Upgrade Your (Gear) Image BY: John Stiernberg

March 25, 2012 by JohnStiernberg


Sound, lights, and special effects are essential elements in any mobile entertainer’s stage
rig. They are your tools of the trade. They are also part of the image that you project, and as such, make up a key branding element. Is your stage rig consistent with the image that you want to project?
Specifically, is the performance quality of your gear up to today’s standards, or is it still rooted in the twentieth century? What can you do to upgrade without breaking the bank? This article addresses these issues and recommends three action tips for success.


Remember when bigger, flashier, and louder was better? Those days ended years ago. Your audiences today are influenced more than ever before by the consumer electronics and information technology worlds. Think about the so-called “four screens” in everyone’s lives:

1) television,

2) computer,

3) smart phone,

4) tablet.

The quality is (at least) passably good, MP3-audio notwithstanding. The “high definition” metaphor has spread from flat panel digital televisions to whole-house wireless audio systems.

A related trend is the booming step-up headphone/earbud market. Consumers can hear the difference between the stock earbuds that come with a phone or MP3 player vs. the dozens of brands of better-quality upgrades. Your audience (and the people that book you) can relate to varying audio and video quality levels, more than ever before. They see and hear the difference between mediocre and “HD” quality.

This is a good development for mobile entertainers. Why?
Because it presents an opportunity for you to use your sound, lights, video, and special effects to

1) wow the crowd,

2) differentiate your act from your competitors.


Still using those giant fuzzy speaker boxes and power-hungry lighting rigs? Are you tripping over mic cables? Are there hot spots and dead spots in the audience (too loud and bright for some people, too unintelligible and dark for others)? It may be time to upgrade.

No, this isn’t a sales pitch for the gear dealers and manufacturers. It’s about differentiating your brand from your competitors. Here are examples of simple and ultimately cost-effective things that you can do?and promote (assuming that your competitors haven?t beat you to it):

-Audio quality. Fine-tune your system so that audio coverage is smooth, even, and controllable in the performance
space. Make sure that your system is modular so that you can accommodate different sizes of crowds from gig to gig, without sacrificing quality.

– Eco-friendly. Make sure your sound, lights, and even your transportation (car, van, truck) is in tune with environmental trends. Low power consumption, biodegradable packaging, and “no DJs were harmed during the manufacturer of this gear.”

– Wireless. Other than getting AC power to sound gear and lights, you can make most of your system wireless (mics, headphones, control systems, etc.). The benefits include:

1) looks cleaner,

2) faster setup and teardown, and

3) better mobility for you during the show.

All of the above are promotable to your clients. Do your competitors offer HD quality sound and lights? Are they environmentally conscious? Are they in and out of the performance space quickly? Do they look good on stage? You can promote the differences to build your brand.


What can you do right now? Does it have to be expensive? Here are three suggestions for how to upgrade your rig and build your brand cost-effectively.

Action Tip 1. Design the ultimate system on paper (description and budget) before making any changes. You likely own many of the right components already and won?t need a completely new rig. Know what you have now versus your competitors.

Action Tip 2. Identify the gaps between what you currently own and your ideal system. Create a budget and upgrade plan that is both affordable and manageable from a time standpoint (e.g., you may need to rehearse with new equipment until setup, operation, and teardown is second nature).

Action Tip 3. Promote the differences. Your clients want to know about how you are going to assure a quality experience for their guests. Include descriptions of your rig on your website, Facebook page, and collateral material. Remember that clients do not necessarily relate well to long lists of equipment, but they do resonate with descriptions of the audience experience and testimonials from happy prior clients.


Your gear is both a set of performance tools and an extension of your brand. While you may need to budget time and money for an upgrade, the benefits are worth the effort.
Be sure to implement the Action Tips in sequence:

1) design the ultimate system,

2) create a budget and upgrade plan, and

3) promote the positive differences between you and your competitors in terms of overall presentation quality.

Next time we’ll talk about scaling your equipment budget to your revenue plan and long-term strategy. In the
meantime, best wishes for success in mobile entertainment in 2012! MB

John Stiernberg is founder of Stiernberg Consulting (www.stiernberg.com). His book Succeeding In Music: Business Chops for Performers and Songwriters is published by Hal Leonard Books. Contact John via e-mail at john@stiernberg.com. You can find John on LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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Filed Under: 2012, Mobile DJ Business, Sound Engineering for Mobile DJs