Three female DJs describe their roads to success in the male-dominated world of mobile entertainment
The Mobile DJ Industry is experiencing a face-lift, as men no longer dominate the role of the mic-master and mix-master. Here are three leading ladies who have put their girlish influence on the “masculine” DJ world.
Elisabeth Scott Daley – Daley DJs
The desire to be her own boss, combined with many talents and a sassy southern charm, gave Elisabeth Scott Daley what she needed to succeed in the mobile DJ business.
Elisabeth Scott Daley has certainly made her mark in the entertainment industry for many years. The multi-talented southerner has been a full time professional entertainer since 16. Her list of talents includes acting, singing, dancing, directing, producing, event planning, emceeing, and, of course, DJing.
As a graduate of The Boston Conservatory of Music, she began freelancing as an interactive dancer for a large entertainment company out of New York City in 1989, while pursuing her musical theatre ambitions. She then found herself working in sales, managing events, and DJing.
Elisabeth or “Liz” soon became addicted to mobile DJing; she realized she had found a profession that combined all of her skills and talents. “I wanted to still be an entertainer, be my own boss, and not have a really boring job,” she recalls.
In 2003, she decided to pack up her things, move back to her home state of Virginia, and start her own mobile DJ company. “I said to myself, why don’t I buy the equipment – I can do that!”
Since then, Elisabeth has established herself as a Wedding Entertainment DirectorTM, DJ, master of ceremonies, wedding planner and coordinator. Her mobile DJ business, Daley DJs, produces around 45 weddings per year, covering Eastern Virginia and the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Today’s weddings are productions. So, being a DJ in the wedding industry is not just about playing the music-it involves wearing many hats. Because of her professional entertainment background, Liz definitely has an advantage: “One thing that sets me apart from many other DJs is that I have a performance background and was trained as a stage director.”
Another thing that obviously sets Liz apart is the fact that she is a female. But, she doesn’t think there’s much of a difference between guy DJs and girl DJs. “Everyone has their own personal style and you have to embrace it. I don’t think it’s a guy/girl thing. I am distinctly feminine and I’m going to use that as a performer.” She will admit that as a female DJ/MC in the wedding industry, she takes on a different role than perhaps a male would. “You take on the role of nurturer. I am the bride’s best friend and instinctually want to take care of her.”
Liz loves doing weddings because she gets to work with different people every week and that every week it’s a brand new event. But, the most rewarding part of her job is the personal satisfaction of a bride coming up to her at the end of the night saying “You made this the best night ever.” She says, “Those words are golden!”
Even though Elisabeth is a self-starter, she wouldn’t be where she’s at today without the friends and mentors who have helped her along the way: producers, directors, teachers and fellow performers who helped nurture and define her skills and talents as an entertainer and who she is as a person. She thankfully acknowledges many of them here: specifically, her husband, Steve for his unwavering love and support; Ed Frank for introducing her to a nationwide DJ industry; Cap Capello for welcoming her with open arms and helping in anyway he could; Mark Ferrell, who told her she was worth more; Bill Hermann, who told her to trust her instincts; Jim Cerone, who always reminded her to be a lady; and finally, Peter Merry for his friendship and guidance.
Elisabeth’s success was recognized in the wedding industry when she became the first woman to be accepted into the Wedding Entertainment Director’s GuildTM, and the first woman on its Board of Directors.
When asked, “You are a girl-how can you do all that?” without hesitation and a lot of energy, Liz exclaims, “If you want to do it, then do it!”
Lisa Kasberg- I’m A Girl DJ Entertainment
Born into a family of musical talent, Lisa Kasberg couldn’t ignore the beat of her ambitious heart calling her to leave New Jersey and head out to Los Angeles, where she aspired to march to that beat, on her own drum.
Lisa was pursuing a singing and songwriting career, while working as a sales associate in a mall. Juggling a full time job and work on a music career was extremely frustrating. Two of her brothers had moved out to Palm Springs and owned a mobile DJ company. They asked if she would be interested in working for them on the weekends as a DJ. “I immediately put two and two together,” she remembers. “Work as a DJ on the weekends and free up my time through the week to pursue singing/songwriting.”
