Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Hard It Is To Be A Professional DJ

I am re-posting this blog post that was written by nationally famous DJ and MC Mark Ferrell because it is very fitting of what we do and believe in here at Adam's DJ Service.

Do You Know How Hard It Is To Be A Professional DJ?
by Mark Ferrell on March 27, 2011

Hard. Really Hard. Really, really hard. Really, really, really hard.

I might know a thing or two about it. I’ve been just about every kind of DJ someone can be and I’ve been an advocate and trainer for Mobile DJs – you know, like wedding DJs, Mitzvah DJs, Special Event DJs – for about 15 years now. In fact, have trained and/or mentored some of the very best DJs in the world. And after all that time, it still amazes me that the general public (and some DJs themselves) don’t have a clue about how hard it is to be a truly professional mobile DJ.

For that reason, many folks just don’t see paying much more than they would for a jukebox or some sound equipment when considering a DJ for their event. And, sadly, many DJs won’t charge more than the cost of rental equipment (national average for equipment rental is about $860). Many actually charge less than it would cost someone to rent the equipment and “DJ” their own party.

But consider this: A truly professional mobile DJ is trained and skilled in a variety of disciplines, each of which could be practiced as a career in itself.

How is thee “professional”? Let me count the ways:

A DJ must know music history and genre, titles, artists, times, how the song starts and ends, where the break is (what a break is), a general knowledge of music structure and key, BPM (beats per minute)/tempo, current music and trends – all types, lyrics (to avoid harsh or R-rated lyrics), and what works for a variety of people, ages, backgrounds, and moods.

The idea is to keep an audience comprised of 10-year-olds to 70-year-olds all involved and having fun – for the whole event – from cocktails to the meal to dancing to the end.

Do you know how hard that is?

Master Of Ceremonies
Being a Master of Ceremonies requires public speaking skills – something that, statistically, ranks higher than death in people’s fears. Proper use of a microphone, posture, staging, and movement are a few physical requirements of a Master of Ceremonies. Technical aspects include proper introductions (there are five steps to a proper introduction), openings and closes, transitions, and presiding over the ceremonial aspects of the event.

The idea is to communicate effectively with charm and elegance in an entertaining and engaging way so that guests feel properly informed, apprised, directed and guided throughout the event, which will help them feel included and participating from start to finish.

Do you know how hard that is?

As they say, “Timing is everything.”

Planning involves understanding entertainment principles and logistics, including a room set up that is conducive to the activities planned – so that it not only allows for the activity, but enhances it. Putting activities in the proper order is paramount and involves telling the “story” of the event – so there is a beginning, a middle, and an end – with peaks and valleys of energy and emotion throughout.

Do you know how hard that is?

Coordinating the event deals with setting up scenarios behind the scenes so that when the MC makes an announcement or introduction, the segment “just happens” and feels effortless and natural to the audience. Done well, the audience will never notice any of the planning and coordination. They will just be enchanted and entertained.

Do you know how hard that is?

Knowing her/his equipment, how it functions, troubleshooting, and understanding all of the technical ramifications and requirements of an event is also part of the expertise of a professional mobile DJ.

DJs understand acoustics and the strengths and weaknesses of the equipment they use, how to adjust the proper EQ or equalization for the room and amount of people it will contain. They know what to do if the sound goes out, what gauge cables to use, the electrical requirements, and use of a mixing board, computer programs, music decks, microphones, speakers, lighting, and other effects.

DJs also edit music for timing and content (take our bad lyrics), create “mash-ups” and other edited/mixed music applications.

Do you know how hard that is?

Storyteller, etc.
Though not a requirement for a professional mobile DJ, other abilities, skills, and talents are certainly displayed by many of the more desirable DJs. These professionals draw from acting, dancing, games, singing, playing an instrument, and magic, to name a few.

A trained and skilled storyteller is a qualified actor who can assemble and tell your unique story in a compelling, heartfelt, humorous, and meaningful way. S/he uses proper microphone technique, creative sensitivity, and proper pacing and emphasis to develop the story for the listeners. These skills translate well to many other skills of a well-rounded DJ/performer, as well.

Do you know how hard that is?

Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line. Being a professional mobile DJ is much harder to do than most people give credit. Making it “look” easy and it actually “being” easy are two completely different things. Anyone skilled in their art or craft tend to make what they do look easy. What most people will never see is what happens before the performance – the practice, rehearsal, the “scraped knees” and “crashes”, the performance workshops, the show preparation, the research, etc. Lots of “etc.”

When I was working the nightclubs in Southern California, occasionally there would be one drunk fellow who would loudly disapprove of my work in some fashion or another – usually it was about a song he wanted played that I wouldn’t play because it would have cleared my dance floor, so he would proclaim that the song I was playing, “sucked!” Followed by, “YOU suck! I could play music better than you!”

Normally I’d just carry on. But one time, a particularly caustic, drunken “straw” broke this “camel’s” back. I very loudly stopped the music by dragging the needle (Yes, I played ‘records’) over the 12″ vinyl while an astonished, packed dance floor simultaneously turned toward me in protest. Calmly, I introduced “our guest DJ” who “hated the song you were dancing to” and “could play music better than” I can.

Then, I handed him the microphone, showed him the mixer, turntables, and music…then I left the DJ booth.

A few minutes later, after the “guest DJ” was ejected by the mob, I returned to an uproarious ovation of cheers and applause – and the party continued into the wee small hours.

You’ll never really know how hard it is to be a professional DJ until you are one.

And…you can quote me on that.

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