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
The title of this blog is also the motto of the professionals I studied with in Las Vegas in 2012. And it’s so true. I’m not going to ramble on and on about this but, suffice it to say, that knowing and understanding this simple fact makes everything else so clear.
Every wedding, every Sweet 16, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Birthday Party, and so on…they’re all about love. Whether it’s the love of two people that want to spend the rest of their lives together, or the love of a family that wants to celebrate the milestone of someone dear to them. Love comes from every direction, and it’s our duty as Event Professionals to embrace and acknowledge this.
It’s not about the “stuff.” Not the lights. Not the equipment. Shrug off all the bells and whistles. Those exist, and always will. And we all have them. But that’s all the easy part. The focus needs to be on love. That is how we honor the people who have entrusted their most sacred days to us.
Once you know that, everything else falls into place.
I recently had a chat with a colleague on his Facebook page about these, what I call, “bargain bin DeeJays” that drum up business for themselves by selling themselves at incredibly low prices.
Before I go any further, let me explain where I’m coming from:
Most people understand that more than half of the success of the party (some people even say 80-90%) is based on how good the DJ is. A good, experienced, professional DJ accepts that responsibility with great pride. We know that when your guests leave and, as they appraise how “good” your party was on the drive home, they’re going to spend a lot of the conversation on A) The DJ and B) The food.
So, considering the importance of hiring a great, knowledgeable, professional DJ cannot be overstated. A DJ like this spends countless hours preparing for parties, planning out the party with their client, always making sure to keep up with music trends, investing in their library, maintaining their excellent equipment, and they also have TALENT as a DJ. Yes, talent. Since the advent of online music downloads, and computer DJ software, the marketplace has been flooded by guys armed with a laptop (loaded with thousands of illegal MP3s of varied quality) calling themselves “DJs.”
But being a DJ means so much more than a laptop and a bunch of songs. It means you have the ability to weave songs together in a way that drives the crowd wild. It means you are somewhat of a music expert; That you can discuss music, songs, artists, and genres that span decades. And with this expertise of music, you should be able to “read” the crowd and create a unique and exciting variety of music that appeals to everyone. Paired with the ability to “read” the crowd is the talent of improvisation- A good DJ isn’t stuck to particular sets and songs, and should be able to think on his feet to make adjustments at the drop of a hat if a particular set isn’t working. These are the bare essentials that any real DJ should have.
A real DJ also takes pride in his work. They know they’ve spent years honing their craft, investing in their career, and becoming a polished performer. Therefore, they could not- and should not- settle for substandard payment. Considering that he/she is taking on the BULK of the responsibility of making your event a success, they shouldn’t be accepting what amounts to 2% of the budget for the party- because then the client is spending the other 98% on things that don’t have nearly as direct an affect on the outcome as the DJ does*. [I'll provide the figures at the bottom of this blog] If the client is willing to spend $1000 on the veggie plate at the cocktail hour, then they can afford to spend that or more on the DJ. To paraphrase my mentor, Mark Ferrell: “Is the DJ worth more than broccoli??”
So then you get these cheapie DJs. They’ll work for peanuts because for them it’s just “fun,” they get to “party,” they get to meet people, and they get “free food and drinks.” These guys don’t tend to take their job nearly as seriously, or bring as much passion to each event. I’ve heard horror stories.
Cheap DJ Horror Stories:
(Names have been excluded)
“I hired a bargain DJ and…”
- They showed up late.
- The music sounded like it was being played through a Pepsi can.
- They showed up in jeans, sneakers, and a polo. And then stayed that way.
- They called me the day of my wedding and said, “someone called me for a gig today and they’re going to pay more than what you are. So I’m not coming.”
- They came with an iPod and the speakers that you hook up to a TV.
- They came with old gear that skipped whenever the dancing got too intense.
- They didn’t show up at all.
- They sent a replacement DJ without telling me about the switch.
- They got drunk and hit on my mother.
- They didn’t bother to bring or play any of my requests.
