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Apr17

Top 10 Reasons to DJ Your Own Wedding… Fear-Mongering Marketing Debunked

Earlier this week, I read what may literally be the most hysterical article about wedding entertainment planning on the face of the planet.  It was an article from a sound equipment rental company about why you should rent sound equipment (from them, presumably) and fire up an iPod instead of hiring a DJ for your wedding.  You can read it, if you want, but I’ll summarize:

Here’s a picture of me making a silly face almost as hysterical as this article; well, almost:

This is a Photograph of Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine "DJ AJ9" Herman Making a Hysterical Face at a Stationary Camera. It Captures the Hysteria of this Bad Entertainment Planning Article. Photo by Genevieve Nisly Photography

This is a Photograph of Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine “DJ AJ9” Herman Making a Silly Face at a Stationary Camera. It Captures the Hysteria of this Bad Entertainment Planning Article. Photo by Genevieve Nisly Photography

There are lots of articles like that, though.  What made this article particularly awful?  The “logic” and “reasoning” behind the Top 10 Reasons to DJ Your Own Wedding are nothing more than fear-mongering, and you — dear readers — should not have to live in fear.

Many of the points in this article are absolutely spot-on regarding the Wedding DJ stereotype… but what about the over-arching implied assumption that the “average” Wedding DJ is all that’s available for your event besides an iPod?  Nothing — and I mean nothing — could be farther from the truth, and I don’t care for this kind of terrorist sales strategy.

So many folks who sit down with me seem to change their expectations during our short initial meeting. When they sit down, sometimes it almost seems like they’re looking for the DJ who will ruin their wedding the least. What an absolutely horrible prospect for a couple to face!  I can’t blame anyone who is looking to pay the very least for that “hot commodity!!!”  After speaking with me one-on-one about the unique possibilities that Something New Entertainment can offer, though — they realize that there is much, much more available to them through developing a relationship with a well-trained and talented MC from Something New Entertainment versus an unnamed DJ from Company X.

Throughout this article, you’ll see photographs of what your iPod can’t do, and — often — what a cookie-cutter DJ can’t do, either.

Not very many of the folks who sit down with us later consider an iPod, as their standards have been irrevocable raised!.  But I can certainly see the surface appeal to those who haven’t considered all the angles we’ll explore in this article.  iPods work for cheap (except for all those music purchases and sound system rental, but we’ll talk about that, later), and they (generally) do what they’re told, unless there’s some sort of (fairly unlikely) malfunction. The biggest problem with an iPod is… that they can only do what they’re told… and their abilities have real limits… and they have zero capacity for judgement… and — well — read on.   What follows is my official, point-by-point response, plus: why you shouldn’t approach your entertainment hiring and planning with fear in your heart.

 

1.) Control.

It’s a double-edged sword, control, and comes with great responsibility.  I might just as well say that a bride and groom would have more control if they decorated their own cake or sewed their own garments.  It’s certainly a true statement, but there are plenty of ways to retain artistic license over your event without getting your own hands dirty, and I’ll encourage you to use every one of them!

The person who wields control over your soundtrack (and your microphone) has a great deal of influence over your party, but the big problem with trying to pre-plan a playlist (in order) is that a dance floor is a living organism that expects to be fed in real-time to its whim.  It is a fickle master, but you’ll be challenged to find a person who takes that responsibility as seriously as a Something New Entertainment MC.

Any professional DJ knows that, which is why you’ll very rarely see a Wedding DJ choose an iPod for their own wedding entertainment even though they certainly have no shortage of sound equipment. Here’s the secret: in order to provide the kind of real-time, catered response your dance floor needs to thrive, you need someone there to choose songs, and — this article is unfortunately true that — “Most people… just turn [entertainment] over to some DJ who they will never see again.” Why on earth would you want it to be someone you don’t know well enough to trust to execute the event with an infusion of your personal style? That’s outrageous! Why would they do that?!?!

The answer is simple: they do it, because “everyone else does it,” and they aren’t aware there’s another choice out there.

Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine "DJ AJ9" Herman tells Amber and John's Love Story.  Photo by Anna Zajac Photography.

Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine “DJ AJ9” Herman tells Amber and John’s Love Story. Photo by Anna Zajac Photography.

2.) Cost.

Any wedding planner worth their salt will tell you: the best way to cut costs (MUCH MORE than the measly few hundred bucks mentioned in this article) is to cut your guest count. Your single highest line item will not be entertainment (by far), however, time and again, entertainment has indeed been shown (by far) to be the most influential factor in the perceived “success” of the event, contrary to what this author states in point #9.

Plus — make sure to factor in some extra money in your budget to acquire music and budget time (you well may not realize how much your own time is worth until your wedding day has come) to research, purchase, and download music, as well as to pick up, set up, tear down, and return your sound equipment.

Bottom line: if you’re really looking to cut costs, there are more effective ways to do it that are ultimately less of a gamble to the event. Sometimes, folks think they’re saving a few hundred dollars on a bargain DJ or a iPod sound system rental, but — after an unpleasant event entertainment experience that overshadowed every other aspect of the planning — they realize that it really cost them tens of thousands of dollars in ruined-party expenses — food and drink and flowers and time with friends that they will never be able to gather together for an event “do-over.”

Jackie and Joe Spend Their Wedding Night Rocking Out with Their Friends to an Eclectic Mix of Classic Rockabilly, Modern Indie Rock, and Bluegrass.  Photo by Genevieve Nisly Photography.

Jackie and Joe Spend Their Wedding Night Rocking Out with Their Friends to an Eclectic Mix of Classic Rockabilly, Modern Indie Rock, and Bluegrass. Photo by Genevieve Nisly Photography.

3.) “Incorporate Your Unique Personality.”

Contrary to the author’s assertions, it’s actually not a well-kept secret, at all: “most disc jockeys play the same basic set of songs at every wedding they do.” While many may change up the dance tunes, they may “phone it in” during other portions of the night. Some companies go so far as to issue CDs called “Cocktail” or “Dinner.” Does the standard CD fit your unique style? Maybe… but maybe not. 🙁 What this author fails to note (again) is that there’s an alternative to the average.

“If you think that your DJ is going to spend time custom crafting the perfect playlist for your wedding, you are dreaming!” he says.  

Maybe so. Maybe you are dreaming.  Maybe you’re dreaming of Something New Entertainment!!! We spend hours of research in the weeks before your wedding going over your requested songs’ genres, artists, and BPMs, and creating a library of complimentary music that — yes — we then hand-select, one-at-a-time during dancing and mix live. There’s no “auto play” being used to mix for your dance floor. It that unusual? Absolutely! Will it be a markedly better experience for you than the static “Dance 1 CD” or an iPod full of songs you pre-programmed? Yes. Yes. OH MY GOSH, YES!!!!!

Natalie and Stephen enjoy a Line Dance with their Guests.  Photo by Ken Love.

Natalie and Stephen enjoy a Line Dance with their Guests. Photo by Ken Love.

4.) Fielding Requests.

This article states that your DJ will “give in and play the Chicken Dance or some other ridiculous song” when “your 13 year old [sic] cousin starts to beg.” Again — I can’t speak for my colleagues; that may be the case. I will say that this is an excellent interview question, and I would love for you to ask me about it, when we meet up for milkshakes to get to know each other. It’s sometimes a delicate balance — pleasing the crowd versus staying true to my clients’ wishes, but it’s far from an unusual challenge.  A dedicated wedding entertainer should have a system for processing requests judiciously, and Something New Entertainment definitely does!

Do my clients sometimes swear off line dances?  Of course!  Do they sometimes change their minds after a couple of glasses of champagne and some peer pressure from their bridesmaids?  Yep — youbetcha.  Here is my promise to you: if you hear a line dance — or other “cheesy” song — at your wedding reception, it will be because you are on board with the idea.  Flexibility and communication are essential in great entertainer.

Jami and D.J.'s Lively Dance Floor -- Fueled by Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Justin's Live Mixing.  Photo by David Abel Photography.

Jami and D.J.’s Lively Dance Floor — Fueled by Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Justin’s Live Mixing. Photo by David Abel Photography.

5.) Language and Profanity concerns.

