Two Ways to Go Out

There were two goodbyes last week that went viral and I don’t think they could be further away on the “keep it classy” scale. You’ve probably heard about both of them so I wonder if you had the same thought I had: “when my time comes to say goodbye, how will I be remembered?

The first was Charlo Greene, the reporter in Alaska who quit on air and then punctuated her resignation with an F bomb. Now, I’m no prude nor am I easily offended (especially by bad words).  So seeing this clip didn’t get me all worked up. Yet when I saw so many people sharing it on social media and some even saying, “good for her” I had to cringe a little. Here’s a woman who not only decided to embarrass her employer by using an on-air profanity, but she burned every bridge she possibly could in doing so. If things go up in smoke in her cannabis business (pun intended) I doubt she’ll have any opportunities in broadcasting. Such a shame when a simple, “so this is my last broadcast, thanks for allowing me to bring you the news these past few years” would have sufficed. Sure she wouldn’t have gone viral and had her fifteen minutes but she would have left with some class.

The other goodbye I’m sure everyone is aware of. Indeed the hashtags #Re2pect and #Jeter have been trending a lot lately. As a Mets fan who has had to witness Derek Jeter‘s career with a fair amount of envy I am not too sorry to see him go. But wow, even I can admit, that was a clutch and classy ending.  The clutch part was that in his last home game ever he got the game winning, walk off, hit. The classy part was really the culmination of an entire career. Jeter has done things right since he arrived in New York in 1995.  Which is not an easy thing to do. The Big Apple has many temptations that can lead a young man astray (just ask Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry). Yet in an era when the headlines on the sports pages often scream about performance enhancing drugs or domestic violence or worse, Jeter has somehow avoided being dragged through the mud.  He’s been scandal-free and there aren’t many big name athletes you can say that about.

When it comes time for my goodbye, I’d rather go out like Derek Jeter than Charlo Greene.  I’d rather be known for my body of work, for staying above the controversies and hopefully for my performances in the clutch. I’m sure you’d agree. And the great part about life is it’s all up to us. We get to decide what we’re known for. Our actions and our deeds and indeed our words (especially when the cameras are rolling) become our legacy. So if you want to  be known for dropping a four letter word and embarrassing your employer and co-workers, go right ahead. Who knows, you just might go viral and enjoy your fifteen minutes. But if you want to be remembered for style and class then live that way.  Everyday. Earn your reputation. Or as a meme I saw recently said, “live in such a way that if someone spoke badly of you, nobody would believe it.”

More Wisdom From Paul Stanley’s “Face the Music”

 

In the June issue of The Disc Jockey News I wrote about some of the awesome entertaining advice imparted by Paul Stanley in his new autobiography Face The Music. If you don’t have a subscription to DJN all I can say is, well, how dare you. Every month John Young puts out the most comprehensive publication specifically aimed at the Mobile DJ community, and you don’t get it?  What, is it the $20 a year? or the fact that you don’t like to read (even when it’s articles that can help your business)?

 So I’ll just assume that everyone who has found this blog online has already read Part One of my recap of Stanley’s book and hopefully benefitted already from some of the entertainment wisdom that Stanley shared (and I so skillfully highlighted).  Now, I offer some of the more down to earth advice Stanley also wrote in his book.

 Paul Stanley Quote:  The time to find out that you don’t want to be in bed with somebody isn’t when your clothes are off.

 Stanley was talking about negotiating a contract and getting to know someone before you actually get into business together. I think we can all benefit from this advice, whether it’s a future client, a potential employee or a business relationship. The due diligence process is essential and the ability to walk away from a deal before it’s consummated is essential, not just for good business but for long term peace of mind.

 Paul Stanley Quote  #1 about luck: To me luck is taking advantage of a situation God puts in front of us.

 Paul Stanley Quote  #2 about luck:: My dad told me my success was more luck than anything else. In my experience people who dismissed the success of others as luck were people who had failed.

 I’ve always agreed with Stanley’s attitude about luck. I’ve been on the receiving end of the lucky message (as in: “you’re so lucky you have such an awesome staff”) and I’ve also seen the detrimental effect of chalking up someone else’s success to the fickle finger of fate (namely that it stops you from taking ownership of your successes and failures). So whenever that word creeps into my vocabulary I usually correct myself. My friend Sean McKee (Big Daddy to most) isn’t lucky that’s he’s got a great upbeat attitude. He forces himself to. My friend Marcello isn’t lucky that he’s in great shape. He works hard at it every day. And I’m not lucky that I have such an awesome staff. I’ve worked my butt off to find, train and keep my DJs. So the next time you see anyone and think, I wish I were that lucky, stop yourself and instead say, I wonder if I could do all the things that person has done to get to where they are.

Paul Stanley Quote: I’m not what I call a passive optimist. I don’t believe everything will work out if I wish for it hard enough.  I’m a realistic optimist: I know that as long as I’m realistic about my capabilities, I can make things work out.

This goes along with how I feel about luck. Like Stanley, I consider myself an optimist, but I’m not passive about it either. I believe things will generally work out for the best but only when we work hard at them. And I also believe that knowing your own limits has a lot to do with things working out. When I’ve run marathons, if I went into them wanting to win the race, I’d always be sadly disappointed. I’m not genetically made to run a 2:15 marathon and all the training in the world would never get me there.  But when I give myself a challenging but realistic goal (which for me usually means breaking four hours) then I can optimistically hope to achieve it.

Paul Stanley Quote: Stanley tells the story that at some point in 1974 their manager Bill Aucoin told them they were going to need to make a second album.  Stanley replied: “But I don’t have any inspiration” to which Aucoin replied:  “I’ll show you the bills and you’ll get inspired,”

I think sometimes people are ashamed to admit they do things for the money. I’m not. I work hard but I don’t do it for the love of it or the personal satisfaction. I do it to make money. And I loved how practical Bill Aucoin was. He had never managed a band before KISS and as Stanley explained he was deep in debt financing KISS’ elaborate stage shows early in their career, so you can excuse him for not trying to massage the muse with his young band. He needed a new LP to give to the record company so he could get money for their second album (“Hotter Than Hell”).  And in his opinion, paying the bills was motivation enough. And it worked for Stanley and the rest of the band. They found enough inspiration to produce an album that may not have sold well initially but has some tracks that die-hard fans consider gems. We should all do the same at times.  Look at our bills and use them as a motivation to create and produce. There’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t make us superficial. It makes us practical and able to realize that bills need to be paid and the best way to do that is to earn some money.

Paul Stanley Quote:  The secret to a great partnership is knowing its limitations. If you don’t ask of a relationship what it can’t give you, you won’t be disappointed.

Stanley is speaking about Gene Simmons here.  They’ve have had a strained relationship through the years but they’ve also maintained it (for 40+ years) which is more than a lot of artists can say.  I think Stanley’s advice is smart.  It actually reminded me of that great Gin Blossom song “Hey Jealousy” where Robin Wilson sings, “If you don’t expect too much from me you may not be let down.”  Having had a business partner years ago, and now having two with my photography company Elite Digital Images, I can say that I wish I knew then what I know now.  Partnerships are almost always a difficult thing because no matter how much you decide upon at the outset, people change.  Situations change.  And having reasonable expectations of the other person can often save you from pulling your hair out in frustration.  And as Stanley explains, and as I learned with my first go-around with partnerships, “reasonable expectations means not imposing your own priorities on your partner but understanding where they are coming from and what is going on in their life at the time.”  Stanley held KISS together while Gene Simmons attempted to make it in movies.  And when Simmons was ready to return, KISS was there along with his partner.  If you have a partner, that’s the kind of relationship you want to have and one that will help the long term success of your company.

 Paul Stanley Quote:  Being inept, unreliable and marginally capable didn’t make you rock and roll. It made you inept, unreliable and marginally capable.

God I loved that line!  Stanley was talking about the frustration of dealing with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley who had decided to live the rock-n-roll lifestyle 100% – complete with excessive drinking and drug use.  Of course lateness came along with that, plus a diminished ability of playing.  Stanley continues his point by adding, “it’s one thing to put up with somebody who’s a virtuoso and a prick. It’s quite another to put up with somebody who can barely play his instrument and is a prick.”  I’ve said for years that we (as DJ business owners) should treat each of our staff differently.  We’ll tolerate stuff from one of our superstars that we’d never put up with from a newbie.  But what goes along with that is the superstar better maintain his superstar talent.  Because once that begins to diminish, they become very dispensable.

 As you can see I not only enjoyed Paul Stanley’s book but I got a lot out of it.  I highly recommend it!

 

 

You Don’t Have To Suck When You Get Older

 “You know, you don’t have to suck when you get older.”

I read that statement recently and it made me laugh out loud.  It also made me think about aging and how I’m doing everything I can to keep Father Time at bay and it made me feel good that I have a fighting chance.  Not to stop or reverse the process, but to slow it down at least.  And to age gracefully.

So who uttered that statement?  None other than Tom Brady. 

Brady will turn 37 before the start of the NFL season.  He’s accomplished pretty much everything a quarterback could accomplish in his career, especially a 7th round pick: 5 Super Bowl appearances, 3 Super Bowl wins, two Super Bowl MVPs . . . oh and he’s married to one of the hottest women in the world.  Not bad for a guy who was drafted with the #199th pick.  But he’s motivated to win that last elusive title (which could stamp him in many people’s opinion as the greatest quarterback ever).  Plus he feels his own team is preparing for “Life After Tom” (The Patriots used a second round pick this year to draft Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who immediately become

s the heir apparent)

Tom Brady with Gisele Bundchen

So what does Brady do?  He says, “it’s hard to explain this to people, but the commitment I make, in terms of keeping my body in shape and my nutrition right, should make me healthy. I feel better today than when I was 25.  I work at it.”

The shelf life of an NFL quarterback is short.  Shorter than your average Mobile DJ.  But we both fight the same battles.  Staying healthy will keep us on the field (doing gigs) and it’ll keep the younger DJs from taking our jobs.  And like Brady points out, it’s all about how much we want to work at it.

There are two ways to focus on health and fitness and they go hand in hand.  One is our activity level and the second is what we consume.  Notice Brady mentions both: “keeping my body in shape and my nutrition.”  We need to as well.  As performers (and make no mistake, if you’re a DJ you’re a performer) we need to do some exercise to stay in shape and be limber enough to get through events.  Plus we need to think hard about what we consume, especially since we are surrounded by bad choices (most of the food in cocktail hour is very fattening plus the only options for a post-gig bite is usually fast-food, a big No-No!)

Our health and fitness matters for a number of reasons:

1 – It’ll keep us alive.  I’ve seen too many people die recently way too young.  It sounds like a scare tactic I’m sure but staying healthy will improve your chances of NOT having a heart attack and NOT contracting certain forms of cancer.

