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ARTICLE
Education, education and education. These were the three priorities for a prime minister in waiting in 1996. I’m very fortunate that my parents and grandma always pushed all of us kids to seek out education and development throughout our careers. So, if there’s an opportunity to learn, I’m probably going to take it.

My first ever Pro Mobile Conference experience paid for itself in the first 30 minutes through advice from industry stalwart Peter Merry. In the years since, I’ve picked up all sorts of invaluable nuggets. And for me, the 2022 Pro Mobile Conference was the best yet.

In my formative years as a club DJ it fell to my employer to train me on how to strip down and rebuild lighting rigs and amp racks, and clean and maintain (or emergency repair) mixers and turntables. Then to learn the basics of sound engineering and working within a team, and latterly to send me on marketing and development courses that helped me develop my career and earning potential.
It was mutually beneficial; the learning didn’t just make me better but gave the business a far more rounded and adaptable professional employee.

Similarly, when I retrained as a therapist, the initial training was vital but continual professional development was also essential. Skills, techniques and technology are always evolving. In that sector it’s not just desirable, it’s a fundamental requirement to stay registered.

So when I contacted Peter and Steve from Pro Mobile and they encouraged me to tag along with their educational event/fact finding mission in Las Vegas, I wholeheartedly jumped at the chance. I’d never been to Vegas nor the old Mobile Beat conference before, so unlike the rest of the team I was approaching the visit without any preconceived expectations.

The outbound journey was a bit of a disaster. The day before, I woke up with my home completely snowbound and ended up setting off ludicrously early on public transport to the airport, where I stopped at the Premier Inn ahead of my 6am flight. I’d nearly got to sleep when I received a text from British Airways at 9pm to tell me that my flights were cancelled. Devastated, I spent the rest of the night booking expensive alternatives.
Eventually I found myself in Los Angeles, where I tried to find a one-way hire car. But this proved near impossible because it was Presidents’ Day in the US. $330 lighter, I drove the final leg to Las Vegas. At long last, I’d made it.

Las Vegas

On arrival I swapped my one-way hire car for my Las Vegas ride, an incredible Ford F-150 pickup – a free upgrade from a Ford Focus! Then I drove the short distance to The Venetian, my breath-taking hotel on the strip. Once again, the universe rewarded me with an upgraded suite (I swear it was the size of a small Wetherspoons). The hotel resort was also huge; not only did we have our own casino, bars and nightclub, but our own Venice-themed shopping mall too, complete with canals and gondolas. You could spend a week in the hotel alone and have an amazing experience.

Las Vegas is a must visit for anyone in our sector. The epitome of what our industry should be. The nightclubs and hotels are unbelievably top end; the free water fountain shows and other assorted events on the strip are impressive too. You become quickly aware that this is considered the world’s party capital for very good reason.
As a bit of a technical geek, I also spent considerable time drooling over very cool but random installations, such as pixel-mapped signage and building-sized low-pitch LED video walls.

As a group, we were fortunate enough to be joined by Mike Lewis – former N-Trance DJ – in-resort, who introduced us to his good friend, Simon of Visual Arts, at his impressive headquarters just off the strip. Simon's business supply the wow factor to many hundreds of venues in Vegas and across the world. Working with artists such as Marshmello and Tiesto in some of the biggest and best festivals in the world is the mainstay of their work, but they also act as technical and creative consultants for many of the biggest properties in Las Vegas. Gaining this insight into what they do and how they do it was enough alone to make my trip worth it.

MEX Las Vegas

MEX, the Mobile Entertainment Expo, launched around three weeks before Las Vegas closed for the first pandemic lockdown. Since then, the organisers have also taken over the legendary Mobile Beat show, so MEX now incorporates a long history of DJ shows. I’d been meaning to attend Mobile Beat for a long time, but had never quite made it.
This year MEX was held at the South Point hotel (in truth, it was about the size of a large UK shopping centre), which wasn’t as modern as the hotels on the strip, but was just as well equipped. It felt like Vegas past, with a huge gaming floor, discounted hot dogs, and scantily dressed glamour girls dispensing free food and drink to a mostly elderly customer base. After walking through this, you eventually – and I mean eventually – land at the conference.

The DJ part of the expo is very much in its infancy; I suppose it’s fair to compare it to BPM in its first year after moving from the NEC. The show is partnered with the Photobooth Expo (PBX), so if you’re also a photo booth operator then this really is the perfect experience for you. I’m not, so although the exhibition was good and there were some exhibitors that don’t sell in the UK, it wasn’t especially outstanding, but a definite achievement given its infancy.

Another hike away (seriously, it’s the size of an airport), the education content was non-stop and the sessions very well attended. Taking a different approach to the Pro Mobile Conference, the focus appeared to be on individual speakers selling workshops, as opposed to offering learning directly at the seminar.
I did take in a couple of seminars – Bill Hermann’s keynote was especially well attended – but the true value for me was in meeting people that I had previously only met virtually, such as the legendary Joe Bunn. As well as running a large multi-operator DJ company, Joe is one of the founders of Crate Hackers, a developer of DJ hardware and technology, and an all-round great guy.

I also had the pleasure of spending time with the President of the US DJ Association, Jason Walsh. Not only did he have dinner with our UK contingent but we also had a fantastic night out cruising the strip and DJing from their purpose-built DJ truck – a glass box on wheels (think ‘Pope mobile’) incorporating a Pioneer XDJ RX2, TVs (for graphics), a thumping Mackie sound system (see what I did there?) and lighting.

Our journey ended at the world-famous Fremont Street, an actual street housing some of Las Vegas’s original casinos. These days it’s been closed to traffic and covered with a barrel vault canopy some 1500 feet long, creating a huge party venue, or rather multiple party venues. The canopy houses a gigantic video ceiling and there are three live stages where local artists and DJs perform continually. Our team enjoyed the ‘dancing DJ’ – although, I personally feel I’m past dancing in a swimsuit between mixes!

One of our team had a crazy experience that ended up with… oh, hold on. I can’t talk about that, can I?

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
STAYS IN VEGAS...

No doubt MEX will get better and better – I certainly hope it does. But as tax deductible learning experiences go, I’d highly recommend this trip across the pond.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 113, Pages 58-62.
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BY ALAN BERG

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