2014 marks my 35th year in the DJ service business. It also ushers in a new era for my business, as I will be overhauling everything from top to bottom; website; vehicle; playback systems; lighting and, most importantly, marketing. When looking forward, it’s also natural to look back for a bit of perspective. In a case of good timing, I also finally received a copy of my colleague, Michael Buonaccorso’s book, “A Different Spin.” (And yes, this IS an endorsement!) In a nutshell, it’s an overview of the DJ industry by one of the people who founded Mobile Beat Magazine, where my column, “The Complete Disc Jockey” appears. Reading his stories provoked much thought…
DJ ASSOCIATIONS: THE SECRET MICHIGAN ROOTS OF THE ADJA
Having spent my entire career in suburban Detroit, my perspective differs from Michael’s in that it is a parochial one. When he discusses DJ trade associations, there is no mention of the most influential one to me: The Michigan Disc Jockey Network. Of course, it didn’t always have that name. Founded by my friend, Jeff Rounds, under the name “American Disc Jockey Association,” it was formed just prior to Bruce Keslar’s national ADJA. Jeff, being thorough guy, also incorporated it. So, after spending considerable time, money and effort forming the national ADJA, Mr. Keslar was surprised to find out about us and, with no other option, approached Jeff to work things out.
But Jeff is a reasonable guy and he shared the same goals as Keslar, so they agreed that Bruce would continue using the ADJA name nationally and that we would be the official Michigan chapter. It seemed as if everyone’s problems were solved, but things soon went haywire when we voted against admitting a particular DJ company that didn’t meet our standards for membership. This company, with deep pockets, made their dissatisfaction known to Bruce, who then came to Michigan to meet with our chapter. It was one of the biggest, most well-attended meetings we’d had up until then.
I’m not sure if it was because the association was in its infancy, or if the DJ service in question waved enough money at him, but this time Keslar laid down the law: as President, he demanded that any DJ company willing to pay the dues be allowed membership. Period.
Several members, many being the most respected DJ talent in the area, reacted by standing up and threatening to quit. “We won’t be members of any organization that allows these guys to join,” they said. It looked as if our group of over 100 DJ services was about to fall apart. Many thoughts went through Jeff’s mind. Being incorporated and capable of proving his first use of the ADJA name, he could’ve taken legal action. It might also have generated a huge media splash! But Jeff decided against that. In an act of complete defiance, and utter brilliance at the same time, he and the Board of Directors of the Michigan chapter of the ADJA voted to step down, leaving no chapter in in our state at all. They then voted to form a new completely different organization: the Michigan Disc Jockey Network. Bruce Keslar eventually went on to form NAME (The National Association of Mobile Entertainers). Both would have extremely long and innovative runs.
TURN AND FACE THE STRANGE…
I can’t thank Michael B. enough for bringing back those heady days. Many friendships and associations I made back then continue to this day. One of them, though, didn’t begin, but was rekindled via the Network: that of my high school friend, Monty Boleyn.
Monty is another brilliant guy who is a superstar when it comes to computers. In an effort to promote his custom websites in a day when other website builders charged thousands of dollars, he was invited to pitch his during one of our DJ Network meetings by a colleague, Ralph Costa, whose wife worked for him. For me, it was a case of “it’s a small world after all,” as I hadn’t seen Monty since the mid-‘70s. Seeing each other across the restaurant, we both had that awkward moment: “Don’t I know you?”
Soon we made plans to get together and catch up, do some lunch and talk websites. He made me the proverbial “offer I couldn’t refuse,” saying that he’d build me a website if I didn’t mind if he used it as a demo to sell other DJs on the idea. I enthusiastically agreed! And so, to all who remembers that I had a big, commercial website that even major corporations couldn’t afford – all before I even owned a computer — you now know how it happened. It’s good to have skilled friends.
PEERING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
During one of our many meetings, Monty and I had hours of conversations. One was an “inside scoop” he got via a friend who worked at the IBM Watson Research lab in New York. They had just discovered a new polymer molecule that, as he described it, “twists” when hit with a polarized laser beam. Further, they discovered that if they used a laser of a different frequency, they could write on each molecule more than once! A 1” X 1” cube-shaped holographic memory storage module would be able to store over 300 terabytes. It was 1995, a time when few knew exactly what a terabyte was! (My new state-of-the-art laptop had .8 GB.)
Monty went on to say that the first customers to see any products from this technology would be the military, as always, and that it might be 15 years or more before the general public got a hint of it. If you’ve read “A Different Spin,” this should sound familiar. Pages 41 and 42 show where my enthusiasm got the better of me in a Mobile Beat article called “Future Jock, Part 2.” It speculated on the future of the mobile DJ, and I let the holographic memory cube cat out of the bag, apparently to Mr. Buonaccorso’s great disappointment.
These experiences teach some valuable lessons as I ponder my next 35 years. (Hey, I’m also an optimist!) The first one is that change is constant. I’ve lived through the age of vinyl, the advent and phase-out of the eight track, cassette tapes, Sony MiniDisc and CD, and I may well add MP3 to that list one day. Already a new player, Pono, features lossless FLAC audio files that are poised to give MP3s a run for their money. Ah, but this brings me to the second lesson: predictions are often more about a person’s desires than any sort of prescience. The past being the best predictor of the future, the only thing I can say with confidence is that I’ve got plenty of work, learning and amazing times ahead! I’ll bet that you do, too.