pants suit, nice dress or tuxedo for females. You should look sharp, neat and confident. Whats considered proper DJ behavior and whats not depends on the client and DJ. Some clients may invite you to join them for the meal and a beverage from the bar. Others may not. Its a matter of common sense. Before availing yourself to the kindness of your client, remind yourself that alcohol will impair your ability and judgment and, therefore, may affect your overall performance. Performance is your product and everything you say and do while in the presence of your client and their guests impacts their impression of you and your DJ service.

Now let’s walk through a reception from the time you arrive at the venue through the time you pack up and head home. Perfect, you’re first to arrive. The guests will be coming in soon, so take this moment to introduce yourself to the party hall manager and find out where you should set up. It’s always easier to set up when the room is empty. If the hall has back-to-back events (afternoon-evening) you may find your setup time fairly tight. If the client wants you start two or three hours into the event, that rules out a pre-arrival setup entirely. If the party hall has supplied a table for your use, check the legs. Will they support your equipment? Are they locked in place properly? It’s quite embarrassing to have a table collapse during the Best Man’s toast. If the table checks out, position it so there’s plenty of room to work without blocking any aisles or walkways. Now locate the nearest electrical outlet and run your extension cord so it’s not crossing a traffic area. If this is unavoidable, tape it down securely with gaffers tape. Duct tape will also do the trick, but may leave a sticky residue on the floor and on your cables.

Note: Not all party halls will allow DJs the use of a table. Call the hall manager a few days before the gig if you have any doubt about what to expect.

After you have neatly draped your banner across the top and front of the table, begin setting up your equipment just as you did at home. Once all components are in place and all cables are connected, power up each piece, turning on the amplifier last. If the guests are already in the room, you’ll have to check out the system at low volume. Walk around the room and listen to how your system sounds in different areas. If it doesn’t sound crisp and clear, adjust your equalizer accordingly.

There are many details that can vary from reception to reception, making it impossible to outline the exact order of events. When you’re all set up and ready to go, introduce yourself to the photographer. He will need to know what you’ll be doing and, because he’s been with the bride all day, he can help you with any special details. When the bridal party arrives, step up and congratulate the bridal couple and assure them everything is under control. Here is a general format adaptable to most receptions:

In your role as MC, the first thing you may be asked to do is introduce the bridal party as they enter the hall. Begin by getting everyone lined up outside the hall in the order you will introduce them. Start with the parents, followed by flowergirl and ringbearer, the bridesmaids and ushers, The Maid (or Matron, if she’s married) of Honor and Best Man and, finally, the Bride and Groom. Before you begin the introductions, make a brief pre-announcement to quiet the hall and get the guests attention. Something like, “Good afternoon (or evening) ladies and gentlemen. In just a moment we will have the pleasure of welcoming our new bride and groom, so if I could please have your attention?” If it appears you are being ignored, your voice may not be cutting through the room noise. Bring up your mic level and try again. If necessary, sharpen the mic’s sound by increasing the mid range and higher frequencies with your EQ. Once the room is quiet, you can begin the introductions.

You: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to (insert name of location). At this time, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the parents of the bride, Carl and Carol Korpusle. (Pause while they walk in and wait for applause to subside.)

You: And now, the parents of the groom, Fred and Flavia Friberty. (This is followed by another pause. Proceed with the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer, Bridesmaids and Ushers, and Maid/Matron of Honor and Best Man until all bridal party members have been introduced. Then, with dynamic enthusiasm, introduce the bride and groom.)

You: And now let’s all stand and congratulate our new bride and groom, Frank and Fran Friberty.

When all the bridal party members have taken their seats at the head table and the waiters and waitresses have poured the wine or champagne, it’s time for you to introduce the best man, who will toast the bridal couple. Before you do, walk over and let him know that you are about to introduce him. Never introduce people without warning them first.

You: And now, Id like to introduce our best man, Joe Friberty, with a toast to Frank and Fran.

After the toast, you can relax while the guests enjoy their meal. They may even invite you to dine as well. At a five-hour reception, you will be spending at least the first hour playing background/dinner music. This can be a lively mix of easy listening music, as requested by the bride and groom, or you can play one of the cassettes you recorded earlier.

At some point after the meal, the bride and groom will be cutting their wedding cake.

You: Fran and Frank are about to cut their wedding cake. If youd like to take a photo, please join the couple at the cake table. We ask that you let our photographer take the pictures for the couple’s wedding album first.

Note: In some cases, the reception hall does the initial introductions and announces the cake cutting. This allows you more time to prepare for your presentation of the bridal dance and father/daughter dance.

When everyone has finished eating, its time for you to take control and get things moving. Catch up with the bride and groom and suggest it’s time for the bridal dance. You should have their special request all cued up and have the list of bridal party members close at hand. Just before the bridal dance, check with the bride and groom one more time to make sure everyone you will be introducing is in the room and ready to go.

