Archive for the DJ Stuff Category

Karaoke and the Dumb Blonde

Posted in DJ Stuff, Weird Things at Parties with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by djscottshirley

I’m not one to cast aspersions on any group, nor to perpetuate any stereotypes.

But stereotypes generally arise based on some real-life experience, so with apologies to my blonde friends who are reasonably intelligent, I share this recent experience.

Party Machine Celebrations was providing Karaoke entertainment for a High School dance troupe that was in town for a contest. This group had plenty of talent, and several had obvious choral and stage singing experience.

One girl sang a solo of a current hit song, and was midway through and doing quite well, when the song went into an instrumental break. The on-screen instruction stated “Instrumental,” and then changed to say, “Spoken word.”

The singer panicked, threw her arms up, and shouted “I don’t know the words!”

Imagine her surprise when the words she didn’t know, magically appeared on the screen in front of her!

Yes, she was blonde.

Amateur Wedding DJ Horror Stories

Posted in Professionalism with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by djscottshirley

We hear them all the time. It’s usually a FOAF: “Friend Of A Friend.”

When I meet with brides, they often tell horror stories about a recent wedding they attended (often as a bridesmaid) that was ruined by a terrible DJ. They start our conversation by spelling out what they don’t want at their own celebration!

Sometimes brides don’t hire a professional, because they over-spent on other items (food, flowers, decorating) and don’t have enough left in the budget for a professional Master of Ceremonies. So they hire the low bidder, and live to regret it.

Here are some of their stories:

We should have hired the DJ my sister had:

“Oh my God !! Our DJ was the worst. He was a friend of my maid of honor. She said he was good so I hired him. Though the music was decent, everybody hated him. He was obnoxious and rude on the microphone. I guess he thought his jokes were funny, but this was my wedding! My husband asked him to stop talking. We should have hired the DJ my sister had at her wedding. He was very professional.”

LESSON LEARNED: A friend may mean well, but often will not treat their important role in your wedding as seriously as a professional. Avoid hiring the FOAF.

SECONDARY LESSON: It’s more than just music! Notice, she said the music was “decent,” but she hated the DJ anyway. You need someone with a gift for public speaking, who can manage the mood, the flow, and the energy of your event, not just play music.

Different DJ than who we were told we would have:

“The DJ we received from this company was a different DJ than who we were told we would have. We met with him 2 days before our wedding to go over everything and he seemed confident that we would do a good job. However, during our reception, he played the wrong wedding party entrance song, mispronounced the names of my mother, my maid of honor, and the best man. He sounded very unprepared and unprofessional. Not only that, he barely spoke for the rest of the evening, and failed to announce our cake cutting so that half the guests missed it. I would never recommend this company to ANYONE.”

LESSON LEARNED: Some DJ companies you find on the Internet are only booking agencies, skimming a commission and contracting the cheapest DJ they can get, who often lacks the critical experience needed to do justice to your wedding.

The opportunity to meet your DJ face to face:

“He played the wrong song during the Grand Entrance, and he played the wrong song during the father-daughter dance, caught the mistake and then played the correct song. Both errors could have been avoided if I had an opportunity to meet my DJ face to face prior to the wedding date to clearly review what I wanted. Unfortunately this service does not provide you the opportunity to meet your DJ face to face until the day of the wedding. All correspondences are done through the owner David, and he may not be the DJ at your wedding.”

LESSON LEARNED: ALWAYS meet your DJ face to face! These days many people try to take care of things online. That works for buying a product. But when contracting for a service, especially one that requires talent and experience, you need to meet them in person. Your DJ and MC will be the “Voice” of your celebration, the host who represents your family. This is one vendor you should always meet in person.

This guy who DJ’d “on the side”

‎”A friend told us about this guy who DJ’d “on the side.” He was a fraction of the cost of other companies. We found out why, when he started hitting on the single girls during the bouquet toss. He did many inappropriate things that were completely embarrassing. We learned our lesson. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and do it again the right way!”

LESSON LEARNED: Professionals must earn a living from good referrals, and will always behave in a professional manner. An amateur doesn’t care about his reputation. Amateurs and wanna-be’s should be avoided!

