Archive for the 35 Things Learned in 35 Years Category

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 24

Posted in 35 Things Learned in 35 Years on January 31, 2011 by djscottshirley

24) Every Genre Has Great Music

Musical taste is a strange and wonderful thing. Everyone has songs they love – and songs they just can’t stand. Humor columnist Dave Barry received more reader mail after a column on bad songs than he got for anything he ever wrote! This prompted a book, that is one of the funniest things ever written:

Dave Barry hits the nail squarely on the head in this book. But he also strikes a nerve, by naming some of your favorite songs among his list of bad ones. It’s hard to read this book, without taking offense about one of your favorites being labeled “bad.”

So it seems musical taste is not so simple! One man’s bad song is someone else’s sentimental favorite.

For a DJ to be effective, it’s important to suppress any tendency to play his own favorite music, and instead to become a sort of “musical chameleon,” reflecting the varied and complex musical tastes of the unique individuals in the audience of the event.

Each person has their favorite songs, and preferences for certain genres of music and certain artists. And, many of them will have a particular musical genre or artist they really hate.

In a great scene from the 1980 comedy classic “The Blues Brothers,” they pretend to be the band hired to play at a rough honky-tonk bar. The manager informs them, “We like both kinds of music: Country, and Western!”

The resulting chaos is hilarious:

Most people are not as polarized about their taste in music as those bar patrons. The majority of us are pretty tolerant, and will gladly suffer through a song we know somebody else likes – as long as we know we will get to hear what we like too.

It was early in my Party Machine career that I learned a simple fact: every genre and category of music has its great songs – and some real stinkers, too. With a diverse group of people, I can always keep them happy with an eclectic mix of different styles, by playing the truly good songs from every genre.

I always run out of time before I run out of good music.

Take a simple test: think of your least favorite kind of music. Maybe you don’t like rap music, or you just can’t stand country. Now, try to think of some song in that style that’s maybe not so bad. Now try harder. Listen to some songs in that genre. Open your mind, and get a friend who likes it to play some of his or her favorites.

It’s a fact: every genre has great music. At Party Machine Celebrations, we understand this, and can and will play the best of all kinds of music.

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 23

Posted in 35 Things Learned in 35 Years with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by djscottshirley

23) Listen for the Squawks!

I love to fly. I have friends who are pilots, and have flown with them in small planes on numerous occasions. Today’s lesson was learned from pilots, but has served me well in the entertainment business.

The aircraft must be maintained 100 percent.

Every time a plane takes flight, it has to be perfect from a safety standpoint. 100% safe; if it’s only 98%, the plane must stay on the ground. A little thing like a loose connection could cause a tragic accident. So a pre-flight safety check must be performed before each and every take-off.

And every pilot keeps a “Squawk list.” If he notices an unusual noise or vibration, or that a light bulb is burned out on an instrument, he writes it on the list. Each item that needs attention is called a “squawk.”

And every squawk must be investigated and repaired, before the plane flies again.

This is a great way to maintain anything. With sound, lighting, and video systems, there are many little things that could go wrong. One bad cable could spoil a presentation. So we began tracking “squawks” at Party Machine Celebrations.

Failure to fix squawks can lead to disaster!

By keeping equipment impeccably maintained, and replacing gear as technology improves, we are able to maintain our perfect 100% service record: we have never had an event that started late, or was delayed by a technical malfunction. Never.

In 35 years, we have certainly experienced technical difficulties! But because of redundant systems, the show always goes on, without a delay.

But we don’t have many technical problems, because paying attention to the squawks prevents them from happening in the first place.

It’s part of “the Party Machine Difference.”

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 22

Posted in 35 Things Learned in 35 Years with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by djscottshirley

22) Music Has Power!

Music can have an amazing effect on people. It can recall powerful memories. It can create a mood, for relaxation or for celebration. It can stir up deep emotions: feelings of love, or nationalistic feelings of pride.

“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast”

When playwright William Congreve first penned the opening line of The Mourning Bride in 1697, he had no idea we would still be quoting him 300 years later. Nor could he have predicted the massive explosion of different genres of music we enjoy in the 21st century.

In his time there was formal classical music, and there was local folk music. There was no mass communication, no radio, TV nor “the Internets.” There was no means of recording music; in fact, the only way to publish music was the printed page, a technology scarcely 86 years old, at a time when literacy, especially music literacy, was uncommon.

There was Bach and Mozart, Beethoven was a young man, and Brahms, Chopin, and Mahler were not yet born.

He could never foresee the development of American country music, rhythm and blues, jazz, or rock and roll. The rich fusion of African, Caribbean, and Latin music that permeates today’s dance floors was never imagined back then. And who could have predicted hip-hop, even 50 years ago?

Congreve never knew Elvis, the Beatles, nor BeyoncĂ©. He never would have understood the fan following of the Grateful Dead, Phish, Willie Nelson, or Jimmy Buffett’s parrotheads. The concept of George Strait filling an arena with fans on a cold New Year’s Eve, year after year after year, was unimaginable.

And how could you explain Kanye West, the artist formerly and once again known as Prince, or P Diddy to a 17th century man? Or grunge, punk, funk, 80s hair metal, or Lady GaGa? What about Techno, trance, and house music?

Now we turn to music all the time: in our cars, at our desks, while we work and while we play. Digital technology has made music portable and plentiful. Everyone today has an iPod, and can plug in to a unique musical world of his own choosing.

Listening to music of our own choosing is easier today.

We love our music! It’s powerful stuff.

Of course, Party Machine Celebrations has it all.

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 21

Posted in 35 Things Learned in 35 Years on December 22, 2010 by djscottshirley

21) Knowing The ABCs of DSPs is a Sound Idea

Alphabet soup! It seems everything from government agencies to computer components must have initials. If it has a plug or a “wall wart” it probably has initials.

Audio-visual (AV) technology is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And the Party Machine has always embraced new technologies as they develop, which means learning a lot of alphabet soup.

DSP is the most important one for audio: Digital Signal Processing. All manner of tools are available to improve sound quality.

The RTA (Real Time Analyzer) has existed for many years, but is now more automated. Using a special RTA microphone, a signal from a PNG (Pink Noise Generator, though it is actually “white” noise. WNG doesn’t seem as cool to audio geeks) is amplified until it sounds like a jet engine. The RTA “listens” to the sound bouncing off the room, and automatically equalizes (EQs) sound frequencies to the room’s unique acoustic properties.

This enables a beautiful room like the Texas and Pacific Building (T & P, everything has initials!) to sound great, that would otherwise be a tiresome echo chamber. It also helps to use Party Machine wireless satellite speakers in a room like that, with a DD. You guessed it, another little magic box, the Digital Delay, totally eliminates the echo.

The marble walls of the T & P Terminal in Fort Worth look great, but make it an echo chamber. The magic of DSP makes it sound as good as it looks.

The SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter is an old tool we have used for many years to measure and control the volume of our sound systems.

Modern electronics also helps us fight the good fight against our old enemies Feedback and Interference. Of course even interference has initials, EMI and RF, and they affect our VHF and UHF wireless systems. So does GSM interference from Blackberrys.

Don’t get me started on lighting technology. Our LEDs are DMX, controlled by OS-X with D-Fi on UHF, OK?