David: Before I make any headway into this I want to set the record straight, if you’ll pardon the pun. I don’t want to come at this from the standpoint of a raging bull in a china shop. I don’t consider myself perfectly expert in any way, but I do feel as if I’ve had a great insight into what makes the industry tick, and am well placed to make some views and observations based on my prior experience and general involvement as a mobile DJ.
This post is primarily aimed at the general public, to share some kind of grasp on what’s hot and what’s not, but there may be some points in here that might be helpful to the budding mobile DJ or even someone of more experience. So, without further ado let’s get into it.
What to look for in picking a good mobile DJ
Legals – First and foremost I think it’s really important a mobile DJ is legal. That is, they have public liability insurance, annual PAT testing and all tracks bought legally. These are a lot of the smaller intricacies that many people overlook, but the truth is if a DJ has their paperwork and in order it’s a good sign that their other practices are in good standing too. It’s a great denotation of an individual who’s well organised and proactive in their business ventures, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Speciality – You should find out if the DJ is experienced in your particular event or type of music. There are a lot of wedding DJs out there for example, who solely do weddings week in, week out, and whilst they may be very experienced with weddings, they may not be as good at bringing the euphoric atmosphere to an 18th or 21st. Get the right person, get the right vibe, and have a great party.
Flexibility – Going beyond the call of duty to give you, the customer, the utmost satisfaction is something that is really valuable. A DJ can do this by offering to meet you before the event to discuss what you want out of the event, and can begin to tailor a theme to suit your needs. This is really key to achieving the result you want, whilst staying practicable.
Looking for a personality, not just a monkey
In the modern age of the iPod and Spotify – and all those other consumables I despise, picking a personality over a button pusher is more important than ever. Today, everyone’s a “DJ” – we choose what we want to hear all the time, and anyone can hit play, move a crossfader, and with the help of some fancy software pull off a half decent mix. But, what separates a professional from a monkey is a professional sells his artwork as a personality.
Right from the ground up, a mobile DJ should develop his personality through his individual artwork. It sounds a lot more complicated than it really is, but aside from the social personality that we all possess, a mobile DJ has a musical personality with a presentable element.
This ranges from picking the right sound/lighting equipment that defines him as a personality. Of course, the average customer doesn’t really care if you’re using Void speakers or Prosound equipment from your local Maplin store. I’ve used both, and it hasn’t really changed me as a person, or even made me a better or worse DJ for that matter. When people come to me for advice on DJ gear, I give them pointers, but the number one piece of advice I always give is that actually the most important tool in the decision making process is personal choice. It’s what sets you apart from another “artist”. A DJ should pick what he thinks sounds and looks good, not necessarily what’s popular or what someone else does. If you foster this mentality as an artist, in whatever you do, people might not like you, but the people that do like you will like you for you – and that’s paramount.
Music, as an art form is inherently subjective. It’s passion, it’s love, it’s emotion. It’s filled with all these immaterial boundaries which whilst they mean so much together, are actually without much value on their own. It’s how you create your setting, your façade that separates you from another mobile DJ.
Producers do this all the time; they develop their own mixing, mastering and processing sound to define a standardised backdrop to their tracks – so that, without even hearing the notes of the tune, the listener can, almost subconsciously, identify the track as, for example, a Katy Perry track or a Bruno Mars track or whatever. As mobile DJs we should try to replicate this, our sound, and our vision defines us – even on a subconscious level.
The same mentality can be applied to advertising campaigns, websites and even the way you interface with the client/audience. You’re defining your personality and creating that individual product that separates you and your artwork.
A few final points
Anything else I add to this is actually pretty irrelevant, because I think individuality is the key message. But here are a couple more pointers that might help.
What you play is more important than how you play it – I’ve learnt this from experience. It’s a little bit like the aforementioned Void vs Prosound argument that people don’t really care about the brand, they just want it to sound good. Enhancing the sound by buying smart, or by mixing well, is always going to improve your end result, but getting the basics right in the first place is profoundly more important. Know your audience, pick the right tracks, and then think about mixing.
Quality trumps quantity – As a well-informed professional mobile DJ you should be culturally and technologically aware that the MP3 file is an antiquated and obsolete technology. It was designed for an era when portable music players were limited in storage capacity, and whilst unfortunately it’s still widely regarded as current and acceptable, no thanks to the cloud and western internet infrastructure, it’s simply not justifiable, in my opinion for use as a professional.
There is no excuse and no substitute fully fledged lossless collection of music, even if you can’t hear the difference – it’s truly a matter of principle. It’s simply a case of GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. If you work with garbage in the first place, your end result will only ever just that, garbage. Work with the cream, and then tone it down to suit your needs.
That’s it for now
Again I really don’t mean to come off like I know it all because there’s one thing I do know – and that’s that I don’t know it all. This is just a sharing of what my relatively small experience has taught me – nothing more and nothing less.
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