OVERALL LESSON: Always get references, and contact them!

I always provide extensive references to brides. I find that most brides never check them (although often Daddy-with-the-checkbook will!) The best way to avoid “Cousin Darrell” is to hire vendors with outstanding recommendations. Take the time to check references, and your wedding won’t become another horror story!

And NO, the professionals are not unaffordable! Experienced professionals always have offerings for their low-budget clients, and care enough about you to work out a package that fits your budget. We understand that every bride deserves her special celebration!

When you make your living at this, you must not only be good at it, but must strive to exceed the customer’s expectations. Only then can you enjoy the kind of reputation that has made the Party Machine the top choice of event professionals for 35 years!

At Party Machine Celebrations, we always meet with brides, grooms, parents and wedding coordinators, in person and face-to-face. I will always be your MC, not some trainee. Your wedding will be impeccably planned so it will turn out just the way you want it – Your Wedding, Your Way! And PM Celebrations staff will always adhere to the American DJ Association Code of Professional Conduct.

I Wanna Be A Wedding DJ!

Posted in Professionalism, Weddings! on December 4, 2010 by djscottshirley

“He made it look so easy!”

When an expert does his job well, he makes it look easy. It can be a joy to watch an experienced pro perform his craft. Whether it’s a pilot landing an airplane, a mason laying bricks, or a window-washer on a tall building, they seem to work almost effortlessly. If you’re really good, you make it look like fun – think of Tom Sawyer white-washing the fence.

Of course, these people all have specialized training, tools, and safety gear. More importantly, they have years of experience.

Through the years I have tried many of these “easy” jobs. Something rooted deep in the male psyche makes us men insist on fixing things ourselves. So I have repaired plumbing, tiled the bathroom, installed my own air conditioning, painted inside and out, and even roofed my own house. Sure, I could do it – slowly, and not always very well.

For each of these duties, I had to do some research, a bit of reading, and consult others who had experience at these jobs. I had to borrow, buy, or rent specialized tools. And it always took me twice as long as the trained artisans who do these jobs as their career. Several times I injured myself, and earned a trip to the Emergency Room. How do the pros do it, without getting hurt?

I have even flown an airplane – it’s easy! Anyone could do it. Of course, I don’t know how to land the plane; I let the experienced pilot do that part. And I wouldn’t want to try it on a stormy night.

When the job gets tough, experience counts!


It’s like the commercials – so easy a caveman could do it!

Under ideal conditions, when performed by an experienced professional, ANY job can look easy! And an experienced professional wedding MC makes it not only look easy, but also FUN. Watching the DJ smoothly introduce the wedding party with wit and humor is a joy – but guests never see the 20 hours of meetings, paperwork, phone calls, scripting and preparation required to make that five minutes perfect.

Nor do the guests know about the faulty electrical outlets, nor the RF interference, nor the time spent with a Real Time Analyzer and Digital Delay to eliminate the echo in the room. They don’t know that 20 people worked feverishly for several hours to make the ballroom look breathtaking. They don’t realize that the smiling MC in the designer tuxedo, who seems to speak so effortlessly, practiced those introductions many times – and has been in that ballroom since noon!

A Stark Contrast

The professional Master of Ceremonies exists in stark contrast to the stereotypical amateur hobby DJ. Neal Howard, an experienced professional in Atlanta, shares this image of the DJ you DON’T want at your wedding:

Sadly, tragically, Cousin Darrell is what many brides end up with, when cost is considered more important than experience. He’s the “low bidder,” and is often the Death of the Party.

The Party Machine receives calls almost daily from young DJ wanna-be’s looking for work. I have trained many young DJs in the last 35 years. The good ones, who have what it takes to become professionals, are willing to serve as an apprentice to more experienced DJs. Many young wanna-be’s are too impatient for that, and seem oblivious to the need for developing professional skills. Minnesota DJ Tyrone Blue, another experienced professional, has created this bit of humor that demonstrates the arrogance of ignorance:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Young Lance could be the next Cousin Darrell! He’s gonna clean up.

