The Popular Vote by Stu Chisholm

August 1, 2008 by Mobile Beat

Applying the lessons of politics to your campaigns for new clientsIn this presidential election year, with the endless debates, primaries and news coverage of the candidates, we’ve been constantly reminded of our patriotic duty to vote. And voting, it seems, has become more than a once-every-four-year obligation, but also a popular pastime! A plethora of online opinion polls and TV shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars have entertained audiences with interaction in the form of voting.

Back in 2005, one of the more guilty pleasures in my home was Rockstar: INXS. INXS had been one of my favorite bands of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I found their search for a new lead singer irresistible, unlike most so-called “reality” shows. (I also managed to pick out the guy who would eventually win during the first episode, as my wife will attest!) It was my very first taste of recreational voting.

OK…and this applies to DJ work how?

Critical Thinking

A large chunk of my friends are also DJs. I’ve also got to think that this is true of a lot of this magazine’s readers. When I was first cutting my DJ chops, one colleague, who also was a music critic with a local newspaper, used to frequent the bar parties my partner and I used to throw. These were themed events; “Kickin’ Country,” “Motown Madness,” “Ladies’ Night” (all female artists) and so on. I began to notice a pattern to my friend’s dancing; he’d run up with his date for some songs, but would occasionally stalk off, looking at me as if I’d insulted his mother for others. It didn’t matter if the song I’d followed his favorite with had a perfectly matched BPM, or had been from the same label or era. He was literally voting his tastes with his feet. This certainly wasn’t unique to my colleague, but he was much more obvious about it, and after the gig would expand on his opinions. This was a form of in-depth feedback we don’t normally get from our patrons or clients.

View from the Booth

From that point on, I began to pay attention to my dancer’s “votes.” To spot trends, I began keeping a program log, listing each song I played and the response it got, using a one to five scale. I also spotted huge differences between the responses I’d get at a typical wedding reception and the responses of my club patrons during the week. There was another parallel to politics: Wedding guests tended to be more conservative, preferring the tried-and-true, well-established music, whereas my club patrons were musically liberal, dancing to the hottest, trendiest tunes, tolerating the occasional old chestnut only if mixed into the set skillfully. In both cases, votes were being cast, measured by bodies moving on the dance floor.

Voting Blocks

Some club DJs have been able to report their “votes” to official publications, such as Billboard or the now-defunct DMA (Dance Music Authority). Most mobiles have depended on the Billboard, R&R or Gavin music charts, which were the result of votes in the form of record sales or calls to radio station request lines. They were, and are, more honest than the typical reality show vote, since there are no organized groups mobilizing to manipulate the result as has been the case for some reality TV shows. Votes from the charts and dance floor remain part and parcel of following trends and “reading the crowd.”

And the Candidate Is…You!

For mobile DJs, voting doesn’t just pertain to the music. In fact, there are several votes taking place daily that directly relate to your business. For instance, do you check your daily, weekly and monthly stats on your website? Do you compare those stats to the number of emails or phone calls received? Each one of those represents a vote of sorts: The client found your site among the teeming millions in cyberspace, and then voted with their inquiry. This is the equivalent of the primary, and you are now among their candidates for the job!

Assuming they’ve also contacted other DJs, the next vote will be based on how well you respond to their requests for information, as well as the quality of what you provide. This is the DJ’s equivalent to the stump speech. Again, your clients will compare and contrast what you presented as well as how you’ve presented it. To carry this analogy even a bit further, many political news pundits pointed out that the core issues candidates Obama and Clinton discussed were so similar that they had a hard time differentiating themselves from each other. A mobile DJ might have a similar problem, especially considering how many of us “borrow” ideas from one another. A client might not see any major difference between their two (or more) candidates. Just as in politics, the winner may be decided based upon other factors, such as personality or professionalism. Or they simply might like you more than the next DJ.

Like professional pollsters, if you want to maximize the value of your voter information, you need to know more than just how many you’ve won. You must understand the thinking behind them. That means asking your clients for direct feedback. Most DJs have some sort of a follow-up survey, sent out after the gig, that they use to both improve their performance and use as a marketing tool. But what about the front-end vote? Have you ever asked a client WHY they selected you over another DJ service? If not, James Carville is crying! People whose job it is to get candidates elected take every opportunity to stick their proverbial finger in the wind and gather as much data as possible.

Waging the Campaign

In a very real sense, mobile DJs campaign every day. To be successful, we must learn from our losses. If you look back on the careers of most politicians, you’ll quickly note that they lost many campaigns and votes. Their eventual success wasn’t achieved by luck, but by noting what went wrong previously. A smart DJ will do the same. Ask your clients why they hired you. Even more importantly, ask those prospects who didn’t hire you exactly what it was that lost you the sale. It might bruise the ego a bit, but it could alert you to a problem with your presentation or marketing that you would never know you had, leading to more success down the road.

So rock the vote and watch your business and performances rock like never before!

Stu Chisholm, a mobile DJ since 1979, has also been a nightclub DJ in suburban Detroit, done some radio and commercial voice-over work, and has even worked a roller skating rink! Stu attended the famous Specs Howard School of Broadcasting and has been a music collector since the age of seven.

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This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.

Filed Under: 2008