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FLASHBACK ARTICLE FROM AUGUST 2010
I’m preparing to do a seminar for my local ADJA on Schools – Soup to Nuts, and I figured I would share some of that information in this month’s article. I’m always interested in reading on the chat forums or industry articles concerning DJs and the school market. There are a few companies that do very well in this market and there are many that won’t do these types of events for a variety of reasons. So the first thing you need to ask yourself is “Should you even get into the school market?” Use the rest of this article to help you make that decision.
There are several questions I believe you need to ask yourself before you venture into this market or, if you’re already there, you should ask if you will stay and prosper in the youth market. While I’m all about making a living being a DJ, no amount of money is worth doing something you don’t enjoy. That is the reason why we became DJs, right? We love to entertain, we love to see the reaction from our dance floor, and we love the adulation we receive from doing a great job. So the first question you must ask yourself is “Do I enjoy working school events?”
It’s an easy question, but the answer might be a bit hard if you haven’t done these events. So ask yourself how you enjoy dealing with teens and preteens at other events you do? Do you enjoy the energy and enthusiasm they bring or would you prefer that they stay away from you and your equipment and stop asking for Soulja Boy? If you find that you do enjoy working with this age group you can move onto the next questions, if not congratulations, you know that this isn’t the right type of events for you (unless you are a multi-op and then the question needs to be is there anyone on your staff that enjoys working with youth and if so, move on to the next question).
Ok, so know you know that you might be the type of DJ that would enjoy working with students. The next step is deciding if the expenditures fit within your business plan. Making money in the school market requires lots of money to be invested unless you plan to rent the equipment or outsource to a production company (I don’t recommend this in most cases as you’ll wind up making the same or less then other types of events). You need to invest in big sound, lighting, video, and other goodies to make big money in this market! Our company started focusing resources into this market seven years ago. During a good prom or home coming season we would be lucky to make any profit after purchases and expenses for the first 3 years. Even now I spend thousands every season to replace broken equipment or to add new equipment to stay competitive. If you aren’t a risk taker or there aren’t enough schools to make a good return on investment, I’d highly recommend avoiding this market. Assuming that you have done your homework and the investment fits with your business plan, you can move onto the next question, “Do I know current music well enough to play the right balance of songs the students will enjoy, but the administration and chaperones won’t complain about?”
Music is undoubtedly the second biggest issue we encounter as DJs in the school market (inappropriate dancing is number one if you were interested). I find most of today’s current urban to be utter garbage. For every Black Eyed Peas song that I love there are a dozen Lil Wayne songs that I wish didn’t exist. You can find the balance with music, but it takes knowing content and the vibe the song generates. For example, when Crank Dat Superman blew up, if you listened to the song for the first time a) you probably thought it sounded silly at best and b) you most likely didn’t know there was a dance to the song. This particular dance was a major issue for school DJs for various reasons. The content (which required an urban dictionary to figure out) was reprehensible. Still, if the administrators didn’t know what the words meant, they sure didn’t like seeing a couple hundred students running into each other with their fists out in front of them. Couples that with the fact that we were getting hundreds of requests to play the song, you can imagine the tightrope we had to walk. If that isn’t something that you would feel comfortable handing then this isn’t the gig for you!
Next question, “What skill set to you possess?” Many different types of DJ styles can work for this market, but the school market is much more sophisticated than it used to be. You can’t bring tired and lame routines or hokey announcements and not expect to lose “street cred” with the students. If you are a segway DJ and don’t beat- mix, this might be a poor choice for your skill set. School events are high energy by nature, but if you don’t feel comfortable “hyping” up the crowd, again this might be a poor choice for your business.
Finally, if you aren’t a multi-op already, “Are you willing to take on employees?” To do the size of events that make money, it requires lots of equipment so this is not a single person operation. Also, keeping in mind return on investment, how long will it take for you to recoup your investment if you can only do a couple shows here and there? When we decided to have this as part of our business plan, we knew that it would take being able to do many events per season to make this truly profitable.
So there you are, a couple of questions to help you decide whether you should begin or stay in the school market. In coming months I’ll share more of my seminar content to include what you should buy, how you should market, and my take on how to make the events work performance-wise. It’s a great market if you are a good fit, but I highly recommend passing on this if it’s not your cup of tea!