A friend of mine recently shared with me that a DJ in her local association commented that “there was no right or wrong way to be a DJ” and “as long as each DJs clients are happy, no one should attempt to offer another DJ critique on their performances.”
I think this statement is only half right.
I agree that there is no “right” way to do our jobs. But there are clearly many “wrong” ways to do them.
Feel good blanket statements like the one cited above are designed to make everyone in our “industry” feel better about themselves in the short term but they do more harm in the long run than some may be willing to recognize. You might as well cue up Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” and dish up some Heaven’s Gate apple sauce if you think such statements hold any weight in the real world.
Sorry Ray…but not everything is beautiful in it’s own way. A few months ago in San Diego a young high school girl was brutally raped and murdered while she was out jogging in a nearby park. There was NOTHING beautiful about that situation.
The member’s of Heaven’s Gate sincerely believed that they would land a spot on a flying saucer hidden in the tale of passing comet by taking their own lives…but they were sincerely and objectively WRONG.
There are many wrong ways to entertain as a wedding DJ…and YouTube is getting populated with more and more examples of this every day.
Until we as an “industry” become willing to seek out the critiques that will identify our common errors and demand that a real measurable bar of professionalism be established…we have no objective basis for complaining about cheaper, less qualified DJs who are “ruining things” for the rest of us.
And the hard truth is…most of our clients are not even close to qualified to help us identify the things we may currently be doing wrong in our performances. Only a qualified and proven professional can give the necessary feedback to identify problems that need correcting.
So instead of dismissing the opportunity to improve by suggesting there is no wrong way to do our jobs, let’s avoid the mediocrity that kind of thinking will create by seeking out and acting on a qualified critiques of our skills and talents.
A friend sent me a link to a DJ’s site that featured the attached image. (The DJ’s company name has been purposely obscured.) When I first saw this add, I immediately picked up on the word “product” as it clearly defines how this DJ views his value. If the same “product” is being offered at local taverns for $200, why pay $650 or more for that same “product” at your wedding? Of course, this begs the question…why is this DJ charging $400 when the same “product” is sold for $200 at the local tavern? Why is his service product “worth” double for a wedding?
On a side note…if the bride wanted the same “product” that is offered at the tavern for $200…don’t ya think she’d be hosting her reception at the local tavern?
Clearly he sees what he does as a product and not as a service. Sure…he’s offering his online planning and request forms…a bridal consultation…4 hours of dance music…name brand audio/PA…LED lighting…and an integrated backup system. But doesn’t the consultation and the dance music at least qualify as a service? Does he serve as the Master of Ceremonies at the wedding? I didn’t see that service being offered or promoted.
But here is the downside for him and for our industry. This is educating brides to shop for a DJ like a product…like a commodity…and not as a service…not as talented entertainers. If a bride were to fall for this line of thinking…then she would be completely justified to go find a DJ on Craig’s List that offers the same “product” for $300 or $200 or even less. After all, “It Doesn’t Cost That Much!”…right?
The only effective selling point he has is “Only $400” The bride in the photo may be smiling now…but the only thing she’ll be able to smile about if this product-focused DJ is unable to deliver the kind of fun reception she’s been dreaming about…is the fact that she saved some money for the same “product.”
WARNING! The “products” may be the same…but the results may vary dramatically!
In a move that was almost as predictable as the path of Haley’s Comet or one of Jay Leno’s punch-lines, DJ Ra-Mu added me to his latest “breaking news” press release.
I guess it was inevitable that I’d wind up in his ‘”crosshairs” again. And to be completely candid, I was not surprised that he completely side-stepped the fact that he is attempting to cherry pick brides who are not looking for him by name, but for his competitors. (Luke is certainly not the only person Ra-Mu has been targeting in his market.) I was also not surprised that he responded with accusations about how much “free time” I have which is ironic coming from a guy who has time to post hundreds of YouTube vides with gripping titles like “boston wedding dj boston wedding djs ri wedding dj ri wedding djs” and dozens of fake press releases with his competitors names in them. Talk about the pot calling the kettle…oh wait…probably shouldn’t go there. He’s already playing the victim card. 😉
But one of the best parts about his latest press release (besides the whole man crush thing…which he clearly has for Luke Renchan) was his suggestion that I should study another one of his ubiquitously titled YouTube videos. He graciously provided the link in his press release and I have decided to take him up on his offer.
This week, on my blog… The Fun Wedding Guy …I’m going to study every aspect of his Grand Entrance footage and share my findings with all of you. The feedback I am putting together should prove to be very educational for all wedding entertainers (myself included) as well as for any brides who may be watching. Who knows…maybe even Ra-Mu will learn a few new things as well?
