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It is a true phenomenon in any market that you’ll find (or you actually are) the DJ that believes that increasing your exposure increases your tally of booked events. A simple review of the statement should be easy to accept the correlation. This thought process is often associated with booth placements at various shows, sound and light support for another company’s promotional event, non-profits seeking your services, community associations, fundraising groups, or accepting an event at a significantly reduced rate.
These types of performance activities are often presented to the DJ service owner as an opportunity. Often heard are statements like: “A large group sees you of people” or “This is a real good way to get your name out there” from the group that wants your participation. These kinds of sayings are excellent statements that feed right into a DJ's soft spot by a beautifully orchestrated accident.
So, what exactly is beginning to be uncovered here? Honestly, it is the word “you” in the used statements. Many folks seeking a DJ’s participation don’t want “you.” Whoever ends up saying “yes” to them is the only “you” they wanted in the first place. They want a block of time, a library of music, a sound system, and possibly some lighting. These are all just simply common business facets.
For a DJ service, the word “you” symbolizes the unique skill-sets possessed. It can be a silky golden voice, mad mixing abilities, production-grade lighting, or the core of most of our successes: personality. Yet, most DJs don’t take the time to discern the differences between unique skill-sets and common business facets.
To get to the actual discovery before this article concludes, we need to establish a theoretical phrase in business called “opportunity cost.” Opportunity cost is placing a value on a choice made and looking at the matter of the next-best option. Does the DJ service need to accept the “exposure event,” or can it turn it down? That’s where you need to look at opportunity cost. The neat thing is: You DON’T need to say yes when approached. There is no boogie-man out there toting a Karma-Police badge in a professional business arena.
A couple of real-life examples are now in order:
Scenario One: During the Q & A session of a seminar presented by a national organization for bridal show producers at the 2009 Wedding MBA, it was a DJ stood up and asked the presenter something about moving the bridal show’s commonplace date to a Sunday instead of a Saturday. He felt that because the word “he” (and us) pursue generally falls on a Saturday evening, it was a hardship that he went through not being able to attend a bridal show instead of a paid event. This DJ didn’t illustrate a problem of epidemic proportion. Instead, he voiced his failure to understand opportunity cost.
There is no hardship when exposure and opportunity costs are looked at through professional business acumen. If the bridal show is the cream of the crop show for the region and the paying event is possibly netting the DJ $350.00 for a night, it’s a no-brainer to blackout the date to clients and attends the show. On the other hand, if it’s a mediocre bridal show and the DJ is charging modest rates, the choice of subpar averages paints a very gray area for decisions. If you are a prime-rate DJ faced with a sub-standard bridal show, avoid the show. Some exposure isn’t worth getting dirtied up to be seen in that light.
Scenario Two: This one just happened locally a couple of weeks ago. The scene is a holiday parade at night. The floats are lit up with Christmas lights. As I watched the train, I thought of a few chatboard discussions about DJs and parades. I got to thinking about getting involved next year… for “exposure.” When I was looking over who came out to watch the parade, a construction company’s float was approaching. Tucked in the middle of the float, with a truss of lighting and very secluded, was a local DJ service. One could barely see his presence, and it took someone like me who knew where to look for a DJ’s signage to figure out who it was.
When we look at opportunity costs for accepting the chance to provide sound on a float in this example, why not look at the strain put the gear through to make the presence worthwhile. If the stresses that motion creates on equipment and lighting outweigh the “exposure,” then at least put a face and name to the effort. Hard-to-see signage tucked dimly in the back didn’t solve anyone’s need… Except for the organization that wanted you (strike that) … a block of time, a library of music, a sound system, and possibly some lighting.
If “a block of time, a library of music, a sound system, and possibly some lighting” is what is sought, why even consider giving it away? Most exposure isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, and when it is worthwhile, why do DJs fail to capitalize on the real opportunity?
Ken Petersen can be reached at