Music on Ice: Cool Cash for Rink DJs by Stu Chisholm

July 9, 2009 by Stu Chisholm

is a new column by Stu Chisholm that draws on and expands upon material from his new book, The Complete Disc Jockey: A Comprehensive Manual for the Professional DJ. The book is published by ProDJ Publishing ( Go to and click on “Bookstore” or go to get your copy!

In my book, The Complete Disc Jockey, released last February, I detailed the many different types of DJs that there are besides the mobile variety. It turns out that DJs can turn up in the strangest places! Yet so many disc jockeys are unaware of the options open to them that, when times get tough and the economy takes a dip, their first impulse has been to take a job at the local fast food joint, on a landscaping crew or at an insurance office. I have always thought that this was a bit odd, since plastic surgeons don’t typically become mechanics and start doing brake jobs if demand for breast implants dries up! They choose something else within their field, such as liposuction or rhinoplasty. So why are DJs dabbling in non-entertainment pursuits or l eaving the field altogether? Don’t these mobile DJs know that other opportunities exist? Or have disc jockeys themselves actually bought into the idea that theirs is not a “real job?”

In this column, I intend to show not only that other DJ jobs exist, but how you can add to your bottom line by using the skills you already possess as a mobile DJ and land one of them. I’ll also go beyond the pages of my book, pointing out those new skills and techniques that you’ll need to excel in each area. This month’s topic: the Ice Rink.

Perhaps you’ve driven by your local ice rink (a.k.a. “skating center”) while going about your daily life, never giving it much thought. Yet that rink may be responsible for the employment of several different DJs in several different ways. First, an ice rink may have open skating sessions on certain days, or at certain times of day. Like a roller rink, someone will be needed to spin tunes and make announcements. Beyond this, it gets much more interesting.

Split Personality

There are two main activities that happen at ice rinks: hockey and figure skating. Both will use DJs, but in very different ways. For practice hockey sessions, there is seldom a full-time DJ present. Things change only during the games themselves. It then becomes the DJ’s job to ratchet up the excitement level before the game, keep the audience pumped up during the game, and engage them with some fun activities and participation songs during the gaps in the action.

The best example I can think of is Tim Campbell (a.k.a. “T”), the official DJ for the Detroit Red Wings at their Joe Louis Arena. He often uses some high-energy techno, such as “The Launch” by DJ Jean, to rev-up the crowd at the start of a game. Combined with the video display showing “Let’s Make Some Noise!” Campbell drives the audience, which in turn drives the energy in the room, making the players feel more energized as well. During the game, he’s been known to comment on the action, not with the mic, but with music. If Detroit takes a penalty, for instance, he might play “An Innocent Man” by Billy Joel, or he might tease the referee with “Open Up Your Eyes” by Tonic. On the other hand, if the visiting team is sent to the penalty box, he’ll play “I Fought the Law” by Bobby Fuller, or “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles. A savvy rink DJ will have little gems like these handy for every situation. Campbell is one of the most clever rink DJs in the business.

During period breaks, it’s time to break out the party/participation tunes, like “The Cha Cha Slide,” “The Twist,” and yes, even “Macarena.” This is also a good time for the sing-along songs, such as Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher,” with its call and response chorus. Anything to keep people occupied. Then, as the teams prepare to re-take the ice, it’s time for the high-energy music again; perhaps the “boom boom clap” opening of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Even if you’re only spinning for a local junior league team, creativity and versatility go a long way for a DJ working hockey games.

Go Figure

The yang to hockey’s yin, figure skating is the other major ice rink staple where the DJ will play a key role. As with hockey, a DJ usually isn’t used during daytime practice sessions, although his or her work may be in evidence. This is the time where coaches and skaters practice their routines, hone their skills, and become familiar with their programs. Music, of course, is the backdrop for those programs, and a DJ who is connected with a rink may be tapped to work with the coaches, skaters and parents to edit that music. Depending on the competition, a program may have to be as short as two minutes, all the way up to a long program of four and a half. The piece may also consist of more than one song, so a skater can show off his or her ability to handle changes in tempo and intensity, and also to have appropriate music for spins and other tricks. In short, this translates into daytime work for a DJ with music editing chops. It also helps justify the expense and time learning that fancy Audition, Sound Forge or ProTools software, too. The best cuts are true collaborations between the skater, coach and DJ.

Then there are the competitions themselves. Here, the rink DJ is critical, even though his/her role seems minimal at best. This is because the DJ might be nearly invisible, in a booth or box, out of sight from spectators. The DJ also may not be required to speak! Some leagues have their own announcer, making the rink DJ’s job just that much easier. If the rink DJ is required to speak, then it is vital to have the pronunciation of the names of the competitors down pat, and an itinerary of the order in which they’ll be skating. This can take some juggling, since changes are sometimes made right on up to the last minute! I suggest dry erase boards or to keep things straight without too much hair loss. The #1 consideration is to make sure the correct song-and VERSION of song-is played for the correct skater!

As I state in my book, this isn’t exactly a glamour job, as it is done mostly behind the scenes. Yet it is so integral to the competition that any mistakes are glaringly apparent! For a mobile DJ looking for additional income, who doesn’t mind the challenge, then it might be worthwhile to contact your local ice arena and see if there’s a place for you among the athletes.

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: 2009, Mobile DJ Performance Tips