- They were rude.
So the bottom line is:
You Get What You Pay For!
Thanks for taking some time to read this. Share it, pass it along. It’s the truth. And keep it in mind next time you, or someone you know, are looking for a DJ.
Lastly, the conversation that inspired me to finally write this blog (which has been on my to-do list for years) was with Bobby Fayder. He runs Party Perfect NYC, and he takes pride in his work. Just like I do. Just like all of us should.
*[If you're spending around $25,000 on your wedding, but want a DJ for $500, then you're offering them 2% of the total cost of the wedding- Despite the fact that you're asking him/her to contribute 50%-90% of the success of your party. Even at 10%, a great DJ is a great deal, isn't it?]
I became an event entertainer back in 2003. Coming from a theatrical background, as professional actor/singer/dancer since I was 15, I saw it as a fun way to earn a living that was close to my lifelong passion (performing).
Along the way, I’ve had some awesome experiences that showed me how a good celebration can transcend all preconceived notions of what a “party” is. As on ongoing feature on this blog, I’ll share a few of these stories.
It was a Saturday night, in the summer of 2003, and I was working with Fernando (who was my mentor for the early part of this career). We were doing a simple backyard party out in Long Island. I was new to MC work, and was still learning how to use the microphone as a tool. Neither of us had major expectations during the drive there. It was “just a backyard party,” after all, not a wedding or other formal event.
We arrived, met the family, and began setting up under a small over-hang in the yard…when dark, ominous clouds started building in the sky. Fernando looked at me, and we silently said, “Uh oh.” The family we were working for had set up a small, 10×10 tent in the yard, to try and prepare for the rain. But with a guest list of 60-75 people, there was no way to keep everyone dry.
But we pushed forward.
Fernando began playing music, I started to greet guests and mingle with the kids (the primary reason they needed an MC to begin with was that they were expecting 15 children). I noticed right away that this family was extremely warm, kind, and emotional. The purpose of the party was to bid farewell to a member of the family who was moving away. She was an adored sister, daughter, mother, and aunt, and she was going to the West Coast. That added a sweet melancholy to the night.
The first hour and a half went well. But then the skies broke open. It began pouring pretty hard, and I did what I could to keep the mood light while people were crowding under the tent and fleeing into the house. I played a few games with the kids, while Fernando kept the music happy and energetic. But I felt bad. It looked like this party was going to be spoiled by Mother Nature…
But I was wrong.
At about the 2 hour mark, the guest of honor asked for the microphone. She gave a beautiful speech about how much everyone there means to her, and how it’s so hard to say goodbye. At the end, several relatives cheered, and rushed her with hugs. I took the opportunity to seize the momentum that her speech had created, I channeled the emotion of her words, the effect that it had on her loved ones, and transferred into celebratory energy. I got everyone up, pointed out how tonight wasn’t about saying goodbye. It was about celebrating the beginning of a whole new chapter in her life.
Fernando could sense what I was going for, and he perfectly followed-up my words with an exuberant crowd-pleasing song that pulled everyone up onto the dance area DESPITE the rain. Suddenly, everyone was dancing, singing, exchanging laughs, while getting utterly soaked. The rain didn’t matter anymore. Not to get too “deep” or anything, but the rain transformed from an obstacle into a cleansing of the sad vibes that had been lingering around for this family.
And that’s exactly how the night ended. When it was all over, you couldn’t tell if their faces were covered in rain or in tears, but what was clear to see were the huge smiles on their faces.
As the family exchanged affectionate goodbyes, Fernando and I knew that we had just taken part in one very special night.
That was the first time I experienced the power of what we can do in this field. There’s so much more to it than just playing music and telling people when to eat. You get all of these people into the same room with a common reason to celebrate, and then it’s our job as entertainers to read, harness, and direct their energy.
