Archive for the Professionalism Category

Party Machine Wins Bride’s Choice Award Again!

Posted in Professionalism, Weddings! with tags , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by djscottshirley

Fort Worth, Texas – January 19, 2010 – WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company, just announced Party Machine Entertainment has been selected to receive the 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards™ for DJ Entertainment, Ceremony Music, and Videography!

The annual Bride’s Choice Awards™ recognizes and celebrates excellence in quality and service within the wedding industry, as determined by recent reviews and extensive surveys from over 500,000 newlyweds.

“This award is a special honor, because it is based on good reviews from past clients,” says Party Machine owner and Entertainment Director Scott Shirley. “This award represents lots of happy customers!”

Party Machine Entertainment is among the top five percent of all vendors in the WeddingWire community, which includes over 100,000 wedding professionals across the US and Canada. Awards were given to winners across 19 different service categories, from wedding venues to wedding photographers.

“We are excited to recognize and honor the success of the top wedding professionals within the WeddingWire Community” said Timothy Chi, WeddingWire’s Chief Executive Officer. “The annual Bride’s Choice Awards™ program has given us the unique opportunity to highlight the best wedding professionals in each region as reviewed by brides and grooms who have utilized their services in the past year.”

We are happy to announce that Party Machine Entertainment is among the very best Wedding DJ/MC Services within the WeddingWire Network, which includes WeddingWire and Martha Stewart Weddings. We would like to thank our past newlyweds for nominating us for the 2010 Bride’s Choice Awards™.

This makes our third consecutive year for this award.

Murphy’s Law Gets a Texas Aggie Whoopin’!

Posted in Professionalism, Texas Aggie Weddings, Weddings! with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by djscottshirley

“It’s a nice day for White Wedding!” – Billy Idol

It was a dark and stormy night – but it didn’t start out that way.

It was a bright sunny day when we left. All was ready as the Party Machine crew headed out for Monica and Rick Anderson’s Texas Aggie wedding. Playlists were saved and backed up on two computers. Scripts for introductions and timelines were printed and copied. Tuxedo pressed, backup sound system, spare computer, backup tux…as always, we were prepared for any contingency. We were ready, come hell or high water.

Little did we know we would experience both.

Halfway there it started getting dark. The temperature dropped 10 degrees, a welcome blessing in August, but then it started raining sideways. No problem, we had checked out the Waxahachie Civic Center, and knew they had a nice indoor loading dock.

When we arrived at the ballroom, three sad-looking people were waiting. They asked if we brought a wedding cake with us. Seemed like a rather odd question.

“No, we’re the entertainment. We brought sound and lighting equipment,” was my quick answer. Then they told me they were from the bakery, and the wedding cake had just fallen on the floor and collapsed. Total destruction. They were not happy.

Murphy’s Law, strike one.

With three hours until guests arrive, there was plenty of time to get another cake. But I had to ask, “How did this happen?”

The baker answered, “While the power was off, after the lightning struck.”

Some storm! Murphy’s Law was attacking with full force.

During set up it got steadily warmer. By the time we finished setting up a large sound system, satellite speakers and two lighting towers, we were dripping sweat. After toweling off and changing into formalwear, the manager informed us that the air conditioning was out from the lightning strike – but they were working on it.

A team of experts on Golden Overtime were working to get the place cool again.

Ol’ Murphy was working overtime today!

Then we waited. And waited. Forty-five minutes after time for the reception, and still nobody had arrived.

After an hour, the catering crew covered the food on the buffet. We began to wonder what else could go wrong.

The first guest to arrive told us the ceremony started late, because the priest was late! Then the service ran overtime, and so did the picture taking.

The caterers un-covered the food as the guests poured in from the storm, and the temperature continued to climb. The manager opened all the doors to the building to get a little breeze blowing, but that just increased the humidity. People were sweating buckets. The buffet line looked like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

At 9:30 p.m., there was still no wedding party, but the building manager shared the good news that the Air Conditioning was fixed. Hooray! Then came the bad news that we only had the ballroom until 11:00, not midnight as originally planned.

