Profile: Phil Colbert
I did my first ever gig for my Auntie, at the age of 14, and was instantly hooked. From there I got into hospital radio and met a guy called Keith, who started taking me out on gigs. This would have been 1989ish and we were still using vinyl; carting large decks and bulky lighting about. Keith showed me a side to DJing that, up until that point, I’d never seen. His style of performance was very interactive, incorporating lots of banter with the audience. As soon as I saw this in action, even at the early age of 16, I knew this was the type of DJ I wanted to become.
I passed my driving test within three months of turning 17 and headed straight out on the road as a mobile DJ. My first ever gig was at the Tower Room in Darwen, which no longer exists, and it was an experience I’ll never forget. Initially I worked for a company called Alpha Leisure and Entertainment, using their equipment. The gear they gave me was falling to bits, so I had no choice but to quickly learn to get hold of the microphone and speak, as half the time the turntables didn’t work! (Those were the days!!) I was earning the grand sum of around £35 a night back then.
I soon moved over to a company called Ultimate Disco Roadshows. That was where I spent the next few years, learning more and more about relating to a crowd. I picked up lots of ideas and advice from the other DJs – I’m still close friends with the owner – but I also started to come up with unique audience interaction ideas of my own.
Eventually, I decided it was time to strike out on my own and that was when I started the Phil Colbert Disco Roadshow. Most of my work, even in the early days, came from word of mouth, and the business grew very quickly. In fact, it wasn’t long before I had to start looking for other DJs to cover all the work that was coming in. From the very start, I felt that it would be best to train in house, so that I could be sure that when DJs went out under my brand they would deliver the same high standard and level of interaction that I was becoming known for.
This was the point that I changed the name of the business to PC Roadshows Entertainments, as I was confident that we were going to grow significantly. I wanted a name that would work for a company, that wasn’t linked directly to myself as an individual. I actually wanted to go with Impact Entertainments, but that sort of didn’t happen!
Throughout all this time I also had a full-time day job working in a brewery, where I had just been promoted to Team Leader (the youngest in the company). I had started at the brewery straight from school and had already won two awards, as an Instrumentation Apprentice, at 17 and 19 years old. This lead to a five-week work exchange trip to Australia, which was another unforgettable experience.
In the early days, most of our DJ work was at WMCs and Conservative Clubs, with the odd gig at a hotel. But then, around 1993, we had a lucky break at a hotel. We were booked for a private party at the venue and in the other room was the resident DJ (working for an agency). Half way through the night the resident’s CD players packed in and he had no back up. Happy to help a fellow DJ in need, I popped in with my back up, which at the time was a CD Walkman! It got him through the night, which meant that both the resident DJ and hotel management were extremely grateful. In fact, the hotel people were so impressed that I had a back-up, they started using PC Roadshows as their resident from then on! From this hotel, we got noticed again, because of the interaction we were doing, and managed to get another residency at a place close by. I went on a massive DJ recruitment mission from there on, but always wanted to ensure that the ‘brand’ was safe, and we were all doing things in a similar way.
I eventually took redundancy from my brewery job, where I had been promoted to Area Team Leader and was on a very good wage. To lose this income was a major gamble. I had a family to support, and the decision was not taken lightly. However, it is one that I have never once regretted, as from that moment on I have earned my living doing a job that I love. What could be better?
Once I was ‘full-time’ I was able to concentrate on modernising and streamlining the business. We continued to grow, but always slowly, so that at all times we could be sure that every client was receiving a high-quality service. Over the years, I’ve always tried to keep the business focused on our customers. No matter what goes on behind the scenes, the customer is the main priority, from the initial contact, until well after the event. Plenty have become friends of mine, and we are well-known now in our area for the quality of what we do. I’m proud that the business has a good reputation for being interactive, fun, and innovative.
The full article can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 83, Pages 15-20.