You: Ladies and gentlemen, could we please stand and have a nice round of applause as we welcome to the dancefloor for their first dance together as husband and wife, Fran and Frank Friberty!

Create your own introduction if you would like, but keep it brief. Say it slowly, with a few dramatic pauses and all the dynamics of a TV game show. This is a big part of what being a professional DJ is all about. When the couple has finished their bridal dance, begin introducing the rest of the bridal party.

You: Now lets welcome our maid (matron) of honor, Frans best friend from college, Judy Jawhozee, with the best man, the groom’s brother, Joe Friberty.

Tip: It’s a nice touch to personalize the introductions if you have a little background on whos who and why they are in the wedding. After the maid/matron of honor and best man, proceed with the bridesmaids and ushers, The flower girl and ring bearer and, finally, the parents. Watch the photographer, and pace your introductions so that he or she isn’t being rushed.

If your bridal couple has selected to dance with their parents, here’s what to do just as the dance for the bridal party ends:

You: Now we would like everyone on the dancefloor to join hands and form a circle. (Give them a little time to get organized and help them if you have to). In the center of the circle, we would like to have our bride, Fran, with her father, Carl Korpuscle (Start Daddy’s Little Girl or other tune selected for this dance.)

Encourage the people in the circle to sway back and forth as a group or rotate in one direction. This enhances the couples video, makes a great photo for the wedding and its something for which they will remember you. If the couple has asked for a special dance for the groom and his mother, go right into it while everyone is still in the circle. It is not necessary to play the entire selection for the father/daughter or mother/groom dances. Fade them out after about a minute, or when the guests start snoring, whichever comes first.

Note: Some couples may want to do their bridal dance (first dance) after the opening introductions, before the meal. During your pre-reception discussions with them, ask if they have a preference. Immediately following the last of the special dances, its time to open up the dancefloor and go to work. Start with a familiar, upbeat motivator, like Celebration by Kool and The Gang, I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts, Love Shack by B-52s or Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock & Roll. Whether it be something old or something new, it needs to be something everyone will recognize and be compelled to dance to.

Over the music intro, introduce yourself and invite the guests to come up and make their requests. Tell them the dancefloor is open and that the bride and groom would really like them to get up and enjoy themselves.
For example: Good evening. I’m Joe Ex from Ex, Why, Zee DJs and it is my pleasure to bring you the music as we celebrate Jan and Jim’s special day. I know our bride and groom want all of you to have a great time this evening, so the dancefloor is open and if theres anything special youd like to request, please feel free to come on up and make a request.

It also helps to get things going when the bridal party and the bridal couple stay on the floor and dance the first few tunes. Tell them this in advance. If they want their reception to be a success, they will oblige.

The Bouquet and Garter

There’s one more formality you need to take care of before you can remove your MC hat. At some point (usually 30 minutes to an hour after the first dance) youll need to direct the bridal couple, bridal party and guests through the bouquet and garter toss. The first step is to make sure the photographer is prepared. With the bride and groom close by, start an appropriate background piece, such as Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindy Lauper (12 version is best), or Soul Finger by the Bar-kays, or other pop instrumental. Open the mic and get the guests attention.

You: At this time, we would like all the single ladies to come out onto the dancefloor for the tossing of the bridal bouquet. (You will probably have to repeat this several times.)

When all the single women who wish to participate are on the dancefloor, the bride is ready to toss her bouquet, and the photographer is set to get the shot, lead the guests in a countdown.

You: This calls for a little audience participation, so lets all help Fran out with a little countdown 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!

This helps the photographer and gets the guests involved in what’s going on. After the toss, get the name of the lady who caught it; then pull a chair onto the dancefloor and have the bride take a seat.

You: Wed like to congratulate Sue Swell, who caught the bouquet. Now, if Fran would take a seat in the chair on the dancefloor, lets bring out Frank to remove her garter.

This part of the reception can be a lot of fun. As Frank starts reaching for Frans garter, play The Stripper or another appropriate music selection. Once the groom has removed the garter, call the single men out just as you did the ladies. On a countdown, have the groom toss the garter just as the bride tossed her bouquet. The gentleman who catches the garter places it on the lady who caught the bouquet. Once again, play the The Stripper for background while directing the activity by announcing the names of the participants. Be sure to describe what theyre doing. If everyone seems to be enjoying the festivities, you might try having the girl take the garter off and put it back on the guy who caught it. With the right crowd, this will spark a little laughter.

Dollar Dance

What if you are asked to direct a Dollar Dance? The idea behind a Dollar Dance is that for one dollar (or more) any guest can dance for few moments with the bride or groom. To direct the activity, first get the help of the best man and maid of honor. You will start off the dance by announcing:

You: Wed like to give everyone a chance to dance with the bride or the groom and, at the same time, pack their pockets with a little extra spending money for the honeymoon. On the dancefloor, our best man, Joe, is standing by Frank and our maid of honor, Judy, is standing next to Fran. Now, if all the ladies will line up by Joe and all the men line up by Fran, well kick off the Dollar Dance for Frank and Fran with (song). (Use a familiar ballad, Always and Forever by Heatwave, is an excellent dollar dance starter.)

