Sunday, December 30, 2012
By Geoff Short
Any good DJ worth his weight in MP3s has a back-up plan in case Murphy's Law kicks in at a gig. There's a ton of advice available about back-up plans. Not so much about the psychological impact of DJ panic when things go wrong. Panic kills. I was a lifeguard throughout high school and college. We learned the first option to save someone drowning is to reach something long to them and pull them to safety. If you approach a drowning person who is panicked they will most likely drag you down with them. On a gig, panic can drown the event as quickly as a floundering swimmer. You lose control to think and act quickly. Survival is the only instinct that kicks in. Being able to calmly come up with a solution goes right out the window. We've all had flashes of panic on gigs. Forget the sync button. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a panic button for those panic-inducing situations on gigs? Just press the button and poof! Problem solved. Panic recedes. Here's a few of my mental "panic buttons". I've had to use them before to save myself from drowning.
Click here to read the full article on MobileBeat.com
Saturday, December 29, 2012
by Geoff Short for MobileBeat.com
Everyone can use a little inspiration. Especially those of us in the entertainment business who need to continually find creative ways to stimulate audiences. But it's easy to fall into the rut of time-worn habits. We could all use a creative makeover to do things differently sometimes. DJs spend a lot of time learning from other DJs but true evolution of your DJ skills and outlook may require you to look outside of the DJ community to discover unique ways of approaching your craft. If your eyes and mind are open enough you can discover new things about stuff you do everyday that can get your creative juices flowing enough to lead to real creative growth and increased income as an entertainer. If you find your creative energy sagging along with bookings and income, it may be time for an inspirational fill-up. I've talked about some of my personal sources of inspiration before, most notably live theatre. Here are a few other non-DJ sources of DJ inspiration:
For the full article on MobileBeat.com click here.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
"I'm a 30 year-old black woman. What do YOU think I want to hear?"
That was the question one party-goer posed to me at the event I DJ'd for last weekend. And I thought it was a great question. But let me start at the beginning.
The event was a corporate holiday party in a large ballroom at a local hotel here in Cleveland. I haven't been that challenged by a crowd recently and although I had a couple uncomfortable moments as the DJ, I don't think I've felt more invigorated by a gig in a long time. I learned some really good lessons that night.
The crowd was well over 300 people, a large number of which were African-American. Naturally, as a black DJ, I always feel comfortable with black guests. We love to dance. Black people, in fact, are very active dancers and have very specific tastes (and opinions) about what is or isn't being played. We want to be on the dance floor and we will challenge a DJ to keep us there - on our terms. The challenge this night was that I was the DJ and there was also a large number of guests who were older and not black. I knew this was a professional event with a mixed crowd and my goal was to try to appeal to everyone. We all know you can't just pay attention to who's on the dance floor, but also to who isn't. Unfortunately some guests didn't see it that way and saw fit to challenge me throughout the night. And, as frustrating as it can become, I love a good challenge!
Click Here fof the full article on MobileBeat.com
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Both Presidential candidates promise things they know damn well they can't deliver. Even with the best intentions neither candidate could get anything done with a Congress more concerned with grabbing power than anything else. What's worse for me is how the campaign has put into sharp focus just how divided we are as a country. I view my own Facebook friends list as a microcosm of our larger population and believe me, my feed has been filled with vitriol, inaccuracies and angry rants and un-friending (some of which, admittedly have come from me) since this campaign started. It's disheartening and annoying at best. Scary and dangerous at worst. Especially since it seems that most of us actually agree on what this country needs right? Jobs, good health care, reduced debt, healthy economy, etc. We just disagree on how to get there.
Our dysfunctional U.S. political system has gotten me thinking about the politics of our DJ community. I think if we take a good hard look in the mirror, we might see some of the things that get so ugly in a presidential race in our own reflection.
Click here for the full article on MobileBeat.com
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The Senior Year Season of "STAGES" is here!
Premiering 3 years ago (when the Class of 2013 were just Freshmen), STAGES has documented the stories of the acclaimed Music Theatre program at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio (Just outside Cleveland) headed by Program Director Victoria Bussert. BWU music theatre students are some of the most talented and elite performers in the country, many of whom go on to perform in Broadway productions.
In this episode, auditions and call-backs for the Fall musical "Follies" are heating up with more vocal auditions and an intense dance call. Finally the casting results are posted at midnight - a BW tradition that can be nerve-wracking and exciting all at the same time.
But for me sometimes, DJing is a lonely business. It takes a village to raise a great event, but as a solo DJ, my "village" can feel pretty pitiful with a population of 1.