2- It’ll keep us feeling better.  10 years ago I weighed 40 pounds more than I do today. After every event my knees hurt and my back hurt and my feet hurt.  I was resigned to this being the new normal.  I thought, well, I’m approaching 40 so this is just the way it’s going to be.  But I got myself in shape and guess what?  Now as I’m approaching 50 I can do an event and not feel my aching back or knees or feet during or after.  Plus feeling better keeps me more active at the party so instead leaning against the back table trying to take a load off, I’m dancing around more.

3 – It’ll keep us relevant and bookable.  Like it or not, some clients make their decision based on aesthetics.  And while no client will ever say to you, “we didn’t go with you because you’re out of shape” or “we booked a DJ who isn’t as fat” some have that thought, even if it’s subconscious.  And unlike Tom Brady (who someday will lose his starting job to a younger quarterback and then eventually be cut from the team) it’s not as abrupt for us.  We as Mobile DJs will stay in the game, but it’ll become harder and harder for us to book gigs.  We’ll blame it on other DJs undercutting us or on the economy or on whatever.  But for many DJs, it’ll be because we’ve neglected ourselves.  And at the end of the day what we’re selling is ourselves.

I’m not a Patriots fan but I root for Tom Brady.  I root for him because he’s a class act and I like the rags to riches story that he’s written throughout his career.  And now I have one more reason to root for him.  He’s handed me a new mantra: “You don’t have to suck when you get older.”

Sometimes Quality Begins With Quantity

The NFL Draft is Coming Up This Week

I’ve always been a big football fan but I’ve never really gotten into the college game.  There’s a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I’ve worked pretty much every Saturday of my adult life so I’m never around to watch the games.  Plus growing up in New York City college football (like NASCAR and country music) is just not a big deal.  So when it comes to this time of year I pay attention to the draft and I hope my team brings in some fresh new talent but in all honestly I’m just listening to what all the Mel Kipers of the world have to say about these prospects.  I couldn’t tell you the difference between Khalil Mack and Zack Martin if you paid me (although all the buzz about The Cowboys getting Johnny Football does have me excited for Thursday night).

So this morning I’m reading Peter King‘s weekly article called Monday Morning Quarterback (which by the way if you’re an NFL fan should be required reading) and I saw this quote by a Ravens assistant GM:

“We look at the draft as, in some respects, a luck-driven process. The more picks you have, the more chances you have to get a good player. When we look at teams that draft well, it’s not necessarily that they’re drafting better than anybody else. It seems to be that they have more picks. There’s definitely a correlation between the amount of picks and drafting good players.”

And I thought to myself, Bingo!  That’s so true in the NFL and it’s also so true in the Mobile DJ Business.  25 years after the fact, everyone praises Jimmy Johnson for the Hershel Walker trade that helped turn The Cowboys around in the early 90s.  And while that trade certainly was the catalyst, it was the amount of draft picks that we acquired that was the key.  Johnson didn’t land a Pro-Bowler with each pick.  But he understood that bringing in lots of young talent was the answer to making The Cowboys competitive again.  Some were going to catch on, some weren’t.  And some would rise from the pack and become superstars.

I thought back on my 20+ years of running Elite Entertainment and realized I have used a similar philosophy.  Around this same time of year I throw the net out and bring in a handful of new assistants.  I train them and get them out in the field and then I wait and see.  Some will drift off after a handful of events.  Some will catch on, show the right traits and then train to become an MC.  And from those, some will rise even further and become true superstars.  And just like in the NFL, it’s almost impossible early on to predict who will rise and who won’t.  Remember the year Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were both coming out of college?  No one will admit it today but there were some draftniks who actually thought Leaf was the better pick.

The First and Second Picks of the 1998 Draft. How'd That Work Out?

I’ve had similar situations at Elite.  I’ve hired young people who I thought had all the talent in the world – only to watch them fizzle out in a matter of weeks or months.  I’ve also brought in people who I thought were just place-holders because I needed some extra mixers that season – and then watched them surprise everyone (especially me) and become great MCs.  Some people interview better than others and I admit I am often thrown off by good looks.  While they are important in our business they aren’t everything.  I’ll take a DJ with average looks who has a great personality and enthusiasm and professionalism any day over a good looking guy doesn’t own an alarm clock. But you can’t tell that early on so the look is the first thing I often notice.

Anyway, my point in sharing all this is simple:  Bring in new talent.  Lots of it.  It’s your best chance at “getting lucky” and finding your next great DJ.

PhDJ Workshop. We’re Doing it Again

You may remember Joe Bunn and I held a 2 day workshop for Mobile DJ Business owners back in March called The PhDJ Workshop.  We had 21 attendees and the feedback was universally positive (watch what some of the attendees had to say right here.)

Joe and I have set dates for a second workshop for later this year.  We’ll be doing it again Tuesday November 4th and Wednesday November 5th back down in Raleigh North Carolina.  One of the reasons we changed the days of the week to Tuesday and Wednesday (as opposed to Monday and Tuesday) is the “Pre-Workshop Cocktail Reception” was such an important part of the schedule (allowing everyone to meet and get to know one another in a casual setting)  yet a few of the attendees missed it because they had an event that Sunday and were traveling.  So this time around Monday is wide open for a travel day and we’ll have our Cocktail Reception Monday evening  – then get down to serious business Tuesday morning.

And what do we mean by “serious business?”  Well the first time around Joe and I ran seminars about sales, marketing, grooming talent, operations and so much more.  Plus we had a Performance Workshop where a bunch of the attendees got on the microphone and performed, and then after I offered feedback and advice. This portion of the program was so successful one attendee wrote me afterwards and said:

 

“I wanted to thank you for your great inspiration during the live portion of the workshop. At my last wedding I walked out in front of the crowd to do the Grand Entrance, looked the guests in the eyes, and really felt like I connected with them. It was amazing!”

 

Here I am offering some feedback at The PhDJ's Performance Workshop

The educational content will be virtually the same as back in March with one big addition.  When Joe and I surveyed the attendees a few of them mentioned that they wished there had been a chance for some one-on-one time with either of us.  So we’ve worked that into the schedule.  If you attend PhDJ Workshop in November you’ll have a 15 minute session with either Joe or I where you can ask specific questions and get some personal attention on whatever issue you’d like to discuss.  We added this into the schedule without taking any of the seminars away from last time so we’re confident the content in November will be even better than in March.

If you are interested in this very advanced, very exclusive educational opportunity, I invite you to check out some more information.  Our website (http://phdjworkshop.com)  has a schedule of events and all the details about dates and where to stay.

We have kept the price the same: $995.  And while that may seem steep, I can tell you that every attendee told us after the workshop they felt they received equal or more value compared to what they spent.  Also like the first time, we are capping attendance.  No more than 25 companies will be there (If one representative from a company comes he or she can bring others for just $500).  We came close to maxing out the first time and I think we may just do it in November.

So go ahead and poke around our website and if you have any questions let me know.  I’ll be happy to speak to you in person before you make the final decision to attend or not.
Hope to see you in Raleigh!

My Advice on Preparing and Presenting a Seminar

Speaking at DJ Times DJ Expo August 2012

I’ve had a number of DJs in recent years ask me for advice about presenting a seminar.  I consider this a compliment as most requests are preceded by “I like how you give seminars, can you give me some advice…” so it’s ego-gratifying for sure.  And as someone who sits in his share of seminars at DJ conventions I have a vested interest in seeing the overall quality of our presentations improve.

So here are the pointers I can offer.  First and foremost, I’m going to assume that you’ll be using some kind of visual aid (PowerPoint or Keynote) to organize and then present your material.  If you’re on the fence about it, get off the fence.  Use one.  It’ll keep you organized and the visuals will make for a more engaging experience for your listener.  And for those of you who think, “oh I’m just better when I wing it,” I respectfully say, “No. You’re not.”

So step one: build your presentation in PowerPoint (or Keynote).  You have an idea for your seminar — you probably have a title too.  So go ahead, start a PowerPoint presentation and make a title page.  Now make a few slides.  Make the top of each slide the headline of a point you want to make then add any notes under the slide (not on the slide itself – I’ll tell you why in a minute).  When you’re done with this, count your slides.  If you’re like me you probably have 5-10 slides.  That’s a good start but far from enough to fill a one hour talk. But that’s ok.  Now it’s time to build.  Start brainstorming what else you can discuss under this topic.  Do some research.  Find out what others say or recommend.  Even begin to rehearse the few points you are already have.  All of these things will lead to the evolution of your talk.  Every time you think of a new idea make another slide (and make more notes).  Don’t even worry about the order yet.  Just use this as a catch-all to collect your thoughts.

Once you get to about 30 slides you probably have about an hours worth of material.  Obviously this is a generality.  Some slides I’ll keep up for 10 minutes while I pontificate about a subject.  Some are punch lines to a joke that’ll be up for 30 seconds.  But overall, I’ve found that 1 to 2 minutes per slide is a decent average.

So now start putting your ideas into a good order.  This should be easy for a DJ because it’s very similar to programming.  When you program a set what do you do?  You probably look for a great song to kick it off that’ll engage everyone and get people to the floor.  Then you need some powerful songs that hopefully mix well with the first one and keep people out there.  Then you want to end your set on a high note.  Use the same logic when shuffling your slides.

Delivering My Favorite Seminar "Ten Things You Can Do To Have a Better Day"

Start with engagement.  I did a seminar years ago about finding DJs.  I came up with a clever way to start it.  I played some game show music and I said “we’re going to start with a game called ‘Know Your DJ Recruits.’”   I asked 3 questions about what makes a good DJ recruit and I asked the crowd to shout out their answers.  After the seminar Bryan Dodge pulled me aside (if you don’t know Mr. Dodge he is a professional public speaker so his advice to me on the subject was highly valued) and he told me that was a great start to the seminar.  He said “you really hooked everyone in from the very beginning with those questions.”   Since then, every seminar I put together I try to use some kind of engagement early on.  Most attendees file into a room and expect seminars to be one-way forms of communication.  They are going to listen and maybe take notes while you speak.  But if you can throw them off right away by breaking their expectations,  there’s a much better chance you’ll have their attention throughout.

Scrap the “About Me” slide.  Using this same logic, take your slide that you were going to open with, you know the one that says “About Me” and lists all your experiences and why you’re an expert on the subject you’re about the present, and delete it.  If you feel the need to open with your CV, have the person introducing you do it.  But here’s a better idea: Instead of telling everyone why you are an expert, why not just prove it to them with your material?

