Imagine that you were about to DJ your first event at a particular venue. Wouldn’t you want to know the answers to these questions:
How difficult is the load-in?
What are the insurance requirements?
Is the management professional and easy to work with?
Does the venue allow special effects like Dancing on the Clouds?
Does the venue offer its own uplighting or intelligent lighting?
Are there any other quirks at the venue to be aware of?
For years we had whispered here in New Jersey about starting a bulletin board to share venue information with fellow DJs. In August 2013, DJ Mike Wieder of Ultimate Sounds Entertainment took the initiative to launch a private Facebook Page called “New Jersey Venue Assistance.” This page allows members to post reviews and photos from jobs to serve as valuable market intelligence for those unfamiliar with a venue. As per Mike’s original post to the page, “This page is for sharing experiences and advice on venues you’ve worked at. We’re not looking for bitch sessions, we’re looking for tips on venue requirements (e.g., insurance), load-ins, power and setups. Keep it informative and helpful.”
Presently, “New Jersey Venue Assistance” has 156 members and has reviewed approximately 100 venues. Members are able to use the search bar on the page to easily check if a venue has been reviewed. Existing threads get expanded with photos and updates. Problem venues – with challenging load-ins and procedures – have been identified and discussed at length.
Here is a sample review that I wrote for the board:
VENUE – The American Hotel in downtown Freehold, NJ. WEBSITE-www.americanhotelnj.comINSURANCE – was not requested. LOAD-IN – Drive around the back of the building. Do not attempt to load in through the lobby on Main Street! Drive past the valet area and look for the entrance into the kitchen. The approach through the kitchen doors is narrow and unpleasant (garbage, flies, cigarette smoke from workers on break). The good news is that the door into the “Majestic Room” is immediately to your right once gaining access to the kitchen. You will break a sweat on this load-in. STAFF – professional but kept to themselves. UPLIGHTING – the Majestic Room has its own house uplighting, so forget that upsell. RANDOM TIP – If I were a thief, the drop zone at the American Hotel would be an ideal place to snatch a piece of gear and disappear into the night through one of the many alleys. Lock it down.
Elevating Our Industry
Here in New Jersey – and particularly via the New Jersey Disc Jockey Network (our state’s professional DJ association) – DJs have adopted a collegial approach of sharing information. Sharing venue information results in better DJ experiences and smoother events, elevating our industry as a whole. Yes, we are competitors and these venue reviews are proprietary information. Yet I’ve observed that those DJs who share the most information are typically the most successful in business. We’re all in this together!
Best Practices for a Venue Assistance Board
When starting a venue assistance board, here are some principles to keep in mind:
Make it a private group and closely limit the membership to working DJs in the local market area. Banquet managers should not be included.
When posting reviews, keep the narrative factual and professional. While the group is private, anything that one puts in writing could theoretically come back to haunt the writer.
Encourage members to contribute by writing reviews. For the NJ Venue Assistance page, about one-quarter of the members contribute. We would like to raise this percentage and increase the database of reviewed venues.
Professionally-run banquet facilities care about their interactions with vendors. In the future, the members of a venue assistance board could approach a venue with feedback – positive or negative, to enlighten them of the issues that we as DJs face. In this spirit, last year the New Jersey Disc Jockey Network organized a meeting where banquet managers, photographers, videographers, wedding planners and DJs had a candid conversation about our respective agendas and pet peeves regarding other vendors. This meeting was a huge success and made us as DJs look like the top notch professionals that we are. For a recap of this meeting, see http://ambientdj.com/ambience-a-nj-dj-blog/263-10-ways-that-djs-can-work-better-with-event-pros.html
I would encourage DJs from all of the major U.S. markets and even internationally, to organize similar venue assistance forums.
For those located in New Jersey and interested in joining the NJ Venue Assistance board, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/425665980861342/