Most weekends I sing in The Avenue, one of the very busy special event dance bands at Jerry Bruno Productions, the multi-op I work for here in Cleveland. I've been in a band since I was a kid and bands are like little gangs. Us against the world. There's a feeling of camaraderie, of common purpose in a band that I find myself missing when I'm DJing an event. The Avenue is a group of 10 musicians and 1 Sound Tech working together in harmony (literally) for a common goal. We ultimately sink or swim together and there is a creative comfort in that. We can discuss musical ideas and support each other.
Click here for the full article at MobileBeat.com
Friday, August 31, 2012
I'm a shy person. Whenever I say this, people who know my history of performing look at me like I'm crazy. How can someone who performs in front of hundreds of people every week be shy? But it's true. I'm not the kind of person who will readily walk up to strangers and start a conversation. I think many performers are shy to some extent. It's easier for me to sing a song in front of 200 people than it is to have a real conversation with just one. When I'm singing, the words I'm singing have already been prepared for me by someone else. When I'm acting on stage, the person I'm supposed to be and the situation I'm supposed to be in have already been created for me. I can live comfortably in that alternate reality moment. I don't feel any of the awkwardness that creeps in in unfamiliar social situations as the "real" me.
Click here for the full article on MobileBeat.com
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Never trust a skinny cook.
To read the full article on MobileBeat.com click here
I remember it like it was yesterday. One of the biggest screw ups of my life. I was one week away from being married. My soon-to-be-wife Lisa and I were living in California at the time, but our wedding was happening in Cleveland where our families live and where I grew up. Because of work schedules, Lisa left for Cleveland a few days before I did. I was organizing a few last minute things the night before I was to go to the airport. I made sure I had my plane tickets and thought I would double check what time my flight was. That's when my world went black. My plane - the very one that was to carry me to wed my beloved - departed over 12 hours ago!! For some reason I had it in my mind that my flight was the next day. Nope. Panic. As stupid as that was, I was smart enough to call the airline, plead my case and beg for the next flight to Cleveland - before calling Lisa, who was probably expecting me to be landing in Ohio by now. It worked. It only cost me $50 to change the flight to the next morning (I would have sold my first born kid to get on a plane) and now I had a solution before breaking the news to my fiance. No, she still wasn't thrilled and still called me an idiot, but at least I had a solution. Can you imagine if I hadn't? She surely would have thought this lame "missed flight" story (true though it was) was a cover for the worst case of cold feet in the world. I learned a very valuable lesson that day...
To read the full article on MobileBeat.com click here
As I write this, we are probably over the half way point of the busy Summer wedding season. For those who have created great entertainment at a lot of different events over the last couple months, it's right about this time that a DJs energy and enthusiasm can be in short supply. The usually sharp edges of precision and accuracy can feel dulled by habits and complacency and the spark of creativity can grow dim under the shadow of boredom. If you let it. To succumb to DFABS (DJ Fatigue and Boredom Syndrome, a disorder I just made up) is to invite in nasty things like bad reviews, diminished referrals, empty dance floors, disappointed brides and grooms and probably worst of all, disillusion with DJing in general. Much like a marathon runner who must go beyond her depleted physical ability and plumb her psyche for the strength to dig deep and win the race, DJs must also dig deep and make every event a winner.
To read the full article on MobileBeat.com click here
Monday, July 2, 2012
All due respect goes to valets and servers and every other super hero disguised as a special event worker. They are the miracle workers who make these three ring circuses possible. And they are friends and colleagues. I am one of them. I AM the hired help. So why do I get so bent out of shape when I feel treated that way? I don’t want or need to be treated any better than any other worker hired for a given event. It would just be nice if we ALL felt appreciated and respected all the time. But we all know Utopia doesn’t really exist.
Have you ever felt disrespected by clients, guests or other vendors at an event?
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE AT MOBILEBEAT.COM
Thursday, May 3, 2012
A Video Look at "Ragtime" at Near West Theatre
Friday, April 20, 2012
I'm really excited to be a guest on this episode of the great DJ internet talk show, The Crossfader Show! Tune in Monday April 23rd at 12pm PST...We'll be talking about the meaty subject of race and culture as it pertains to the DJ entertainment business and dealing with clients of different cultures. I met Jose and some of the team at Mobile Beat Las Vegas and have been a fan of the Crossfader Show for a long time. Click the event link below and Tune in!
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
What is the evolution of DJing? I’m not talking about gear. We all know the hardware and software we use is obsolete the second we hit the power button.