DJ Cost, From the Flirty Blog

Posted in DJ Stuff, Professionalism, Weddings! on November 11, 2010 by djscottshirley

It’s not always easy to convey the reason that an experienced professional DJ and Master of Ceremonies costs more than an amateur hobby DJ, especially to people who have never seen a professional at work. But Wedding and lifestyle blogger Stacie Tamaki has written the ultimate treatise on the subject, reprinted with her permission in its entirety here:


How Much Should Your Wedding DJ Cost?

Honestly? Probably more than you were planning to pay.

Why?

Because this isn’t easy to say, I don’t say it lightly: When it comes to Wedding DJ’s, Brides and Grooms can and should expect more professionalism than the status quo that has been perpetuated as “acceptable” for far too long.

And that’s not just my opinion. Over the years I’ve talked to brides, grooms, friends, other wedding professionals and even wedding DJ’s and everyone seems to agree that the bar for Wedding DJ professionalism has been set (but even more oddly, accepted) at an often shockingly low level of expectation. In many cases the quality of the service provided falls well beneath the level of mediocrity. IMO that’s not OK because the reputation of the entire DJ industry is damaged every time a DJ falls short. It’s created an atmosphere of apathy where people in need of a DJ often hope to pay very little for one simply because they expect so little in return.

This post isn’t about bashing what I consider to be average or stereotypical Wedding DJ’s. For the most part I don’t think there’s anything particularly deceptive about how most of them run or market their companies. It’s not a bait and switch scenario. Clients hire them with their eyes wide open, understanding the level of service they will receive. Some are willing to contract an average DJ because they think what they’re seeing is “as good as it gets.”

In some cases their expectations are so low they don’t even try to find a qualified DJ or MC because they don’t realize good DJ’s exist. Recently I stumbled upon this blog post on Vegan Bride titled “Phil Birdsell Saved the Day!” written by her real life groom. It’s a perfect example of what this article is all about. He and his bride weren’t going to hire a Professional DJ… Until they met Phil Birdsell who completely transformed their perception of what a wedding DJ can be and exceeded all of their expectations.

I know a common misconception is that all DJ’s are “cheesy” or as MC’s they are “obnoxious” on the microphone. So the logic is: Why pay a lot for someone who is most likely going to annoy or disappoint you? For some companies those may be accurate descriptions of the types of services they provide. But I want to share with you today that not all DJ companies are like that…

Some are good.

Some are really good.

A select few are truly great.

CONSIDERATIONS

IMO the major factors that really matter when it comes to price are:

Budget
If a particular DJ doesn’t fit your budget, keep looking for the most qualified one who does. You want to choose the right DJ to entrust your reception to: One who is going to try their hardest and do their best for you, not the first one you talk to or the most convenient one.

What is a DJ Worth?
The answer to this question varies based on your needs, expectations and priorities and the level of talent, skills and customer service a DJ is able to provide to you.

The funny thing (as in ironic not ha ha) is that I have worked in the wedding industry for 13 years and by far know more vendors who do not charge enough for their services than those who overcharge. So many people who work in the wedding industry do so because they love to make people happy, they’re really not in it for the money. Some barely charge enough to break even on the cost of their labor, supplies and equipment. (When I was a custom bridal accessory designer I spent a lot of energy talking brides out of things they didn’t need because IMO when it comes to wedding accessories, less is more. Less will always look classic and elegant while too much can look costumed or silly.)

Are DJ’s Who Charge More Worth More?

They can be but it may take research on your part to verify if a company is charging what they’re worth or if they are simply being opportunistic. The sad truth is that any company can “look” legitimate. All they have to do is build a nice looking website, print up some business cards and brochures and start advertising. They may even have some impressive credentials. But those things alone aren’t a guarantee of anyone’s current level of professionalism or your satisfaction as their client.

On the flip side of buyer beware is knowing that paying a premium price for something doesn’t always mean it’s overpriced. Whether or not something costs “too much” can be determined by the answer to this question: Is it worth what it costs? You can spend $5,000 dollars on something that’s worth $10,000 and get a great deal. Or you can spend the same $5000 on something that’s only worth $50 and be completely taken advantage of.

