Shut Out! BY: Stu Chisholm

January 1, 2013 by Aaron Burger


Over the years I’d seen the
venue’s ads in the bridal
magazines and noticed that they
always had a booth at the local
bridal shows, but this was my
first gig at the facility. After the setup and sound check, I made my
customary walk-around “tour” as
I always do when performing in a
new hall; I take detailed notes on everything from which entrances
are designated for loading in, to
where the breaker boxes are. I
came across the main office, an
elaborate affair that resembled
a gift shop more than a place of
business. It was then I noticed the reason why it took nearly 30 years to be booked at this venue: their
“one-stop shopping” packages.
It seems that they have their own in-house DJ service. And beyond that, my clients, a family who have used me for years, apparently had to pay a premium to have me as their DJ.
With an economy that is recovering ohso-slowly, it appears that this trend has become ever more common. If a venue wants to generate more money despite booking fewer events, they have to offer more goods and services to the clients they do manage to attract.
Just as I advise DJs in my book, The Complete Disc Jockey, these venues have opened up new revenue streams, such as offering photography, videography and DJ services of their own. In a nutshell, DJs are beginning to understand how photographers and videographers felt when they began adding those services to their own stable of offerings!
I have spoken to many DJs, some of whom are outraged, some even threatening to take legal action. The trouble is that, at least in my state, the venue doesn’t run afoul of “restraint of trade” laws unless they actually lock out other services. Simply offering their own is not illegal; it?s smart business.
More familiar to most of us are those venues that require DJ services to carry liability insurance in order to work in the facility. And yes, that means that any service not carrying said insurance WILL be barred at the door.
Some venues, due to their local laws, actually require the DJ service to provide them with an insurance certificate that specifically names their business.
Certainly liability insurance is something that every legitimate entertainment business should carry. Yet is this a reason to literally bar the door? How many of us began our DJ businesses having never even HEARD of such insurance? How many years did we operate successfully, ethically and professionally without it? Again, I’m not debating the wisdom of having a good liability insurance policy. I’m simply questioning whether or not this is being used as an excuse to bar the door to beginners and semi-professionals. Photographers hate to lose jobs to photo booths and disposable cameras. Videographers hate to lose jobs to “Uncle Ned” who has a digital camcorder and some editing software. As a DJ, I know I hate to lose a job to an amateur with an iPod and illegally downloaded music. Is our zeal to be “fully insured” really about protecting our business and client, or is it a way to shut out the competition?
The simplest way to remove the insurance barrier is simply to buy a policy. We don’t have to like it, but considering how litigious our society has become, we could end up saving money (and even our whole business) in the long run. On the upside, going through the ADJA, NAME and other groups can lower the cost of a policy enough to make it affordable to just about anyone.
Getting into a venue as their “in-house DJ” is a bit more difficult. Many have hired and trained their own entertainers.
Others may require the DJ to work exclusively for their facility. If they’re working with an outside company on a less strict basis, then there’s the obvious downside of working for less money. After all, the venue will be doing all of the advertising, courting the clients and handling all of the paperwork. Since they see the DJ as an additional source of revenue, they will take a significant chunk of the money they collect for entertainment services.
My bet is that the company they ultimately choose to work with is the company that gives them the biggest cut.
One venue in my hometown simply
lets a handful of DJs have a space in their card rack with the understanding that the DJ will give them a cut of any event they book from their referral. Such practices used to be called “kickbacks” or “payola.”
Today it?s called standard operating procedure. Sadly, it?s also not illegal.
Have you ever had a run-in with a
banquet hall manager? Did you take too long to pack up and leave one night? Did an event go completely wrong where a fight broke out, police were called and damage was done? If you answered “yes”
to any of these questions, you might be on a venue?s blacklist. It?s no secret that banquet halls promote and recommend various services, but may also actively badmouth or even ban some services from their premises. DJs may even be operating in blissful ignorance, not even knowing they?re on such a list! One hall owner I know mentioned that he has banned several bands and DJs because he didn’t like the message on their T-shirts, or because they had an offensive bumper sticker on their vehicle! Could this have happened to you?
Your only clue might be that you
don’t get any bookings in a venue where you once worked frequently. Referrals you once received suddenly dried up. Or you might have had a couple who you were sure were crazy about your service and would soon be booking, only to later become frosty, not returning your calls or even disappearing completely. One DJ I spoke with found out he was on a blacklist because his clients were family members, so unlike those clients who just vanish, he got the message loud and clear.
If you find yourself on such a list, there is little you can do about it beyond calling the venue, making a lunch date with the owner or manager and trying to convince them to remove your name.
A simple “I’m sorry” could re-open the door to thousands of dollars in business.
Even if you were totally in the right on all counts, pride can be expensive. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, would you rather be right, or would you rather be booked?
If the venues aren’t shutting you out, your own reputation could be. Again, you don’t have to be a bad DJ or even have a bad gig to get on someone’s bad side. Simply missing a request can make some people irate. Today, that someone might decide to take you to task online. Smart DJs will frequently Google themselves to see what people are saying about their services and performances. If a post is unfair, incorrect or even slanderous, you can usually get it removed, provide a rebuttal or even take legal action. A single comment in the wrong ear can be costly!
Some states consider purposely shutting out legal vendors a breach of “restraint of trade” law. In short, this means that it may be illegal for a business to erect artificial barriers between you and potential clients. The only way to know for sure is to consult an attorney if you feel that you have been unfairly singled out to be shut out from working in a specific venue.
Such a move should always be a last resort, since it will never get you back on a preferred vendor’s list and may, in fact, permanently damage your business relationship.
The upside is that they’ll think
twice before doing it again and, should you one day find yourself working in their hall, you may regain some small bit of respect.
Party venues are constantly on the lookout for new ways to maximize their profits, making the in-house DJ and the “one stop shopping” concepts more and more pervasive. Getting bookings may well be more expensive and require some innovative thinking. In such an environment, it’s best to stay aware, make regular contact with the other vendors you work with?especially the banquet facilities?
and maintain good overall relationships.
Lastly, guard your good name. Good buzz opens doors, but negativity can close them just as quickly.
Until next time, safe spinnin’! MB

Aaron Burger Aaron Burger (77 Posts)

Filed Under: 2013