Note: It’s never this easy. It can be like pulling teeth to get a dollar dance going. Once it’s under way, you may need to play three or more slow songs until everyone’s had their chance. The best man and maid of honor control how long each person dances with the bride or groom, so, if it’s dragging, ask them (off mic!) to speed it up.

The Spinnin’ 2000 Pocket Guide to Wedding Receptions is a handy checklist to keep you on track during a reception. Remember, events can be moved around. The bridal dance may come before the cake or even before dinner. The music sets listed are only suggestions. Each DJ has his own way of building sets. Thats one of the things that makes each DJ a little different from the next. As long as you play what your particular crowd wants, youll do fine. Keep a playlist from each engagement and note what songs worked best. Play whats familiar and danceable, and you cant go wrong. As time goes on, you will discover certain songs that have a certain magic in bringing people onto the dancefloor.

Music Sets and Sequencing

A music set, or sequence, is simply a grouping of songs that are in some obvious way similar.

Here’s an example of an Oldies set:

  1. Shout – Otis Day and Knights or Isley Bros.
  2. The Twist – Chubby Checker
  3. Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham
  4. Louie, Louie – The Kingsmen

Here’s an example of a set that would appeal primarily to the over-fifty crowd, but you may be surprised:

  1. Beer Barrel Polka – Lawrence Welk
  2. New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
  3. In The Mood – Glen Miller

Music sets can be any length, from two to five or even six songs, depending on crowd reaction. In order to cover a lot of ground, you may begin the evening with short, two- or three-song sets. This way, you can play music from a variety of categories over a shorter period of time. Near the end of the evening, when its primarily the die hard dancers who are left, you may get into a 20-minute dance set.

Never underestimate the importance of oldies in your program. The 1950s and early 1960s produced an exceptional amount of music that appeals to all ages. Many of these tunes, like Unchained Melody by the Righteous Bothers and Do You Love Me by the Contours, are familiar to a broad spectrum of ages, as theyve been used on soundtracks and in commercials. Country music also has a place in your program (depending on the crowd). Songs like Crazy by Patsy Cline, Stardust by Willie Nelson, Mountain Music by Alabama, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, Boot Scootin Boogie by Brooks and Dunn and Rocky Top by either The Osborne Bothers or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are all familiar and lack that twang that some folks find offensive. You can play almost any type of music if it’s fun, danceable and recognizable; just dont play too much of it.

A good mixture of fast tempo and slow tempo music is required at every function. As the night gets later, speed up the pace and let them work out. Just before you say good night, cool them down with a couple of nice, romantic ballads such as Last Waltz by Englebert Humperdink, Last Dance by Donna Summer (which starts slow and ends fast), I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (from Dirty Dancing) or Goodnight My Love by various artists from Jesse Belvin to Los Lobos. Then bounce back with one or two fast and powerful encore numbers. This way, you leave in a burst of high energy. Very memorable.
Parties and Other Special Events In areas other than Southern California and Florida (where receptions are constant throughout the year) the wedding season runs from around April 1 through the end of October. You may get a sprinkling of wedding bookings between November and March. To keep your cash flowing in a positive direction, you need to pursue other types of parties. During December (and into January), office Christmas/holiday parties will fill your weekends and many of your weeknights.

A good performance at office parties can get you locked in year after year. Its worthwhile to do a little research into what types of music the majority of the people like. Many offices listen to a certain radio station all day. Ask your clients what stations they prefer and if theres a special tune thats popular around the office. Encourage them to send you a list of their favorites in advance. Take this Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck, is an office party favorite (sometimes).

Retirement parties are like office parties except that the median age of the guests is higher. Bring along a good supply of 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s tunes.

Class reunions require extra emphasis on the years the guests spent together in school plus current favorites. Bring along an appropriate trivia book. A few good trivia questions can spice up your show.

For family events such as reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and bar mitzvahs, ask your client if theres anything special theyd like you to do or play. In some areas, DJs who specialize in bar/bat mitzvahs charge several thousand dollars per job and earn every nickel. Along with the music, they provide everything from clowns, musicians and a dance troupe to hundreds of dollars worth of prizes and novelties. The entertainment is fast-paced and constant. The opportunities for innovative Mobile Entertainers are unlimited. As you make the rounds from party to party, youll meet a lot of other DJs. Some throw in song titles and artists, sounding almost like they are on the air. Others use props to make their show a little unique. Some DJs just sit and spin tunes. Which is best? It doesn’t really matter. The audience will accept almost anything if you do it well. Throw a song title or artist in once in awhile but not over every record. An abundance of music trivia will be wasted unless you happen to have an audience that’s really enjoying it. A little humor is fun when its spontaneous and relates to the audience. If everyone is dancing and having a great time, you may be better to keep the mic off and the mix hot.
Whats the rule? If they’re not leaving or complaining, you’re probably not doing anything wrong.

