For this article, I caught up with Jack Bermeo, the recently crowned 2016 “DJ of the Year” at the DJ Times International DJ Expo held this past August in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For Jack, this was his third time winning DJ of the Year. Bermeo won his initial title in 2011, repeated in 2012, but then failed to get the “three-peat” in 2013. He took the following two years off from the competition before returning in 2016 for the win.
Jack Bermeo is an amazing person. In addition to being a talented and extremely hardworking DJ/Emcee, Jack is a consistent innovator in the mobile DJ industry. Through the years, he has been extremely generous in educating and inspiring upcoming DJs at educational forums with seminars like “The Art of Latin Events” and most recently a presentation showcasing the power of DMX-controlled RFID bracelets at mobile events. It was an honor to interview Jack at his LJ Productions office located in Belleville, NJ. His company’s approach is clearly displayed on the office signage that reads “Redefining Life Celebrations.”
The Anatomy of a Three-Peat
The first ingredient of a successful DJ of the Year appearance is having a great idea. For 2016, Jack had a particular idea in mind, but over time realized that it just wasn’t good enough. So he decided to scrap that idea and take a game played at the LJ Productions 2015 holiday party called “Shot or Dare” and use it as the basis for his 2016 performance in Atlantic City. In this fast-paced routine, the emcee enlists audience volunteers to participate in creative and sometimes risqué challenges for cash prizes. Enhancing the series of contests, Jack as the emcee sets the proper cadence while being supported by an ensemble of two dancers and a party percussionist.
In the months leading up to the competition, Jack obsessed over every detail in his mind. In particular, he was concerned with the musical backdrop and how to maintain energy levels and create the best transitions. Even after methodically practicing and rehearsing the routine, Jack was fine-tuning his performance right up until the day of the competition.
When asked about how being “DJ of the Year” has helped business, Jack mentioned that the title has cemented his value with loyalists. Bookings come quicker and easier with the perceived scarcity value of his services, and price objections tend to melt away.
Jack shared with me that he does NOT plan to compete in future DJ of the Year competitions. However, he is interested in showcasing his story to help inspire a new crop of DJs and Emcees to compete. As per Jack, “Walls are meant to be broken. You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you break through.” Bermeo believes that all DJs/Emcees should emulate his journey and strive to become the best in their market. This passion is best recognized at the DJ of the Year competition. Jack also cautions aspiring superstar DJs not to get sucked into Social Media hype and worry about what other companies are doing. In a nutshell, Jack’s advice is to believe in yourself and think big! To view a video of Jack’s winning routine “Is it Worth It?” visit http://vimeo.com/
Jack grew up in the working class neighborhood of Belleville in north Jersey. His family was musically inclined, with his father – in addition to being a bullfighter – working as a DJ specializing in in Latin music. Jack’s first big DJ performance was for his high school’s homecoming dance at the age of 16. Shortly thereafter, he began spinning in clubs and then working with local mobile DJ companies, but solely as a music mixer.
When three of these local mobile DJ companies folded, Jack had his first opportunity to get on the microphone. By then, he was 21 years old and a quick-mixing club DJ. With no choice but to take the microphone and make the best of things, Bermeo quickly found his voice and realized that an effective emcee performance could be a real difference maker towards the success of a party. Initial feedback from clients was positive. Even from this early stage in his emcee career, Jack’s instinct was to push the envelope and do things different and better than the norm.
Fast forwarding to 2005, Jack was emceeing a Communion Party at a simple hall – it may have been an Elks Club. While the venue may have been low rent, Jack’s performance was not as he dazzled the children and their parents with a mind-bending version of scavenger hunt. As it turns out, one of the mothers in attendance worked for the Trump organization, and decided to pass his cards. An important lesson to be learned from this story is to always give your all at a performance because as Jack says, “you never know who is watching.”
Jack was hired by one of Trump’s country clubs to entertain its members for a Daddy-Daughter dance. Rather than taking the safe route at this very formal event with all of the dads wearing green jackets, Jack decided to showcase his normal edgy entertainment style. He pushed the dads to prove how much they loved their daughters by doing silly things like wearing lipstick. Fearing that his performance had been a flop, the club was actually delighted that Jack was the only entertainer who could pull the golf club members out of their conservative shells.