Because she loved it so much, it didn’t take her very long to catch on. She was given her first party after only training for 6 months. Following her first party, she admits that she was hooked! Lisa continued to work for three more years until she decided she wanted to start her own company. First, she began working for as many other DJ companies in LA as she could, while still grinding away at a part-time “real job.” Then in 1993, Lisa established I’m A Girl DJ Entertainment. Within a couple years she was able to say goodbye to her job and quit working for the other companies.
There are two actions she took at the beginning that Lisa claims were the smartest things she did. “I named my company I’m a Girl DJ Entertainment, because it was something people would remember. People thought it was really clever. I would get phone calls from people who just saw the advertisement. The second thing that catapulted my career is that I sent out a letter to every single family member or friend in Southern California and told them that I was starting my own DJ company and if they knew of anyone who knew needed a DJ for any event to please refer me.”
At the time this was all taking place, females were few and far between in the mobile DJ industry. For Lisa, it was a reality that came with challenges. “When I first started in 1989, I didn’t know any female DJs. I felt like I was all by myself.” When her brothers started putting her on the events she says, “My mindset was, I’m the only female DJ and that’s a bad thing.” Lisa also reveals that a lot of times early on in her career she wouldn’t get hired as a DJ because they didn’t think a girl could handle it. She felt herself become resentful about it. But, her attitude changed after a particular gig. “I remember doing an event one night, and it was so fantastic and I walked away charged from it…I finally realized that my perspective on it was totally wrong. And I needed to change that.” As soon as her mentality changed, she reports, everything turned around. “I realized that this is to my advantage and not my disadvantage.”
When she is doing a wedding, in particular, Lisa has definitely used her female perspective as an advantage. “It is different than the male perspective, and nothing against the guys. Cause all my friends are DJs and are guys. But when you interview the bride for the first time and are talking to them about their dress and flowers, there’s a connection that you make.” Lisa prides herself on her strong listening skills: “I don’t talk a lot when I’m interviewing clients. I only ask them questions about what their heart’s desire is about their event. That’s what makes my company stand out. It’s all about what their vision is.”
Lisa’s own vision has resulted in running a multi-system operation that entertains for weddings and corporate events across Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange counties. She also travels up north to Sacramento a couple times a year. In addition to music entertainment, the company also provides the option of a photo booth, black light show, or photo guest book. During the holiday season, she produces three big shows for corporate events. A game show, a variation of the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars, and a Whose Line Is It Anyway?-style comedy show that uses local actors from the infamous Groundlings school.
Lisa has also been extremely involved in the wider DJ world. She is a member of the ADJA, as well as a regular participant and speaker at the Mobile Beat conventions. She also competed in the American Disc Jockey Awards three years in a row, taking home the Female Entertainer of the Year award each time. And many of you might know her for “Do the Dance,” which she wrote and choreographed in 1998.
Locally, she is a member of a group called Women of Weddings. It’s composed of female wedding vendors at the top of their game in Southern California. They meet monthly and discuss issues that occur at their events, so they can help each other make their events better and also help one another establish contacts to generate more business. “It’s also a great resource for brides.” Lisa adds. “When all of us are working on one wedding, it’s magical.”
Not only does this impressive woman run a successful mobile DJ company, she has also found a way to give back to humanity. With her singing and songwriting talents, she decided to write and record a song called “Extraordinary Woman” to send to her aunt who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer at the time. Her hope was to inspire her to fight it. Sadly, her aunt never really got to hear the song, since she passed shortly after. In result, Lisa decided to do something else. “I felt so blessed with my life and felt the need to do something in this life before I die to help someone else.” She produced a video using the song and sent it to her friends and then had them pass it onto their friends who they thought were extraordinary women. Her song can be purchased for 99 cents on the I’m A Girl DJ website, or you can purchase a $20 gift set that includes the song with the framed lyrics. All the net proceeds go to Singleton Moms and Angels 4 TLC. Singleton Moms is an organization to help single moms who are battling cancer and Angels 4 TLC is a Foundation created for a particular extraordinary woman, who is currently fighting an aggressive form of breast cancer. You can read more about both on the website at www.imagirldj.com.