And finally, for the record. I hold no ill-will towards DJ Ra-Mu. I’d like to see him succeed as much as any other DJ. I’d just like to see him learn to do it on his own merits…instead of trying to cash in on the proven talents of others who have already developed their own fan base in his market the same way he should…by earning it.
Ra-Mu (rhymes with Ragu or Shamu) The DJ is back at it again.
I recently was guilty of inadvertently starting a firestorm on a popular “chat” site for DJs after I posted some critical feedback for DJ Ra-Mu on his one of his YouTube videos. The reason why I felt compelled to give him a “critique” was because I had been hearing reports about him disrupting local DJ association meetings in his area by publicly challenging the local group’s president (who is serving as a volunteer), Luke Renchan, to a “spin-off” at an upcoming association meeting. Why? To determine who really is “the best DJ” in the Boston marketplace. I decided to show Ra-Mu that one’s MC skills carries more weight and value in today’s marketplace than mixing skills do and so I opted to post my thoughts on the caliber of his MC skills as presented in one of his many YouTube videos. Now…I should also point out…that I opted to post my thoughts there specifically because Ra-Mu would have complete control over the conversation. If he wanted to engage me, he could. If he wanted to delete my comments and block me from posting on his videos ever again…he could do that as well. The choice was entirely his.
Someone else picked up on our “conversation” and posted it on a popular “chat” site for DJs and soon the fire had been ignited. The funny part was seeing how many DJs thought I was wrong to post my comments on his video when they completely overlooked that he could have deleted my comments at any time. But clearly it became evident to all that Ra-Mu was enjoying the attention.
Ra-Mu soon challenged me to a “spin off” and an “MC off” (whatever that is?) on stage at the Mobile Beat Show in Las Vegas and he even posted “press releases” announcing his challenge, promising that he would only try to match my rates after he beat me in the challenge. I posted my own press release agreeing to his challenge and vowing to let him win as it would be clearly more entertaining to watch him try to book a wedding at 3-4 times his going rate than it would be to watch a fake competition in front of a fake crowd for a fake title.
What DJ Ra-Mu was failing to see was that he had already conceded that Luke was a better entertainer than he was…because he was pricing himself much cheaper than Luke and then he was throwing in lighting and LED video screens for free. We all know those things aren’t really free, right? Throwing them in just means that the DJ’s fee is actually much lower than the final “package” price.
I’m sure DJ Ra-Mu is a good DJ for his price range…but the fact that he obsesses over proving that he is “the best” by challenging Luke (or myself) clearly displays how badly he needs to prove it…to himself.
So imagine my surprise (or lack thereof) when I found this recently posted press release…
Don’t be fooled…this is more than just an attempt to talk trash about a competitor…this is also an attempt on Ra-Mu’s part to attract any search engine traffic by bride’s who are trying to find Luke. Clearly…if DJ Ra-Mu were all that and a bag of chips…he’d have more new brides calling him than he can handle (which would also mean he could easily raise his rates to Luke’s level or even above Luke’s level) and he’d have no need to try and siphon off brides who are searching for Luke and not him. And yet…that is exactly what he is doing.
He even goes so far as to include a YouTube video link in the press release to demonstrate just how qualified he is to “teach” Luke. Here is the video in question…
He mixes from “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen into “Good Times” by Chic pretty seamlessly…so he does have some mixing skills. At 2:20 he does a vocal promo for “some Madonna on the way” and then he begins his transition from “Good Times” into “That’s The Way (I Like It)” by KC & The Sunshine Band which can be heard starting at 2:27 and the two songs run together until about 2:40. They don’t play over each other very well and the mix sounds like it went on far too long. “Good Times” should have clearly been faded out much more quickly to give “That’s The Way (I Like It)” more presence. Now…his dance floor didn’t clear…nobody stopped dancing…so mission accomplished. But…I’d have to give DJ Ra-Mu a B+ grade at best on the mixes he was so proud of–that he featured them in his press release.
So what’s the lesson here?
For DJs…the lesson should be that when we focus on continuously improving our own skills…we won’t need to waste any time or energy on our competitors. A truly successful entertainer doesn’t need to shout about how great he or she is (or put their picture on the cover of Time magazine)…their clients will do more than enough shouting for them. And if the phone ain’t ringing on Monday morning…try examining what you need to do to fix it…instead of trying to horn in one someone else’s achievements with fake press releases designed to cherry pick brides who still have no idea who you are yet.
For Bride’s…the lesson should be fairly obvious. Look at who is making the challenges…and look at who is being challenged. 9 times out of 10…the one being challenged is already the better option…that’s why they are being challenged and that’s why their clients are being targeted by the challenger.