A picture is worth a thousand words.  The reason I suggested you make your slides with just a title on a page and all your ideas in the notes section (which doesn’t appear on the slide to the viewer) is this: text in a PowerPoint is boring.  Really boring.  Your listener doesn’t want to read.  They want to listen.  So now that you’ve got these mostly blank slides it’s time to fill them up.  What are you going to put on them?   Well, you’ve already got the title or bullet point for each one.  Ask yourself, is there an image I can use that will relate to what I am going to talk about?   For example, I told a story once in a seminar about my dad teaching me to ride a bike when I was a kid.   I don’t have a picture of that but I looked on Google Images (which should be your best friend when creating a seminar) and found a nice, hallmark-card-worthy picture of a dad teaching his son to ride a bike.   I not only used that but I also took the opportunity to make a joke.  Referencing the picture I said, “that’s not my dad and me by the way.  They didn’t have color photography back then.” 

Speaking of humor – use it.  If it’s funny.  There’s nothing better to win a crowd over than making them laugh.  But don’t use it if it’s not funny.  There’s nothing worse than when a joke doesn’t go over. If you’re unsure if you are funny or not, odds are you’re probably not.

Speaking of telling stories – use them too.  As long as A) they relate to the subject matter and B) you’re a good storyteller. If you’re unsure if you are a good storyteller or not, odds are you’re probably not.

I'm telling a story about Frank Sinatra. What else would I have on the screen?

Back to pictures – so my advice is whenever and wherever you can substitute text with a picture, do it.  And when you can’t, keep the text as minimal as possible.  Make believe you have a 200 word limit for the entire presentation.  In fact, don’t make believe.  Impose that restriction on your PowerPoint or Keynote.

Know your content.  What a generic thing to say isn’t it?  Know your content?  Like what speaker wouldn’t know his or her content.  Well, I’ll pause now and let you think back to the last time you sat in a seminar with a speaker who didn’t know his content that well. Someone who had to keep looking at his notes (or even reading directly from them) or advancing his slides so he’d know what his next topic was.  My guess is you didn’t have to think that far back did you?  So how do you “know your content?”  These are the standards I set for myself:

Wean yourself off of your notes.  As I practice my seminar I want to be able to look at each slide and know the points I’m going to make without peeking at my notes.  So going back to the example, when I saw the picture of the kid on the bike with his dad, I knew the story that went along with it.  I didn’t memorize it (because then you can get stuck on a word and be finished) but I was comfortable enough to tell the story quickly and coherently and finish with the moral of the story which tied it back to training my DJs (the important step).  I gave that seminar four times.  I guarantee I told that story slightly differently each time (ie not word for word) but each time I got my point across (I hope)

Know the next slide.  When I am ready to present my seminar, I mean really ready – like I know it like the back of my hand ready, I can go through my PowerPoint and predict what the next slide is going to be.  There’s comfort in that.  When I glance back at the screen it’s rarely because I’ve lost my place (although I’ll admit it does happen) but it’s more often just to confirm I’m on the right slide and that the projector hasn’t shut down.

Speaking of Rehearsal – every once in a while when you rehearse, start at the middle and just do the second half.  It’s human nature that we always know the first half of something better than the second.  So to make sure you don’t start lagging towards the end (when, let’s face it you have to be at your best because that’s really when you can lose a crowd), every once in a while just start at the half way point of your presentation and rehearse to the end.

Speaking of Rehearsal Part Two – rehearse out loud.  Rehearsing in your head is great but saying the words out loud is important too.  I’m lucky because I can use my running time to rehearse.  And I say my seminar out loud (the neighbors think I’m crazy).  I often joke that my dog Shea (my running partner) knows my presentation better than I do because in the run-up (pun intended) to presenting a seminar the poor guy has to hear it every morning.

Speaking of Rehearsal Part ThreeYou can print out your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation to practice when you can’t be at a computer.  I was rehearsing for a seminar a few years ago and had a vacation planned to Jamaica.  So I printed out the presentation and stuck it in a binder.  Every morning I went through the presentation once while lying on a beach chair over-looking the Caribbean Sea.  I even came up with a few more ideas to add so I just jotted notes on the pages and then after the vacation I added a few more slides.

Speaking of Rehearsal Part Four -  I’m all about knowing your content and your presentation like the back of your hand.  But there is a point of over-saturation and I try to stay clear of that.  Rehearsing too much will simply ratchet up your nerves because you are subliminally telling yourself that this seminar is SO IMPORTANT I HAVE TO BE PERFECT.  Don’t do that to yourself.  It’s good to be good and it’s great to be great but no one is expecting a Tony Robbins meets Mark Ferrell type presentation (unless of course you are Tony Robbins or Mark Ferrell).  By the way, I heard this particular piece of advice from comedian and  life coach Kyle Cease a number of years ago and it is probably the single biggest thing that has helped me be a better presenter.  I was starting to get a little too nervous when I was doing seminars and when I heard him say this it was like he was speaking directly to me.  I don’t even look at my PowerPoint now within 24 hours of my talk.  I know it and any last minute brushing up is only going to make me more nervous.  Just relax and give your talk (assuming you’ve down everything else to prepare).

Speaking at EPMEN

Scrap the “definition” slide.  If you have a slide in your presentation that has a single word on it, and then you define that word, put it in the same place as your “About Me” slide.  That’s a trite, overused and boring technique. If any of your listeners need to know the definition of a word they can Google it on their smart phones or tablets which they’re probably using right now to look at Facebook or Twitter because you’re showing them the definition of the word “performer.”

Sprinkle in some video or even audio.  It’s not easy to speak for an hour straight.  Especially if you are going to follow my advice and not use notes or peek back at the video screen to get your bearings straight. One way to make this easier is to put a few videos in your presentation.  Just like story-telling these videos need to be good and pertinent.  Assuming they are, drop a few in.  It’ll give you a chance to take a sip of water (without pulling a Mark Rubio) and peek at your notes.  I recently did a seminar that had 2 videos in it.  One about a third of the way in.  The other about two-thirds of the way.  So in my mind this was a three act play.  Once I got to the first video I was able to take a quick break and look over my notes.  Same thing with the second video and then it was on to the big finish.  You can do the same thing by dropping a song in too but that won’t hold the attention of the crowd as long.

Think about pre-seminar music.  It blows my mind when I walk into a seminar that a DJ is presenting and I’m a few minutes early and there’s dead air.  It’s so easy to stick a 20 minute mix into your PowerPoint just in case the AV company at the convention hasn’t thought of that.  We’re DJs people.  How could you not think of music?

Have an intro song.  Same rules apply here.  How can you have someone introduce you and then you just walk out.  Why not give yourself the same advantage that all of your brides and grooms have (namely a cool, upbeat song to walk out to)?

No Q&A.  I have a question…see this one time I had this one client who looked at my services and really wanted to book me but see what had had happened was they told me they were going to book and so I held the date and keep in mind I’m the most expensive guy in my market so then they said they were mailing the deposit so I continued to hold the date and then…” Sorry you can’t hear the rest of the question because everyone but the person asking the question is filing out of the room.  I already wrote an article about this once so I won’t be redundant.  Suffice to say, please, don’t do it.

One of the great honors of my speaking career is being asked to present at The Wedding MBA.

End strong.  This is my main reason for no Q&A.  It will probably bring your seminar to a boring end.  But even if the question asked is a good one and you make a great point, you are leaving too much to chance.  As you shuffle those PowerPoint slides and reorder your talk, remember it’s like programming.  You wouldn’t end your events with a lame song would you?   Well don’t end your seminar that way either.  Take one of your best points, your most inspiring thoughts or your most powerful statements and end with that.  Then have a kick ass song start playing and soak in your standing ovation.

Presenting a seminar to your peers can be a very rewarding experience.  I remember vividly, many years ago, giving my first seminar at a convention that DJ Times held in San Francisco.  I flew out there by myself and other than Brian O’Connor from DJ Times I didn’t know anyone at the convention.  On day one I sat there watching other seminars and getting ready to speak.  Then I gave my seminar and I was inundated with requests for my time.  One guy even boldly said to me, I want to buy you dinner and get to know you more.  That was an awesome moment and it validated that I had something of value to share.  And you might too.  But having good quality content is only part of the battle.  Knowing how to present it, putting together a seminar that is interesting and has good flow, and then delivering it in a polished way that shows you are an expert is just as important.  I hope this advice has been helpful and I look forward to hearing you speak at an upcoming DJ convention.

It's always a thrill presenting a seminar to my peers in the industry

 

Announcing The PhDJ Workshop March 10th and 11th in Raleigh NC

Joe Bunn

So I get this email a few weeks ago from Joe Bunn.  He’s got a DJ company in North Carolina.  I’ve known him for a number of years.  We met when he brought me down to do a day of consulting work and I’ve followed the incredible growth of his company ever since.  Joe asked me if I’d be interested in partnering with him on a two day educational opportunity for DJs and DJ company owners.  I was intrigued.  I’ve watched from the sidelines while some of my good friends in this industry (like Peter Merry  with his “Professional Process” and  Bill Hermann and Jason Jones with their “Entertainment Experience“) have done something similar and I’ve wondered what it would take to throw my hat in that ring.  Turns out it took Joe Bunn asking.

My first response was simple: “What can we offer that’s different from what is already out there?”

But the answer was just as simple:  We run Multi-Ops.  And that’s the difference.

Joe and I have a very similar approach to this industry.  We both still DJ and entertain but we’re also both company owners.  We want a staff of DJs and we understand that quality and quantity go hand in hand (they have to).  We understand that marketing and selling for a Multi-Op presents unique challenges that single operators don’t face.  We handle staffing issues daily.  We define success similarly too (owning a company that makes us a good living but also gives us some balance and allows us to live our lives and not be chained to our desks.)

And so after a few weeks of kicking ideas around we came up with a name and a format.  We are combining all of the above issues into a two-day, very educationally intensive workshop for DJ Company owners.  And in order to insure that this will be an exclusive opportunity we are capping the number of attendees at 25.  This will allow us to spend time answering questions, round-tabling, idea-sharing and of course teaching.  I insisted that we have some time for a performance-focused workshop and so we’ll be doing that as well (because like I said Joe and I both still DJ and we understand the importance of being great in that role as well).

We are calling this The PhDJ Workshop.  We’ve set up a website with more information (PhDJWorkshop.com) and also made a little introductory video to answer some questions (click this link to view it on Vimeo: Video Here)  And if you’re wondering what this will cost, we’ve set the tuition at $995. 

I don’t want to sound like a used car salesman and say “Hurry Up – Spots Are Limited” because I honestly have no idea when (or even if) we will sell out all 25 seats.  But if you are interested in this, check it out. See if the schedule and the curriculum excites you.   And of course if you have any questions hit me up.  My cell phone is always the most direct way to reach me (732-822-1952).

I can promise you this: If I’m putting my name to something there’s going to be great value in it.  And Joe Bunn feels the same way.  We want to make this incredibly beneficial to everyone who attends.  Hope to see you there!