· Ultra compact design to fit into the smallest areas
· Advanced Imaging – 9 megapixel digital images for the highest quality
What you get:
· All inclusive Photo Booth (everything included!) – no hidden costs· Unlimited Prints during event· Booth Attendant· Dual “strips” – picture output (one for the memory book, one for the guest)· Personalization on each photostrip (i.e. names at top)· Guest Book (for placement of picture strip + area to write)· You will receive a thumb drive or CD of all your pictures at the end of the event.
· You receive full rights of all pictures· Capture more unforgettable memories…….yours to keep forever in pictures!· Props are included to use at your own discretion· Open air concept allows for great entertainment and up to 10 people in the shot!
· $995 – 3 Hours Unlimited Pictures for your guests!
$250 each additional hour
$75 – copy of pictures on flash drive**
$125 – Guest Interactive Memory Book**
· **Free Interactive Guest Book and Copy of pictures on flash drive – if you have A Perfect Blend Entertainment as your DJ/Master of Ceremonies services.
Thank you to all of the wonderful couples that I have had the pleasure of working with on their wedding day.
|Congratulations on receiving your Official Wedding Wire Award|
|NewYork – February 2, 2011 – WeddingWire, the nation’s leading wedding technology company, is thrilled to announce A Perfect Blend Entertainment has been selected to receive the prestigious annual WeddingWire Bride’s Choice Awards™ 2011 for Wedding DJ Entertainment. Recognition for the Bride’s Choice Awards™ 2011 is determined by recent reviews and extensive surveys from over 750,000 WeddingWire newlyweds. Our past clients are among those that shared their experiences on WeddingWire, the largest wedding review site in the nation. A Perfect Blend Entertainment stands among the top five percent of wedding professionals in the WeddingWire community, representing quality and service excellence within the wedding industry. Awards were given to the top wedding professionals across 20 service categories, from wedding venues to wedding photographers, and were based on the overall professional achievements throughout the past year.“WeddingWire is honored to celebrate the success of the top-rated wedding professionals within the WeddingWire community,” said Timothy Chi, WeddingWire’s Chief Executive Officer. “With the annual Bride’s Choice Awards™ program, WeddingWire has the unique opportunity to recognize the best wedding professionals across the US and Canada. We applaud A Perfect Blend Entertainment for their professionalism and dedication to enhancing the wedding planning experience last year.”We are happy to announce that A Perfect Blend Entertainment is among the very best Wedding DJ Entertainment within the WeddingWire Network, which includes leading wedding planning sites WeddingWire, Martha Stewart Weddings, Project Wedding and Weddingbee. We would like to thank our past clients for nominating us to receive the Bride’s Choice Awards™ 2011.For more information, please visit our WeddingWire Storefront today at APBEntertainment.|
It’s bridal show season! It’s your chance to meet some of the areas finest wedding vendors. So here are my top 10 tips for you brides about to attend one of the many winter bridal shows.
Top 10 Tips For Brides At Bridal Shows
10. Dress for comfort. Wear comfortable shoes. Check your coat. Maybe dress in layers so you can take off that sweater if you get hot. It’s a long day of walking, standing and talking. So be comfortable.
9. Do some advance research. Look at the list of vendors who will be there. Visit their websites. Make some notes. Some you’ll be able to cross off your list before you arrive. Others, you’ll want to make a note to talk more with at the show. This will save you time.
8. Don’t fall for show specials. Chances are if vendors are desperate enough to offer a show special then they’ll honor that same special a few days later. Most of these “specials” are designed to pressure you into signing a contract right then and there. That’s not how things should work on your wedding day. Take your time and make an educated decision.
7. Don’t start the conversation with “How much do you charge ?” When you ask this right up front it puts these wedding professionals off. They will need more information about your wedding day before they can give an exact price. Also you’ll need more information about what they offer to do a real comparison. So starting off with “How much do you charge?” just creates a bad vibe.
