By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”
Freshly returned from the Mobile Beat Show in Las Vegas, coming back to Michigan is always surreal. For one thing, Vegas is warm and sunny; Michigan is not. Having been to several of these trade shows, I thought I knew what to expect; the packed (or sparse) seminars, the Spartan ballrooms with maybe a projection screen and PA, maybe a guest DJ or two, a loud, crowded dealer space and, of course, the satellite parties, some of which you don’t even hear about. But this year was different. This year changed everything.
As you may recall, I’ve been completely overhauling my DJ business from top to bottom. Every detail is being examined, revised, recharged, revamped or reconfigured. My most serious concern as I relaunch under a new logo: marketing, followed very closely by performance. In an odd sort of synchronicity, it seemed to me as if Michael Buonaccorso, Ryan Burger and the Mobile Beat gang brought in the exact experts and inspiration I require! More on them in a moment…
A WINNING TEAM
Being a single op DJ company, I have always traveled to these shows with another single op. This year I was lucky enough to pair up with Sue “The DJ” Meloun, a colleague from Chicago who I met over a decade ago at yet another Mobile Beat show. I originally did this because we’re friends, and she’s one of those energetic, smart DJs who inspire me to constantly up my game and think differently about various aspects of my business. What I didn’t know, though, is what an advantage being her “expo buddy” would be! She has a talent for zeroing-in on the most interesting conversations at any room party, and being in the thick of things whenever anything important is going down. Plus, being one of the few women at a convention chock-a-block with men, she draws attention. This partnership was an amazing upgrade to the overall quality of my DJ expo experience!
Truly incredible, though, were the seminars, starting with the main ballroom. When I presented an “early bird” session in ’08, I was set up in a naked ballroom with a small stage. Off in the corner was a projection screen that looked like something your dad would show his old Super 8 home movies on back in the ‘70s. Not this year. This year, the main ballroom was decked-out in style, with massive trussing, the latest in lighting (provided by Chauvet) and even a “house DJ” in the form of Jason Jani. Hosts Bill Hermann and Jason Jones introduced each and every presenter, well known or not, in true Las Vegas style. This would remain the standard of quality from start to finish!
And what a lineup! While I’m sure I’ll miss a few names here (I’m working strictly from memory), the first session I caught was by Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association and New York Times best-selling author of “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses.” His “ninja” message dovetailed perfectly with my current business overhaul, and yes, I did get a copy of the book. Autographed! Next was every DJ’s favorite electronics geek, Ben Stowe, with probably the most fun, yet informative presentation I’ve ever seen him make! He had a great assist from Bill and Jason, with Bill taking both literal and virtual shocks in the form of an ungrounded electrical box and a head cage that would fill with imaginary spiders. We laughed, and we learned. I also especially enjoyed the presentations of Josh Yawn, Carr Haggerman, Robert Shenck, Joe Bunn and Bryan Dodge.
At most of these expos there is often one “big name” headliner, but this year there would be two: Mark Ferrell and Penn Jillette, of “Penn & Teller” fame. Mark Ferrell always manages to pack a conference room and always generates controversy, intentionally or not. This year, it seemed to me quite intentional, albeit with the utmost sincerity as he presented a Matrix-themed appeal for unity, as well as excellence, in the DJ industry. At the opposite end of the controversy spectrum, Penn Jillette’s unique experience as an entertainer triggered many “lightbulb moments” for many DJs in attendance, showing how a spectacular career can be created from the most humble of beginnings. As is his tradition, Penn stayed long after his talk to shake hands, take some photos and sign some autographs.
INTO THE FUN ZONE…
When the working sessions were over, the legendary parties began. The DJs took over the Riviera’s bar-restaurant, Wicked Vicky’s, with guest DJs spinning showcase sets while the rest of us exhausted ourselves in a dancing frenzy. We all sang “Piano Man” around the piano at Bill & Jason’s penthouse bash. But the party to “end ‘em all” was held at the Havana Room at the Tropicana where DJ Jazzy Jeff of “Fresh Prince” fame laid down a stellar set, removing all doubt that he is still a serious working DJ. He was soon followed by a hit-filled set by the legendary Sir Mix A Lot, who proclaimed his love for DJs, telling them that he’s one of us; “I’m Sir Mix A Lot, not Sir Rap A Lot!” I’d be surprised if anyone had any energy left afterward.
There was so much more that I don’t have space to describe here, and before I even get the chance to process all of it, I’m preparing for my own presentation at the Canadian Disc Jockey Show in Toronto, Canada on March 14th. My seminar will focus on downsizing; being able to lose the heavy gear while delivering a better performance – a topic that should be familiar to those of you you read last month’s installment!
So, if you’re planning on being in Toronto later this month, I look forward to meeting you. If not, I hope to see you at next year’s Mobile Beat show at the Tropicana in Las Vegas! You can keep up with my complete top-to-bottom business overhaul in my column and blog, “from the ground up.”