The manager informed us we had to quit an hour earlier than originally planned, even though the reception started late.

We had a big agenda, and only an hour and a half for the whole event!

Not only that, but by now all the food was gone – the buffet had been picked clean.

I welcomed the guests and announced the good news that we would be cool soon. This got a big cheer from the sweaty, starving guests.

We finally got the wedding party assembled at 9:45 for the Grand Entrance. Rick and Monica went straight to their first dance, a choreographed routine that brought down the house with cheers, applause and laughter. Thanks to Scott Schuster of One on One Productions for this clip:

That got the party started, and I got the dance floor packed right away, and kept the energy level high with icebreakers and hot dance tunes. Soon the guests forgot that all the food was gone and the air conditioning was out when they arrived.

In the end, great entertainment and laughter saved the day.

Murphy’s Law is no match for the Party Machine and a bunch of Texas Aggies!

My Neighbor’s Friend Is a DJ!

Posted in Professionalism on December 23, 2009 by djscottshirley

It’s easy to distinguish between a DJ “wanna-be” and a professional entertainer, at least it is for me. But I have 34 years’ experience in this business, and I realize the difference is not always obvious to someone seeking to hire entertainment for an event.

Everybody knows somebody who “is a DJ.” Every kid with an iPod thinks he is a DJ these days.

But you wouldn’t hire a person to prepare your tax return simply because he has a calculator.

The American DJ Association has published a list of Ten Questions to Ask Your DJ, to determine if you are dealing with someone who is striving to be more professional with their DJ business. All are good things to know, such as level of experience, professional equipment, and liability insurance. But these Ten Questions are minimum qualifications.*

There are minimum qualifications that everyone should have before claiming to be a “professional” anything, whether it’s a DJ, a plumber, or a doctor. The letters MD after your doctor’s name mean he is a trained professional, with a high level of education, experience, and licensing, just for starters. There are credentialing requirements for continuing education, testing, and insurance. Similar standards apply for attorneys, accountants, engineers, managers, and other professions.

Sadly, there are no such minimal standards for the title “DJ.” Anyone can just declare that they are a DJ. No training, no degree, no license, just claim the initials. Caveat emptor!

In fact, some of the ADJA Questions for DJs are almost silly, such as having to ask how a DJ will dress for your event. A true professional will own several tuxedos, suits and costumes, and carry a spare shirt in case of an unfortunate coffee spill. Experienced wedding DJs have a collection of ties, vests and cummerbunds to match bridal colors. But would you ask your doctor if he owns a lab coat?

Asking a DJ (or DJ wanna-be) “Do you have a wireless microphone” is a bit like asking a doctor if he owns a stethoscope.

Even the question about professional equipment falls short, as it is not clearly defined. Since every kid with an iPod thinks he’s a a DJ, the market is flooded with cheap “entry-level” DJ equipment. There are even “DJ In A Box” kits out there.

Such low-end gear is not reliable and cannot survive the rigors of professional mobile use, and top pros will not even risk it as backup gear. It is frequently seen in pawn shops and yard sales.

Would you want your doctor to use “Cat Scan In A Box” when your health is at stake? The milestone celebrations in your life such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, reunions, and retirement, deserve professional tools and talent.

Becoming a professional presumes that you have the right stuff – talent, training, and tools – to do your job. That is the bare minimum.

But being a professional means just one thing: in addition to talent, training, and tools, you have the experience, business acumen, and repeat customers to earn a living at your craft.

It’s what we do.

*So how do you know if a DJ is a professional? Easy – look at their past customers, references, and reviews and awards.

“Do You Charge More for Personality?”

Posted in Professionalism, Weddings! on August 6, 2009 by djscottshirley

I was approached by a mother and daughter at a recent bridal show, and the mother asked, “Do you charge extra for personality?”

Unsure of what she meant, and thinking that she might be joking, I answered with, “Whose personality do you have in mind?”

She wasn’t joking, in fact, she seemed a little angry. “I just talked to this DJ downstairs, and he told me they charge $300 extra if we want ‘personality’!”