I’m talking about how being a special event entertainer and MC will evolve. Or…will it?
I think it’s inevitable. We’re in the entertainment business and entertainment continually evolves. HD movies in 3-D, virtual reality gaming, interactive TV on demand. Entertainment is not like other businesses that are created and grow in large part according to the demands of the market. If people want bigger SUVs the automobile industry cranks them out. Consumers want cheap goods and the convenience of one-stop shopping so Walmart is the biggest retailer in the country.
I have the pleasure of working with a lot of different DJs here at Jerry Bruno Productions in Cleveland. On a couple of occasions I’ve heard of DJs who wouldn’t take a job because of a personal moral conflict with something to do with that particular client. Has the job of turning a profit for your DJ business ever been at odds with your personal moral code?
Those of us in the entertainment industry have never been accused of being pantheons of morality. Yet, the people I’ve met in the DJ community are some of the most caring and respectable people anywhere. Still, I’m sure at some point we all have accepted or performed at a gig that might have been for a respectable (or at least legal) organization that, for some reason didn’t quite line up with our personal ethics.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
That older couple over in the corner of the dance floor…they’re the Johnsons. That’s their corner. Their daughter Amanda went to school with the bride. Every time I play a ballad – especially an old school ballad – something from The Righteous Brothers or The Four Seasons, they head straight to their corner and hold each other tight. They’ve been married for 32 years.
There may be nothing that attracts Murphy’s Law better than live entertainment. That’s part of the thrill of any live performance. The audience knows that the performer could fall flat on their ass at any given time. This has actually happened to me. I was singing with my band when my foot got tangled in a cord and I literally fell on my ass right into one of the horn players’ horns. Not only did I bend this poor guys mouth piece, but I almost ended up with a trumpet up my butt (which would have given new meaning to “tooting”!). But I digress. From the performer’s perspective we know that at any time the electricity could blow (which has also happened to me - of course) or a sandbag could fall on their head. It’s navigating this sort of tight-wire dance between performer and audience and how we handle these potentially armageddonous (yes, I made that up) moments that really makes us entertainmentprofessionals.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
My latest piece for Mobile Beat- The Art of the DJ: Why DJing is a performing art. Are you an artist?
Is DJing a performing art? If it were considered a performing art by our clients - that is, if DJs were considered artists - our profession could be elevated to a point where we could overcome stigmas of DJs being no more than glorified serving staff or musical bartenders (no disrespect to serving staff or, particularly, bartenders, without whom I’m sure I could not live). Then could corresponding prices be far behind?
When I think of “entertainment”, I think of performances in disciplines that would most likely be considered performing arts. Things like theatre, dance or music performance. I’m a singer in a band as well as a DJ. I consider a band performance a performing art. A band is actually “performing” music live with skills we have worked a lifetime to develop - our “art”. Artists who have practiced for hours each day and spent years perfecting musical talent and skill generally don’t think twice about what to charge a client for their time and talent. But DJs do.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
The equation really is simple math:
Focus on Guests + Delivery of Great Guest Experience = Desired Behavior (Dancing)
But not everyone is good at math, so class begins now - a year before the test.
There are so many factors that can contribute to (or take away from) a full dance floor at a wedding reception or other special event. Many of these factors have nothing to do with the DJ. Time and location of the actual ceremony, venue of the reception, weather, parking, traffic all have an influence on the guest experience and therefore on the dance floor itself. Obviously, we can’t control all of these things, but as entertainment consultants we have to help clients become aware of these factors, control whatever can be controlled and adapt them to contribute to a full dance floor. This takes careful planning from the very beginning of the planning process. The actual event may be a year from now, but because there are so many things - let’s call them “dance floor factors” - that can be controlled and need to be planned far in advance, our team’s job is to start filling the dance floor...now.
Great parties don’t just happen. They have to be meticulously planned. Actually, great parties can “just happen”, but that’s usually coincidence. When planning the entertainment for an event on the scale of a wedding reception, nothing should be left to coincidence. One of the very first things I try to do when helping new clients plan entertainment at Jerry Bruno Productions here in Cleveland is to try and get them to see a much bigger picture than just what songs will be on their playlist (which is often the first thing they want to talk about followed closely with concerns over “cheesy DJs”). My first goal is to get them thinking about all the different elements that can contribute to or take away from a full dance floor, many of which they may not have considered before. Then I can incorporate their vision, personalities and creativity into a plan for their party that is focused on achieving a full dance floor.