Again — the author hits the nail on the head while reaching for Wedding DJ stereotypes to frighten the reader into renting their sound equipment.  And — again — I can’t speak for my colleagues.  It’s certainly true that the bad reputation my profession bears has been earned by more than a few bad apples.  However, at Something New Entertainment, we are concerned about this, too!  In fact — because of the amount of time we spend listening to music and analyzing lyrics, because of the resources we have available to either obtain “clean” versions of songs or to make our own clean versions, when necessary, and because we care how your grandma feels, too — you may find that we are a valuable resource as you make decisions about what’s appropriate and what isn’t appropriate for your party.

DJ and Lighting Design by Something New Entertainment.  Photo by Anna Zajac Photography.

DJ and Lighting Design by Something New Entertainment. Photo by Anna Zajac Photography.

6.) Remote Locations.

I don’t know what to say, here, besides “this isn’t a real problem for an entertainer with any kind of plan.”  If you’re hoping to host your event more than 25 feet from the nearest electrical outlet, any entertainer should be able to accommodate this request with advance knowledge.  Whether it’s an extension cord, a battery-operated system, a generator, or something else, wouldn’t you rather have a professional decide the best method and be on-site to control it?  Most remote setups are for ceremonies, and I hate to imagine the prospect of a bride, groom, or novice friend trying to control sound during a ceremony.  It’s not just music, you know!  If folks have come out into the middle of a field in formal wear, it’s because they want to hear your vows.  Outdoor ceremonies (where sound goes up, up, and away) need microphones, a sound board, and an experienced sound technician.

Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine "DJ AJ9" Herman Officiates Kristin and Phil's Wedding Ceremony. Hidden Microphones and Sound Design by DJ Justin. Photo by Making the Moment Photography.

Something New Entertainment Master of Ceremonies Anna-Jeannine “DJ AJ9” Herman Officiates Kristin and Phil’s Wedding Ceremony. Invisible Microphones and Sound Design by DJ Justin. Photo by Making the Moment Photography.

7.)  Anyone can be a “DJ.”

Yep — it’s true.  If you call yourself a “Lawyer,” a “Doctor,” or a “Sandwich Artist,” there can be serious legal consequences for doing so without the appropriate certification from the governing bodies that award those titles.  In those cases, you might need a Juris Doctorate, a Ph. D./M.D., or a nametag from Subway.  However, there is no barrier of entry to call yourself a “Disc Jockey.”

The author goes on to say “most DJ’s are terrible at what they do” before quickly backpedaling “there are some good ones too.”  What makes the difference?  Time, training, and talent.  Time is clocked (experience), training is earned (education), and talent is born (calling).  I don’t want to be a bragger, but Something New Entertainment team members have all three, as well as hard-working spirits and great senses of humor.  Can your iPod do that?

 

DJ AJ9 MCs The Shoe Game for Michelle and Stephen.  Photo by Cavanaugh Photography.

DJ AJ9 MCs The Shoe Game for Michelle and Stephen. Photo by Cavanaugh Photography.

 

PropagandaPostcard6x9LogoUpdate2013Web8.) “It’s Easier Than You Think.”

Really?  Is it?

Maybe it’s easier than you think to do this job very badly, but I’m guessing you’re hoping for better results than nightmare stereotype DJ we’ve been discussing.  That’s his number one problem, you know — he thinks the job is easier than it is.

If your goal is to be equal to unnamed, faceless DJ from Company X who does no preplanning with you personally, ignores your requests, and mispronounces your names (if he MCs at all), you should have no problem accomplishing this task, and you will save a boatload of money (or waste a boatload of money planning an elaborate party that no one will enjoy after dinner, as the case may be.  Depends on your point-of-view and how lucky you are.).

Also — this system “setup with the beginner in mind… with… easy to follow diagrams and color coded [sic] connections” doesn’t seem like it was chosen because of its quality of sound, let alone its ability to MC.

Experienced sound technicians need all those confusing knobs and buttons for a reason — that’s how we get the best sound, and quality amplification matters.  A lot.  And high-quality entertainers pay big bucks for the best equipment… which isn’t often the easiest-to-use.