I was floored. In 33 years in the entertainment industry, I had never encountered a “personality surcharge.” The whole idea was mind-boggling, and I completely understood the woman’s outrage. I assured her, “NO, we don’t charge extra, for anything. I don’t believe in that.”

Still in disbelief, I checked on her claim, and learned that she spoke with a franchise DJ entertainment company. They advertised a low base price to lure customers, (HINT: avoid any talent-based service that markets on price!) and then tried to up-sell by explaining that the base package was just a small sound system and an operator who was a trainee, to “just push Play.” The cost was $300 more if they wanted an experienced DJ and Emcee, who used the microphone. Also more for satellite speakers, wireless microphone, lighting, special music, ad infinitum. The old “Bait-and-Switch” trap.

This is wrong on several levels. First, it is a misleading marketing practice; dishonest in my book. And more importantly, you never trust your wedding to an amateur! The most important celebration of your life requires an experienced professional, and is no place for on-the-job-training for a young DJ wanna-be!

Your wedding is no place for On-the-Job Training!

Your wedding is no place for On-the-Job Training!

The whole concept of DJ “personality” has always troubled me. It has always been my strong feeling that for the milestone celebrations of your life: your wedding, birthday, graduation, anniversary, bar mitzvah, reunion, or retirement, that the Emcee should not be the star of the show. At a wedding, the bride and groom are the stars; at a birthday, the birthday boy or girl, etc. A DJ with a powerful personality that overshadows the bride or the birthday honoree is simply not appropriate.

THE PRIME DIRECTIVE: Thou Shalt Not steal the bride’s fire!

An experienced DJ and Emcee acts as a host, an announcer, and a facilitator. He controls the flow of events and keeps everything on schedule. He coordinates with venue management, food service, decorators, photographers, lighting designers, entertainers, and the host family, as well as guests who will give toasts or speeches, and people who will be introduced.

Yet a truly good Emcee certainly must have what is called “personality.” But experienced professionals know it should be the personality of the event, not of the DJ!

At my events, I always strive to be pleasant, smiling, and happy. I present an up-beat, positive and fun mood, even to the point of being joyous. It can be contagious, and my goal is to communicate to all the guests that we are gathered to celebrate – joyfully!

Unless asked by my client to do so, I never say my name. It’s not about me; it’s about the people being honored at the event.

If that is what you call “personality,” there’s no charge – it’s part of the service.

How Much For Your Gold Package?

Posted in DJ Stuff, Professionalism on May 29, 2009 by djscottshirley

Lately I have been receiving a lot of requests for “the cost of your packages.”

If you are in the business of selling widgets that come in different sizes, or were sold by the six-pack, the case, or the pallet-load, that approach might make sense.

But I am in the Event Entertainment business, and am marketing a talent-based service that comes with too many variables to market the same way you sell the services of a Car Wash.

Some folks market entertainment like a Car Wash.

Some folks market entertainment like a Car Wash.

One reason this weird expectation has evolved is Internet marketing, and a bit of laziness on the part of website developers. It’s easy to use a template when building a website, even though it may be better suited to selling products than services, especially talent services.

Another reason is the nature of the profession itself, and the profusion of newcomers and wanna-bes. Since there is no licensing required, any kid with an iPod can print a business card and build a website, and claim to be a DJ. And it’s not just kids, there are a surprising number of middle-aged folks who were down-sized out of a job, who jump into the entertainment business because it looks like a fun way to earn easy money.

These newcomers work cheap (if they show up: see what happens when they don’t here.) For their minimal price, they typically have a minimal approach to every aspect of their performance. And they market their service by the hour, or with my personal favorite, “Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum Packages.”

Any experienced professional who is a talented Host and Emcee, knows that the value of their service is not in the number of hours, nor the size of the sound equipment, nor the number of cool lighting effects. They know that it’s the time and care spent in planning and preparation, that make their service valuable. The true professional listens and does their homework, and makes sure every detail is just right at the big event.