Opening Night

For the most part, your booking calender will be filled with jobs from the following categories:

  1. Wedding receptions. These may account for a large percentage of your annual business. They demand a little extra selling and service and a range of music that covers all categories. In fact, you may have to play a lot of music you dont particularly like, but the rewards are worth it.
  2. General private parties for families, organizations and corporations. This includes everything from birthdays and anniversaries to corporate Christmas parties, bowling banquets and retirements. The music mix will be similar to wedding receptions but more varied, depending on the median age of the guests.
  3. High school and college gigs. These are a good source of business during the winter months. A larger sound system is usually required along with a light show and lots of Top 40, rap, dance and alternative music.
  4. Pub and tavern gigs. These can also help pay the bills when the bridal business is slow. Bar jobs normally pay much less than the standard rate, but if its a steady gig, playing three or four nights a week, it adds up. They are also a terrific opportunity to pass out business cards and pick up higher paying mobile jobs. You’ll never know what type of music you’ll need for any particular pub until you get there. Play as many requests as you can and bring the rest the next time.

Handling the Crowd

As a DJ, your job goes way beyond just playing the music. You are the leader, director and organizer. From start to finish, your goal is to keep the party moving. You accomplish this by:
  1. Knowing what to say and when to say it.
  2. Programming and pacing the music.
  3. Wrapping everything around your own personality and style. Every DJ and KJ is different. Each develops his or her own technique for motivating and directing the crowd. The first concern of most beginners is, What must I do to get the crowd going? Along with a variety of dance music, you’ll need to play the dreaded party hits such as The Macarena, The Chicken Dance, Hokey Pokey, Bunny Hop or Alley Cat. These may seem horrendously outdated to you, but not to the crowd.

You will enjoy far greater success with every crowd if you have the right attitude and confidence in your ability. If you have fun, so will the guests. Even if you are going through a rough period in your life, youre still expected to put on a great show. Be approachable. Smile people like people who smile. The best DJs are entertainers. Get Away From the Table The first step you take toward being a good entertainer is the step you take away from your setup. Be personable, walk around, talk to the guests and ask for requests and dedications. Tear down that wall between you and your audience. Let them know you’re there to entertain them whether they like it or not!

Is this to say that every performance will be 100% party perfect? Of course not. There will be times when you just cant get the people started. This commonly happens at class reunions and retirement parties because, instead of dancing, the guests are more interested in catching up with what their friends have been doing for the last twenty years. If you are having a particularly tough time, ask for help from the person who booked you. They know the people and can sometimes succeed where you cant. If you can get three or four people on the dancefloor with a little arm twisting, the others will join in. Wedding Reception Format Of all the different types of jobs youll play, wedding receptions are the most involved; but they follow a predictable pattern.

At most receptions, you will be required to fill two roles. In your usual role as DJ, you’ll be taking requests, playing the music, leading the Hokey Pokey, and doing what ever else is necessary to motivate the crowd.
You will also be the MC, where you will be responsible for introducing the bride and groom and the wedding party and making sure all the traditional activities of a reception take place at the proper times.

Appropriate dress for weddings (and most other functions) is a suit or tuxedo for males, pants suit, nice dress or tuxedo for females. You should look sharp, neat and confident. Whats considered proper DJ behavior and whats not depends on the client and DJ. Some clients may invite you to join them for the meal and a beverage from the bar. Others may not. Its a matter of common sense. Before availing yourself to the kindness of your client, remind yourself that alcohol will impair your ability and judgement and, therefore, may effect your overall performance. Performance is your product and everything you say and do while in the presence of your client and their guests impacts their impression of you and your DJ service. Now let’s walk through a reception from the time you arrive at the venue through the time you pack up and head home.

Road trip

Perfect! You’re first to arrive. The guests will be coming in soon, so take this moment to introduce yourself to the party hall manager and find out where you should set up. Its always easier to set up when the room is empty. If the hall has back-to-back events (afternoon-evening) you may find your set up time fairly tight. If the client wants you start two or three hours into the event, that rules out a pre-arrival setup entirely. If the party hall has supplied a table for your use, check the legs. Will they support your equipment? Are they locked in place properly? Its quite embarrassing to have a table collapse during the best mans toast. If the table checks out, position it so theres plenty of room to work without blocking any aisles or walkways. Now locate the nearest electrical outlet and run your extension cord so its not crossing a traffic area. If this is unavoidable, tape it down securely with gaffers tape. Duct tape will also do the trick, but may leave a sticky residue on the floor and on your cables. Note: Not all party halls will allow DJs the use of a table. Call the hall manager a few days before the gig if you have any doubt about what to expect.