My POV is: “Value is not relative to price but to the quality of the product or service you receive in return for your investment.”

DJ as MC
And what about their Master of Ceremonies skills? Especially if you haven’t ever seen them perform before I urge you not to just send out an email or chat on the phone before hiring a DJ because they will almost always be acting as your MC. You need to meet them in person. During your face to face consultation you can see their personality and even ask them to stand and do an introduction for you. When they do, watch for the following elements to see if they have mastered the MC skills needed to do a great job at your wedding:

* Facial expression and demeanor: Do they smile and look happy to be there?
* Body language: Do they slouch, rock or shift about nervously once they begin speaking? Or do they stand straight and tall with confidence?
* What are their speaking skills like? Do they talk so fast you can barely understand them? Or are they so timid you can’t imagine them getting everyone out on the dance floor?
* Do they sound engaged, interested and excited to be there or is their voice flat as if they are reading a nutrition label on a box of breakfast cereal?
* What does their voice sound like? Do they speak with sincerity in their own voice or turn on a different affected performance voice once they’re speaking into a microphone? (Or spoon or ballpoint pen, whatever is handy during your consultation.)

After taking Mark Ferrell’s MC workshop it is now much more apparent to me how undervalued and overlooked MC skills have been in both the past and present. It’s all the more shocking because everything the MC does is an integral part of your wedding reception and should be considered when you are choosing your Wedding DJ.

WHO DO YOU HIRE?
The first and most important question would be: Were you referred to a particular DJ by someone you know and trust, who hired them for an event and were thrilled by their service? Or were you impressed when you saw them successfully performing at another event? If your answer to either question is yes, that may be all you need to know when it comes to selecting who to hire.

If you’re starting from scratch, here are some tips that may help you decide if a company is going to delight or disappoint you. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the questions below you’re definitely on the right track to finding a DJ of quality.

Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

* Have a Business License?
* Use a Written Contract? Do they guarantee the date, their arrival and departure time and the rate they are charging you?
* Have Quality Equipment?
* Are They Insured?
* Own a Vehicle Large Enough to Transport all of the Needed Equipment? Or will they forego the correct equipment because they don’t have the space to transport it?
* Come Prepared with Back Up Equipment?
* Dress Appropriately?
* Not Use Inappropriate Language?
* Not Drink Alcohol on the Job?
* Bring an Assistant When Necessary? i.e. not enough time allowed for set up before guests arrive or lots of stairs that their equipment must be carried up and down.
* Are they a member of an organization that has real standards for business practices and ethics? A group where not just anyone can pay to be a member.

But here are the intangibles:
These are the things that you can’t always discern from a website. These are the things a trusted testimonial from someone you know or an eyewitness account can confirm. Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

* Rely on Expertise not Ego?
* Deserve your trust?
* Have Solid MC Skills?
* Know how to Use Their Equipment Properly?
* Understand the Pacing and Timing of the Reception?
* Have a personality that reflects your own and/or the type of event you would like to host for your guests?
* Care About Your Wedding? Are they honored to be a part of your special day or is it just a job to earn money?

There is a Big Difference Between how “Professional” and “Stereotypical” DJ’s View Weddings
To me there are no exceptions, every DJ is one or the other. It comes down to integrity and the choice they make when it comes to how do they approach your wedding day? You will find both types of DJ’s within owner operated and multi-op companies. Professionalism is defined as competence and skill. The Professional understands and cares that your wedding is special and will use their competence and skills to help make it enjoyable and memorable. For the Stereotypical DJ’s, the common perception is that they treat weddings as just another “gig” on their calendar.

Do you remember in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” when Julia Robert’s self centered, no frills character makes the analogy that she is “Jell-O” and in the same breath labeled Cameron Diaz’s sincere character as being “Creme Brulee?”

Professional DJ’s are the Creme Brulee
They are honest, have integrity and treat being a DJ as an occupation, not a hobby. Professionals know that their business requires commitment, effort and integrity to be successful. They treat their clients with appreciation and respect because they care about the fact that weddings are special events.

