Sadly, this is the last Richard’s Ramblings feature that I will be writing. Nothing in life lasts forever and, after a continuous run of articles that has lasted a number years, I feel that it is time to move on to pastures new. I may well write more articles for Pro Mobile, but not on a regular basis.
One of the reasons that I felt it was time to end ‘Richard’s Ramblings’ is that I am beginning to transition my work away from DJing – over the next few months I’ll be gradually retiring from life behind the decks! When [Pro Mobile Editor] Eddie Short and I talked about this it led me to think about the possible career moves for a DJ who decides to give up mobile work and do other things – what things is the question! Before I write about this though, I’d first like to address feedback from my last article and then highlight two recent jobs that come to mind when reflecting on the one part of our job which is always interesting, the variety.
So, first of all, let’s deal with the ‘feedback’. You may have read a letter written by Iain from Kent, published in the last edition of Pro Mobile, in which he takes me to task for my writing about the £1800 which one DJ claimed to earn for a night’s work. My point was that this is far more than most people would ever dream of paying for a discotheque. There are, of course, exceptions as Iain suggests. Perhaps a very wealthy royal person might pay more, but I still believe that £1800 for a disco is too much. I am certainly not suggesting that people shouldn’t earn enough to live, but £1800 a night – really?
The other point Iain makes is about my ‘claim’ to be an actor and how I feel about some of the best known in the business earning their huge wages. The ‘claims to be an actor’ line I shall treat with the contempt it deserves and not respond. However, the top earners in any business (sport, show business, etc.) earn their money by making money for others. If I could employ a DJ who by his or her name alone would fill my club every night with paying customers, then naturally I would pay that person more than the unknown who won’t attract any extra people. It’s the same with film or theatre, if the name brings in customers it’s the ‘bums on seats’ argument. Whether these high earners are actually better performers is irrelevant! Most are probably not, but have just been either lucky or very clever with their marketing. In my life I have met lots of people who are no better than the average person at what they do, but they have managed to convince others that they are the best and so their earning potential increases. Great marketing, that is the secret!
Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to those two bookings that highlight the variety of life as a mobile DJ. A few weeks ago I was offered a birthday party job in Surrey not far from Guildford. The birthday ‘boy’ was 50 and not only had a band booked but also me, some dancers, a Silent Disco, and he was also planning a karaoke competition. Clearly, only a small party! When I arrived on the Saturday it was obvious that this was going to be a very OTT evening complete with photo booth, lots of different food options, a cocktail bar – manned by a ‘flare’ barman – and, before the party began in the evening, a football match for any willing guests on a specially marked out part of the grounds. The house at which the party was being held was like one of those that appear on certain TV programmes, the sort that most of us can only dream about… the exception being, of course, the DJs who earn £1800 a night!
My part in all of these festivities was to host the karaoke competition, DJ at the beginning of the evening and during the band’s breaks, and also to operate the Silent Disco. Now the karaoke competition was easy because the edited tracks had been sent to me a few days earlier. All I had to do was announce the ‘teams’, play the music and then later get the crowd to applaud the winners. Of course the small amount of DJing was no problem either, but then there was the silent disco!
The equipment arrived on the Friday before the party and I opened the boxes to check that all was ready. Two iPods, loads of headphones, three transmitters and many leads, yes it all looked good. The following afternoon I once again unpacked the boxes and, having wired everything up, put on a pair of headphones and tested the system - NOTHING! Having spent a few moments swearing, I then checked all connections and tried another pair of headphones. This time my head felt like it was exploding so I fumbled with the volume control on the headphones and eventually managed to get everything working at a non-deafening level. The one problem was that the iPods didn’t seem to be fully charged so I crossed my fingers and hoped they would last for the half to three quarters of an hour that had been allotted to the Silent Disco portion of the evening. Three choices of music were to be available: ‘80s and ‘90s from the iPods and my own mix of current floor-fillers.
Like a lot of evenings, the dancing started about an hour later than planned! Having been playing to a full dance-floor at normal volume for only a short time, the idea of having to stop the dancing, arrange for a hundred people to be fitted with headphones, explain how to change channels, and then deal with the inevitable problems really didn’t appeal. So I made an executive decision to cancel the Silent Disco. Having come to this conclusion in my head, I saw the host coming towards me and mentally prepared my explanations. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. He came over to say that as things were running late, would I mind too much if there was no silent disco? Maybe there is a god!!
Another job which looms ever closer is to take place in the centre of London. It’s a gay wedding and the reason I think this party will be good is that it is to take place on the 38th floor of the Gherkin. Having viewed the venue I can say that, although the actual space is quite ordinary, the views are truly stunning. The idea of partying that high up will, I’m sure, make for a wonderful evening. Actually, I have worked in a higher room, at the famous sail-shaped hotel in Dubai, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. However, in London, the Gherkin is pretty impressive and this is one job to which I am really looking forward.
Now at the start of my piece I wrote about my ‘retirement’, but I don’t see it as such. I have enlisted the help of a guy I have known for some time and in the future discos will be his speciality whilst I will be toastmastering and also reinventing myself to do other things, but still within the entertainment business. What do most DJs do, though, when they decide they’ve had enough of packing kit up at 3am or of drunken people angrily demanding a real floor-killer song to be played immediately?
Taking on the role of toastmaster is one way forward, something I have been doing for a while now. For this, diplomacy is probably the most useful skill, one which most DJs have in spadefuls! Others setup ‘multi-op’ disco businesses, employing others to DJ while they run the office and sort out any problems. Many people are very good at this but long ago I decided it wasn’t for me. Nor is the idea of supplying casino tables, photo booths, portable loos, or any other party necessities.
I want to stay in the entertainment business but have my own ideas on how to go about it and perhaps in some future issue of Pro Mobile I may reveal all… ooer missus!!
Away from parties, I have some other plans and look forward to these coming to fruition. However, in the meantime, I still have bookings to do so won’t be ending my DJ career immediately, more of a cross fade into another line of work!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 84, Pages 58-61.