After you have neatly draped your banner across the top and front of the table, begin setting up your equipment just as you did at home. Once all components are in place and all cables are connected, power-up each piece, turning on the amplifier last. If the guests are already in the room, youll have to check out the system at low volume. Walk around the room and listen to how your system sounds in different areas. If it doesnt sound crisp and clear, adjust your equalizer accordingly.

There are many details that can vary from reception to reception, making it impossible to outline the exact order of events. When youre all set up and ready to go, introduce yourself to the photographer. He will need to know what youll be doing and, because hes been with the bride all day, he can help you with any special details. When the bridal party arrives, step up and congratulate the bridal couple and assure them everything is under control. Here is a general format adaptable to most receptions: In your role as MC, the first thing you may be asked to do is introduce the bridal party as they enter the hall. Begin by getting everyone lined up outside the hall in the order you will introduce them. Start with the parents, followed by flowergirl and ringbearer, the bridesmaids and ushers, The maid (or matron, if shes married) of honor and best man and, finally, the bride and groom. Before you begin the introductions, make a brief pre-announcement to quiet the hall and get the guests attention. Something like Good afternoon (or evening) ladies and gentlemen in just a moment we will have the pleasure of welcoming our new bride and groom, so if I could please have your attention If it appears you are being ignored, your voice may not be cutting through the room noise. Bring up your mic level and try again. If necessary, sharpen the mics sound by increasing the mid range and higher frequencies with your EQ. Once the room is quiet, you can begin the introductions.

You: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to (insert name of location). At this time, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the parents of the bride, Carl and Carol Korpusle.
(Pause while they walk in and wait for applause to subside.)

You: And now, the parents of the groom, Fred and Flavia Friberty.
(This is followed by another pause. Proceed with the flowergirl and ringbearer, bridesmaids and ushers, and maid/matron of honor and best man until all bridal party members have been introduced. Then, with dynamic enthusiasm, introduce the bride and groom.)

You: And now lets all stand and congratulate our new bride and groom Frank and Fran Friberty.
When all the bridal party members have taken their seats at the head table and the waiters and waitresses have poured the wine or champagne, its time for you to introduce the best man, who will toast the bridal couple. Before you do, walk over and let him know that you are about to introduce him. Never introduce people without warning them first.

You: And now, Id like to introduce our best man, Joe Friberty, with a toast to Frank and Fran.

After the toast, you can relax while the guests enjoy their meal. They may even invite you to dine as well. At a five-hour reception, you will be spending at least the first hour playing background/dinner music. This can be a lively mix of easy listening music, as requested by the bride and groom, or you can play one of the cassettes you recorded earlier.

At some point after the meal, the bride and groom will be cutting their wedding cake.

You: Fran and Frank are about to cut their wedding cake. If youd like to take a photo, please join the couple at the cake table. We ask that you let our photographer take the pictures for the couples wedding album first.