Male or female, Lisa Kasberg’s success as a DJ entertainer can be an inspiration to others who are new to the business or who are thinking about beginning their own company. But to the females, specifically, Lisa advises, “Do not be intimidated by the fact that it is a male-dominated industry. Being a female in this industry will actually bring you success.” She believes there are two qualities that every successful DJ should have: “Not only do you have to be a really great DJ and MC, you also have to be a smart business person.”
Despite the fact that her music career has ended up marching to a beat she never could have imagined 20 years ago, Lisa considers herself incredibly blessed. “I have a profession that allows me to have the freedom to do whatever I want to do through the week, besides booking parties, and be around people who are happy. I make a wonderful living, I wouldn’t do anything else but DJ.”
Valerie Miller – VIP DJ Entertainment
Whether she’s mixing music behind the DJ booth or helping plan an event, Valerie Miller knows how to make each of her clients feel like a star at their own very important party. Though Valerie only started VIP DJ Entertainment a short time ago, she has been entertaining at events in Southern California as a DJ and emcee for 12 years.
The native Southern Californian came into the mobile DJ business through the entertainer’s side. She was an aspiring actress in Hollywood trying to make ends meet. “As an actress,” she says, “you’re always looking for that extra little job to keep you alive; and there was an entertainment company that posted an ad that said, ‘Want to learn how to MC and get paid?!'” Having no fear and a vivacious personality, Valerie was a natural on the mic, but the company ended up training her as a DJ first, in spite of the fact that female DJs were unheard of. “When I started it was really a man’s world. People were really shocked when they saw me carrying in a 50-pound speaker.”
In addition to learning as much as she could from working at events, Valerie also spent many hours at home practicing. She eventually sought more work as a DJ/MC with other mobile companies in the area.
There was nothing about the mobile DJ industry that Valerie didn’t like. “I love
everything. I love the smell of the equipment. I love setting it up and putting it together. I love mixing music.”
With her passion for DJing, combined with the encouragement of others and help from her mentors, Valerie was certain she could do all of this on her own. “Once you put your mind to something it starts to happen gradually.”
It’s only been four years since VIP DJ Entertainment was born, and already the Southern California company produces 120 events per year, specializing in weddings. “The best thing about DJing weddings is the fact that you’re there for such a great occasion,” says Valerie. “I think being a female DJ definitely helps out a lot, because the brides confide in you as another female, and know that you’re trying everything you can-that you know how important every little detail is to a girl.” It’s simply a fact that men and women speak different languages, especially when it comes to weddings. As Valerie jokingly puts it, “Guys want to talk about the gear and the lights-it’s not an emotional thing for them. They want to see what’s under the hood!”
As her company flourished, Valerie also started raising a family with her husband…a different kind of challenge than what she faced as a first-time entrepreneur. “It’s hard to grow while you’re growing!” she says. “You have to call the brides letting them know you’re going to bring an assistant with you…you’re like, oh my gosh, this is a whole new territory!” The most shocking thing of all was the fact that she still found herself in demand. “It was funny, because everyone was still trying to book the fat, pregnant DJ!”
Valerie found it hard to give up control at her events. “You’re so used to running the show on your own, but you had to rely on other people.” But it actually helped her out in the long run, because the people she hired to help her ended up becoming part of the company’s staff after the baby was born. Now, the VIP staff is a big part of what’s unique about VIP DJ Entertainment. “We all provide the highest level of service that we can and give personal attention to each client and do it in a creative and organized way.”
The company’s ability to make each client feel so important has certainly paid off. The online wedding portal The Knot (www.theknot.com) has honored them the past two years with the Best of Weddings Award for the Los Angeles area.
Now that she has the role of a mom and the role of a business owner under her belt, Valerie looks forward to what the future will bring: “I’m thinking of expanding the company in a new direction and starting to do kids’ and family-oriented events.”
Valerie also hopes to inspire other females to join the mobile DJ industry. “Believe in yourself. Have the confidence. Don’t worry about what others are doing!” Because when it’s all said and done, “It’s fun to hang out with the guys! It’s like you’re one of the boys!”
What started off as a college cash fund soon became a passion for DJ DAYna, aka Dayna Solomon, fell in love with the energy she found behind the turntables and in front of a crowd, and has been spinning as a mobile and club DJ ever since. She moved from Ohio to Los Angeles in 2006, where she freelances as a DJ/MC for special events.
Filed Under: Issues from 2009
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