The UN-Comfort Zone by Stu Chisholm

October 29, 2010 by Stu Chisholm

The UN-Comfort Zone



Your equipment is set up, you’ve changed into your tux and you’re looking over the evening’s itinerary as you await the arrival of your audience. The forms you use make the job a snap; you just run down the list, plugging in your standard routines as the night progresses. Sure you hit ‘em with the newest, hottest music when the time is right, but you’re also relaxed enough to check in on Facebook, toss out a tweet to your followers or quickly advance your caper in Mafia Wars. Your pulse never goes above 90 beats-per-minute.

With proficiency comes confidence, and our mindset reflects this. But having done hundreds or maybe even thousands of weddings and other events, your actions can become nearly automatic, like driving a car. But is this a good thing? Or might it be a silent alarm, alerting you to a problem?


We’ve all seen people who are inflexible. While they might have a world of experience, they also may have gotten stuck in their ways, unable to adjust to new conditions or situations. A sudden change or problem can throw them, taking them by surprise to the point where they fumble, while up to that point, they probably felt quite comfortable. Does this sound familiar?

This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but I always feel like I’m doing my best work when I’m walking that edge of my comfort zone; a space where I have control and a clear direction, yet have added enough innovation, novelty or even just a new piece of gear that I’m just ever so slightly uneasy. It not only helps me to improve over time, keeping my show fresh, but helps me to stay alert, attentive and focused. If I am able to give some of my attention to an instant message or even a call on my cellphone, it tells me that I’m NOT FOCUSED ENOUGH on the party at hand.


This also applies to before and after the gigs. At the Mobile Beat show in Las Vegas last February, Andy Ebon gave an excellent presentation on the changing face of marketing in the twenty-first century. Young couples communicate in young ways. If you’re not on Facebook and/or using Twitter, you may not even be on your prospect’s radar. Jorge Lopez took this concept a bit further in another seminar, breaking down our potential clientele by generation, and giving insights as to how best to approach them. I don’t think that Andy and Jorge had teamed-up on this topic! My guess is that they both perceive the reality that is the wedding market: Those who become too “comfortable” and don’t change with the times will not connect with their intended customers.

Being in the music-playing business, we should be more than comfortable with a constant background of change. From week to week, new music is released, and tried-and-true favorites fall by the wayside. It is a continuum, and what you play this weekend may not occur to you or anyone else a year or two from now. There will always be those tunes that are impossible to ignore today but gone tomorrow, and those tunes that will hang on seemingly forever. I’d be surprised if the year 2100 rolled around and people aren’t still partying to “Old Time Rock & Roll” or “Y.M.C.A.” somewhere.

By the same token, we may find things that work each and every time, yet a year down the road might make party guests groan! Yet the Hokey Pokey and Chicken Dance roll on and on. As Kenny Rogers sang in “The Gambler,” “You have to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” Don’t become so attached to any part of your show that you can never give it up if the changing times demand it. Yet be aware of your audience enough to know when that old chestnut will be the perfect song or activity for the moment! This can ONLY be accomplished by FOCUS—by paying attention to what matters and shutting out distractions. Don’t dread a curve ball, but let it energize you. Be the solution to a couple’s problem by thinking on your feet, having some emergency items in your bag of tricks. (I once saved a cake-cutting ceremony by having a serving set on-hand.) Use that problem, circumstance or setback to shine!

Well-known mobile DJ Randy Bartlett has also given much thought to this idea. In fact, it’s the basis for his 1% Solution DVDs, which give you an excellent tactic to deal with continuous change. His advice is simple: Don’t try for huge, sweeping changes to any facet of your show. Simply pay attention, maybe take notes, and then try to make small, incremental increases—each time a one percent improvement over the last show! Over time, those one percents will add up to a great deal of improvement. It is also a way to respond to the continuum of constant change. As with the above, this is also an idea to apply beyond the gig; the office, vehicle, marketing and all other facets of your business.


Conferences like the Mobile Beat shows, DVDs like Randy’s and the many books available at the Mobile Beat bookstore and elsewhere give you the benefit of many decades of DJ experience. As professional as the authors and presenters are, they’ve made ALL of the mistakes as they built their businesses and gained stature in the mobile DJ industry. Benefit from them! Making a few errors here and there is unavoidable. Making ALL of them yourself IS.

So remember: the next time you’re feeling right at home at an event, maybe yawning as your guests are enjoying themselves, listen to that inner alarm and ask yourself, “What am I missing?” If you’re honest, I can guarantee you’ll be able to answer that question yourself!

Until next time, safe spinnin’!

Stu Chisholm Stu Chisholm (52 Posts)

Stu Chisholm had been collecting music since he was about eight years old and began his DJ career in 1979. After much hard work, trial-and-error, and a stint at the Specs Howard School of Broadcast Arts, he studied the DJ arts with famous Michigan broadcaster, Bill Henning, at a local college. Stu interned at Detroit’s rock powerhouse, WRIF. To his radio and mobile work Stu later added club gigs at Detroit’s best venues, and voiceover work. He has shared his extensive DJ experience through his Mobile Beat columns, as a seminar speaker and through his book, “The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional DJ,” released in 2008.

Filed Under: 2010, Mobile DJ Performance Tips