Note: In some cases, the reception hall does the initial introductions and announces the cake cutting. This allows you more time to prepare for your presentation of the bridal dance and father/daughter dance.
When everyone has finished eating, its time for you to take control and get things moving. Catch up with the bride and groom and suggest its time for the bridal dance. You should have their special request all cued up and have the list of bridal party members close at hand. Just before the bridal dance, check with the bride and groom one more time to make sure everyone you will be introducing is in the room and ready to go.
You: Ladies and gentlemen, could we please stand and have a nice round of applause as we welcome to the dancefloor for their first dance together as husband and wife, Fran and Frank Friberty!
Create your own introduction if you would like, but keep it brief. Say it slowly, with a few dramatic pauses and all the dynamics of a TV game show. This is a big part of what being a professional DJ is all about. When the couple has finished their bridal dance, begin introducing the rest of the bridal party.
You: Now lets welcome our maid (matron) of honor, Frans best friend from college, Judy Jawhozee, with the best man, the grooms brother, Joe Friberty.
Tip: Its a nice touch to personalize the introductions if you have a little background on whos who and why they are in the wedding. After the maid/matron of honor and best man, proceed with the bridesmaids and ushers, The flowergirl and ringbearer and, finally, the parents. Watch the photographer, and pace your introductions so that he or she isnt being rushed.
If your bridal couple has selected to dance with their parents, heres what to do just as the dance for the bridal party ends:
You: Now we would like everyone on the dancefloor to join hands and form a circle. (Give them a little time to get organized and help them if you have to). In the center of the circle, we would like to have our bride, Fran, with her father, Carl Korpuscle (Start Daddys Little Girl or other tune selected for this dance.)
Encourage the people in the circle to sway back and forth as a group or rotate in one direction. This enhances the couples video, makes a great photo for the wedding and its something for which they will remember you. If the couple has asked for a special dance for the groom and his mother, go right into it while everyone is still in the circle. It is not necessary to play the entire selection for the father/daughter or mother/groom dances. Fade them out after about a minute, or when the guests start snoring, whichever comes first.
Note: Some couples may want to do their bridal dance (first dance) after the opening introductions, before the meal. During your pre-reception discussions with them, ask if they have a preference. Immediately following the last of the special dances, its time to open up the dancefloor and go to work. Start with a familiar, upbeat motivator, like Celebration by Kool and The Gang, Ill Be There For You by The Rembrandts, Love Shack by B-52s or Bob Segers Old Time Rock &Roll. Whether it be something old or something new, it needs to be something everyone will recognize and be compelled to dance to.
Over the music intro, introduce yourself and invite the guests to come up and make their requests. Tell them the dancefloor is open and that the bride and groom would really like them to get up and enjoy themselves.
For example: Good evening Im Joe Ex from Ex, Why, Zee DJs and it is my pleasure to bring you the music as we celebrate Jan and Jims special day. I know our bride and groom want all of you to have a great time this evening, so the dancefloor is open and if theres anything special youd like to request, please feel free to come on up and make a request.
It also helps to get things going when the bridal party and the bridal couple stay on the floor and dance the first few tunes. Tell them this in advance. If they want their reception to be a success, they will oblige. The Bouquet and Garter Theres one more formality you need to take care of before you can remove your MC hat. At some point (usually 30 minutes to an hour after the first dance) youll need to direct the bridal couple, bridal party and guests through the bouquet and garter toss. The first step is to make sure the photographer is prepared. With the bride and groom close by, start an appropriate background piece, such as Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindy Lauper (12 version is best), or Soul Finger by the Bar-kays, or other pop instrumental. Open the mic and get the guests attention.
You: At this time, we would like all the single ladies to come out onto the dancefloor for the tossing of the bridal bouquet. (You will probably have to repeat this several times.)
When all the single women who wish to participate are on the dancefloor, the bride is ready to toss her bouquet, and the photographer is set to get the shot, lead the guests in a countdown.
You: This calls for a little audience participation, so lets all help Fran out with a little countdown 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!
This helps the photographer and gets the guests involved in whats going on. After the toss, get the name of the lady who caught it; then pull a chair onto the dancefloor and have the bride take a seat.
You: Wed like to congratulate Sue Swell, who caught the bouquet. Now, if Fran would take a seat in the chair on the dancefloor, lets bring out Frank to remove her garter.
This part of the reception can be a lot of fun. As Frank starts reaching for Frans garter, play The Stripper or another appropriate music selection. Once the groom has removed the garter, call the single men out just as you did the ladies. On a countdown, have the groom toss the garter just as the bride tossed her bouquet. The gentleman who catches the garter places it on the lady who caught the bouquet. Once again, play the The Stripper for background while directing the activity by announcing the names of the participants. Be sure to describe what theyre doing. If everyone seems to be enjoying the festivities, you might try having the girl take the garter off and put it back on the guy who caught it. With the right crowd, this will spark a little laughter. Dollar Dance What if you are asked to direct a Dollar Dance? The idea behind a Dollar Dance is that for one dollar (or more) any guest can dance for few moments with the bride or groom. To direct the activity, first get the help of the best man and maid of honor. You will start off the dance by announcing:
You: Wed like to give everyone a chance to dance with the bride or the groom and, at the same time, pack their pockets with a little extra spending money for the honeymoon. On the dancefloor, our best man, Joe, is standing by Frank and our maid of honor, Judy, is standing next to Fran. Now, if all the ladies will line up by Joe and all the men line up by Fran, well kick off the Dollar Dance for Frank and Fran with (song). (Use a familiar ballad, Always and Forever by Heatwave, is an excellent dollar dance starter.)
Note: Its never this easy. It can be like pulling teeth to get a dollar dance going. Once its under way, you may need to play three or more slow songs until everyones had their chance. The best man and maid of honor control how long each person dances with the bride or groom, so, if its dragging, ask them (off mic!) to speed it up.
The Spinnin 2000 Pocket Guide to Wedding Receptions (at the end of this chapter) is a handy check list to keep you on track during a reception. Remember, events can be moved around. The bridal dance may come before the cake or even before dinner. The music sets listed are only suggestions. Each DJ has his own way of building sets. Thats one of the things that makes each DJ a little different from the next. As long as you play what your particular crowd wants, youll do fine. Keep a playlist from each engagement and note what songs worked best. Play whats familiar and danceable, and you cant go wrong. As time goes on, you will discover certain songs that have a certain magic in bringing people onto the dancefloor.