YouTube is today’s MTV

A funny thing happened to music in the early 1980s.  When MTV started broadcasting and became very popular it literally changed the face of music.

Before this, the general public’s main interaction with music was audibly.  Sure you had some visuals, an artists album cover or photos from a music magazine, and of course you could always go see the band live for the ultimate experience.  But pretty much when you discovered a new artist or song it was through the radio.  But then MTV came along and instead of asking, “have you heard that new song?” people began asking, “have you seen that new video?“  Here, I’ll prove it:  If you’re old enough to remember pop music from the 80s and I say “Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer,” I guarantee you picture that awesome video before you hum the tune.  Same thing goes for a-ha’s “Take On Me” and “Rock It” by Herbie Hancock and dozens of other songs.  In fact I’ve always thought the video craze was one of the reasons there were so many “One Hit Wonders” in the 1980s.  Some bands that really had no business in the music business, but had one clever idea for a video, could get themselves into heavy rotation on MTV and have a hit.  I mean, I dare you to name another Dexys Midnight Runners song but I’ll bet you can remember those stupid overalls they wore in the video.

But then MTV went away.  I mean not the channel itself but their dominion over pop music.  (I’ve never quite understood it either.)  And for many years the general public stopped watching music videos.  We as DJs often saw them, especially once so many of us started bringing plasma screens out to our jobs and became “Video DJs.”  But rarely would you hear someone not in our industry ask, “have you seen that new video?

But now, video is back.  With the power of YouTube, and also the incredible ease that we can share links these days via Twitter, Facebook and email, people are asking that question again.  And a clever or unique video can launch an artist’s career or send a song straight to #1.  We all know this, right?  We’ve seen it in the last year with Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake and most recently The Fox.”  In fact, it’s this latest song which inspired me to write this blog and remind everyone in my industry that part of our job is keeping an ear out (or an eye out in this case) for the next big musical thing.  I got lucky with The Fox because I heard about it early on.  Seth Godin (who I read religiously and you should too) mentioned it in a blog back in early September.  I watched the video, thought it was clever (if a tad annoying) and then sent an email to my staff telling them they should stick the song on their hard drive.  Just in case.  I do this often and am known to be wrong (One Pound Fish never did go big, did it?) But hey as DJs it’s better to have a song and not need it then need it and not have it.

So my point of all this?  Research is part of our jobs.  If you don’t subscribe to a music service you should do it today (BTW – I’ve used Promo Only’s POOL service since its inception and I love it.)  If you don’t have subscriptions to every DJ publication as well as Rolling Stone and any other music magazine you can think of, sign up right now.  Look for trends before they go viral.  Be the DJ who turns their clients on to something new (and not vice versa.)  It’ll prove to them that you’re the expert in your field.  Because you are.

 

Thumbs Up for Workshopping!

 I’ve just returned from The Las Vegas DJ Show. and while my full review will appear in October’s Disc Jockey News (spoiler alert- the show was awesome and the ADJA has now officially alerted the DJ Community that it is a force to be reckoned with in the DJ convention world) I wanted to write something specific and detailed about one particular workshop that I witnessed at the show. This is the third time this summer I have seen (and/or participated) in a workshop like this and I’m convinced this format works and should become a staple at these events.

I’m writing about Randy Bartlett‘s “Advanced Microphone Skills” premium workshop. The word “premium” in this cases indicates that this workshop was an additional cost to any of the attendees who choose to participate in it. It also means seats were (extremely) limited and, no surprise here, they sold out well in advance.

 The four hour session (which wound up going close to 5 hours) was limited to 25 attendees. The cost was a ridiculously low $100 but based on the response I expect that figure to rise. Each of the 25 attendees performed bridal party introductions and were then critiqued by Mr. Bartlett.  I was only able to sit in for about 45 minutes but if the rest of the morning went like the bit I saw, attendees got their money’s worth times ten. Bartlett’s suggestions and constructive criticism were spot on. He highlighted each MC’s strong points and then offered some solid advice on areas of improvement. And since the performances all took place in front of all 25 participants (as well as Bartlett’s instructions) everyone benefited, not just from their own personal critique, but also from witnessing each other’s performances and hearing the feedback on those as well.  25 separate bridal party introductions might sound repetitious to some but for any MC who is looking to stepping up their game, well, there’s gold in them there hills.  Personally I wish I could have stayed through the whole morning and seen it all.

Randy Bartlett running this workshop was the key. There are only a handful of people in this industry who I believe have the entertainment experience, the communication skills and, quite frankly, the chutzpah to pull this off. Randy Bartlett, Peter Merry and Mark Ferrell are the three that very quickly come to my mind.

I conducted a similar workshop at ARM DJs this June (although Robbie Britton did not make it a “premium” workshop) and I also helped organize something similar at a smaller DJ get-together that I was involved with this July (Bartlett and Merry were the “coaches” at that workshop).  All three of these experiences were incredibly valuable and well received. Ed Petty (from Dallas’ LeForce Entertainment) who participated in the workshop this week said it was: “the best! Sound, practical advice from truly one of the best in the business – I would recommend it to anyone in the wedding business.” Mitch Taylor of Taylored Weddings who also participated in Vegas summed it up by saying “Randy’s advanced mic workshop should be required training for anyone who is serious about improving their performance and connecting on a new level with their audience.”

The most common (negative) feedback I hear about DJ conventions is that there is just too much 101 content. The reason I think this concept works (having some “premium” workshops tied into a larger DJ convention) is that, by charging an additional fee, you naturally thin the herd. This type of format would not be as effective if it were open to the hundreds of attendees at a national conference — and certainly that many people could never all get mic time.  But by limiting the size of the group the feedback becomes more intimate, everyone has a chance to perform and the benefits are exponentially more positive. Randy Bartlett has spearheaded this concept (specifically coupling it with a national show) and I think it will (and should) catch on.  Kudos to Randy for putting on a great workshop and for Dr Drax for not only planning an incredible week of education at The Las Vegas DJ Show but specifically for including Randy Bartlett’s “Advanced Microphone Skills” premium workshop.

My Miley Cyrus Reaction

Here’s the problem with “pushing the envelope,” once an artist has pushed it and shocked the general public, the line doesn’t return to where it used be – it stays at the place it was pushed to. Thus, artists have to get ever more shocking and lurid and controversial just to stir up any interest or buzz.

This blog is my response to Miley Cyrus’ twerking at the VMAs this year. Personally I didn’t find her that shocking or lurid, I just thought she was crass and came across like the chick at the party who just needs to get laid. In my opinion, if you’re going to go that route, especially as a female entertainer, you need to combine shock value with some sensuality. Cyrus’ tongue wagging and crotch rubbing were more desperate than erotic (desperate for attention, desperate for sex) and as we all know confidence is way more attractive than desperation (remember that the next time you’re selling your services.).

But the combination of pop music and pushing the sexual mores of society is nothing new.  The response after Elvis‘ appearance on The Milton Bearle show (where Elvis’ gyrations sent the country’s hearts aflutter and our moral police into overtime) was so eerily similar to the reaction to Cyrus’ VMA appearance you’d think there were just a few boiler plate reactions and the people who are upset just fill in the blanks. A Mad-Libs for the easily offended, if you will.  I mean, how many responses did you see, in the main stream media, as well amongst your friends on social media, that basically said, “this is a sign of our nation’s decline.”

Well, we’ve been told something similar for the past 60 years, through Elvis and The Stones (who had to change “Let’s spend the night together” to “Let’s spend some time together” to get by the censors) to The Doors (who famously snuck “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher” past those same moral gate keepers) to Madonna (who writhed around in obvious sexual desire, wearing, of all things, a wedding dressing on these very same VMAs 29 years ago – take note Miley, when Madonna showed us the garter belt -that was sensual) to Prince (who’s song about a sex fiend name Nikki was so outrageous it helped start the whole “Parental Advisory” campaign) to 2 Live Crew (who were deemed “legally obscene” by a Florida court, leading to the actual arrest of store clerks who sold their “Nasty As We Wanna Be” album) to Janet Jackson (who’s millisecond nip slip on national television was surely the end of everything decent and wholesome).

The envelope keeps getting pushed further and further and artists keep wanting to test the limits and get attention.  My guess is someday they’ll simulcast award shows – on one channel you’ll get the edited, bleeped out version you can watch with your kids, while on another, say an HBO type, you’ll get the unedited, adults-only feed.  I’m a big boy, I can handle whatever it is Eminem is rapping out without having every third word dumped.

But again, my problem last week with Cyrus and her twerking wasn’t how controversial she was – my problem was how untalented she came across. I like my sexuality served up with a solid dose of performance talent. I know artists like this usually think to themselves, how can I shock the public? -  and if it was twitter-buzz she and her handlers were after you’d have to give them a thumbs up (there were 360,000 tweets per minute about her performance).  But instead of just shock value, I’d have liked to see a little more ability.  Less crass and ass, and more production and seduction. “Blurred Lines” the song that Robin Thicke was singing when Cyrus was getting all down and dirty is a great example.  Yes, it is steeped in sexuality and desire (although I for one don’t hear the date rape inferences at all) yet it’s all wrapped up in a great beat and mesmerizing hook.  I’ve played this song at plenty of events the past few months and seen everyone from little flower girls to grandparents of the bride or groom singing “I know you want it.” That’s how to serve up sexuality and decadence folks, on a steaming platter of pop artistry that has the country dancing and singing lewd lyrics without even thinking about them.  The only thing “Blurred Lines” leaves you thinking about is what rhymes with hug me?

And now, a week after the latest “end of civilization as we know it” moment, we are left with one last question, will any of this result in increased record or concerts sales for Miley Cyrus?  Because let’s face it that’s the real reason artists push the envelope.  They want to create the buzz that lifts them into the public conscious so that when they release a product, it sells. You can do that the old fashioned way (by creating a great product) or you can try the short cut of becoming this week’s trending topic on Twitter. Does the buzz lead to sales?  That is still an unanswered question. When Cyrus’ fourth studio album “Bangerz” is released next month one will have to wonder how much of the sales can be attributed to her VMA performance. Although at that point the scandal will be 5 weeks old, an eternity in the Twitter world.

An Open Letter of Thanks

I had just wrapped up my seminar “Let The Music Play” at this year’s DJ Expo and as always I had an ending song (Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” in the biggest no-brainer of the year).  But three beats in, the music stopped and someone was grabbing my mic.  WTF?  I script everything about my seminars including the big finish followed by the finale song.  Who the hell is interrupting my genius?

Turns out it was two of my best friends in this industry: Sean “Big Daddy” McKee and Steve Moody.  Before the crowd dispersed they had an announcement to make and even though I wasn’t thrilled about the interruption, I figured it must be something important so I let them go.

Turns out it was important .  And it was personal.  And it was a highlight of the entire week for me.

