ROBBIE BRITTON AND THE ARMDJS SHOW: EQUIPPING DJS TO WIN
Back in 2008, Robbie Britton had a major brainstorm. He wanted to put together a summer conference for DJs. When
he located the event in rural Tennessee, many treated him like the non-believers treated Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams. He heard a voice saying “If you build it, they will come.” Well, Robbie didn’t have such a mystical experience; he just got down to work. And wouldn’t you know it: He built a high-quality educational/networking event for mobile DJs…and they came. Mobile Beat publisher Ryan Burger sat down with Robbie to get the full story on this growing DJs conference.
Ryan Burger: I’m here with Robbie Britton of the ArmDJs conference. Robbie, could tell us how the ArmDJs show differs from the national conference that we run, and a little bit about how it got started?
Robbie Britton: Well, the best way to explain it is to go back on the history just a little bit. I was at Mobile Beat, I’ve been going to Mobile Beat for 12 years now, and back in 2008 I was at the Mobile Beat conference and I was talking to some friends of mine about the fact that there are so many people back home that just don’t have access to this sort of thing; they can’t travel this far for whatever reason, meaning traveling from East Tennessee or the East Coast to Vegas.
And it was just like, you know what? It’d be great if we had something regional, something in our market that would make it a little easier. And it was a seed that was planted. Then the other part was, in my market there are so many guys I’d love to have hear Mark Ferrell’s [“worth”] message. And this whole conversation that”s in the hallway, different conversations going on after the seminars at Mobile Beat in 2008, was kind of what sparked the whole thing off and got me started.
Ryan B: Obviously you have the same kind of vibe that I do.
I’ve brought out people like Mark Ferrell, Peter Merry and Randy Bartlett to Des Moines, just to reach the DJs and improve the market around us. I’m guessing there a lot of DJs in your neck of the woods who are just up and down on quality, and you want to help raise the bar. Right?
Robbie B: Yeah. I mean, IÕm in a very small market. Greeneville, Tennessee, where I’m DJing…we’ve got 15,000 people. Now, within 30 minutes there are four or five other towns. And you’ve got the Knoxville/Asheville/Bristol region right there. And these guys, you know, I was surprised to find out when I came home from Mobile Beat how many people did not know what Mobile Beat was, did not know the national associations that are out there, who they were. They just do their thing in their little market and they never know any better.
And looking back, that was me 10 years before that, before I went to Mobile Beat. Mobile Beat was kind of the catalyst that got me taking my business to another level.
So I just thought, getting the message that Mark was pushing at the time, that DJs should get what they’re really worth, the original message was just something that needed to be heard in my market somehow. And I’m four hours from Atlanta, and he’s hit that market. But getting guys to go four hours, the average DJ just wasn’t going to do that.
So I’m like, let’s bring it to East Tennessee. And I chose my hometown. I believe itÕs also about the relationships I had with local venues, and I’m like, let’s make it happen here. And that’s kind of how the whole thing got started; get Mark Ferrell in my market.
Ryan B: It is a regional show, but at the same time there are people that do travel from all over the country for it. How did that happen?
Robbie B: Well, first, when I decided to do the ArmDJs conference, I was talking to Mark Ferrell. He was doing a little tour and he was going to be in my market, or around my market, passing through my market, I guess I should say, in June. So that’s why we chose June 23rd, the first year in 2008.
And just getting people to show up just to hear Mark, I was a little worried about that. So I created other value around it.
And what I did was I brought in Jim Cerone, and his topic at the time was “the perfect host.” And Scott Faver with interactive games, Scott’s always a good draw for something like this. And then Larry Williams, doing the “changing public perception” thing.
So I put together this mix of speakers, of course, Dr. Drax from the American Disc Jockey Association, he spoke also about the national association. So we had this good mix of value that turned out to be, instead of a one-night workshop for Mark Ferrell, turned out to be an all-day conference. And it just kept growing from that.
And then I did my announcement in April, actually on April Fools Day in 2008, I did my announcement for it, on the forums, and people were like, there’s no way you put that kind of talent up in Greeneville, Tennessee. And they thought it was a joke. But then once the buzz started going, it just took off like crazy.
