Mario here. Just checking in with some thoughts and reflections, as I’m about to enter my 12th year as a DJ.
I love my job.
It keeps me close to my other passion- theater- since it’s all about connecting with a crowd and taking them on a trip in the span of a few hours.
Well, I’ve recently shifted gears. I moved away from freelancing with big companies (DJ “chains”), and began working in more of a high-end boutique fashion. It began with my solo project, affectionately named MFR Entertainment- to emphasize the personal care you’d be getting directly from me. And it’s continued now as I partnered up with a dear friend and trusted colleague, at A Perfect Blend Entertainment- two years ago.
It was no small change. It was a complete paradigm shift.
In the last two years I’ve learned to accept that 95% of the people in this business have the complete wrong idea about what’s important; what’s right/wrong; what creates the best results; and where our priorities should be.
I’ve learned to value not only my clients more, but myself. I’ve taken a long hard look at the responsibilities, the work, the sacrifices, and the pressure involved with what I do. And when you really take a step back and take that kind of inventory, you’re suddenly a lot less willing to sell yourself short or put up with business practices that harm your full potential.
Which brings me to the point of this particular entry- What is an Entertainment Director?
Aside from it being my title at APB, it’s an embodiment of my new philosophy. Where as any random dude can wake up one morning and just decide, “Hey, I’m a DJ,” go out and buy some speakers, a mixer, download a few hundred songs with Virtual DJ software…an E.D. title is something you must earn.
An Entertainment Director is equal parts DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Event Planner. And that’s exactly what I am. I’m fully invested in every party that I’m fortunate enough to be involved with. I want to KNOW who my clients are, as people. I want to know what music moves them. I want to help craft a timeline, a program, and a flow that brings their vision/goals/dreams for their event to life.
A wedding I handled earlier this year was the perfect example of what I bring to the table:
I had an event at one of the major Catering Halls in NY- a venerable wedding factory with a revolving door of parties and DJs. It was for 300 people, and the ethnic range was 90% West Indian. I’m a New Yorker with Latin roots, and so soca, calypso, and reggae are not at all what I’m used to. I’ve got plenty of it, but it’s not exactly a forte of mine- usually relegated to a quick 10-15 minute set once every few months upon request. This time, though, the groom made it very clear: Those genres must dominate the playlist. He wanted just about every single song to be West Indian.
As I was setting up, one of the managers at the hall came up. I’ve known him for years. Not personally. But we’ve worked together plenty, and he mainly associates me with my freelance work for larger companies. He asks, “Hey, so where’s your partner?” I calmly replied, “I’ve got none.” “You’re joking, right?” “Nope.”
He couldn’t wrap his head around this. He was convinced this was some ghetto decision to cut corners and save money, or that the company I was working with was trying to slight the client. He wished me luck and walked away.
Now fast forward 3 hours. The party is going incredibly well. When it was time to dance, the guests danced. When it was time to sit and eat, or pay attention to one of the special moments on the couple’s itinerary, they did. All of the events planned in their stacked program of formalities had been properly hosted. That same manager returns to my booth. He shakes my hand and says, “I hope you’re getting paid triple. You’ve done the work of three men tonight, easily.”
I thank him with a smile, and brought the party to an exciting conclusion an hour later. The Groom, who had expressed concerned during the several meetings and conversations we’d had leading to the big night due to his playlist being very particular, came up to me and he was humbled and remorseful. “I’m so sorry, bro. Can’t believe I ever doubted you. You did an incredible job. I feel like a jerk for ever stressing. I’m referring you to everyone I know. I love you, man!”
As I left, a different manager for the hall- the MAIN GM- came up to commend me for my “One Man Show.”
And that’s what an Entertainment Director is.
It’s why I make my living this way, why I work when I want, and why I’m presently responding to texts from a recent Groom asking if it’s ok for him to give my cell out to people because he’s been fielding questions, raves, and comments about my work all day. People want to make inquiries, and they want a copy of my playlist.
Like I said before, I love my job