Sean and Steve presented me with a plaque honoring me for my “Continuous Dedication to The Mobile DJ Industry.”  The plaque reads:

It was a very humbling moment for me.  Anyone that knows me and my involvement in the industry, especially during the week of The DJ Times DJ Expo, knows that I’m involved because I love to be involved.  I have vivid memories of attending DJ Conferences years ago and sitting back and watching guys like KC Kokoruz and George Whitehouse run seminars and wishing I could be up there.  Did I have anything to impart? I’d ask myself.  And could I actually do a seminar?  Turns out, I guess I do (and can.)

So to DJ Times, which gave me my first platform to speak 15 years ago, and to John Young at The Disc Jockey News who has published my articles for almost ten years now, thank you for the opportunity to give back to an industry that has been so great to me.  To everyone who has bought my book or my training DVD because they felt I must have something worth investing in, thank you for thinking so highly of me.  And to Sean and Steve, I’ve already sent you thank you notes but I wanted to do this publicly (like you did for me) Thank You!  You made an awesome week that much more “awesomer.”  You honored me in a way I could never repay.  I’m humbled and I’m grateful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Steve and Sean presenting me with the plaque (Thanks Mark Brenneisen for getting this shot)

Big Daddy reading the plaque for me. Thank you Family Legacy DJs for getting shot

“Bruce” Is Well Worth the Read

“‘Born To Run’ lived up to every promise ever made about Bruce Springsteen. From the breezy opening moments of ‘Thunder Road’ through the blood-borne passion of ‘She’s The One’ and ‘Night,’ the  restless ambition fueling the title track, and the tragedies in ‘Backstreets’ and ‘Jungleland,’ the album stood as a summary of the previous twenty years of rock ‘n’ roll, a portrait of the moment, and the cornerstone of a career…”

It’s that kind of writing that inspires me to read a lot of books about musicians. I’ve read biographies of artists (and full band treatises) on everyone from David Bowie to The Beatles and from The Rolling Stones to Jim Morrison. I not only love the way a good writer can describe a great song or concert moment in words that etch them forever in my mind, but I also enjoy learning so many of the back stories about artists and the art they create. So many times throughout the course of pop history (as I’m sure is true with any history) had one chance meeting not happened, or one casual phrase not been uttered, a song (or sometimes even an entire band) that is part of our collective conscious would never have happened.

While this blog is meant to be a recap of the latest book I’ve read in this genre (Peter Ames Carlin’s Bruce) I should pause here to plug the seminar I’ve prepared over the last 6 months and will be presenting this year at DJ Times International DJ Expo in Atlantic City. The seminar is entitled “Let The Music Play” and it is jam-packed with these types of stories -  the crazy coincidences, chance encounters and calculated risks – that have all conspired to bring about so many of the songs we use at our events.

I received Carlin’s biography of Bruce Springsteen in hard copy for Christmas from my at-the-time-future-mother-in-law (thanks Elaine!). Since much of my reading these days is on the kindle app on my iPad I put the book on a shelf and waited till this summer. I won’t bring my iPad to the beach and since Kelly and I have laid claim to Asbury Park as our go-to spot on the Jersey shore, I figured what better time and place to read a book about Bruce Springsteen than in the shadows of The Stone Pony.

And it was there that I cracked open this book and in four short visits to the beach  (with a little reading time at home too) finished it.   First, I should mention my level of fandom when it comes to Mr. Springsteen: I am a solid 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. The quintessential “casual fan.”  I don’t think I’ve ever purchased any of his albums or CDs purely for listening pleasure (although I do own almost everything he’s released for gig-purposes) and while it’s true I’ve seen him in concert twice in my life, both times were at the behest of a much bigger fan and both times I came away with the same opinon: “he’s an awesome live performer — but God that was long.”  And while a handful of his songs would make my desert island playlist (“Jungleland” heading that list) I often find his music depressing and weighed down with too much “woe is me” cynicism. With all that stated upfront, I’ll also add that being a casual fan is often the best way to approach these books. If you have zero interest in an artist you probably won’t be stirred by any of their stories, yet it you’re an over-the-top fan you’ve probably heard all those stories in all their iterations already. Indeed, I’ve read no less than 5 biographies of Prince and I either find myself thinking “been there, done that” or getting upset that I know more than the biographer.  All in all , I’d much rather approach a book like this – as a casual fan.

My favorite parts of Bruce are when Mr. Springsteen rose to a challenge. The clearest example of this was when his record label decided, after his first two albums were met with solid critical acclaim yet tepid sales, to finance just one more single rather than an entire third LP. Many at Columbia records, in fact, favored cutting ties completely with the 24 year old singer-songwriter in 1973, yet a small, vocal contingent were able to convince the powers-that-be to give him one last chance to gain traction with the general public. Given this overwhelming pressure and knowing that his next record could well be his last, how many artists would wilt and wither away? What did Bruce produce? Nothing less than one of his career defining songs: Born To Run.”  These kinds of “producing when challenged” stories seem to define Springsteen’s career. Going back to his first album, when he submitted the tapes that would make up Greetings From Asbury Park, Columbia records CEO Clive Davis complimented the work but added that he didn’t hear anything that was radio-friendly. Would Bruce consider writing one or two more songs? Days later Springsteen returned with “Spirits In the Night” and “Blinded By The Light.”  Years later when he was readying Born In The USA for completion his manager Jon Landau challenged him to produce one more track that would make  the disc even more of a hit. Bruce at first bristled at the suggestion but then returned to the studio the very next day with a rough version of Dancing In The Dark (which as Carlin says is Springsteen’s “most deliberate play for the mainstream he’d ever made” as well as his highest charting single ever.  BTW if you haven’t seen the video in awhile it’s worth clicking on that link – just be prepared to see some early MTV era cheese and a ridiculously young, pre-Friends Courtney Cox.)

I also loved a quote I read that made me stand up and cheer.  Apparently after the success of Born To Run Bruce was getting obsessive in the recording studio, trying to make everything as perfect as possible before releasing any new music.  The sessions for Darkness on The Edge of Town were slow and laborious and then the recording for what would eventually become The River got even worse.  One day Walter Yetnikoff (who at the time was running CBS) came to pay a visit and subtly remind Mr. Springsteen that though the record company was footing the bill for the time being, the cost of production does eventually come out of the artist’s royalties.  Bruce’s response: “How better can I spend my money than on my art?”

Bruce moves along quickly. After a brief introduction where we meet Bruce’s parents and see him grow up in Freehold NJ in a moderately dysfunctional family, by page 25 he’s already got his first guitar and by page 40 he’s in his first band. I’ve read too many of these books that get bogged down in the early years of these young artists. I think these stories really take off when the record deals and early recording sessions get under way and Carlin obviously shares my opinion. He provides enough back story so we understand where our protagonist comes from yet not so much that we get bored by every teenage pimple and  wet dream.

Moving along quickly also means not every detail of one’s life gets covered.   I’ve always wondered how Manfred Mann came to cover “Blinded By The Light” in such a psychedelic way yet there’s no mention of it in Bruce (nor what the #1 hit did for Springsteen’s coffers at the time when he probably so badly needed it).  I guess I’ll have to wait for a Manfred Mann biography.  And speaking of covers, as a New Jersey DJ who plays Jersey Girl on a regular basis, I’d have liked to know what inspired Springsteen to cover that Tom Waits’ song.  But alas, not every detail of a full and productive life can get mentioned in a 450 pages book.

Carlin interviewed all the key figures in researching Bruce and though it is an unauthorized biography even Springsteen himself sat with the author and offered some insight to his life and work. All Springsteen asked for was “an honest account of his life” and though I don’t know if the factual record would agree the book certainly reads as such.  Bruce shows Bruce as a flawed hero, a great activist and songwriter who would do anything for a friend yet at the same time had no reservations about breaking up the E-Street band after years together just because he wanted some new band members to play with.  Carlin also doesn’t dance around Springsteen’s first marriage and how indelicately he handled that break-up.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed Bruce and I would recommend it to anyone (especially if you’re a casual fan).  As ever, I discovered some songs I’d never heard before and gave a more in-depth listen to some songs I already knew.  That to me is the payoff when I read books like this.  Not only do I enjoy the stories but I often come away with a deeper appreciation for an artist’s work.  Bruce delivered on both of these accounts.  Give it a read if you’re inclined and if you want the full experience, come to Asbury Park and read it on the beach.  I’ll even lend you my beach badge.

 

Go!

I don’t subscribe to a ton of blogs.  I get something from Seth Godin almost every day but his are usually short, witty insights about something relevant to business or marketing.  I also get Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Caffeine every Tuesday which is a lengthier offering but often well worth the time.  One of the wedding related blogs I get is Alan Berg’s and his most recent entry about attending conferences really hit home for me. Indeed I’ve been making a similar argument within my own industry for years, using this blog and also my article space in John Young’s Disc Jockey News to promote the benefits of leaving your business for a few days and attending a conference.  There’s no shortage of them nowadays, in fact you could probably take Alan’s and my advice to the extreme and attend a wedding or DJ related conference every other week till your bankrupt.  But of course that’s not the point.  The point is to “Go!”  Attend a few, attend them correctly, and then take action.

Sonny Ganguly of Wedding Wire fame

Case in point: last month I went to EPMEN.  It was a one day conference featuring half a dozen seminars on topics such as marketing, sales and vendor relations.  The one huge nugget I brought home with me was something Sonny Ganguly (he of Wedding Wire fame) said: “by the end of this year half of the people accessing the web will be doing it on a mobile device.”  And the trend will only continue.   Experts estimate within a few years it’ll be almost three-quarters.  The desk top computer, even the convenient laptop, is dieing a not-so-slow death, being replaced by the ease and portability of tablets and cell phones.  Mr. Ganguly’s message was simple: “Is your business ready?

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard stats like this and in fact I’d attempted to make Elite’s website mobile friendly a few years ago with Wedding Wire’s plug-in.  But this product, while convenient and free, had its limitations and after a short run with it I had my webmaster pull the plug.  Thus for the past two years anyone who has gone to EliteEntertainment.com from a cell phone has seen my full site.  And while I love my site and all the things we’ve added to it, it looks too crammed on a 2 inch by 4 inch screen.  And the button are too tiny to allow easy navigation.  Like most websites, ours doesn’t translate well in that small size.

So when I returned from EPMEN I looked over my notes.  This is what I mean by not just attending a conference but attending it correctly and then taking action.  I sat in every seminar at EPMEN and took comprehensive notes.  Then, when I got to my office the next day I reviewed my notes.  What were the nuggets I’d heard from the lineup of speakers?  And which would I take action on straight away.  I’ve heard Bryan Dodge (a great motivational speaker) talk about the “law of diminishing intent.”  In a nutshell it means when you hear a great idea you want to take action immediately.  But if you don’t, by the next day you’ll still pretty much want to take action.  By day three you’ll “kinda sorta wanna take action.”  And by day four you’ll have forgotten all about it.  So on day one after EPMEN I made a list of things to take action on and creating a mobile friendly site for EliteEntertainment.com was number one on that list.

