The One Phone Call No DJ Ever Wants

June 1, 2019 by Michael Cordeiro

A few weeks ago I got an urgent call from my mom while setting up for a Saturday night event. She knows that every weekend I’m out doing events and doesn’t call unless something major happened. I finished my set up, went back over details with the client real quick, put on cocktail music and stepped out to call my mom back. Then came the news no DJ wants to get at a gig. Someone in the family died. My uncle (age 57) had suddenly passed away from a brief illness.

Of all the phone calls we can get while at an event, the death call is the worst. No one wants it or looks forward to it, but inevitably it will happen. One question: Are you prepared to receive it? The most important aspect of being a DJ is that there are are no do-overs, no repeats, no “fix it” tomorrows, no call out sick days or I forgot days. When we sign a contract with a client to be at an event on a certain date for a specific period of time, we have to honor our agreements.

I experienced this first hand almost exactly thirteen years ago in 2006. It was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. My father had been battling cancer for about three years. He wasn’t winning. Anyone who has ever lost someone to cancer knows only one thing. Cancer sucks. I had an afternoon Bat Mitzvah that day. It was around 830 am when my mother called and told me I’d better get to the house. I wasn’t dressed, my truck wasn’t even loaded. Panic mode set in.

I scrambled as fast as I could. My wife helped me load the truck. I knew I wouldn’t have time to come back home. Before I ran out the door, I stopped real quick and looked at my wife. She hugged me and said”go, it’ll be ok”. I flew to my mom’s house and got there at 9:15. I walked in and my younger sister ran to me sobbing. I was too late. He took his last breath at 9:04 am. Family started showing up, my mother and sister were a wreck and as the oldest of four I had to step up and take care of things until the ambulance arrived to take my father’s body to the funeral home.

All the while in the back of mind I’m thinking, “How the hell am I going to get through my event today?” My event wasn’t just a backyard barbecue or simple event I could ask another DJ to cover. This was a life celebration. Anyone who has done a Bar or Bat Mitzvah knows how complex they are. They’re like weddings for kids. I had multiple song edits for the candle lighting ceremony, the Hora, the blessing of the Challah, games, trivia, prizes, special dances with speeches. It took months of planning with that family and I couldn’t just pass this off.

Jewish families plan these celebrations for years. I’d be damned before I was the one to ruin this little girl’s big day. I watched them take away my father and told my family I had to leave. They all looked at me in disbelief. They couldn’t understand and most people never will get the commitment we (DJ’s) make to our clients to have the honor of celebrating with them on their most important days. How seriously do you take your commitment to your clients?

As I drove to that event I kept saying positive affirmations to myself. Pumping myself up to give this girl a great day. I arrived, set up, put on my game face and poured every ounce of emotion into making sure that kid and her family had a great time. When it was done the girl hugged me, the parents and family thanked me and then I went out, loaded up my truck and sobbed like a baby for twenty minutes before heading back to my mother’s house.

Now I’m sure that you armchair DJ’s, meme writers and forum “experts” have been just dying (no pun intended) to put your two cents in. Why didn’t you pass this off? You should have had a back up DJ ready. You should’ve have just cancelled, I’m sure they would’ve understood. These are all valid points, but until you are faced with this exact situation you have no plan. You don’t know when someone is going to die. There was only one Nostradamus. From the deepest part of my soul, I hope none of you ever have to live a day like that ever.

So what can you do to minimize the devastation a phone call like this creates? As cruel as it may sound, you may need to have a conversation with your family about waiting to notify you after an event or determine which family members get priority. If my third cousin in California passes away I’ll be sad but I could wait until after my event to find out. If one of my kids or spouse gets into a serious accident, I need to know right away.

If you have an immediate family member that is gravely ill and short on time, think about passing off some of your events to staff or DJ’s you trust. Remember that loved ones are not going to pass when it is convenient for you. It will be at the least most expected time. Unfortunately I’m at an age in my life where I seem to be attending more funerals than weddings (not counting clients). Be smart. Expect the unexpected and plan for it as best you can. Try not to get blindsided by life. You’ll keep your business and your sanity intact.

Filed Under: Mobile DJ Business