Music Sets and Sequencing

A music set, or sequence, is simply a grouping of songs that are in some obvious way similar. Here’s an example of an oldies set: 1. Shout, Otis Day and Knights or Isley Bros. 2. The Twist, Chubby Checker. 3. Wooly Bully, Sam the Sham. 4. Louie, Louie, The Kingsmen.
Heres an example of a set that would appeal primarily to the over-fifty crowd, but you may be surprised: 1. Beer Barrel Polka, Lawrence Welk. 2. New York, New York, Frank Sinatra. 3. In The Mood, Glen Miller.
Music sets can be any length, from two to five or even six songs, depending on crowd reaction. In order to cover a lot of ground, you may begin the evening with short, two- or three-song sets. This way, you can play music from a variety of categories over a shorter period of time. Near the end of the evening, when its primarily the die hard dancers who are left, you may get into a 20-minute dance set.
Never underestimate the importance of oldies in your program. The 1950s and early 1960s produced an exceptional amount of music that appeals to all ages. Many of these tunes, like Unchained Melody by the Righteous Bothers and Do You Love Me by the Contours, are familiar to a broad spectrum of ages, as theyve been used on soundtracks and in commercials. Country music also has a place in your program (depending on the crowd). Songs like Crazy by Patsy Cline, Stardust by Willie Nelson, Mountain Music by Alabama, Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks, Boot Scootin Boogie by Brooks and Dunn and Rocky Top by either The Osborne Bothers or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are all familiar and lack that twang that some folks find offensive. You can play almost any type of music if its fun, danceable and recognizable; just dont play too much of it. A good mixture of fast tempo and slow tempo
music is required at every function. As the night gets later, speed up the pace and let them work out. Just before you say good night, cool them down with a couple of nice, romantic ballads such as Last Waltz by Englebert Humperdink, Last Dance by Donna Summer (which starts slow and ends fast), Ive Had the Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes (from Dirty Dancing) or Goodnight My Love by various artists from Jesse Belvin to Los Lobos. Then bounce back with one or two fast and powerful encore numbers. This way, you leave in a burst of high energy. Very memorable.
Parties and Other Special Events In areas other than Southern California and Florida (where receptions are constant throughout the year) the wedding season runs from around April 1 through the end of October. You may get a sprinkling of wedding bookings between November and March. To keep your cash flowing in a positive direction, you need to pursue other types of parties. During December (and into January), office Christmas/holiday parties will fill your weekends and many of your weeknights.

A good performance at office parties can get you locked in year after year. Its worthwhile to do a little research into what types of music the majority of the people like. Many offices listen to a certain radio station all day. Ask your clients what stations they prefer and if theres a special tune thats popular around the office. Encourage them to send you a list of their favorites in advance. Take this Job and Shove It by Johnny Paycheck, is an office party favorite (sometimes).
Retirement parties are like office parties except that the median age of the guests is higher. Bring along a good supply of 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s tunes.

Class reunions require extra emphasis on the years the guests spent together in school plus current favorites. Bring along an appropriate trivia book. A few good trivia questions can spice up your show.

For family events such as reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and bar mitzvahs, ask your client if there’s anything special they’d like you to do or play. In some areas, DJs who specialize in bar/bat mitzvahs charge several thousand dollars per job and earn every nickel. Along with the music, they provide everything from clowns, musicians and a dance troupe to hundreds of dollars worth of prizes and novelties. The entertainment is fast paced and constant.

The opportunities for innovative Mobile Entertainers are unlimited. As you make the rounds from party to party, youll meet a lot of other DJs. Some throw in song titles and artists, sounding almost like they are on the air. Others use props to make their show a little unique. Some DJs just sit and spin tunes. Which is best? It doesnt really matter. The audience will accept almost anything if you do it well. Throw a song title or artist in once in awhile but not over every record. An abundance of music trivia will be wasted unless you happen to have an audience thats really enjoying it. A little humor is fun when its spontaneous and relates to the audience. If everyone is dancing and having a great time, you may be better to keep the mic off and the mix hot.

What’s the rule? If they’re not leaving or complaining, you’re probably not doing anything wrong.

Once you begin distributing cards and advertising your business, it won’t be long before your phone will start ringing. While you may not be able to turn every call into a booking, your sales technique will improve with practice. Before long you’ll find your able to lock in a high percentage of callers.

On-Location Advertising

As you gain experience, you’ll soon find that each job you play yields two or three referrals. As long as you are consistent, reliable and put on an excellent show, your bookings calender will continue to fill. At the same time, competing DJ services that sit back and rest on their reputations will find that many of their bookings are being sucked up by new, more aggressive operators, like yourself. In the long run, it’s the customer who benefits, because the cream will rise to the top. Those who market the best will attract the best DJs, thereby establishing the best reputation. This, in turn, brings more bookings, which makes more money available for marketing and equipment. Its a continuous, positive growth cycle. No business ever stays the same year after year, it’s either spiralling up or sliding down. Make good marketing decisions, hire the best people, train them well, pay attention to the details and, above all, make customer satisfaction your top priority and your business will soon surpass all your competition.