Elite's New Mobile Site

Fortunately I remembered having read a recommendation from a fellow Disc Jockey News writer Dave Winsor about someone who’d helped him develop a mobile friendly version of his site.  I thumbed through my copy of the paper and found the name: Michael Stedman.  After a quick Facebook search I was connected with Mr. Stedman and explaining my needs.  I was thrilled with how quickly Michael worked, offering me a mock up of what my new mobile site could look like within days.  He also offered me some suggestions which I appreciated.  I had some ideas but am always willing to listen to a professional and Michael Stedman has clearly done this before so he had some definite ideas.  When it was all said and done, within three weeks after EPMEN, I now have a great looking and easy to use mobile friendly site.

So let’s trace this back to its origin:  I attended a conference.  I heard a call to action.  I heeded it.  Then I remembered a nugget I’d read in an article in an industry publication which connected me with an expert in the exact field that I needed expertise in.  I took action and reached out.  Now I can cross “Mobile Site” off my checklist.

If you are a small business owner, and you strive to be the best you can be, you are cheating yourself, your business and your clients if you do not attend a few conferences throughout each year (and read a few trade publications as well).  I think the perfect mix for a DJ should be one DJ conference and one wedding industry conference (Wedding MBA for example.)  This way you get a good dose of DJ specific nuggets as well as a healthy helping of broader knowledge.  If you want to go even higher up the conference food chain, attend a small business conference or sales related workshop (the aforementioned Jeffrey Gitomer hosts them all the time throughout the country).   The point isn’t which ones specifically, but that you “go.”  And, as I’ve said, not just “go” to take up space, surfing Facebook the entire time during seminars and then complaining that the speakers sucked and you didn’t learn anything.  But “go” with a fully opened mind.  “Go” with a challenge to yourself that you’ll come home with 5-10 nuggets. “Go” and attend as many seminars as you can,  “Go” and network with some people you’ve never met before.  And “go” promising yourself you will take action on the most important of these nuggets as soon as you get home (not a week later.)

Hope to see you at a conference this year.  These are just a few of the great opportunities you have to learn and get motivated.  The ones with the *** I’ll be speaking at.

***ARM DJs   June 17-19 in Greeneville TN

*** Wedding Marketing Expo August 6-8 in Austin TX

***DJ Times DJ Expo August 12-16 Atlantic City NJ

The Las Vegas DJ Show September 8-11 Las Vegas NV

The Wedding MBA October  1-3 Las Vegas NV

*** Wedding Marketing Expo October 22-24 in Atlanta GA

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Wrong With Defining Your Clientele – Just Be Ready for the Fallout

Typical Abercrombie and Fitch ad. And no, those aren't my abs

There’s been a lot of controversy over Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries‘ statements about his clothing line.  Jeffries publicly acknowledged what anyone with eyesight had already figured out, that Abercrombie and Fitch is designed for super-fit people.  You don’t run ad campaigns like theirs if you’re targeting everyman.  And you don’t limit your dress sizes to 10 and under if you’re going after every-woman.  But apparently Jeffries public statements like: ““We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends” and “A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely” have pushed many people over the edge.  While Abercrombie and Fitch is certainly basking in a lot of publicity, most of it is harsh.  It’ll be interesting to see if their sales take a hit this quarter and also in the long term.  For every one Jeffries’ offended, he also may have reaffirmed to many of his customers why they love his clothes so much.

So today I saw a post on the Facebook DJ Group DJ Idea Sharing by a Texan DJ named Scott Shirley.  Apparently the original post was from a few years ago but somebody recently commented on it so it’s pushed the debate back out onto many of our timelines and so there’s been a recent flurry of new comments.  Scott has a sign that he uses at Bridal Shows and in his office that clearly states how he feels about “cheesy music.”

I have to say I have a similar reaction to both Mike Jeffries statement and Scott Shirley’s sign:

1- Kudos to you for bravely defining who your clientele is.

2-  Be Ready for the Fallout

Now certainly Scott’s sign is not as controversial, nor is his company big enough, to garner the national press that Mike Jeffries has produced.  So the comparison between the two are admittedly comical on that scale.  But I do see similarities in that both are an attempt to exclude some clientele while reassuring others.  Scott Shirley’s sign basically says “if you like The Chicken Dance or The Electric Slide or We Are Family move along.  I’m not the DJ for you.”  Fine.  That’s Scott’s opinion and he’s entitled to it (just as Mr. Jeffries is entitled to his.)  And being the ultimate capitalist that I am (and believing that in most cases, the market will decide) I say, don’t be offended, vote with your wallet.  If enough people stop buying Abercrombie and Fitch clothing they will either go out of business or drastically change their tune.  And seeing how Scott Shirley is still in business two and half years after showing the world his Cheese Sign, he clearly hasn’t hurt himself that much by defining his clientele.  In fact for every “Chicken Dance Lover” he’s turned off, he may have reaffirmed a different Bride who lays awake at night tossing and turning with visions of her guests dancing like chickens at her wedding.

Indeed some industry people who have seen my company perform at bridal shows (where we entertain and involve the guests with the YMCA, Electric Slide and a Conga Line) have asked me a similar question (albeit from the exact opposite perspective), “aren’t you afraid of turning off clients who don’t want participation songs like this?”  My answer is usually two-fold: First, yes that is a fear which we try to assuage during our sales rap at these shows (where we basically apologize for doing all those dances and let the brides and grooms-to-be know that the music at their weddings will be selected by them and they are welcome to give us as big a “don’t play list” as they want) .  And secondly, if given the choice between a bride who wants some involvement from us, or a bride that wants us to stay behind the DJ console all night and just play music, we’ll take the former.

Reading through this thread on Facebook, I see so many DJs trying to correct Scott Shirley.  Comments like (and I’m paraphrasing) “who are you to define cheese?” and “that sign is cheesier than The Chicken Dance” etc.  I have a different perspective: Good for you, Scott Shirley.  I think it’s important to know your target market and be brave enough to state it.  Maybe Mike Jeffries did offend a lot of people.  But maybe it’ll turn out that the vast majority of the people he offended wouldn’t (or in most cases couldn’t [because Abercrombie and Fitch doesn't carry their size]) shop in his stores anyway.  And maybe a bunch of brides have walked by Scott Shirley’s booth at a bridal show and thought, “well that’s not the guy for us” (although does a bride who likes cheese know it’s cheese?).  Just as, I’m sure, the Elite Entertainment showcase has turned plenty of brides off through the years.  Couples who are adamant that they don’t want the YMCA and then hear it at our shows may have already tuned us out by the time we get to the caveat in our sales rap.  But that’s ok, as I said about Scott Shirley, Elite’s still in business.

So whether you define your clientele with a sign, some public statements from the CEO or by handing out leis and leading a Conga Line at a bridal show, I say kudos to you for taking that step.  Just be prepared for whatever fallout comes next.

 

 

What’s Your Excuse?

I saw (and shared) a great meme recently on Facebook.  It said: “If It Is Important To You, You Will Find a Way.  If Not You’ll Find an Excuse.”

There are a few axioms that I try to live my life by and this is very close to one of them.  I often say (and I’m pretty sure this is a Mike Walter original): “There’s two things you can make in life, results or excuses.”  Both my saying and the meme make a similar point: that we control our own outcomes.

Now, obviously, this is a generality and it’s meant for things in life that are actually within our grasp and possibilities.  I offer this caveat because I know of a few people who are battling some serious health issues.  If one of them should lose their fight, I’d never think for one second that it’s because they didn’t want to live badly enough.  Some things, unfortunately, are out of our control.

But the obvious and extreme cases like this aside, what I like about these life philosophies is they make us take ownership of our own predicaments.  Initially, this can be a blow to your ego.  If you’re overweight (for example) and you’ve convinced yourself that you have a slow metabolism or you’re “big-boned” (whatever that means) then changing your philosophy and admitting you are overweight because you lack the willpower and determination to lose weight can be a bit of a shock to your psyche.  Same goes for the health of your business.  If you are barely making a living and/or you can’t seem to find any good people who want to work with you, you might comfort yourself with a potpourri of excuses (“the economy is bad” or “you can’t find loyal DJs anymore” or “everyone is undercutting me.”)  But if you stop that chatter and look yourself in the mirror and repeat that meme every morning: “If It Is Important To Me, I Will Find a Way.  If Not I’ll Find an Excuse” then you are going to discover pretty quickly whether you really want to be a success or not.

So think about the last time you made an excuse for something that you weren’t able to accomplish.  And now think about that meme.  If you substitute your excuse for “it wasn’t important enough to me” each and every time, you’ll start to take ownership for your lot in life.  When things aren’t great that can be a humbling experience.  But on the flip side, when things are rocking in your life, this philosophy can be empowering.  You’ll find yourself thinking things like: It was MY hard work that got built my company.  It was MY networking that brought sales up.  It was MY vision that created my company’s unique marketing plan. Etc etc etc.

Caution: This philosophy is not for the meek or mild and like I said initially it can be a shock to the system, especially if you are used to hiding behind a fortress of “yeah, but’s” (as in, “yeah, but my market is just too small for that…”)  But once you eliminate your excuses for not getting something done it leaves only two options:  Admit it’s not important enough to you.  Or, find a way.

Shame on Nicki Minaj

It’s been a long time since I watched American Idol with any regularity.  The season where Taylor Hicks won was the last time I really got into it.  The $11.99 I wasted, er, I mean spent on his CD was the final straw for me.  And to be honest I haven’t missed it for a moment.

So when I read this week that Nicki Minaj was late for a live show I had to look it up on YouTube. What I saw made me furious at two people. One, of course is Nicki Minaj. The second is whoever’s decision it was at Fox or American Idol who let her go on after the show had started.

Ms. Minaj is an artist. A singer/rapper who can get away with setting her own schedule most days. I mean if you’re going to see her perform in a club or a concert, you don’t really care if she hits the stage at 10 o’clock or 10:30 or whatever. And when it comes to recording, most artists are notoriously late starters who burn the midnight oil anyway.

But a live TV show is different. There’s a set start time and hundreds of crew who are ready to go not to mention viewers who are sitting down on their couches and expecting to see a show. It’s as important in our world as starting a Wedding or other special event on time.  So shame on Nicki Minaj for being late. Because even though she arrived seven minutes into the start of the show, she was really, probably, over an hour late. I’m sure the talent at these shows are expected to arrive early enough to get makeup done and be in place long before the cameras start rolling. So hitting traffic on the 405 (as Ryan Seacrest explained to the audience at the start of the show) is a pretty lame excuse.  As I said, shame on her.

