Be Your Own DJ
by Alex Cosper

See also: How to Find a Wedding DJ and Ghost of a DJ

Can anyone be a DJ? Yes, anyone who knows how to make a list of their favorite songs can be a DJ. Just get a free music program like iTunes or one with similar functions and start lining up songs then click "play." If you decide you want to have even more fun with it, you may want to invest in DJ sofware and equipment.

Can anyone be a mobile DJ? Anyone who knows how to have fun, speaks clearly and knows how to get people's attention and has a wide knowledge of musical genres and eras can be a mobile disc jockey. Chances are the mobile DJ has to also know something about sound equipment, which isn't too big of a deal once you learn the basics. Even someone who does not fit all those qualifications can pull off a gig by renting the right equipment and following a safe program, which I will describe in this report.

Mobile Disc Jockeys can be the best providers of affordable music and entertainment at weddings, reunions, corporate events, house parties or any kind of function that utilizes sound for crowd enjoyment. I have done hundreds of these events over the past few decades and I still love it. I've also done radio shows and even though radio has a bigger audience and more industry credibility, I've actually had more fun doing live events.

Unlike radio, mobile sound is in direct touch with the crowd and you can see people's reactions instantly, whereas in radio you have to wait three months to get a ratings report that doesn't even tell you if people liked your show or not. Also unlike radio, the mobile DJ can take instant requests and isn't bound by a strict pre-determined playlist, usually concocted by someone that looks at statistics instead of actual live crowds. While radio stations have to follow uniform playlists that repeat around the clock, the mobile DJ has much more freedom to say and play whatever seems right at a particular moment, either by reading crowd reaction or simply injecting surprises into the mix.

Mobile DJs actually make more money than radio DJs, believe it or not, if you look at average pay per hour. In big cities radio morning show hosts can command six figures but most other jocks around the clock are lucky to make $10-$15 per hour. Prior to the mid-nineties radio personalities in big cities made much more money but corporate consolidation of the industry along with cheap voice-tracking has lowered the pay scale across the board as corporations look to cut costs, in an effort to impress their shareholders. Meanwhile Mobile DJ pay has steadily gone up to the point where even in medium-sized markets they can make $100 per hour. The downside is that mobile gigs tend to be just on the weekends (mostly Saturdays), but that's still good money for having fun.

Building a mobile dj business isn't easy at first, unless you already know a lot of people who need one. Marketing is important to any business, but word of mouth is the best. Advertising in the yellow pages can be expensive and should not be relied upon as the only source of leads. People getting married like to know that the dj is professional and not just some kid with any kind of sound system, so they usually turn to friends for help or to someone they picked up a business card from at a wedding they attended themselves.

One big problem with the mobile sound industry is that it is flooded with lots of novice or cheesy players in every big market. When I say cheesy I mean guys who might do a decent job faking it, pretending to have a good time, who say dumb things on the microphone to pose as entertainers and happen to have a decent sound system. Some people get away with this act for years and make a good living at it. But a great DJ is someone who creates a memorable crowd-pleasing atmosphere, without forcing phony personality. Of course, it's usually all about the music, but personality goes a long way too. If the music is great and everyone has a good time, there's still a good chance no one will ever remember the DJ. But if the music is great and the DJ sparingly adds geniuine character to the event, that DJ will get a lot of people asking for his or her business card at the end of the event.

DJ equipment is important, but it doesn't make or break the event, unless it's pure garbage. All that matters is that it works and it doesn't add noise to the content. Any speaker or mixer with a loud hum is either trash and should be replaced or needs to be fixed prior to the event. Sound problems at an event are an instant credibility-burner. The worst thing a DJ can do is allow loud feedback or noise to be heard through the system. Sometimes, though, weird stuff happens and the DJ has to turn into a technician and fix the problem right away. Usually it's no big deal if everything was checked an hour before the event start time. But if an amplifier or speaker blows, the DJ will look like a fool to a lot of people if there is no back-up equipment ready on deck.

Music knowledge is important even though these days clients are more aware about picking their own selections or crafting their own playlists. Still, if someone knows as much about music as a mobile dj, they should think about becoming a mobile dj themselves. It used to be most djs just had to know the current hits. But since the advent of multiple musical generes that touch the mainstream djs need to be aware of a lot of styles and a lot of time periods.

Unless the gig is focused on young people who want to hear just the latest dance songs, chances are a crowd characterized by a wide range of ages will want a buffet of music that includes swing from the 40s, rock and roll from the 50s, Motown and rock from the 60s, disco, funk and rock from the 70s, a little 80s new wave, pop stuff like Madonna and Prince, a few techno songs from the 90s, a certain amount of rap, hip hop and r&b, Latin music (Salsa, Merengue) spiked in and maybe even a little country from various eras. Of course, love songs are big crowd-pleasers despite what the most hyperactive djs try to dictate. This wide variety can be pulled off by the dj who understands music flow and which styles work best back to back.

For further reading on how to be your own DJ:

The Nature of Dance Crowds
Mobile DJ Crash Course
Sample Wedding Playlist
Create your own music job

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