6. Ask good questions. In relation to #7 on the list above, asking the right questions to these potential vendors will separate the professionals from the pretenders. “What are 3 unique things you’ve done recently at a wedding?” is a good question. “How many years of experience do you have?” might not be a good question because they could lie. Questions that make vendors think quick on their feet will give them a chance to prove their experience and knowledge and will expose those who are lacking. (Look later this week for my top 10 questions to ask vendors at bridal shows)
5. Have conversations. Plan on being at the show for a while. Talk to vendors one on one. Just grabbing a business card or a flyer doesn’t accomplish anything. You can do better than that sitting at home and surfing the internet. Talk, listen, and get a real feel for these vendors personalities and what they offer.
4. Arrive early. Get to the show early and be waiting for the doors to open. You’ll catch the vendors when they are fresh. You’ll get through quicker and if you see any vendors still setting up or getting organized as brides are entering the show, you’ll know who might do the same on your wedding day.
3. Try to get free passes before the show from participating vendors. Almost every show I have ever done as a vendor has sent me free tickets to provide to some potential clients. So find out who is going to be at the show you are looking at attending. Call around and ask if they have any free tickets. They’ll be happy to give them to you.
2. Don’t shop on price alone. You are assembling a team. No two vendors are exactly alike. A cheap price doesn’t always mean it’s a good deal. Every decision you make will have some impact large or small on your wedding day. Find the best, the professionals you like the most. Go home and rank them in order of priority. Then determine, based on your budget, who makes your team.
1. Have fun! Bring your maid of honor. If you drink, relax and have a drink. Make yourself at home. Joke with the vendors. You’ll see other sides of them that might give you more insight into what they might be like to work with. Enjoy planning your wedding. It’s a once in a lifetime feeling.
I hope these tips help. Enjoy your planning.
Thank you Brandon for allowing me to share these great tips.
I asked Meredith Haymen of Meredith Hayman, Makeup Artist if you she could provide me with some tips for a grooms workshop that I was conducting last year and I thought I would share those tips with you.
Prep Your Skin:You’ve heard the term “glowing bride” why not a “glowing groom”? -Two nights a week, exfoliate any dry skin off your face with a light exfoliating face wash (St.Ives Apricot Scrub available at drugstores). -For an extra glow consider applying a light self-tanner to your face. You will look great in the pictures and have a head start before arriving to your sunny honeymoon destination. -To exfoliate dry skin off your lips soak your toothbrush in warm water and gently brush your lips in a circular motion – follow up by applying a lip balm regularly -DRINK LOTS OF WATER THE WEEK BEFORE YOUR WEDDING
Man-ScapingYour bride does a lot of prep work to make sure she looks and feels her best for you on your wedding day. Return the favor by doing a little extra “grooming” for your big day. -Have your barber or hairdresser trim your eyebrows. If you have a unibrow, you may want to have the area in-between your brows waxed or plucked. Make sure to do it at least one week in advance. -A stray nose hair is never sexy. Get out the trimmer and go crazy! -Shave in two steps. First, shave with the grain with very light pressure. Second, reapply a coat of shaving cream and shave against the grain for a super-close and smoth results – follow up with a calming aftershave lotion. Or treat yourself to a professional shave at a specialty shop like “The Art of Shaving“ -You are going to have a new accessory – A RING, and everyone is going to want to take a close look at it! Consider getting those nails and cuticles under control by getting a manicure a few days before your wedding.
Tips For Your Groomsmen-Hung-over groomsmen are better hydrated. Make sure you have lots of bottled water available for your “best men” while you are getting dressed and during photos. -To calm puffy tired eyes, relax with a cold washcloth on your eyes for 20 minutes. Pack A Bag Of Emergency Essentials: -Bottled Water -Lip Balm/Vaseline -Power Bar -Tissures/Hankerchief -Eyedrops -Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Floss -Mints/Gum -Lint Brush/Tape
BridesTo find out some great tips or if you are looking for a makeup artist for your wedding, be sure to give Meredith a call 646-418-5445. http://www.meredithhayman.com/
The theme for this wedding celebration was dance, dance, dance.