And whoever’s decision it was to allow Ms. Minaj to take her judge’s seat after the show began is as culpable as she is. In my opinion, the precedent should have been set that as soon as the show began and she wasn’t in her seat, that seat should have remained empty the whole night. Allowing her to join the show after it started simply told her, the rest of the judges and heck, even the young talent that is competing that start time is a fluid thing. Come and go as you please — we’ll just have Mr Seacrest make an excuse for you and you can join the show whenever you get here. That’s exactly the opposite message that should have been sent.

In our industry, we should have a zero tolerance for lateness. The last two MCs I had to fire from Elite were let go for tardiness. Both were talented people but their Achilles Heal was they had no respect for a firm start time. I urge my staff to live by the credo: if you’re early, you’re on-time and if you’re on-time, you’re late. But these two never quite got that down. A seven o’clock start meant arrival at 6:30 was acceptable to them (as opposed to the hour to hour and half before start time that we all shoot for).  And cutting it that close, if they did “hit traffic on the 405″ it meant they might actually start playing music after the event had officially began.

So here is my open plea to anyone in our industry who struggles with arriving on-time: get out of our industry.  Understand that there is no room for your casual nature with other people’s schedules. If you can’t get this basic level of professionalism under control then look for another profession. Please. If you love music that much, start producing your own dance tracks. While you struggle to do so no one will care what time you get started. And if you produce a hit and can get booked at clubs to perform it, you’ll probably have a flexible enough start time that it won’t really matter when you show. But meantime you won’t be jeopardizing some poor bride’s Wedding, or some poor family’s Mitzvah, or any poor client’s event, by arriving whenever the hell you damn well please.

Our industry has enough hills to climb before we get to national respectability. Every time any of us displays a lack of professionalism we all take a hit. And in the world of entertainment, when there’s a firm start time, arriving late is the ultimate sign of unprofessionalism. Whether you’re Nicki Minaj or Mobile DJ entertaining at someone’s special event, shame on you if you can’t respect that.

Running a DJ Training Workshop at ARM DJs 6.0

I’ve already made my semi-serious video promoting this great opportunity but I wanted to share even more information about this so I thought a blog would be the right format.  Here’s the deal:

Up until a few weeks ago I wasn’t scheduled to speak or appear at ARM DJs 6.o (which takes place June 17-19th in Greeneville, TN).  And even though the educational line-up looks amazing this year (including sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer) I didn’t think I was going to be able to attend.  I’ve got a lot on my plate already, including getting married later this month (and of course a honeymoon) as well as some already-planned speaking engagements later in the year.  But then a few weeks ago Randy Bartlett created a bit of a stir by posing a question on Facebook about tying workshops into DJ conventions (by the way, I provided the link to this discussion but before you click on it be warned, with over 1,000 responses you may get sucked into a vortex if you start reading it.  Make sure you have plenty of free-time!)  This discussion led to some action by some show producers, including Dr Drax adding a Randy Bartlett led workshop at the ADJA DJ Show in Las Vegas in September.  It also got Robbie Britton (producer of ARM DJs) to start thinking about how he could make it more worthwhile for Multi-Op owners to bring their staff to ARM DJs this year.  And that’s when he reached out to me.

Without sounding too cocky, I think one of the things I do best is work with talent.  It’s something I’ve got a knack for and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been so good through the years at training DJs.  I can watch and listen to an MC on the microphone and immediately give him or her a few solid pointers about how to improve.  I’m never overly critical, I always outweigh the bad with the good and I can help a mediocre MC become good.  And a good one to become great.  By the way, this is also the reason that when I produced my Training DVD I included footage of me working with talent — because I think almost everyone could do this if they just learned how.

So the workshop(s) I’ll be running at ARM DJS this year will be run like one of my training sessions.   I’ll have no more than 10 attendees in a room with a sound system.  Everyone, myself included, will have multiple opportunities to speak on the microphone.  We may do bridal party introductions, or make a slow song announcement, or lead a line dance.  After each person performs I will offer some feedback and suggestions.  The reason we are limiting attendance to 10 per hour is to insure that everyone will be able to perform and get some constructive criticism from me.  The reason I wrote  “workshop(s)” is that if we fill one, we are going to open another.  And maybe a third. Robbie implied the other day that we may have to open a fourth, which I’m okay with as long as I don’t miss Jeffrey Gitomer.

I believe this will be a great workshop for Multi-Ops to bring their DJs to.  I also think anyone who still performs regularly would benefit from it.  So even though Robbie’s original idea was that this would be for staff members, I see no reason why business owners wouldn’t avail themselves of this opportunity as well (accept for the fact that there will be other seminars going on during these workshops).  Robbie said he would create a way to sign-up for the workshop (which will be included in your  ARM DJs pass – this isn’t a workshop that will cost you more money to attend) so if you’re interested, get your pass now (for you and your staff) and let Mr. Britton know you want to attend the DJ Training Workshop with Mike Walter.  I hope we fill at least 2 workshops (although 4 might be pushing it :-)

See y’all in Greeneville Tennessee!

The Roles of a Mobile DJ

When was the last time someone said to you: “So, how’s the DJ thing going?”

Or, “Still spinning records?”

Or worse, “Is that all you do?”

The answer to that last one is a very simple, “No.”

That’s not all we do.  Not by a long shot.  Most Mobile DJs do so much more than just “spin discs.” Indeed most of us never even touch a disc anymore.

So let’s look at some of the roles we fill at an event and let’s recognize the fact that if we are doing these things, we should be marketing these services and charging accordingly for them.  After all when you go to get your car washed they don’t detail it for you, change the oil and wiper blades and rotate the tires, and then only charge you five bucks for the car wash, do they?  No, a full service like that would market itself, and surely charge, accordingly.  And so should we.

 

COORDINATOR

We’ll start here because this is usually where the interplay with the client begins.  Most Mobile DJs, before they ever even load in a piece of equipment or play a single song, spend some time with their clients coordinating and planning the event.  For some, this is a phone call or a video chat using Bridelive.  For others, it’s a face-to-face meeting (or meetings.) Still others go so far as drawing up itineraries and meeting with the other professionals involved in the day (banquet manager, photographer etc).

Whatever your level of coordination, this is a service.  And more than likely your musical knowledge and experience will be tapped during these conversations.  A Bride may ask you: “I’d like to do a special dance with my Step-Dad.  Can you suggest something?”  Or a Bar Mitzvah family might say, “We’re having a sports theme so we need an appropriate introduction song.”  These questions make you not just a coordinator but something of a music advisor as well.  And hopefully you are experienced enough and have seen enough to offer insightful answers.  Sometimes the success of the event is determined right then and there in these consultations and if you master the art of coordination, you are almost guaranteed referrals from the client.  No one else at the event may realize all the time and effort that went into the pre-planning (in fact a well planned event should look effortless and spontaneous so no one should realize) but your client will always know.  And when you play that perfect song they’ll be reminded that it was you who helped them select it.

 

THERAPIST

Along with coordinating, we often find ourselves in the role of counseling.  Calming our clients down and being a voice of reason for them.  It’s natural.  Planning an event with the size and scope of a Wedding or Bar / Bat Mitzvah can be extremely stressful.  With weddings, your clients not only have the reception staring them in the face, but the major life change of actually getting married.  Bar and Bat Mitzvahs often carry a level of social pressure as families attempt to “outdo” other families in their temples.  And corporate parties are also a high stress event since everyone there is going to look at the person who put the event together as responsible for its success.  How often do you have clients say, “Just make me look good.”

The best way to be a therapist is to show your clients that they have nothing to worry about when it comes to the entertainment.  To reassure them that you are the true professional they thought you were when they hired you.  There are a few ways to do this:

First, be agreeable when you meet.  When a client asks me not to play “The Chicken Dance” I usually tell them, “No problem, that song is kind of cheesy isn’t it?”  But when a client asks me to play “The Chicken Dance”, I change my tune: “Oh that’ll be great fun I’m sure.”  The way I see it, if they have already made up their minds, why should I undermine their decision?

Another way to reassure your clients is to prove you are the expert by offering good, quality suggestions.  If a Bride-to-be asks you for suggestions for dancing with her Father and all you have to offer is “Daddy’s Little Girl” then you should do some homework.  The same goes for lighting.  If she asks questions about your up-lighting and all you can say is that it makes the room look colorful, you’re not being very thorough.

 

ROADIE

Ever notice that equipment is heavier on the load out? That after the gig is over your speakers weigh more and your top half is bulkier?  I look at my sound system sometimes after a party and wonder if it would be easier to just leave it there and buy a whole new one tomorrow before my next gig.  Such is the life of being an entertainer and a roadie.

There are DJs and companies that have roadies but the vast majority of the Mobile jocks I know load in their own gear.  Then we set it up and sound check it by ourselves too.  And yes, after dancing around for four hours, we all load the thing out instead of buying a new one tomorrow.  Some of us have an assistant to help lift the heavy stuff and hold the doors, but let’s face it, when it’s your gear, who else is going to carry it?
DISC JOCKEY

Yes, we do still spin discs.  And though they aren’t made of vinyl anymore, the mixing of music is one of the most important things we do.  Keeping the “sound track” of a party flowing smoothly and seamlessly is one of our most important tasks.

It is true that our level of artistry may vary from the most proficient mixers to the most basic segue-ers.  Nonetheless, the “disc jockey” role that we play at parties is essential.  And no successful Mobile jock can exist without at least a rudimentary idea of how to mix.

 

PROGRAMMER

Mixing is important.  Mixing the right music is just as important.  Pacing a party and peaking a party are talents that every successful Mobile jock possesses.  Also, working with a client’s request list and maximizing that list for the best results are abilities that we all are proud of.  Radio stations have full-time program directors that decide the same things we do.  Yet they do it in the quiet and solace of their offices after studying charts and ratings and with no immediate pressure on their decisions.  We do it on the fly, with a million other things going on and the pressure of a full dance floor weighing on our shoulders.

 

MC

When I train new DJs I tell them their voice is their number one tool.  Being a “Master of Ceremonies” means utilizing your voice to maximize every moment at the event.  We direct people.  We move people.  We motivate people.  And if we are good at what we do, our voice is never annoying.  It is always assuring and confident.

Peter Merry says that the MC at a party is a “spokesperson” for the families and the guest of honor.  That description puts the onus on the DJ to act according to the family’s wishes, which is why I love that point and teach it to my recruits.  Finding out what “style” of spokesperson your client wants is your first job (and should happen in the coordination phase).  Delivering that style at the event is an essential part of being the MC.

