Category Archives: Storytime

Behind The Scenes: Negotiating Terms With A Club

With under a week before the party, our venue was suddenly closed.

Against a wall, the organizers began looking for alternative sites to ensure success. Over the coming days a promising bar a little off the beaten path with plenty of space surfaced. A meeting was quickly arranged with the owners so we could discuss terms and scope out the venue.

As we’d come to discover he’d been promised the world by many, though few actually came through to deliver. As such his primary concerns were as follows:

  • That we wouldn’t show up wasting the bouncer’s time
  • That we would show up, but we’ll bring a rough crowd
  • That we’d abuse a comped bar tab by passing drinks to friends

As such our original agreement settled as:

  • 15% of bar sales
  • $100 taken off the 15% return for the bouncer
  • 1/2 price bar tab for the three DJs (and no passing drinks to friends)

We brought up bringing additional speakers but the owner balked. They already had a decent setup but the sub wasn’t well place and the room had various dead spots. After telling a friend of ours the initial terms he paid his own visit to negotiate a better deal. He was well equipped; he had extensive experience organizing and promoting events. Ultimately we’d be able to bring supplementary sound in addition to

  • Waiving the cost of the bouncer ($100) and
  • Getting a bottle at follow-up events for the DJs, contingent on a successful first night.

The event was centered around House music accompanied by interactive live percussion. And I was the opening DJ.

After all was said and done we ended up with over two grand in bar sales. For a kickoff event series it was a strong success, the place was packed most of the night. Management was happy, we had a blast, and we broke even after bar sales we taken into account. We got to drink for free and rock an awesome party.

We now had a new venue to host parties in a decent location with solid staff, with terms in our favor.

How your reputation can make or break you

I was spinning at my usual local spot through a DJ multi-op. A girl came up and introduced herself mentioning she was also a member. It was clear she was new since she completely butchered the group’s name.

She gets on to asking what hookup she’d need for her gig on St. Patty’s. It was a pair of RCA’s but she paused as if doing calculus when I told her. The jacks were visible right behind me so I turned around and showed her. Anyone who’s had a TV the past twenty years would know what those were, right?

I gave her my card and said to reach out with any questions as it sounded like the upcoming gig would be her first one ever. She sits down with her friend and has a few drinks over the next hour or so.

About a week later she hits me up on Facebook and asks what the inputs were again. Maybe she forgot. After repeating RCA’s, “Yeah but what does the other end plug in to?” Now I was about as confused as she was. She follows up and sends over a picture of the cables she had, they were XLR. Alright let’s cut through this. I reply with a picture of RCA cables including a link on Amazon, zero room for confusion there.

Ok great.

We went on chatting, asking me what kind of music I usually played, the kind of vibe of the place.

Didn’t she grab drinks over the span of three hours in person? Well if you didn’t get the vibe in person words might not help you here. The same description can also mean different things to different people.

“I’ll do you one better.”

I jump into Traktor and export my history for two separate nights.

“If you have manager X, play this kind of music. If you have manager Y, play this kind of music”

They have varying tastes and you’ll get differing feedback depending on who’s working that night.

A couple weeks after her gig I reach out to grab lunch and see how everything is going. It had gone well enough to where she had a followup gig at the venue next door. This spot had a different setup so you’d need XLR instead, and how long you’d need depended on where the manager set you up. She had 15 foot cables so I wasn’t sure they would reach. It was already Thursday so picking up extras on Amazon would be cutting it close since the gig was in two days. I had extra XLR’s on me so after I took care of the bill we head over to my car. I only had my new fifty footers but I didn’t need them for at least two weeks.

She reaches out the following week asking me if I wanted to come to a corporate gig she picked up in Manhattan. Mmmmk. It’s on a Monday a few months later so I tentatively accepted. Ultimately she’d never done something like it before and wanted someone to help out. That’s fine. I have no problem helping someone get started, we’ve all been there before.

She follows up asking how much to charge. Cost being dependent on many things, I begin firing away questions. Not answering directly it thus takes a little over 90 minutes to herd the cats and formulate a number. I also recommend she invest in some quality speakers. What she had was nowhere near adequate for a corporate event, let alone a respectable party of any size.

Another week passes. I needed my long cables to set up a satellite speaker for a brunch gig so I reach out to pick them back up. She had indeed needed them, aright cool. She wouldn’t be around but would be able to leave them at the front desk of her apartment complex. I go over to pick them up that night. The receptionist hands them to me like cupcakes.

Oh boy.

Each are wrapped up the size of softballs.

I couldn’t even figure out how she got them that way, both ends of each cable were somehow buried in the center mass of wire. I needed them for the following day so I got to uncoiling them. Sixty minutes later they look, squirrely. Though these would need a full day baking in the sun.

I reach out about how she returned the cables in such poor shape. She claimed she didn’t know how to get them back how I had them.

That much was clear.

A simple google search would have sufficed, but no matter. They were only about $35, and they did still work (at the moment). But who knows how much many years she sliced off the lifespan of something I recently purchased. As a result I was interested in replacements. That was not in the cards.

Alrighty. So the guy who’s been helping you get your feet wet also happens to be one of the first bridges you want to burn.

Now, if she ever wanted to spin that venue again she’d need to buy more cables anyway. And it turns out her gig wasn’t two days after our lunch like I had thought, it was instead over a week later. Meaning she had plenty of time to personally check out the venue and order her own cables…

Just, interesting.