And finally…for DJ Ra-Mu…maybe it’s time to grow up and act like a real professional. Most of us got our success the old fashioned way…we earned it. Maybe you should give it a try.
My step son, Eric, was a guest at a wedding this evening and he texted me a photo of the DJ who was entertaining.
When Eric asked him about his rates…he said he charges $600 for the first 5 hours. Eric noticed that he was displaying the ADJA logo and because I have an extensive background serving both locally and nationally with the ADJA, Eric asked him if he knew who I was. The DJ said that he had not heard of me. When Eric mentioned that he and I have the ADJA in common, he responded by saying, “being a member doesn’t make you a good dj.”
Wow! I was thrown under the bus by some random DJ who doesn’t even know me. I had to ask myself…why? Did he feel the need to make sure Eric knew he was superior to any other DJ…even a fellow ADJA member? Was he threatended by the mere thought that Eric had “heard” of another DJ in the area?
When Eric pressed him further inquiring about what he should look for when hiring a DJ, he said “check references and referrals, look for a good microphone voice, someone who is fun, and won’t be getting drunk.”
There you go…that’s the bar of achievement for our profession. Have good referrences…sound good on the mic…be fun…and don’t get drunk! This reminds me of the spoof dating service ads on MadTV’s…Lowered Expectations!
A wedding DJ got his day in court with Judge Judy today. He charged the client $550 and they claimed that he ruined their day and quite playing music an hour early. The best line is the very last thing the DJ says…so wait for it…and enjoy!
Over the years, I have been held up by some who cheer for my success and others who think my claims are outlandish…and they all frequently apply the same moniker…
“He’s the most the expensive wedding DJ around!”
Those who are excited to see the bar of earning potential raised for our industry can often be heard lauding my efforts while looking to learn how they too can increase their demand and their year end gross income records. Those who are chronically skeptical about such achievements usually make disparaging remarks while questioning how few weddings I’m actually booking and whether or not I own a home as “proof” that my efforts are not actually paying off. Some have even demanded to see my year end tax filings to “prove” once and for all that my claims are legitimate…and then noting that such forms could be “photo-shopped” thus negating any real way of ever satisfying their discontent.
Frankly…I think that both camps are wrong.
Getting $5,000 for entertaining at a wedding reception is really not that unbelievable or laudable in my opinion. Why you ask?
The average amount spent on a wedding reception has been upwards of $24,000 (it is closer to $28,000 or more today) for well over a decade now. If a reception is intended to be a celebration of a marriage attended by the bride and groom’s closest friends and family members…and it is intended to be a fun celebration…then it seems fairly apparent that the entertainment will play a dominant role in whether or not things will actually turn out to be fun and enjoyable. As such, any bride and groom who recognize the full value that quality entertainment can bring to their celebration will certainly be more inclined to spend at least 15% to 20% of their total reception budget on an entertainment service that can help them make their reception truly memorable and enjoyable. That seems neither outlandish nor laudable in my opinion. It just make sense.
So imagine my surprise when my good friend Austin Beaver mailed me a wedding magazine he picked up during a recent trip. Here is the magazine’s cover…
Inside the back portion of the magazine, various wedding vendors have taken out classified ads for their services and this particular page includes some of the DJ listings…
And here is a close up of an ad for DJ Cassidy…
I love how the ad says “that’s not a typo”…
Several things jumped out at me when I first saw this ad. First…DJ Cassidy graduated from NYU in 2003. Second…he has spun at some well-known clubs in NYC. Third…he has entertained for celebrities (and Britney and Paris are just the tip of the iceberg). Fourth…he is only selling his skills as a mixing artist with his preferred music genres…there is no mention of MC services. Fifth…he has a management company booking his events for him. And Sixth…his prices START at $25,000!
Clearly I have a long way yet to go before I can be called “the most expensive wedding DJ around” with any accuracy. But this example should serve as a much needed wake up call for our industry. The reason DJ Cassidy can get $25,000+ for his entertainment services (and I have no doubt that he is) at a wedding reception is because…he is worth it! When Jay-Z and Beyoncé got married…they hired DJ Cassidy. Clearly, DJ Cassidy will be “un-affordable” for most wedding couples with prices that are close to the current average amount spent on an entire reception. But the key word there is “average.” Average means that some people will spend dramatically less on their receptions and some people will spend dramatically more on their receptions. DJ Cassidy has developed the demand and network necessary to be able to service clients who will be spending dramatically more than the average. Keep in mind, any couple who is spending at least $125,000 on their reception will only be allocating 20% or less towards their entertainment if they hire DJ Cassidy. Some might say…but how many weddings are there each year with budgets of $125,000 or more? With 2.5 million weddings taking place each year…0.5% would 12,500 weddings…and 0.5% may be a low estimate. If DJ Cassidy manages to pick up just 10 of those weddings each year (that’s 0.08% of 12,500)…he will earn at least $250,000!