 

RING LEADER

When I was young I used to work at the local church doing maintenance work and odd jobs.  The head maintenance man there, a man named Brendan Holihan, was a real salt-of-the-earth kind of guy.  He taught me more about management than any book I’ve ever read and I find myself repeating him more often than I’m even aware. One of things Brendan used to say was that if you showed up somewhere with a clipboard you could steal just about anything.  He exaggerated of course but his point was the clipboard makes you an authority.  It makes people think, That’s the guy who knows what’s going on.

At parties, it’s not the clipboard as much as the microphone.  Once people see you with the microphone and hear you make announcements, they assume you know it all.  How many of us get asked to turn the Air Conditioner up.  Photographers ask us when Cake Cutting will be.  It’s all about the microphone which makes us the de facto authority.

Being the ring leader at a party is not a bad thing.  For me, I’ve always seen it as a way of expanding my “coordinator” role and making sure that nothing happens at an event without my knowledge.  And when banquet people and photographers in your market learn that you can deliver a smooth and efficient party, they’ll respect you and more importantly, many of them will refer you.  And so what if I have to point out to some people where the bathrooms are.

 

As the professionalism in our industry continues to rise, and as our rates climb accordingly, it is becoming more and more important that we understand our roles and market them correctly.  Throwing a great party is not your only job and surely if you have had success as a Mobile DJ it is not the only thing you do.

 

 

Sir Paul McCartney and His “Coolness”

I made a statement last night during one of my 121212Concert posts on Facebook that Paul McCartney was uncool. Some people took offense so please let me explain.

But before I do I openly admit I am more of a Lennon fan than a McCartney fan. Once they started writing songs mostly separately (rather than”eyeball to eyeball” like they did early on) it’s the John Lennon songs on Beatles albums that I gravitate to. I’ll take “Across the Universe” over “Let It Be” any day.  Or “Come Together” over “Yesterday.” Or “In My Life” over “Penny Lane.”

So, to Sir Paul’s uncoolness: I think the reason The Beatles are the greatest band ever IS the fact that they had this incredible ying and yang and push and pull. Lennon’s pessimistic edginess countered by McCartney’s saccharine pop sensibility. Lennon’s anger, like a tectonic plate grinding against McCartney’s happiness.  It’s this Constant Friction that made The Beatles so amazing (and then throw in George Harrison who probably could have led a band on his own and you’ve got a pretty scary combination of talent and artistry).

John Lennon couldn’t tie Paul McCartney’s shoes when it came to writing a pop melody or even a catchy hook. McCartney’s gifts in that department are right there with some of the best and most prolific writers this world has ever known. But c’mon, he isn’t cool. I mean, of course he is way cooler than any of us.  He is a rock star who’s has seen and done it all and traveled the world and played in front of millions . . . so he stands head and shoulders above any DJ in terms of coolness. But in terms of rock star legitimacy, he never was and still isn’t the coolest guy in the room (especially when it’s a room like last night with true Rock Gods in the building like Richards and Daltrey and Springsteen). I always felt Paul McCartney would have been happier writing show tunes or radio jingles.

I don’t mean this as an insult and again I think the true genius of The Beatles is that they had both influences – both sides of genius if you will.

Here are the two clearest examples I can give you: First, during the Sgt Peppers song “Getting Better” when McCartney is singing: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better, all the time” and Lennon provides not only the the counter melody but the counter philosophy with his background “it can’t get no worse.” That, in my opinion, encapsulates the entire essence of these two men and their outlooks. Another example is the Christmas songs that each one penned separately.  McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” while catchy and happy is a transparent pop throwaway. Kinda like 99% of our Holiday songs. They make you smile and sing along but God forbid they make you think. Lennon’s, on the other hand, while lacking a catchy melody or any holiday escapism, grabs you around the throat and asks “what have YOU done?” Remember he wrote “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” in the middle of his bed-ins for peace with Yoko. The two of them were so active against the US government and the Vietnam war that the Nixon administration commissioned an investigation to get them thrown out of the country. Meanwhile McCartney was with The Wings singing “My love does it good.” I don’t know about you but it’s easy for me to see which one of these is cooler.

And the truth is, as much of an optimist as I try to be in life, when it comes to rock stars, their negativity and anger are what makes them cool. Who wants a rock star who leaves their hotel room in pristine condition? Or who shows up on time and smiles for every question in a press conference? No, that’s a pop star. We want and expect our rock stars to be damaged (remember John Lennon had an absentee father and his mother was hit by a car and killed when he was a teenager, in case you wonder where that anger came from). We also want our rock stars to test the limits of drugs and alcohol and excess, mainly so we don’t have to. We want our rock stars to have attitudes and to write about misery or even just apathy. We want them to remind us of our lost teenage years when everything in the world seemed wrong and we were alone on an island, just us and whatever music was blasting through our bedroom speakers, keeping us tethered to earth because finally someone, somewhere understood our angst and loneliness (or was that just me?) We want our rock stars dirty and smelly and unkempt. NONE of these things are right up Paul McCartney’s alley. He seemed much more comfortable in the early years of The Beatles when Brian Epstein was forcing them to wear matching suits and smile and be “witty” in their interviews. Once Epstein passed away and the group had matured and were taking on their own personalities, McCartney always seemed a little awkward in their hippy phase. Plus, he didn’t experiment with hallucinogens so while Lennon and Harrison were off tripping and writing songs about “newspaper taxis” or weeping guitars he was still writing his four or five catchy pop songs per album. Sure, the themes of those pop songs matured through the years, from holding hands to “black birds singing in the dead of night”, but they were still the catchier and more accessible songs on any Beatles offering. And to me, the songs that initially catch your ear when you first listen to an album are rarely the best songs. There’s a reason pop songs come and go so quickly. They are the chewing gum of music. Sweet and satisfying at first, but they quickly become overplayed. The better songs usually take a while to grow on you before you “get them.”  But when they hit, they usually knock your socks off.  I remember running one day listening to Abbey Road and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” came on.  I had to stop running (literally) as the passion in this song finally hit me (after years of skipping over it because I couldn’t wait to get to that awesome side two of the album.)  “I Want You” isn’t a song that Top 40 stations would play and it’s certainly not something you’ll find yourself humming along to.  But if you’ve ever had an unrequited love you might understand why Lennon is screaming and changing tempos and repeating himself over and over and over.  “I Want You” stands in perfect contrast to McCartney’s “love song” from Abbey Road: “Oh! Darling.”  Both are bluesy and filled with angst and a long way from “Love Me Do”  but there’s something real about “I Want You” that I don’t hear in “Oh! Darling.”  It’s like McCartney read a book about pain and has written a song about it while Lennon just wants to open his shirt and show you the scars.

My last point about McCartney’s uncoolness (especially when compared to Lennon’s) is a point I wish I didn’t have to make. Or couldn’t make. Indeed these benefit concerts make me so sad sometimes because I have always believed (starting with Live Aid back in 1985) that had Lennon lived, eventually The Beatles would have reunited. If not for a world tour then certainly for events like this. They were too worldly and charitable not to put their differences aside for the greater good. But unfortunately Mark David Chapman saw to that (may he rot in hell).  And the sad truth is, if you’re a rock star and you want to lock in your coolness for all eternity, die young. We got to see just enough of the fat Elvis to offset all the years of his uber-coolness and forever change our perception of the first rock star. But for so many other rock stars, sad as it is, we will never have to bear witness to their 60 or even 70 year old selves up there on a stage trying to recreate some of that decades-old magic. Last night Paul McCartney was wearing mom jeans. We’ll never have to see John Lennon in mom jeans. We’ll always remember Jim Morrison in his leathers and Jimi Hendrix in his psychedelically patterned bell-bottoms . Kurt Cobain will always be cooler than Eddie Vedder.

But the simple truth is this: Paul McCartney, while wildly talented and incredibly prolific, never really was cool. And now he’s just an old crooner who doesn’t look or even sound the part. If that comes across as cruel I don’t mean it to. Believe me I’d trade for his life in a heartbeat (not that I want to be 70).  The man has written more unforgettable and catchy songs than anybody who was on that stage last night (Billy Joel might give him a run for his money, it would be close).  But cool? No Sir. Never was and he certainly hasn’t aged into it.

Halloween and The Mobile DJ

Halloween is here!  Not that I have to tell you that.  One trip to the supermarket where you’ll see aisles and aisles of candy, or the mall where all the temporary costume shops have moved in, will remind you.  So as you decide on your costume and where you’re going to show it off, allow me please to share with you a theory I have held close for a long time:

People love Halloween for the same reason they love DJs:  Escape.

Another Reason Men Love Halloween

I heard Bill Maher joke once that Halloween gives women a chance to get in touch with “their inner slut.” And while that’s clearly not universally true, you can certainly see his point at any costume store or Halloween party. Naughty Nurse and Sexy Cat are just two of the many costumes designed to let women get a little raunchy on this holiday. And they are obviously big sellers. (I also read an article entitled “Sex Halloween and The Almightly Dollar”  which bemoaned the fact that almost every costume available for women includes some kind of revealing take on a traditional costume — kinda confirming Mr. Maher’s joke)

And when you stop and think about it, that’s the attraction for most people on Halloween. The opportunity to be someone they aren’t. The chance to dress sexier than usual, or to be a zombie or a caveman or a football player. This allows that person to act a little freer, cut loose a little more than usual. It’s why Halloween parties are often raucous affairs, because people can hide behind their masks and be wilder than they usually are. I’ve DJed my share of costume parties so I know.

What we do, each and every weekend, is something quite similar. Your average guest at a private party, whether it’s a wedding or a mitzvah or whatever, probably doesn’t “go out dancing” all that often. That’s something reserved more for the young and it becomes rarer and rarer as most people age. You don’t see a lot of fifty-something’s going clubbing every Friday night.

So when they attend a party, and they get a little more dressed up than usual, some people look for that same “escape” that marks this holiday of Halloween. Maybe they have a few more cocktails then they normally would. Couples slow dance for the first time in a while. And then we take over, playing upbeat party music, hopefully from a variety of eras so that we reach everyone in the room. I see it when people dance and laugh and sing along. This isn’t normal behavior for most people. It’s “escape behavior” and we as the DJs are the conduit. We create that atmosphere that tells everyone, “It’s ok. You can cut loose. This is safe.” That’s why I never make fun of someone on the dance floor. Even if it would get a laugh from some people, I’d destroy that person’s escape. And that’s the opposite of what my job should be.

So as you answer your door to trick-or-treaters, or maybe DJ a costume party yourself, pay close attention to that euphoria that comes from escaping. If you have kids, watch them become a Power Ranger or Princess and see how they too love the escape (even though kids don’t have to wait all year to do this, they can pretty much put on a costume and make-believe any day.)  And realize the next time you pack a dance floor you are providing the same escape that those costumes do. It’s one of the true joys of our careers. Embrace it!