Unconventional Income: Conventions


By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”

In my book, “The Complete Disc Jockey,” I outline the many different opportunities for DJs that lie beyond the confines of the usual trifecta of Clubs, Mobiles/weddings and Radio.

Since its release, the list just keeps on growing. New this time: conventions. Aside from the corporate trade shows that we usually think of (and sometimes participate in), there are a growing number of specialty conventions based on a wide variety of interests.

Among them are Cosplay (short for “Costume Play”), which is based largely on Japanese anime, Furries Fandom, which people dress up in various animal guises, and of course the better known fandom conventions centered around science-fiction (notoriously Star Trek and Star Wars, but encompassing everything from fans of the Linux operating system (hence the convention named after its mascot, Penguicon) to Harry Potter.

All of these conventions have one thing in common: THEY HAVE AT LEAST ONE DANCE!

A Word of Warning

Many of the smaller conventions are notoriously cash-strapped, so you’ll have a ways to go to plead your case for your standard rates, or may have to entertain offering a discount.

Even offering a free dance could be a good audition for years of contracted events. Con planners remember favors and quality service. The person in charge of planning the convention is referred to as the “con chair.”

Are You a Trekkie?

These communities tend to be quite insular, and it helps to at least have an interest in the type of convention you’re offering your services to.

Keep in mind that you may be competing with volunteers from said communities, so your only advantages are your professional status and the skill set you bring with you. That said, conventions offer a creative DJ opportunities available nowhere else.

Last summer’s Penguicon in Michigan, for instance, offered instruction in how to dance the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with a convincing Dr. Frank-N-Furter stand-in. Dr. Who fans will appreciate a DJ who remembers “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by the Timelords, and naturally Star Trek fans will appreciate an insider’s “tip of the hat” when a DJ drops Roy Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” into an oldies set, since that was (or will be?) the favorite song of Dr. Zephram Cochrane from “Star Trek: First Contact.”

As you may be starting to see, a little research can go a long way! By visiting fan forums, watching fan videos on YouTube and incorporating elements of fandom in your sets, your dances will rise above the run-of-the-mill that so often dominates convention musical fare.

Attendees Want to Party!

As with any party, con attendees want to party, too! The same free spirit sensibility that makes grown people dress up as characters and role play means that congoers are also good audiences for new dance, trance and techno style music.

Unlike the clubs, though, it’s a rare night when they don’t want frequent breaks for other styles. Look out, too, for the local favorites. Like any family or tight-knit social group, there is always that song or set of songs that are expected each and every time. One of the parties I do repeatedly isn’t happy unless they hear “The Hamsterdance” at least once.

Dress to Impress

Lastly, any extra effort also goes a long way. Dressing as a character, using creative lighting effects and finding or creating special mixes are good examples.

I once saw a fairly convincing “Stargate” that used an H2O effect shining on a wall just behind the gate’s ring. Situated at the entrance, a strip curtain and a touch of fog made it look as if everyone entering the room came through the “Stargate.”

There was also a clever dance mix of the “Still Alive” song from Portal that filled the floor. Bottom line: you may already be part of a group that could lead to some exciting DJ opportunities, and if not, a little research could open some unexpected doors…or portals!


  • Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

    He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

    Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

    To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.

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