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I’ve been on a tear lately. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive. Because of the sagging economy and the plight of many DJs who beg the self-professed marketing gurus for help, they all offer up the same mantra: “Promote what sets you apart from your competition.” Tell me, dear reader: how does that make you feel?
When I first heard this bit of advice, presented as if it was the answer to The Meaning Of Life or a nugget of gold, I felt like I wasted my time. First of all, most entertainers no doubt already thought of this if they were, in fact, doing something radically (or even mildly) different from the DJ company down the block. But let’s face it: most of us aren’t all that unique. As in any business, the innovators are few and the followers are many. We might’ve recognized this early on and made the effort to invest in ourselves, attending a workshops like Mark and Rebecca Ferrell’s “The Love Story,” or joining a group like Peter Merry’s “WED Guild.” We feasted on the mountain of books and DVDs that are available to mobile DJs and we incorporated a lot of good ideas into our shows.
These are all excellent sources of information and great things to do, but the operative word above is “we.” As in a group.
DJs everywhere have been looking for “the next Big Thing.” As a result, the industry has experienced a follow the leader phenomenon. As soon as one DJ company introduces something into a market, it’s not very long before ALL of them have it! The Love Story was unique a decade or so ago, but it was heavily marketed and today DJs are posting them on YouTube for all to see and mimic. In the late ‘90s, I bought a series of DVDs by Todd Mitchem called Let’s Get Interactive! I thought they were a revelation… and so did several dozen of my colleagues in my market. Now everyone writes routines. This pattern continues today, from DJs taking total creative control of wedding receptions to learning Scott Faver’s latest party games. You, too, can be the exact same kind of unique!
By now, you’ve probably noticed my sarcasm and are saying, “OK, smart guy, I’m with ya. So what’s your big pronouncement?”
If you’re familiar with my articles in Mobile Beat or DJ Times, you’ll note that I love to steal good ideas from other professions and areas of expertise. I love observing people who are the best in their field, no matter what that field may be. So, to answer your question, let’s do exactly that! Let’s take a look at the late night talk show comedians.
Their basic job description might look like this: a guy comes out, tells jokes, talks to guests and then goes home. When put like that, they don’t sound all that exciting, do they? This is very similar to people who say that all a DJ does is “show up and play music.” I’ve even had other DJs argue with me, saying “anyone can press ‘play.’” Reality, however, is not that bland. Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and the greats of the past, such as Johnny Carson and Jack Parr, did the exact same job, yet when I put names on them, the distinctions become obvious. The only real difference between all of them is their personalities! Their style, delivery, timing, expression and creativity make them distinct and even renowned as TV comedians. All just telling jokes. Or, for the DJ, pressing ‘play.’
In my book, The Complete Disc Jockey (, chapter one spells out how you can make the most of your own one-of-a-kind gifts and talents. And yes, you have them! Like a muscle, your personality can be built up from weak or average to strong and stunning! All it takes is a bit of guidance, which leads me to recommend another book: Personality Radio by Dan O’Day. Originally written for radio DJs, I’ve found it invaluable in my own career; mental steroids that can build-up your personality to its maximum potential! Look for Dan’s book online, now available as a digital download at:
Another ingredient needed along with personality is creativity, since every entertainer needs material. I recommend two things that can go a long way toward igniting the creativity within: acting and improv classes. With a little polish, what you learn here can easily translate into great new routines, excellent family-friendly quips, jokes and lines for every situation. You’ll be better able to think on your feet and actually entertain.
You’re probably realizing by now that this isn’t a one-shot deal; it is an ongoing process and such skills are perishable if not constantly reinforced. I hope you also realize that it will make you a better entertainer, taking your business to a completely different level and could even be a gateway to bigger and better things in the entertainment world!
Until next time, don’t play the party. BE the party!