Not long ago I saw a post in one of the countless DJ facebook groups asking if anyone knew of any DJs who where still out working in the 40s. Obviously, the individual who posted that has yet to grasp the fact that for many of us, being a DJ is life long career—no different than if someone choose to be a lawyer, financial planner, teacher or operate some other type of small business or franchise.
It may come as a surprise to some that there are a lot of DJs still out performing in their 60s, 70s and even 80s—and the reason is simple: they do a good job and have such great reputations that people keep booking them.
Among the many successful career DJs I know is “Mad” Joe Martin who lives in Wichita Falls, TX. Well-known among his peers, Joe has always been a positive force in the DJ industry, never hesitant to give back to others trying to establish themselves in the profession.
At the 2017 Mobile Beat show in Las Vegas, Joe will be talking about the importance of retirement planning, which is typically one of the last things younger DJs think about. But time has a way of flying by, and whether you are prepared for it not, there will come a time when you may want, or need, to back off or retire completely. So in advance of his talk, I decided to reminisce with Joe about his career and and get a sneak preview of what he’ll be talking about at the show.
Me: Joe, I know you are busy working on your presentation for the Mobile Beat show, so thanks for taking a few moments to talk. As we are both children of the early 50s, we have a lot in common as to how we came into the mobile DJ profession, specifically our backgrounds in broadcasting… talk a bit about your own time as a radio jock
Joe: At age 8 in 1959 I had the opportunity to stand in the control room with a radio disc jockey and I could just feel the excitement as he put a Buddy Holly record on this large Gates turntable. That was the day I told myself, I was going to become a disc jockey. The goal was achieved in 1970 when I took my first air shift. The take home pay was $75 per week.
Me: When did you make the transition to strictly doing mobile DJ jobs?
In 1973, to supplement my low radio pay, I became the area’s first club DJ. This was 5 years before John Travolta danced in Saturday Night Fever. The place was packed and the owners got rich. They paid me $3 per hour for a 4 hour shift.
In 1975 in an effort to supplement my low radio and club pay, I became the area’s first “mobile DJ”, years before that term was used. I was the first DJ in the Dallas and Oklahoma City phone directories. I marketed myself to schools throughout Texas and Oklahoma. The first school job was booked and I received $12 per hour on a 3 hour job. It was then, I realized I could make more money as a mobile DJ than staying full time in radio.
It was at this time that I went to part time weekend status in radio for an advertising trade out for my now, “thriving business”. I continued to work radio for a couple of decades and never saw a radio paycheck. Over the last 45 years in the same market, I have left radio a few times, only to go back, but it was done to keep my mobile business flourishing.
Me: In your opinion, when were the “golden years (the peak business years) to be operating a DJ Service?
I know many younger disc jockeys will disagree, but the ‘80s had to be the peak years for being a DJ. The industry was fairly new and there was little competition. We were coming off of Saturday Night Fever and The Urban Cowboy and it was a boom period. Each year found more and more entering the field. I became one of the in-house disc jockeys at an Air Force Base in the early ‘80s. That, coupled with my mobile work, kept me working over 200 nights per year. It was at this time that I first tried my hand at being a multi op.
If you are 55+ and still “DJ-ing” check out – https://www.facebook.com/groups/ProDJMCSeniorTour/
Me: Did you ever see this as a career… or did it just happen that way?
Joe: I always saw this as a career for me, even going all the way back to the ‘50s. As the decades progressed, I opened new doors to find more opportunities. I even took a part time job in a record store in the ‘80s in order to purchase my music at cost. I put out a weekly music survey for a while that was given away free at that record store. Of course, it promoted my business. I always looked for something new to help me reach the financial finish line.
One of the best moves I ever made, was in 1994 when I jumped head first into karaoke. I put in my 6 hours on the Sunday radio show for advertising trade out. I used half the radio commercials to promote my new karaoke operation. I then traded half of my radio spots to a beer distributor for nice promotional items to give away at karaoke. This was “thinking outside the box” before it was common.
Me: You were one of the first DJs I ever met who actually had a retirement plan early on. What are some of the things you’ve done to prepare for the future?
Joe: Bob, I could write a book and may do so some day. Being the son of a banker, I knew the importance of saving. I saved $5 out of my first $75 radio paycheck. Hell, I may still have that $5. I started reading Money Magazine 40 years ago and opened my first Individual Retirement Account in 1976. I have 3 accounts now. I leaped into the stock market early in the ‘80s and have seen numerous corrections. I have given myself an experience education far greater than any college course could have prepared me for. Discipline, hard work, a strong will to succeed, and a little luck have enabled me to reach the finish line in good shape.
If you are heading out to Las Vegas for the Mobile Beat show, be sure to catch Joe’s presentation. After the show, we’ll get his take on how receptive the crowd was to what he had to say, and pass some long some information you can use in planning for your own future — Bob
Filed Under: Business, Business, Karaoke, Robert Lindquist
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