I try to get them to think of themselves not so much as bride and groom, but as objective members of an entertainment committee. This committee often starts with just three members - me and them. I think it’s important that they be able to step outside of their roles as Bride and Groom and really take an objective look at their event. From where brides and grooms sit at the Centers of the Reception Universe, everything seems like a good idea, because they are the center of attention. But what about guest #40 and #41, for example? Not many brides and grooms consider the correlation between seemingly little things like the hassle of an inconvenient parking situation, for example and how that can specifically effect the dance floor. And why should they? As the B&G, they never have to worry about driving, parking or any of that. But their guests - the specific consumer group our committee should be focused on and that we desire certain behavior (dancing) from - do have to worry about how they’re getting from point A to point B. The last thing we want #40 & #41 thinking about is where their car is or leaving early to find it. Our committee has to be focused on what the total guest experience will be and how it effects the dance floor. Isn’t the idea of inviting “honored” guests, to actually honor them?
I love that moment in a client meeting when I can see the light bulbs light up over the heads of Brides and Grooms and their parents when this concept start to make sense to them. They immediately start taking notes and start applying these concepts to their own plans. They can see how the ripple effect of everything that happens that day effects the dance floor 8 hours from now. Suddenly discussions about specific songs and music genres fall away as the bigger picture of planning great entertainment takes center stage. Suddenly, the planning morphs from being about “my day” to actually planning a great dance party for everyone.
DJs and Bands sometimes can get credit for good things that happen at events that they actually had very little to do with. If the members of the entertainment committee that are responsible for setting up the structure of the day have done a great job of creating an exceptional guest experience, they probably have delivered a crowd of people to the DJ who are ready and willing to dance and probably will despite the fact that the actual DJ might not be the best DJ in the world. Because the guests had a great all-around experience, they might walk out of that reception saying the DJ was great because the dance floor was full all night!
This goes both ways. Sometimes we get blamed for things we had nothing to do with. A DJ could be the greatest MC and Event Host ever. She carefully planned and rehearsed a creative, personalized Grand Entrance. She contacted the other vendors in advance to share timelines. She made professional and eloquent announcements. She played a great mix of music all night. But if the other members of her committee dropped the ball and only focused on 2 people as opposed to 200, the dance floor may be empty at 10:00. What do the guests say then? “That DJ wasn’t very good. No one danced”.
The point is is that this is all show business, even for the Bride and Groom. We all have to work as a team to appeal to the largest possible audience/customers/guests. Otherwise, why were they invited?
There will be a test.
Monday, January 23, 2012
This post was was going to be about something completely different. And then I performed with my band The Avenue at a wedding last night and I met Rebecca.
Rebecca was on the dance floor all night although I can’t say she actually danced much. She was enthralled by the band. She loved the music and seemed fascinated by all of us performing it. She literally stood right in front of me all night long.
Rebecca is just a kid. Probably 14 or 15 and she is autistic. She was there for the wedding of a relative but all she wanted to do that night was sing with the band. She loves music. She assured me time and time again that she knew all the words to “Baby” by Justin Bieber. And even though that song isn’t on the band’s playlist, I called her up to join the band a few times during the night to help us sing whatever party dance song we were playing at the time. She seemed so excited when I handed her the microphone. Her family loved seeing her have fun and the crowd loved it.
I just kept thinking that I hoped we offered her even the slightest bit of encouragement to follow her musical dreams despite whatever obstacles might be waiting for her. How little effort it took on my part to make her the center of attention for a few minutes every now and then.
And then I had another thought. I have been blessed with so many good things. I don’t do nearly enough to give back to my community or to the world in general. Like many entertainers I often suffer from an inflated ego and sense of self-importance. Ironically, this often stems from raging insecurities. It’s long past time for me to take the focus off myself and my challenges and focus more on others.
I would love to find ways to make music work to help other people & causes (beyond my normal for-profit ventures). I could donate my DJ services. I could help encourage others to explore their love of music and develop their talents. I could help plan a fundraiser. I could.... I will stop being so self-centered.
Hearts are big in the DJ community and I know many DJs are way ahead of me on this one. How are you using your DJ/MC talents and experience to make your community a better place?
I’m so glad my band got the chance to jam with Rebecca last night. It would be so cool to see her making her own music some day.
Rock on Rebecca.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
In a recent video DJ gig log, I brought up the question of wardrobe for DJs. How important toyou is your wardrobe and the way you look on a gig? If the answer is anything below “extremely important”, take another look in the mirror.