So…how does your fee measure up now? Are you getting 15% to 20% of the total reception budget? Are you getting closer to 10%? Are you getting less than %5?
And finally…are you offering your couples just mixing skills…or are you providing them with a talented and skilled Master of Ceremonies as well? DJ Cassidy isn’t even promoting his MC skills…and his prices start at $25,000.
During a recent phone conversation with a DJ acquaintance I had met at the Las Vegas Mobile Beat Show a few years back, the subject of my pricing became the impetus for a new revelation. The DJ on the other end of the line works in a mid-range town in Montana while I work most often in Southern California. He had come across my new web site, MerryWeddings.com, and wanted to know whether or not it was working effectively for me. When I told him that the web site had played a small role in helping me to start booking wedding receptions at $5,000…he gasped and said “I’ll never get $5,000 for weddings in my market!”
That comment got me thinking. When I first heard the figure of $1,200 in reference to Mark Ferrell’s services from a photographer in my market back in 1998, I’m pretty sure I responded internally with a similar statement. “I’ll never get $1,200 for my services!” I was lucky if I could get $400 at the time.
As I pondered my reaction back then in comparison with this DJ’s reaction during our phone conversation, I realized that there had been a shift in my reactions to such ideas over the last several years and I began to wonder just how much of my current progress and success could be attributed to this slight mental shift.
In his “Getting What You’re Worth” seminar series, Mark Ferrell encouraged us to begin believing in our own worth as entertainers first, before attempting to command a higher price from our clientele. As I examined what had changed from my initial reaction of, “I’ll never…,” I began to see a pattern of reactions that sounded more like, “How can I…?”
When we respond to a new idea or new information by exclaiming, “I’ll never be able to charge that much,” or, “That will never work in my market,” or, “I could never imagine making enough to go full time,” we are making a statement of fact. Whether or not it is true, could be true and could be proven patently false is not up for debate. We have made a declarative statement that is based on our beliefs and perceptions about our own value, our own capabilities, and the limitations we perceive (or have constructed) in our own markets. Such statements do not lead to action, inspiration, or motivation. Instead they serve as self-fulfilling prophecies that keep us trapped in complacency, mediocrity, and even poverty.
But by simply choosing to change that declarative statement of fact, “I’ll never…,” into a question like, “How can I…?,” we open ourselves up the possibility of doing or creating something new. Christopher Columbus didn’t say “I’ll never cross the ocean.” Instead he asked, “How can I cross the ocean?” The engineers at NASA didn’t say “No one will ever land a man on the moon.” Instead they asked, “How can we land a man on the moon?”
I’ve met countless DJs who want to know how to charge more, or make a real living as a DJ, or increase demand for their services, but when they are presented with new ideas, lofty goals, or advice on business plans, they react with “I’ll never…” statements. But the best entertainers, the most successful DJs, and the most in-demand MCs all have one simple component in common…they consistently keep asking themselves “How can I…?” questions. They ask themselves, “How can I charge 20% more for my services next year?,” or “How can make my new wedding reception performances even better?,” or “How can I communicate my value more effectively in my sales meetings?”
Once they have asked themselves “how” it can be done, they then write out a plan and begin working their plan until it gets done. But it all starts with being open to the possibility in the first place. My friend, Mike Walter, appropriately calls himself a “posibilitarian.” He recently ran a marathon in under 4 hours. I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell himself, “I’ll never run a marathon in under 4 hours.” Rather, he asked himself, “How can I run a marathon in under 4 hours?” He answered his own question by finding a trainer and committing to a rather rigorous training schedule.
Personally, I believe most DJs shy away from asking “How can I?” questions and choose to fall back on “I’ll never…” statements because when they ask themselves a “How can I?” question, the answers that come up most often tend to require a steep investment of their money, time, and effort.
How much money do you spend on improving your talent or your sales skills? How much time do you set aside to prepare for your events or to attend a Mobile Beat Show? How much effort do you put into improving your performance or your marketing? How much is your success really worth?
When I was first inspired to write this article, I could have said “I’ll never get my point across.” But instead I chose to ask myself, “How can I get my point across?” Was I successful? Perhaps I’ll never know… 😉
This blog is dedicated to the thousands of Mobile DJs
who give up their weekends and time with their
families to provide priceless entertainment
for groups of total strangers at prices that
are often well below minimum wage.
They deserve to make an honest and respectable living
doing what they love. But sadly, far too many of them
don’t believe this to be true…or even possible.