I’ve noticed over the years that because they get to know their clients so well, many owner operated “Professional” vendors in all categories, often create friendships with their clients that may last for years or decades. That’s a great thing!

A Professional DJ will incur many overhead expenses to maintain their company and the high level of service they provide to their clients. These costs have to be factored into the price they charge for their services to create a profit margin. The expenses may include but are not limited to:

* An annual business license
* Registering their business name (DBA) with the city
* Business Insurance
* Association Fees
* Computer and needed software
* Collateral/Printshop: Brochures, business cards, letterhead, etc.
* Website which includes: Design, development, monthly hosting fees, annual renewal for their domain name, periodic updates to their webmaster, etc.
* Continuing Education: Attending educational industry events, workshops, seminars and conferences
* Graphic Designer: Logo design & collateral development
* Equipment: Initial purchase, maintenance and repair
* Company Vehicle: A DJ has to own a vehicle large enough to transport their equipment to and from your event. Some own a dedicated vehicle and others purchase a larger personal vehicle than they actually need on a day to day basis simply to be able to transport their equipment on the weekends.
* Gas and mileage: Some events and consultations may entail a 4+ hour round trip to reach the wedding venue
* Vehicle maintenance and repair
* Paying assistants when required to do their job properly
* Advertising: Bridal shows, magazines, etc.
* Hiring a book keeper or accountant

Stereotypical DJ’s are like Jell-O
Sometimes Jell-O does hit the spot, it can have its moment. But as Julia said in the movie: “Jell-O can NEVER be creme brulee!” The Stereotypical DJ’s have made being average an accepted standard. Many often treat being a DJ like a hobby. Their most common offenses, many of which you may have witnessed in person or have seen portrayed in movies or on tv that have helped to perpetuate the stereotype are: Being late, incorrectly pronouncing the bride or groom’s name during the introductions, not knowing how to properly use their own equipment, not following the timeline for announcements, dressing or acting inappropriately; hitting on guests, drinking on the job, using inappropriate language or using inappropriate humor.

I know. I get and empathize that these are the reasons that some of you are considering making your own mixed music cd or playlist and may forego hiring a DJ. You just don’t want to risk “that guy” showing up and ruining your wedding reception. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you didn’t before I hope you now realize that there are highly skilled, experienced, talented, caring Professional DJ’s out there. They do exist!



So, How Much Should your Wedding DJ Cost?

Because different areas of the country have different price ranges, and different couples have different needs and budgets, it isn’t possible for me to give you a definitive amount.

The best guidance I can offer is directly related to the following factors:

* Do you want your guests to be able to hear the ceremony and vows by using an additional sound system not provided by your venue?
* How important is the success of your reception to you and your fiance? Do you want classy intros, someone who entertains (as opposed to interrupts) your guests, unobtrusive sound systems that won’t look tacky in photos and great music & dancing for your reception? How things sound and how successful the dancing goes is especially important if you’ve hired a wedding videographer.
* If you haven’t hired a professional wedding coordinator, do you need the DJ to help you create and execute your wedding day timeline to make sure all of the introductions and announcements are made at the appropriate times? Are you going to count on them to ensure that the photographer and videographer are in place for elements like the toasts, cake cutting and first dance?
* Do you want a DJ you can trust? That knowing they are there will give you peace of mind that everything is going to go smoothly and that their presence will positively impact the success of your wedding and reception?
* Have you ever hired the wrong person to do an important job? You didn’t realize until things went wrong how important it was to you. Or maybe you were just too busy to be overly concerned and thought you could get by. Whatever the reason, regret basically sucks when you know you could have had a better outcome if you had done things differently.

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, you will want to hire the best, most Professional DJ you can afford. What do good DJ’s charge? I will say while there is always the possibility you can find a better than average DJ at any price point, if you want a really good or great one they will probably charge at least twice as much as the average estimates you’ll receive.

I hope this post has explained why and that I’ve made the process of locating, recognizing and qualifying a good DJ easier for you. – Stacie Tamaki