Saturday, January 12, 2008

Getting the balance right

Wow... Last night I Was the DJ for the Hotel MacDonald 2008 staff party in Edmonton. They had a Casino Royal theme. I have disc jockeyed at events with casinos running at the same time as the dance and have usually found that two things happening at once like this can create a challenge in holding peoples interest.

This was not the case last night though. They partied like rock stars right out of the gate. The dance floor was packed from start to finish. I almost had to hide when it was time to stop because they wanted to keep on going. I was also thinking they might be a more conservative crowd, given that the Hotel MacDonald is by far the most prestigious Hotel in Edmonton. When they were naming some of the famous guests they had in 2007, they went on for 5 minutes and could have kept on going and going. I have done numerous weddings at the hotel through my disc jockey company Soundsations ,where budgeting was not even an issue at all for the couple. Of course, the staff and their guests were not reserved in the least.

The other challenge was that a good percentage of their staff are from foreign countries with a lot coming from Latin countries. That's why I titled this blog "keeping the balance right". When you have a mixed culture crowd to this extent, it can become an ugly battle between the various factions of the guests if not handled carefully. I had to make sure I played enough Latin music to make one half of the crowd happy and enough top 40 and so on to satisfy the other half. Also I had to go back and forth at the right rate so neither side had to wait too long and end up felling neglected. Luckily it was a very tolerant group last night, and for the most part they really enjoyed each others music.

When you mix in lots and lots of alcohol though, there's bound to be a few that forget about courtesy and tolerance and start demanding their preferences be played exclusively. This wasn't really a problem with the Hotel MacDonald crowd, but it does happen regularly. Is there anything the DJ can do to avoid this? I don't really think so. While we try to keep things fair and play a bit for everyone, all reasonableness can fly out the window for some when alcohol gets in the mix. Of course, if you appease the drunken too much, they will be back to try and monopolize the music all night, not giving a thought to the other tastes in the group. The DJ has to walk a fine line and it can be a difficult juggling act to try and keep this balance right. There is no formula for how to balance the equation, you just have to go with the feeling coming back at you from the crowd, and the more experienced I get, the more I find I am able to keep the mix right.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Professional Vs. Amateur Disc Jockeys

With easy access to music thanks to file sharing on the Internet and the ability to rent a PA system for a few hundred dollars, it seems as though it might be a good idea to just have cousin Jimmy bring out his laptop and act as the DJ for the wedding. That would definitely save a few bucks. Besides Jimmy really knows his music. Well, in certain situations this might work out, but not using an experienced professional wedding DJ can be very risky.

I have worked as a DJ at well over 500 weddings in the Edmonton area over the last 14 years, and I have been a guest at many weddings were I've had the opportunity to observe other DJ's (professionals and amateurs) at work. Having a professional who really knows how to get people on the dance floor and keep them there will make or break the dance portion of your wedding reception.

More times than not I have seen the amateurs have a really hard time. First of all, no matter haw much music they've downloaded, they just didn't have the selection available to respond to all the musical tastes off the guests and to expand on the music that's really working with a given crowd.

I've also seen amateurs having technical difficulties almost every time. They are using rented equipment that they are not familiar with and generally don't get it hooked up correctly. If they do get that figured out they then have challenges using it all properly.

I think the main reason that a non-professional will fail is that the typical wedding will have a very diverse range of guests varying in age from children to great-grandparents, with musical preferences to match. It takes a lot of learning and experience to figure out what all these different guests will respond positively to and how to keep the balance between them all just right. So even though cousin Jimmy might really know his music it is likely that some factions of the audience will feel he his neglecting them.

I see many couples putting so much thought and planning (and money) into to the catering, decorations, wedding cake, dresses/tuxedos and photography but then trying to cut corners and save money on the dance portion of their reception. A typical wedding dance usually takes up to four hours or more of the reception. This is by far the biggest part of the whole reception, so why neglect it and leave it up to chance with an amateur? Go Pro is my advice.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Soundsations Music Setup

I'm trying out this Picasa Blogging feature to upload some of my DJ photos from a few different weddings I've done recently . Hopefully it works well and I can post a link to here from my Soundsations website so that anyone interested can get an idea what my DJ set up looks like.