That’s why I don’t care for “package” pricing or an hourly rate, and no experienced professional does. Every event is unique, and has its own special requirements for preparation, staffing, A-V support, and travel and other logistical details, as well as the varied and sometimes unusual choices made by the client.

Perhaps the biggest pet peeve about marketing we all share, is the “bait-and-switch,” or add-on selling. Advertise one service at a low price to lure customers, then add more features to drive up the price later. It’s the “You want fries with that?” mentality, that has no place in the Event Entertainment industry. I’m not too crazy about it in the restaurant industry, either!

You want fries with that?

You want fries with that?

I prefer (and so do my clients) a consulting approach, listening to what the client requires, and recommending the best way to achieve the goals of their event, and then we create a quote that includes everything. No hidden fees, no add-on marketing. Then the client has a concrete number for their budget.

And it often costs less than the Bronze Package with Fries, extension speakers, and extra microphones.

The ATM Didn’t Work, and Neither Did The Bargain Basement DJ!

Posted in DJ Stuff, Professionalism, Weddings! on April 9, 2009 by djscottshirley

It worked yesterday! The Automatic Teller Machine ranks as one of man’s greatest inventions since the wheel, except when it doesn’t work. Then it’s more of a wheel chock.

Greatest invention since the wheel - when it works!

Greatest invention since the wheel - when it works!

I was trying to use the drive-through ATM machine at my local branch bank, but it would not allow me to transfer funds between checking and savings accounts.

I knew that a call to the Customer Service line would connect me with someone in Mumbai or Bangolore who could speak perfect English, but didn’t understand a word of it, and it would only result in frustration. I knew it was likely to be simple to correct, if I could just speak with the right person. Plus in this age of electronic transactions, I still like the honesty and fellowship of doing business face-to-face.

So I decided to go inside and see the Business Banking manager. He was a professional looking young man named Jeff Burgess, and I felt assured he was that “right person” who could fix my account access issues.

As he explained how the bank’s system conversion had disabled some customer account links, he looked at my information screen, and asked “What IS The Party Machine?”

Resisting temptation to answer with an old vaudeville punchline, I told him I was a Wedding DJ and MC, and the Party Machine was one of the oldest mobile entertainment businesses in North Texas, founded in 1976.

Jeff slammed his fist on the desk, and said, “Man, I wish I had known about you six months ago!”

“Why, did you see a bad cheesy DJ somewhere?” I asked him.

“No! He was such a bad DJ, he never showed up at all, and it was our wedding!” was Jeff’s response.

I felt sickened to hear this. The most important celebration of their lives, ruined by a no-show DJ. You can never get that back.

The no-show problem is so widespread that the American DJ Association has developed the Get A DJ Fast Hotline! Toll-free 1-888-723-5776

The no-show problem is so widespread that the American DJ Association has developed the Get A DJ Fast Hotline! Toll-free 1-888-723-5776

This was totally unheard of just a few years ago. Sadly, it has become quite commonplace now. Whatever happened to ethics, and doing business by The Golden Rule? I blame this disgusting lapse on aggressive Internet marketing tactics.

Most front-page hits on a Google search for DJs, are not even for DJ services. They are list-sellers and brokerage agencies, many of which do nothing but accept online and telephone bookings, and then try to sell the contract to the lowest bidder. They are typically out of state, don’t own any assets, and don’t employ any DJs. They lure people in with cheap prices: “$595 for 4 hours of professional DJ service!” And sadly, many people with tight budgets or hurried schedules, will be taken in by these snake-oil peddlers.

The list-seller takes a credit card deposit and an e-contract, and then tries to sell the contract to a beginner DJ in that market, at an even lower price. Often the DJ wanna-be is hired by the contract seller for as little as $300.

What DJ will work for $300? You can’t even rent pro audio equipment for $300! Well, nobody with experience will work for a loss, which leaves nothing but inexperienced hobby DJs, mostly young kids with worn-out pawn shop gear. Few of them will fall for it more than a couple of times before they realize they are worth a lot more. So they bail out of the $300 gig because someone else will pay them $500 on the spot. When they gain a bit of experience and lose their naiveté, they will not work for less than the average market rate.