The cables, I could almost care less about. I can move on over thirty five bucks. The manner in which she handled the situation did however provide a stark glimpse into her character.

You can be sure I won’t be helping her again. You can also be sure that the rest of the DJs in my community will catch wind of her character, sooner or later.

Do you think they’ll want to work with or pass gigs along to someone who doesn’t take care of other people’s stuff? Or someone who doesn’t take responsibility for their actions?

The DJ community in Fairfield County is not very large. I’m not a juggernaut by any means, but I know many respectable DJs in the area. Paramount to any degree of success you might hope to have, you reputation is very important to look after. Especially around CT. It’s not like Manhattan where you’ve got nine million people to disappear into.

I shared what happened to a friend of mine over coffee one day. Turned out he also knew her. He had his own story reconfirming of her shaky character.

What a reputation this new DJ is rapidly building!

The DJ industry reputable for its ego-heads and cut-throat personalities, but word travels faster than ever. Despite DJing’s competitive nature, my perspective is that rising tides lift all ships. If one or two want to turn around and bite the hand that fed them, that’s fine. Because in the long run I’m confident that enough folks that I’ve helped will want to turn around and return the favor. And those people are well worth the few bad apples I’d come across in the long run.

Long story short, guard your reputation like gold. Because DJing is more and more reliant on networking by the day. Screw over too many people and you’ll be cut down at the knees.

DJing my first 1000+ person event

Mid-week a friend of mine reached out and asked if I was free the upcoming Sunday. He was on the West coast for the month and needed a fill-in. “It’s for a fundraiser” he said, “plug and play, sound is already provided. You might need to do some light MCing though.” I’ve done a number of weddings so jumping on the mic is not foreign to me. Sunday gigs are also great since I’m usually free anyway. He didn’t know what the fundraiser was for, just at a college nearby. But at the end of the day it wasn’t going to really impact how I was going to prepare. I’ve got a number of setlists to reference last minute if I needed to switch gears, worst case scenario.

The morning of the event I do a little research and end up piecing together the charity given the college. It wasn’t just any fundraiser, it was in fact a 5k run for Crohn’s. The guy who plugged me in follows-up to ensure I’m all set. He sends me a photo of the stage I’ll be on, and “Oh by the way, it’s going to be in front of 1000-1500 people.” Damn son! Aright then well let’s do this.

The event is 4-7 pm with sound check at 3. I wanted to get there extra early to account for potential traffic and make sure I could find everything. Not only does it damper potential stress when you’ve given yourself plenty of time but the event staff and managers definitely appreciate it knowing they don’t have to worry if their DJ is going to show up.

I set myself up fairly quickly. As he mentioned it was indeed plug and play, just needed a fold-up table and my gear. I hooked right in with XLR cables, though I did need to dig out my TRS -> XLR adaptors. The sound crew had iPads and were able to control everything right there in their hands, pretty cool stuff. I throw on a busy, high energy track for sound check and we cranked it. Dammm the stage was rattling with bass! After setting our levels they have me put on a continuous mix until the show is ready to get going. I have about a full hour until game time. I spend a good portion of it creating a refined setlist now that I saw the venue setup and had a better idea of what I’d be playing to.

Shortly prior to kicking off a coordinator comes up and hands me two sheets of announcements consisting of shoutouts to their sponsors. This is about when they tell me it’s a 5k run/walk and not just a festival. Ahh, ok makes sense.

In the 45 minutes after we get going I sprinkle in their sponsor shoutouts. Leading up to the kickoff ceremony I throw in 10 & 5 minute warnings. Of course things run behind so in reality they got going with the ceremony fifteen minutes late. Not two minutes before it’s supposed to begin another individual comes up and asks I if I can host and coordinate the ceremony, in the process handing me a whole book of how it’s supposed to unfold…

Uhhh, no.

If you guys wanted me to host your entire ceremony you’d have had to at least given me a bit more notice than that. Not to mention I was hardly even familiar with the disease and had zero context on what was going on. Aside from being unprepared, it was just not a good idea all around. They go off and find someone else, by the time they get back I call everyone over.

Up until this point I was doing well in my announcements but finally I trip over my words. Straight blabbermouth. Blahhhh. Of course everyone heard me sound like an idiot. I knew because the entire field started walking over since I had announced we were about to begin the ceremony, in fluent PygLation.


And holy crap it was a lot more people than I expected!

I hardly noticed at first since everyone was nestled off into tents, way off and scattered around the field. Their appointed host gets through the ceremony and we kick off the race. I scramble to find an appropriate song to launch with but ’This is what you came for’ by Calvin Harris was the best I could come up with. Once the race got started there was nobody left hanging around. Like, zombie-nation status. I decided at that point it was time to have a little fun with some easy going Disco House.

As folks get done trickling in another coordinator comes up and hands me the top three times for male and female. I announce the names as he handed out the medals. Since people were returning to the field in at such a slow pace the crowd never picks back up again. Everyone just left shortly after they were done walking/running.

I did have a few backup dancers just prior to closing up shop.

These three little girls just wanted to hear Ed Sheeran, and who was I to say no with no one else really around? I gave them a bunch of the free props that were left and sent them off happy as could be.

And just like that, my first thousand person event. Not nearly as bad as I might’ve thought!