In these increasingly litigious times, I think I had better start my piece for this issue with a disclaimer! The opinions expressed below are my own and not necessarily those of the publishers or editor who take no responsibility for my writing. I’m not sure if that is the correct wording for a disclaimer, but it will do as a slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ response to a letter received from Chris Burford which you may have already seen in the Inbox letters page of this magazine.
First of all, may I thank Chris for taking the time to respond to something I wrote - it’s good to know the identity of at least one, maybe the only one, of my readers! I love the idea of being a ‘Wannabe’ but, sadly, when I started in the business vinyl was the only option. I also had a Thames 11, which I used for many years and, although a great machine, a scratch on a record could mean that the auto-cue would cue to the scratch rather than the music. My point was that to be a good DJ, in my opinion, the main thing needed is an ability to gauge the mood of the party at which one is providing the music. The mechanics of how the music is produced is irrelevant.
When I work, I try to avoid people coming to my side of the DJ booth by telling them that they might trip on loose wires etc. Before I get another letter, there aren’t actually any loose wires behind my booth, it’s just an excuse to keep people away from the equipment. Most people are fine, but there is always one who wants to know what would happen “If I press this”? I keep these people well away if at all possible, so no one knows what format I’m using - once again, it’s irrelevant. As long as the music is right, and there is a full dancefloor, that is what matters. Finally, if anyone wants to use vinyl, please do so. You have my good wishes!
I really don’t want to use my ‘Ramblings space’ this issue to repeat myself, but once again the thorny question of prices has cropped up. This time I read of a DJ charging (or at least claiming to charge) £1800 for an evening. Now unless he is providing a lot more than just a discotheque with lighting, I feel that this is ridiculous! A four-piece band would be cheaper and, unless this DJ can fill a stadium with several hundred people paying at least £10 a head to watch him work, who, in their right mind, would pay £1800 for a discotheque? Seriously… if you know them… please call me immediately!!
Fees obviously differ across the UK, but from what I see and hear - as a rough guide - the average fee in outer London is probably between £350 - £500 for around four hours. In central London, it may be slightly higher and on special evenings, say NYE, it can be as high as double the normal rate. These figures (please don’t write) are an approximation. You may charge more than this – and if you do, good luck to you – but most pricing for a service will find its own level. If you are too ‘top heavy’ price wise, your service won’t sell.
When I started as a DJ, spot prizes were regularly given away at a dance. Just in case this may be a new idea for some, the way it works is as follows. Normally during a slow dance (years ago, it would be a waltz), at some point the music would be cut (a band would get the drummer to do a cymbal crash), then the DJ or MC would say, for example, “I’ve got a prize for the first person to bring me a row of black teeth”. (Which would be a comb.) When someone produced the required article, they would be awarded a ‘Spot Prize’. These were usually small gifts, such as a little bottle of scent or perhaps a cigarette lighter.
Although a good ice breaker, the spot prize idea has pretty well died out, or at least I thought it had until the other evening. A contract arrived for a party and part of the wording stated that the DJ should run some ‘games’. My first thought was, as this wasn’t a children’s party, what sort of games were required??
After setting up at the venue, I met the hostess who told me that the party was for her husband who, already a medical doctor, had recently qualified as a practice business manager. The games were to make sure everyone got involved in the party and all the guests got to know each other. I was a little underwhelmed I have to say! These people were all around the late thirty, early forty, age group and the idea of seeing them running around finding black teeth or producing small pictures of the queen (a stamp!) to me seemed a little unlikely.
Now, I may not be the best DJ in the world, but experience has taught me one thing, and it’s something I offer as a free piece of advice. When something seems unlikely to be successful, don’t try it until specifically asked! When people get involved with a party, rarely do things work out exactly as they planned. Timings alter, and the host/hostess always become involved with their guests, which is what happened at this party. Only once did the hostess suggest a game and – after being told that there were no prizes, just the ‘honour’ of winning – the folk running up to me (there were two!) with the required object were less than thrilled. Needless to say, there were no more games that evening!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 82, Pages 68-71.