Dare To Be Different! Part 4
After a 20 year break from the music industry, at the tail end of 2014, I decided to investigate transitioning my software development company, Fast and Fluid Limited, to a business that specialises in providing mobile DJ services.
I wanted more ‘fun’ and less ‘stress’ in my work life.
I spent most of 2015 researching the world of the mobile DJ business, investing a lot of time and money in training, with a view to launching the new business some time in 2016, taking on just a few gigs in 2015 as early ‘test the water and see’ preparation.
At the end of last year, a new opportunity came out of the blue, and, to cut a long story short, I decided to promote my own ‘party’ night called Heaven Sent at a small 150-capacity venue in Southampton.
It was another example of the ‘Dare to be different’ approach to mobile DJing!
New Year’s Eve 2016
New Year’s Eve was a chance for me to see if I could make something, other than weddings and retro nights, work for my mobile business. I had a pretty intensive, but insufficient, five weeks to do promotion, and ended up spending way too much money on flyers and press adverts, as well as targeted Facebook and MixCloud advertising. I also spent the weekends leading up to Christmas in mostly pouring rain handing out, in the small hours of the morning, flyers to what I perceived as the target audience. Most evenings involved fervent activity around the use of social media to try and promote the event.
The morning after the big event, an innocent question on Facebook revealed to my DJ ‘friend’ list the rather spectacular failure that had been the end result, when my nephew posted the question: “How did it go?”
“I think the people that showed up enjoyed it,” I replied. “Both of them!”
Yup, two people bought tickets! The sympathetic commiserations, and exhortations to not give up, from other mobile DJs came thick and fast. Indeed, reading some of the DJ responses on Facebook you might have thought I had announced I was about to jump off the top of a cliff, or enter into months of deep, dark depression. I couldn’t help feeling that most were missing the point of the whole exercise in the first place.
Yes, the end result was disappointing - crushing, even, especially with an ego the size of mine. But I’d already faced the possibility of such an outcome when deciding to go ahead with the initiative. One advantage of being what a former client described as a ‘gloomy optimist’ is that I was half-expecting it and was mentally prepared for it.
“Don’t Do It. It’s Bound to Fail”
In fact, I regard the event as a success in terms of doing what I needed it to do – help me make a decision on the future direction of the business. If I hadn’t gone ahead and ignored all the naysayers (there will ALWAYS be naysayers!) I’d still be here months later, dithering about future direction and thinking “I wonder what would have happened if…” And that’s MUCH worse! I can think of numerous occasions in the past, where a poor outcome looked to be equally predictable, but turned out very differently, and you’ve GOT to be “in it to win it” as the old saying goes.
One such ‘poor outcome’ prediction occurred back in the 90s, just after I’d received a phone call out of the blue from Phil Harding, asking if I’d like to meet him and his business partner Ian Curnow to do an (unpaid) trial mix of a dance record to see how things worked out. On the surface: a great opportunity. But further investigation resulted in a wall of “Don’t do it” howling from friends and associates.
The Power Syndicate
To my eternal shame, I had no idea who Phil and Ian were. A few quick phone calls revealed these ‘facts’: the Harding/Curnow production team were “a couple of old blokes who used to do work with Stock, Aitken and Waterman” but had “set up on their own” and were “struggling”.
One particularly close friend knew a DJ who’d already gone to do a trial mix with the pair, and his feedback was brutal: Harding and Curnow were, he said, “clueless, and out of touch”. They were “old men just paying off their mortgages” and “complete timewasters”. I was told in no uncertain terms not to waste my time meeting them!
Life experience has taught me that what seems at the time to be an extremely negative experience can often turn out to have side effects that are life-changing in a positive way. So I decided to go along anyway! Incidentally, I do the same with all those “we have no budget left for entertainment” wedding clients if they agree to a no obligation meeting, despite the number of DJs constantly advising that such people are no-hopers. I have not regretted doing that either!
On this occasion, I went along to my meeting with a pretty nonchalant attitude because of what I’d been told. It’s probably what saved me, because if I’d known that Phil ‘Mixmaster’ Harding’s very first sound engineering job had been to pull a 24-hour all-nighter constructing one of my all-time favourite dance records (Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)), or that he and Ian were the people behind some of my favourite mixes of records by the Pet Shop Boys, Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue and other acts too numerous to mention, I’d probably have wet myself and not lasted five minutes in the room with them.
When I arrived at their rented studio as it was then, The Strongroom in Hackney, Phil told me they had a single they were thinking of launching, probably in Germany, using the name The Power Syndicate. This was just one of several names they used as producers and remixers. He and Ian wanted to hear my thoughts on the track and any suggestions I might have on how it could be improved.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 76, Pages 58 - 62.