So people from Louisville, Kentucky were coming down; from Cincinnati; we had people from Florida coming in to play that first year; Nashville, Kelly Farmer and all those guys from Nashville coming up; a lot of guys from South Carolina,
Charlotte, that area, they were coming over. So it kind of blew my mind how the word got out pretty quick for a first-year event. Because they saw this lineup and they believed it was easily accessible for them in this region.
Ryan B: Wow. So tell me a little bit about how you’ve worked to take this to a whole other level with what you call 5.0.
You’re bringing in some national heavy hitters beyond just the DJ industry, aren’t you?
Robbie B: Yeah. You know, and to get to that point, every year we kept adding more and doing different things and really stepping up the game, as we got more support from attendees and people that wanted to attend. It was a three-year plan originally; just three years, regional event, and go from there. And there’s so many people coming in, and that was it. I had guys coming from England. Last year I had a guy from Australia. I’ve had people fly in from California, Minnesota, literally from all over the country people are coming to this event now. I decided on a two-day format last year, and I brought in Michael Port. I wanted to go to a two-day format to give more value for those…from outside our market traveling in.
We did Michael Port last year and we had two different tracks. We brought back Todd Mitchem, and Mike Walter was brought in; Marchello spoke. And it was just a good mix last year, and it just naturally progressed. This year we’re going to take it to another level. And as luck would have it, and a little bit of Twitter skill, I was able to secure Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m pretty excited about this year’s event. It’s going to be a two-day format in Greeneville, Tennessee. And Gary Vaynerchuk is going to be speaking at a DJ conference.
Ryan B: All right. Tell us a little bit more about Gary and stuff. I’ve known of him but the average DJ does not. So give us a little bit of the lowdown on him.
Robbie B: Well, speaking off the top of my head, the basic history of Gary is that his family moved to America, immigrants, started working for the family’s liquor store/wine store that his parents took over at some point, and Gary grew up in that store helping out with inventory, learning a couple of things, that sort of thing.
And he figured out early on that when he was a kid, trading baseball cards and stuff, that people like to trade things and they see value in things that they trade around and collect.
And through his parent’s store, he figured out that people liked wine, they liked to trade wine; they liked to buy wine; try new ones. And so he really cashed in on that, how can you monetize that and get more people to buy different kinds of wine, try wines and help grow the wine side of the business.
And when he became old enough to really get involved, one day he literally had one of my employees bring a Flip camera in and he just turned on the video camera and started talking about wine. And over the months he started getting more followers. People watched his wine reviews. He used Twitter and different social media to bring in the audience.
He’s big on communicating, not trying to scam the audience with, you know, sometimes we use social media all wrong…
So through his experience, not speaking in theory, but in practical use, he used social media to build and grow their wine business to a multi-million-dollar business, and he did it by just flipping on a Flip camera and tweeting it and responding on Twitter. I mean, how awesome is that? And if he can do that, imagine what we can do if we learn how to use Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn, a little better?
Ryan B: DJs by their nature are the technical, high school audio/video geeks. So we understand the technology; it’s just using it in the right way is the big difference. In addition to Mr. Vaynerchuk, tell us who else is on the docket.
Robbie B: Well, we also have Jeffrey Gitomer, you know him, we have some certified speakers from his camp. Last year we brought in Patrick Henry. He’s real energetic, little bit of a comedian kind of motivational speaker last year, kind of after wake everybody up. And he did such a great job that I brought him back this year to speak on words that sell. And that’s a new program that Gitomer’s working on that he’s got some of his speakers trained on. And I’m using that to build value, kind of help DJs with the sales process. Rob Peters is coming in, talking about the mobile DJ marketing calendar. I’m not even going to try and explain that. We’ll have bios on that on the website that’ll explain it a little better. It’s some concepts of marketing, marketing ahead of time, getting ready for what’s coming up. I’ve got a friend of mine that’s got a hypnosis show in Gatlinburg, Tennessee that’s figured out how to market and sell the show. He’s in a market in Gatlinburg, the average person’s in town about three days. So if he doesn’t advertise, he’s out of business in three days. So he’s going to come in, talk about how to market to your audience and stay “top of mind” with people, because he’s really grown his business and is selling out shows during the week and on the weekends in the Gatlinburg area throughout the year.