Lots of Knobs and Buttons.  We Learn to Use Them, Because That's How We Get the Best Sound.  It ISN'T Easier Than You Think.  Photo by Digital Photography By Dale.

Lots of Knobs and Buttons. We Learn to Use Them, Because That’s How We Get the Best Sound. It ISN’T Easier Than You Think. Photo by Digital Photography By Dale.

9.) “No One Ever Remembers a Wedding For A Good DJ.”

Unfortunately, I must outright disagree with the author for this point.  In fact, surveys of wedding guests have revealed that over 81% of guests say that the single aspect that they remember most about a wedding is the entertainment!  Bad, good, or GREAT — you have the power to make a decision that influences the atmosphere, energy level, and memorability of your event.  If you had to guess, where do you think an iPod will rank?

Amber with her Girls, Dancing to a Live Mix by Something New Entertainment DJ Mike. Photo by Anna Zajac.

Amber with her Girls, Dancing to a Live Mix by Something New Entertainment DJ Mike. Photo by Anna Zajac.

10.) Support.

This point promises support through the rental company.  But — wait — why would I need that?  After all — #8 promises that “It’s Easier Than [I] Think.”  They also promise you their personal cell phone numberS.  You know who else does that?  Something New Entertainment!  There’s just one number, though — your actual MC’s actual mobile number — no run around.  Plus, “it is extremely odd for [the sound rental company who write this article] to have less than 2 wedding sound systems reserved every weekend even during the slow winter months!”  That’s reassuring to know how busy they are, when you need your technical support call answered promptly…

Despite what I’ve said, there are a few of you still reading that feel like a sound system rental is the perfect solution for your needs.  No hard feelings!  We’ll agree to disagree, or you can arrange a perspective-changing consultation with me to see if your outlook isn’t improved through our discussion.  Here are a few reputable companies in the Northeast Ohio area who can help you with sound equipment rental:

AA Sound and Lighting
Miller’s Party Rental

You can also read the original article, and other articles about this subject, here: Ten Reasons To DJ Your Own Wedding by Pittsburgh Sound Rental.

3 Comments

  1. Eric

    Hi AJ. I’m the owner of Pittsburgh Sound Rental. Thanks for the excellent article that you posted. We are really enjoying the discussion over this post. You would probably be surprised at how much positive feedback we have gotten from DJs across the country – the so called “craigslist DJ” is really making a bad reputation for the professional companies like I imagine yours to be. That type of DJ is the real target of this list and we do admit that there are good DJs out there. Our customers who are interested in doing their own DJ work are normally budgetarily constrained to less than $200 for their wedding entertainment. They have the choice of either hiring a $200 DJ or renting and going the DIY route. Our experience (we do hundreds of weddings per year) is that they are very happy with the DIY solution. It certainly doesn’t compare to the $2000 professional DJ company, but it is much better than the guy who just bought his speakers.

    Anyway, thanks for the feedback!

    1. DJ AJ9

      Hi, Eric!

      Thanks for commenting, and you’re welcome for the traffic! 😉

      Truly: no hard feelings on your business model, but I think that some less extremist generalizations of the entertainment industry might create a less polarizing effect among readers — including DJs who occasionally have sound equipment rental needs, themselves, you know! That’s a missed market for you, with this sort of article on your site.

      With respect: your article does not do a good job of indicating that a live entertainer could in any way be better than the solution you propose, ever, at any price, under any circumstances, with the very vague exception of you saying “there are some good ones too.” I’m guessing it wasn’t your intent to convey otherwise, and I don’t blame you.

      In the interest of education, I have provided the other perspective, since your article did not contain it. Now clients will be able to see both sides of each of these points you make.

      Can your iPod do that? 😉

      Best,
      Anna-Jeannine “DJ AJ9” Herman

  2. Gregg Hollmann

    Thank you Anna-Jeannine for writing this great response to Pittsburgh Sound Rental’s article. And thank you Eric (owner of Pittsburgh Sound Rental) for commenting as well. I guess we’ll let the brides-and-groom-to-be of the world decide which option is best for them!

    I recorded a response to Pittsburg Sound Rental’s article as well in the form of a video blog. You can check it out at http://youtu.be/SBBlFMILHPQ

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