Many independent mobile disco operators & DJs aspire to landing a residency but is this really a good thing for the client?
[This refers to private parties and not bars or night clubs]
Traditionally the very term “mobile disco” relates to a DJ who transports himself and his equipment to a venue where he recreates the discotheque atmosphere in a room which would otherwise be devoid of professional sound systems, flashing lights and non-stop dance music. He or she delivers everything needed, including an extensive music library, and the ability to read an audience while keeping the dance floor packed all night long. In return he receives a fee which reflects the fact that this is no easy feat, one which few people can achieve and is therefore financially rewarding.
The mobile DJ needs to find his own work. He is independent and therefore seeks out his clients by marketing his services via word of mouth, flyers, business cards and web sites as well as referrals from satisfied clients. Very often third parties such as venues are impressed with the standard of performance and they offer to take contact details and pass them on to people interested in hiring their venue for a party. This is good news. Venues are keen to recommend service providers who do a good job. They are also happy to refer DJs who work well with the staff and “fit in” with the logistics involved in hosting a party for their mutual customer.
Some venues go one step further and are happy to offer a single DJ to become their “Resident DJ / Disco”. The venue knows who will be playing the music and the customer gets an entertainer who is recommended and is guaranteed to do a good job [theoretically]. The mobile DJ likes the idea of regular work at the venue which means he or she will not need to spend as much time and money on advertising his DJ service and finding his own clients. It looks like an ideal partnership. A win-win situation – but is it?
In an ideal world it probably is but this is not an ideal world. Firstly we need to consider the end-user by which I mean the person whose party it is. Is it possible for one DJ to be sufficiently talented, skilled and experienced enough to cover every type of party offered to him? Is it conceivable that he can deliver the same standards night in night out to the diverse eclectic clientele offered by the venue. Is it likely that the resident DJ would ever refuse to host a party because he admits he is not proficient with a music genre or a type of client?
Secondly we need to appreciate the venue’s position. They are looking to please as many people as possible. If they perceive the entertainment as “Music and Lights” and are looking for a predetermined level of service from their DJ it may well be the case that a “Jack of all trades and Master of Non” is what they value.
In other words the whole idea of resident DJs in venues works for the venue more so than the DJ or their client for that matter.
As in all walks of life there are exceptions to the rule. There are I’m sure Resident DJs who have the wealth of knowledge, skill, talent and experience to provide excellent performances for varied clients. Unfortunately they are difficult to find and their residencies are under threat. They are under pressure from venues and accountants who are keen to take advantage of the DJ’s vulnerability.
Venues are being constantly approached by DJs who want a slice of the action. You can guarantee that a venue will receive requests for meetings or offers of low-priced fees for regular work from dozens of DJs each and every month. These DJs are eager to get regular work, many have full-time day jobs and are therefore not able to spend time seeking work from individual clients. A residency is seen as easy money and they will be happy to undercut the existing fees attributed to the current resident.
All too often the accountants rule the roost and the pressure to reduce costs is too great to ignore. Quality is subjective and as long as none of the end-user clients complain then where is the harm in opting for a more competitive price? Unfortunately once a venue takes this stance the whole situation becomes desperate. More mobile DJs are keen to offer their services and the price keeps being driven down as is the standard of service offered. So what started out as a good idea quickly becomes a bad idea especially for the DJs and the end-user clients. The venues are left with mediocre talent and parties which at best may only be described as average.
Ironically the mobile DJ has become his own worst enemy. In chasing what seemed a pot of gold he has helped devalue the pricing structure and played into the hands of the accountants. Clients are suffering as standards fall and all DJs are being tarred with the same brush.
Good news. All is not lost. There is an emerging breed of DJ who is carving a new path through the doom and gloom. The new thinking is based on individual personalised marketing. Some DJs are now opting to offer their services as preferred suppliers to a venue. They are looking for referrals based on a client’s needs. They are prepared to offer their services directly to the end-user client but not to be held to ransom by the venue. Developing this relationship also means that the venue would be encouraged to offer a selection of preferred supplier DJs to their clients. This would create competition based on talent, service and professionalism. It means customers have a choice. They can make an informed decision based on their needs and not the needs of the venue.
Overcoming the accountants may well be a stumbling block. In order to become a preferred supplier the DJ may well have to offer a commission or finders fee to the venue. This is not uncommon in the industry and if all is above-board and transparent then it is an acceptable cost of doing business.
If I were planning a birthday party, corporate event or a wedding I’d be suspicious of a venue offering me a resident DJ. Who are they to tell me who will entertain at my party. They don’t know me or have any idea what my tastes are. Choice is what I want. Let the venue recommend by all means but please leave the final decision to me.
Let me apologise in advance if this blog has offended any of my fellow DJs. It was not my intention to offend anyone. My aim is for all of us to reflect on the state of the market as it is today. We need to be honest with ourselves. We need to know our limitations. I write from experience.
Think of me as poacher turned gamekeeper. I have held residencies in venues. I admit to becoming complacent. It’s so easy to think I can play the same music on Saturday for a wedding that I played on Friday for a birthday party, How difficult can it be – play the current chart music and throw in a few requests if I happen to have them, right?
I have been a multi-operator / agent. I’ve been shafted by DJs who worked for me and screwed by venues who wanted to reduce my fees.I’ve booked DJs who have proved inconsistent and unreliable. I’ve worked with some fantastic talented DJs who are much better than I could ever hope to be.
The debate will continue of that I am certain. However the question still remains. Are residencies all they are cracked up to be. Whose interests do they best serve – the DJ, the client or the venue?
Answers on a postcard please – or you can leave your comment below.