The DJ Industry’s Perfect Storm by Michael Edwards

March 28, 2008 by Mobile Beat Staff Writer

Stormy weather…With the following report, I didn’t set out to write a foreboding “doom & gloom” downer predicting the end of the DJ world as we know it! Instead, I simply hope to increase awareness and start widespread discussion about the impact of the combined circumstances that are currently hitting the DJ industry hard and simultaneously, like so-called “the perfect storm.” These elements are the economy, iPod® technology and the Internet.The Economy: “Let’s just have a small party at home.”
In January 2008, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams reported that “Economic recession may be upon us,” citing factors like rising unemployment, which had recently hit 5%; oil prices that topped $100 a barrel for the first time ever; a weak dollar worldwide; a “down” stock market; and an all-time high number of home mortgage foreclosures creating a ripple effect that saw home prices plunging throughout the real estate market. The overall result was an increasing economic caution across America. The year 2007 saw the loss of 49,000 construction jobs, 31,000 manufacturing jobs and 24,000 retail jobs, according to news report. Holiday hiring last December was termed “anemic.” The general public is not spending like they used to because they’re simply afraid!
To the DJ industry, this means two things: There will be fewer functions planned and less money being spent on those events that are held. If you’re a DJ in the running for any type of gig, anywhere, the competition will be much greater and the DJ price war far more aggressive than ever before. That’s only the first part of the perfect storm…

iPod Technology: “Everyone’s a DJ”
A lot has been written about the impact of the iPod and other MP3 players on the DJ industry. I was one of the majority of DJs who didn’t raise a hand when we were all asked “How many here are worried about being replaced by iPods at weddings” at a Mobile Beat DJ convention in Las Vegas. Very few were worried because we all understand the vital role a pro DJ actually plays in the success of a wedding reception, and that fact has not changed at all. What HAS changed over the last 3 years is the public’s perception of the importance of the DJ’s role.
The average person’s image of a DJ is now much lower thanks to continual damage done by countless amateur DJs now being used at so many functions. Our value to potential clients and the importance of our service, beyond just the music, is also being distorted by infuriating, ill-informed articles on major wedding websites and in magazine articles being written by truly clueless wedding “experts.” Some are actually now recommending iPods as a viable alternative to a DJ at a wedding!!
“What could be easier?” wrote Lori Leibovich, the editor of IndieBride.com, a Web site for brides. “You bring it, you program it, it sounds great. It doesn’t surprise me at all that more people are doing it.” In an internet article entitled “Would You Trust an iPod to DJ Your Wedding,” by Jacqui Cheng, summed up her article like this: “…it seems like the trend of young people (particularly young professionals and techies such as ourselves, who likely already have access to iPods and tons of digital music) using iPods and other self-operated technologies to provide music for the greatest day of your life will only continue to grow. I know that if I were to ever have a wedding, I would definitely opt the money-saving route and throw together my own playlist on an iPod (or better yet, on my laptop and more easily be able to entertain requests) without hesitation.”
Reader comments were posted on the subject and these two stuck out: “Our caterer told us that the iPod as replacement for a DJ is now super-common.” And, “Back in the day, portrait painters were an important field, with lots of work to be had. Now, we have cameras. Manufacturers of buggy whips used to be busy, with so many horses and buggies and all. Now, we have cars. See a pattern?”
Kathleen Murray, senior editor for online wedding publisher TheKnot.com from New York wrote: “Many of our brides and grooms are catching on to this trend. It also gives them the chance to put their own personal spin on it. They can have so much fun putting together the ultimate play list, getting suggestions from friends and family members.”
Do you advertise on TheKnot.com like I do? I wonder what national photographer associations would do if the very magazines they advertised in told brides to stick with disposable cameras to save a buck?
Yet still, the unassuming and innocent-looking iPod is just a small part of the “perfect storm”…

The Internet: “Why don’t you all just post your prices?”
What may be the final component to our “perfect storm” of converging factors for the climate change of the DJ industry is the way most clients now find us, contact us and book us: the Internet. Clients now have millions of DJs to choose from in long scrolling lists that make us all look pretty much the same. In the minds of many clients, a DJ is a DJ. And when incorrectly perceived and lumped together as being basically all the same “product” (just someone standing there pushing the play button on a laptop or iPod) then the cheapest price “must” be my best choice.
We must also “thank” the internet for the ease and availability of illegal music file sharing and downloading. I’ve spent well over $25,000 for my music collection since going full time in 1979. Where becoming a DJ once required a large initial expenditure, it’s now a career choice available “free” to anyone with a $300 iPod and a cheap pair of powered speakers, who’s willing to ignore copyright laws and download an entire collection.
Annoyed clients ask why we don’t have our prices posted on our website…so they can instantly rule out the “overpriced” DJs right away. The days of personal contact and developing a rapport with every potential client are dwindling. If you answer email pricing inquiries that haven’t left you a contact phone number, a location or any details by politely thanking them and suggesting that they call you to discuss their function and their entertainment needs in detail, you may have already learned: That’s not what they want to hear. They often don’t even reply to our response at all; they’ve glanced at our website, they don’t want to talk to us for fear of a “sales pitch,” and they don’t want to learn about our services since “all DJs are alike,”-they just want the price. Makes you wonder: Just what is the price…of progress?

Umbrella?
What can we do to navigate through the torrent of combined elements that make up this “perfect storm” battering the DJ world? Perhaps the economy will improve with a new administration in Washington next year. Maybe enough bad iPod weddings will open the public’s eyes to that ridiculous non-option (like the excellent example now offered on the ADJA website-Dr. Drax: Please send a copy to The Knot to help educate their “experts” before they dispense any more advice). Perhaps, after enough web-based mistaken, impersonal decisions on entertainment, the personal services that quality DJs try to offer clients will be valued once again and make a comeback. And by the way, maybe the soaring price of gasoline will force us to find new modes of transportation? Anyone need a buggy whip?

Michael Edwards is the owner of AllStar Entertainment, a licensed, bonded musical entertainment agency in Andover, MA. Full-time since 1979, Mike is one of 20 AllStar DJs at his agency. A member of the Mobile Beat Advisory Board and the American Disc Jockey Association, Michael’s company was recently voted “Best of Boston” wedding DJs in The Knot Magazine’s “Best of Weddings 2007.” Mike can be contacted at 978-470-4700, BostonsBestDJs@aol.com. Check out the agency at www.getadj.com

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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: Everything Else, Issues from 2008