In 2008, LJ Productions became the first recommended DJ at Trump National in Bedminster New Jersey. Jack has personally entertained Presidential candidate Donald Trump and his family on numerous occasions. From here, Jack and his company gained additional traction in high-end banquet halls performing at a diversified portfolio of events, but with a focus on weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs and Sweet 16s/Quinceañeras. As a bilingual Spanish-speaking DJ/Emcee, Bermeo who is Ecuadorian/Colombian has also has carved a niche in the multi-cultural events market that is not limited to Latin events – for example, he recently rocked out a small afternoon African wedding reception. And finally, for simple party types such as Baby Showers which many DJs would find mundane, Jack makes these parties memorable by creating crazy games that showcase his quirky sense of humor.
Jack’s philosophy is that “to be different is to be the best.” Recent innovations at LJDJs include a dazzling $80,000 video wall, RFID bracelet technology, a custom, beautifully decorated DJ booth, “drunk trunks” stuffed with delicious late night comfort food for wedding couples and the “Crystal Jack” division that pairs Jack with Latin percussion superstar Crystal Vargas.
Jack is also known for producing creative videos that have a tendency to go viral. Most notably, he staged an elaborate wedding at which during the couple’s first dance, he got down on one knee and proposed to his now wife, Sofia. This video would garner Jack national attention and create such media hoopla that it crashed the company server. In another inspiring video, Jack took the time during the Christmas holiday season to get to know a homeless man in Newark who was living under a bridge.
Despite his success, Jack’s hustle remains strong. In addition to managing the many facets of LJ Productions along with his partner Chris Andres, Jack continues to be a prolific performer. At the time of my visit in early September, Jack had accumulated 164 personal bookings for 2016 with more likely to come. As one of his Snapchat followers, I’ve watched in astonishment his long work days that often features doubles. Jack actually enjoys working doubles with his mind getting particularly creative for the second party. Another interesting facet of his performances is that Jack often both DJs and emcees his parties, and is highly effective in doing so.
To clear his mind and keep his body fit, Jack plays basketball every Sunday morning at 7:30 AM. He religiously keeps to this basketball game, even if he’s been working until 3 AM the prior night. After a couple of hours of hoops, he then reports to his first DJ gig.
I asked Jack to provide DJs some additional tips and insights:
On Emceeing – Strive to create an experience for guests, not just run them through stock routines. Learn the basic routines, but then expand upon them and make them your own. Remember that it’s not just what you do, but how you set up the scene. Emcees need to “cue up the scene.” For example, rather than simply dropping a Punjabi track because there’s an Indian groomsman in attendance, call the groomsmen to the dance floor, get them dancing and clapping… and then drop the track for maximum impact. Like award show hosts, emcees “need to learn the pageantry and production.” Performance anxiety is a sign that you must take steps to alleviate the stress and step up your skills. For new emcees, makes strides in baby steps.
On Pushing the Envelope – When pushing the envelope with an edgier style of performance, you must be prepared for the occasional mishap. If that happens, quickly apologize to any offended guest, and then make it up to them. Reading an audience will allow an emcee to make calculated bets on how far the envelope can be pushed.
On Social Media – the optimal amount of personal posts is one per month. Instagram is his favorite social media platform while Facebook is a necessary evil. For a behind the scenes look at his business life, Jack posts frequently on Snapchat. Before posting, have millennial colleagues provide their feedback. Jack uses catchy memes and hashtags to tell a story. He also watermarks most of his Instagram posts with a corporate logo to cement brand recognition.
On Fashion – Jack is a huge proponent of “dress for success.” For weddings, he enjoys rocking designer tuxedos. During office hours and client meetings, Jack typically wears sports coats with a pocket square. In New York City, he likes to explore vintage clothing stores and follow Fashion Week. Jack recommends finding a personal style that makes you feel good.
His Favorite and Least Favorite Part of the DJ Business. Jack is a foodie so his favorite part of the business is access to delicious banquet food. His least favorite part of the business is employees who start to doubt themselves after experiencing a setback. Regarding in-office sales consultations, Jack and his staff study video recordings to gain insights and improve their closing rate.
Best Advice for Multi-Op Owners. Listen to constructive criticism and don’t take it personally. Evolve your business, and continue to refine the formula for producing great events.
Connect With Jack
Connect with Jack Bermeo and his company LJ Productions at:
Thank you Jack for taking the time to speak with ProMobileDJ.com. Congratulations on your three-peat victory as “DJ of the Year”! At some level, we have to wonder if you’ll come out of retirement like Jay-Z and 50 Cent did for a future foray into the competition. Only time will tell.