Everyone knows you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. We know that, in general, our appearance is our very first calling card. But as DJs concerned with being great entertainers, MCs and hosts for our clients, our wardrobe and appearance can also be a vital part of the overall entertainment experience. Like it or not, we are a physical part of the layout and look of the room. In addition to having expectations of a great entertainment experience, our clients expect us to look good as well. Of all the gig logs and photos of DJ rigs posted on line, almost all of them leave out the most important part of the set-up…the DJ. What did they look like? What were they wearing? Most DJs are technical wiz kids, capable of everything from mixing music to making an intelligent light rig from a toaster. But ask some to leave the house with matching shoes and your liable to get a stare as blank as an unwrapped CD. So here are a few things to add to your list of DJ stuff to think about as your packing up for your next gig:
What’s appropriate for this gig?
Not every gig is a formal occasion that automatically requires a tux or an evening gown. Even if the gig is a wedding reception, don’t assume it’s a formal one. Remember that it’s important to keep the focus on the guests and the bride and groom, not to draw the spotlight yourself. If everyone is in business casual attire or less and you’re in a formal tux, you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. Remember the rule about assuming things and always ask the client what they would prefer you wear.
Another good question to ask clients is what colors they have planned for other elements of the event. It may be possible to coordinate the colors you wear with those elements. I’m not talking about a powder blue tux from the 70’s to match the bride’s eyes or anything ridiculous like that. But if the gig is a wedding, it may be possible for you to compliment the bridal party colors with a splash of a similar color in your tie or shirt. Again the goal is not to draw focus to you, so things have to remain tasteful.
Is your wardrobe up to date or are you still using the tux you used for your prom? If you can still fit in it, good for you (I seem to expand every year!). Size not withstanding, that old tux may appear dated and create a fashion faux pas best avoided. It seems contemporary DJs are constantly fighting cheesy stereotypes of old fashioned DJs. A big weapon in that battle is our wardrobe. Research modern wedding fashion and explore simple differences in wardrobe that can make you look more hip, sharp and up to date. Compare: Plain, white shirt with no jacket, but a bow tie and vest that make you look like a reject from a barbershop quartet versus a formal jacket, black dress shirt and a long tie. Of course, female DJs should explore similar comparisons. It doesn’t make much sense to constantly update your music library with the latest dance hits but like Grandpa DJ playing them. Like it or not wardrobe has to be a part of our bottom line DJ expense budget.
The slickest suit in the world won’t help you at all if you look and smell like a neanderthal. We always want to seem approachable and attractive (which is important for referrals and future bookings) to guests. But will turn off guests more than dragon breath and wild hair coming out of orifices you didn’t even know you had. Get a haircut, shave, wear make-up, make sure your clothes are ironed, etc. It’s also a good idea to keep basic toiletries like deodorant and breath mints in your DJ kit.
I don’t sit down during any gig I’m on. Any DJ that also stands the whole time will agree that the importance of comfortable shoes can’t be overstated. Being on your feet for 5 hours or more, not even including set-up can wreak havoc on your feet, legs and back. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to wear your most comfy pair of sneakers either. Remember, you shouldn’t stay hidden behind your draped DJ table all night, so you can’t hide your house slippers under a table skirt. You should be spending some time on the dance floor as well or mingling with guests, etc. This means guests will see you from head to toe so it’s important to find shoes that support you comfortably and also look appropriate.
You don’t have to look like an Olympic athlete to be a succesful DJ. But some gigs certainly feel like a marathon so you shouldn’t look and feel like a tired, pot-bellied couch potato either. I’m overweight myself and constantly trying to win the battle of the bulge. But I do try to watch what I eat and get to the gym regularly. Working out a few times a week can greatly improve your energy and your appearance. Also try to get as much rest as possible before a gig. Eat foods that will boost energy, not sap it and drink plenty of fluids. No one wants to see a DJ with bags under her eyes looking like she would rather be asleep rather than at this gig. Also keep in mind that when picking wardrobe for gigs, wear things that compliment your frame and body type and look flattering on you. Ill-fitting shirts and tops that accentuate a bit of a muffin top or beer belly won’t do you any favors in terms of booking more gigs.
None of this means that DJs should be supermodels. But you should work to make your look fashionable, current and attractive. My mother always used to stress the importance of looking good on the path to success and I have seen her proven right so many times – sometimes in myself, often in others. How we look personally is as important, if not more so, than how our light rig or facade looks. Pay as much attention to appearance as gear and when you look in the mirror you’ll not only see a good looking DJ, but also a good looking DJ with more gigs.