If you are just starting out, get your feet wet by volunteering to play a few dances for friends or charities. As they say in auto racing, “get in your laps.” Get the feel of what it’s like to be the center of attention in a room full of people. Do it and keep doing it until it gets easier. Overcome the initial uneasiness of being in front of people by getting out from behind your table. Put yourself in the crowd, be a part of the party. Find out what tunes are the hot motivators in your particular region. Make an honest effort to play what they request and your name will spread fast.

If you are not performing, or preparing for a performance, then be promoting. When you have tried all the ideas in this book, come up with a few unique ideas of your own. Each day, more and more people are discovering the advantages of hiring DJ entertainment. As this market grows, so will the number of Mobile DJs. Increased competition forces us to work harder and market smarter in order to get the biggest share of the bookings.

New Opportunities

With an abundance of DJs serving the basic wedding and private party market, many mobiles have begun to explore new entertainment options to offer their clients. Here are a few examples:

Mobile Nightclubs are the next logical step for DJs who want to offer an overwhelming on-location entertainment extravaganza. These shows use a carefully designed combination of sound, lights, lasers,

video and effects. Much of the show is pre-programmed in advance. They are more expensive than a regular Mobile DJ. Raves (Rave parties) are an underground offshoot of this concept. Karaoke (ker-ray-o-kay) Sing-Along is an attraction that puts the audience members in the spotlight. It gives them an opportunity to come on stage and sing their favorite songs aided by TV monitors scrolling the lyrics. Some Karaoke systems include custom videos to match the lyrics, so the audience has something to watch if they don’t want to watch the singer. Others allow the operator video mix capabilities so the on-stage singer can be put on the monitor with the lyrics. New, compact Karaoke systems have made offering this entertainment concept a natural for Mobile DJs.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) makes it possible for a musician to use a keyboard, or other electronic instrument, with a home computer. Using MIDI, the musician can preprogram specific tracks of an arrangement, such as lead, rhythm and percussion, into the computer. On location, the musician adds live voice (either his or her own or a separate vocalist) and plays the one part of the arrangement. The rest of the accompaniment is recreated by the computer. A single musician who understands MIDI can create the illusion that the stage is full of live instrumentalists. In the future, MIDI will allow DJ/musicians to perform a show that’s part recorded and part live.

Interactive attractions such as Velcro walls, robotic boxing, foam parties, Sumo wrestling, and face painting have become a standard part of the menu for many DJ service operators. By packaging these attractions with their standard sound and light show, they can greatly up-sell clients. Large corporations, in particular, have found favor with DJs that can offer more than just music. While some operators may offer one or two of these attractions as an option, others have been successful producing full-fledged events from casino nights to summer carnivals.

The Complete Party Service is another concept that elevates a DJ service operator to a position of being a true entrepreneur. Along with providing DJs, these services take care of everything from getting the invitations printed, to cleaning up after the event. Through contacts with printers, caterers, limo services, entertainers, photographers, videographers, bridal consultants, florists, tux shops, party halls and other related businesses, a Complete Party Service will take care of 100% of the details of planning the event. The client need only show up, enjoy the party, and, of course, pay the bill.

Meet Your Party Host

Changes in technology combined with client demand have lifted the job of being a Mobile DJ to an exciting new level. Many DJs routinely include audience participation activities such as games and dance instruction as part of their shows. They have moved from being DJs to become party hosts. Advancements in technology have made it possible for a DJ to carry a complete music library on a computer hard drive. Through the use of wireless mics and remote controls, they can run their show from anywhere on the dancefloor.

It is now conceivable and possible for a DJ to bring only a laptop computer, amplifier and speakers to a job. Once at the scene, he simply sets up his speakers and amp and dials into the music bank. Online, he simply tells the computer what to mix and how to mix it.

Through the use of transition codes, the party host selects a series of tunes, and tells the computer how he wants the songs mixed. For example, with the proper code, he can program the computer to lay the beat of one song over another, hold it for ten seconds, then gradually fade the first one out. As the Party Host is not limited to just two, three or four music sources, he can create custom remixes, complete with digital effects, during his live performance.

Predicting what the DJ profession will be like ten or twenty years, in the new millennium is anybody’s guess. Through the use of digital electronics, the sound quality of today’s lightweight, compact systems is nothing short of astonishing. The trend is toward smaller, lighter and more powerful. For DJs who like the feel of an actual DJ mixer, computerized mixers with touch-sensitive faders will be the norm. Others will mix using touch-sensitive screens and keyboard commands. On the performance side, clients will grow to expect DJs to interact with their guests, at least to some degree.

If you were to travel by time machine to a DJ performance just ten or twenty years in the future, you may be totally surprised.

Technology is traveling at light speed. Everything new in electronics, be it sound, light, video or computers, has an impact on the mobile entertainment industry. What is your place in the future? Hopefully, through this book, you have gained a superior knowledge not only of the Mobile DJ business but of all thats out there for you to achieve if you just set your mind to it. Good luck!

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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: Digital DJ