Typical price based broker's advertising. Avoid anyone who markets talent-based services like a Ronco Veg-O-Matic. This is NOT a professional, and often leads to disastrous results.

Typical price based broker's advertising. Avoid anyone who markets talent-based services like a Ronco Veg-O-Matic. This is NOT a professional, and often leads to disastrous results.

Which leads to lots of no-show DJs. Actually, since they don’t DJ, they are just simply no-shows! A real DJ is a professional, and cheap fast-buck artists are giving the profession a bad reputation, just like a crooked lawyer, a dishonest car salesman, or a book-cooking accountant harms the image of those noble professions.

Professionals in the wedding business charge a high enough fee to earn a living at their craft, and deposits of up to 50% are common to retain the services of wedding vendors. These amounts show up as Liabilities on the books of a legitimate business, because it is income that is un-earned until fulfillment of the full contract. With more to lose, a vendor with a 50% retainer has more incentive to fulfill their contract obligations. People who take a 50% deposit, and take the time to get to know you, always show up! And these legitimate vendors never take your order over the Internet without any human contact.

So what happened to Mr and Mrs Jeff Burgess? They had to file suit in Small Claims Court to recover the $100 deposit they paid with their credit card. The list-seller company only had $100 to lose, and were counting on most people being unwilling to sue over a paltry hundred bucks.

I was so angered by this shyster non-DJ ruining a wedding, and so incensed at the damage they are doing, that I had to call Jeff at the bank and ask who the company was. He told me, and I am publishing it here for all our clients to see: A-Sensory Sound. Do a Google search for “A Sensory Sound complaints” for some extended reading material. While I would not speak ill of a legitimate competitor or bear false witness, I have no reservations about telling the truth to expose a fraud, to protect people from being cheated.

As my Mama used to say, “Any deal that looks too good to be true, probably is.” My Mama was a lot like Forrest Gump’s.

The Truth about DJ Pricing

Posted in DJ Stuff, Professionalism, Weddings! on March 23, 2009 by djscottshirley

(Source: American DJ Association; used with permission)

How much is a professional Disc Jockey’s service really worth?

Some brides make entertainment a low budget priority, with disastrous results.

Some brides make entertainment a low budget priority, with disastrous results.

A recent bridal survey said that before the wedding, the entertainment usually fell to the bottom of the budget priority list and was considered one of the smallest expenditures, yet after the wedding, most surveyed brides wish they had spent more and made entertainment one of their highest priorities. Why do you think that happened?

Unless you have actually experienced mediocre or even disastrous wedding entertainment, many people make the mistake of thinking that it is “just the music”, all entertainers are the same and that a cheaper priced DJ is a better value for their money. Again, this is a big mistake!

Entertainment is a talent-based service and each Disc Jockey entertainer will bring a different level of talent, quality of service, experience, and expertise to your wedding day. Some entertainers DO an outstanding job at creating a fun, memorable, and worry-free celebration…unfortunately, the reality is that many DO NOT. Using price as a major consideration for hiring your entertainer will usually lead you to the latter.

In order to find the best fit for what you are looking for in a highly skilled entertainment professional, first realize that you need more than “just the music”! For a smooth flow of events, skillful and timely announcements, an atmosphere filled with fun and unique memories with perfectly placed musical selections, there will be a much greater need than “just the music”…a considerable amount of time will be needed to pre-plan the day’s details, complete coordination with your other vendors is a must, and to act as an energetic, articulate Master of Ceremonies to fill an overall leadership role for your party will be vital.

Since the entertainment you choose will have a profound and direct effect on the successful and memorable outcome of your wedding day celebration, it would be in your best interest to dig much deeper into the quality of service you receive, opposed to simply deciding based on price alone.

Consider that if you are paying less than $1,200 for your Disc Jockey in the DFW area, you are taking a chance on a Disc Jockey who is most likely not a truly skilled professional and may very well sell your reception to an even less qualified Disc Jockey that you will meet for the very first time at your reception or special event.

Good luck and choose wisely!