Also we have DJ P. DJ P has just won the Master of the Mix on BET, where they have DJs from around the country come in and compete. DJ P is kind of a traditional vinyl-type DJ; he’s got the turntables and everything. He’s not big on the whole Serato thing; he’s more of a vinyl guy. But he’s one of those guys that help originate the mashup.
He was known in vinyl, he was laying down two records and doing the mix for years and got that whole vibe and genre going. And he’s going to come in and speak a little bit about mixing, also about leading a crowd, what his whole take on music, he’s got a really interesting take on music. Plus I hope we can pick his brain a little bit about branding because he’s a club jock that’s now been on national TV and he’s touring around the country. He’s been on the BET TV tours and competed in different contests and stuff. He’s a guy from smalltown America that’s made it big and I think we can learn a lot from him coming in.
Ryan B: Fantastic. Is there anything else you want people to know about the ArmDJs show, short of how to get a hold of you?
Robbie B: Well, there’s a huge lineup. We’re going to have about nine different speakers speaking this year. Oh, breakfast with the Game Master. Scott Faver’s going to be in doing breakfast. Brian Brushwood, he’s a magician coming in, going to be speaking about aweing the crowd, owning the room. You know, being a magician that can walk in front of an audience with just him and winning the audience over; there’s something to be learned there.
I’ve just got a good mix of business and performance stuff that we’re going to have in this. It’s a conference that’s made to touch on a little bit of everything in the business, from sales/marketing to the networking side.
We start the whole thing off with a party. We set up, it’s called the “Meet, Greet, “n” Jam.” And we did this the first year and it’s been something we’ve done every year. And basically what we do there, we set up a full back line of band equipment, the drums, guitars, everything. And if you can play an instrument, get on stage and jam. And a lot of DJs have that music background, what they did in bands and stuff. Me, I have no talent at all when it comes to playing an instrument. So it just blows me away when I see these guys get onstage and pick up a guitar. You know, in
30 seconds they sound like they’ve been playing together for years. So that’s pretty awesome.
Then we do a little karaoke mixer one night. It’s just a good vibe in small-town
America. There’s no big distractions. And when you come to this conference, you’re going to be really, zone in on the conference and camaraderie and the good people there. ItÕs always been a good mix of people and itÕs kind of humbling that it’s grown to what it has now.
Ryan B: Well, tell us people who are interested in going to the show where to check it out, how much it costs. Give me that lowdown and then we’re all set.
Robbie B: Okay. So you want to go to ArmDJs.com. A lot of people say “ArmsDJ”, it kind of sounds that way. But it’s really ArmDJs. The reason we did that was kind of describing the area. It’s the Appalachian Mountains, which are near here, it’s the Appalachian Regional Mobile Disc Jockey Symposium.
So that’s where the whole ArmDJs thing comes from. It’s ArmDJs.com. We’ve got a little countdown thing there, shows how many days to the big conference. Click on that and buy your pass. Right now if you click on that, the pass price is at $259. But if you use the promo code “MBLV”, for Mobile Beat Las Vegas, you can save $70 on your pass. The pass covers the two-day event and access to everything that’s going on.
Oh, I didn’t mention this. We also have sponsors that will set up booths. Northern Light Effects always comes; Eternal Lighting’s going to be here; DJ Event Planner, just to name a few. There’s quite a few, TriceraSoft’s going to be here…So we have a few people. We don’t have a big trade show. It’s more of a small regional type of hallway-kind of trade area. But you get a lot of good one-on-one time with these guys and pick different things up about what they’re doing.
Ryan B: Well, I appreciate the respect you show for Mobile Beat and your vibe off the thing. That’s why we were excited about working with you when you contacted us late last fall.
So let’s get a crowd out to ArmDJs, and hopefully I’ll see you guys all there. I’m going to try to get down myself.
Robbie B: Yeah. I hope you can. I think what you’re doing out there in Vegas is so awesome. Twelve years and I can’t, I’m already making my plans for next year and I can’t see not going to Vegas. To me, it’s been a big inspiration for what I’m doing out here in my little regional market. MB
Filed Under: Issue #141, Profiles
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