Do I Really Need a DJ?: It All Depends (October 8, 2015)
So, you are looking around for a DJ because you either want a DJ, or your friends and family are encouraging you to have a DJ. Dancing and listening to music at a wedding can be both fun for yourselves, and way of providing entertainment for people you care about.
The most important question to ask first is, “Do we like to dance?” That may seem an obvious question, but sometimes folks get so caught up in other factors that they forget to answer the one in front of them. Do you enjoy going out to clubs or bars to dance with your friends, or significant other? Have you always enjoyed going to school dances, or college formals? The goal of a DJ is often to get people up out of their seats to jam out to some fun music. Your guests want to share in the fun with you, so when they see you and your wedding party on the floor they can’t help but join in.
The next question is, “Do we want to hire a DJ?” There are tons of apps, and music services out there where someone can create a playlist, or a custom music station, and let that play for the evening. I completely understand this option simply because I definitely wouldn’t want a sub-par DJ performing at my event. To me, a sub-par DJ is one that goes and plays some music, and doesn’t take an interactive role in the event. In that scenario there’s really no difference between the Ipod and the live DJ.
Really good DJs have a style and involvement that is uniquely theirs. Upon hiring a DJ, you allow them to take the music you like, and form a smooth mix around that music. There’s always a form of control that the DJ takes on when allowing them to create a mix that can’t be duplicated by a machine playing random songs. Beat matching, bpm counting, scratching, song transitions, customized song arrangements, genre transitions, etc… are all factors that an app just can’t duplicate effectively in a live setting, and it often comes out sounding cheesy, tacky, or haphazard.
Another question to consider is, “Do I want my event to be well organized?” Over the years, I’ve learned to be a day-of event coordinator. I always put together a wedding outline with each client which contains major events such as the cake cutting, 1st dance, La Marcha, etc…. I take on the responsibility of making sure that the flow of events moves along very well.
I’m sometimes at odds with certain photographers, wedding planners, or even venue managers because I tend to make them look bad if they are not on top of their game. If the food is not served on time then I will question the facility. If the photographer steels the bride and groom for periods of 30 minutes or more then I question them about it. That’s what you want, a Bold DJ; someone who can take the reigns, and guide the event in an organized fashion. You don’t want the kiss-up DJ because they are often so afraid that they will lose the recommendation from a vendor or facility, that they will agree to them doing whatever they want at whatever time.
Another important questions is, “What type of gear will be provided?” The market for audio and lighting rental has gone up because there are so many terrible DJs out there that have turned people off from having a DJ at their wedding. Folks will rent the gear, and put on an mp3 player. My audio gear is either made in the USA or Italy, and is top notch. When you rent gear, it’s often a crapshoot because you never know who had it before. Sometimes the woofer or tweeter is blown out, but the renter is betting on you not recognizing that. Not everyone is an audio expert.
I liken it to owning your own ski gear, and having to rent ski gear. If you have to rent ski gear then you will mostly likely spend most of your day on your back. The big reason is that ski boots must fit a certain way. They must mold to your specific foot, and must be the correct size. Rental boots have had multiple feet in them, and are just too loose to hold your foot in place. Who knows who rented that audio gear last? It may even have a slightly blown woofer, which will give off a rank smell, yet still work fine.
Another question to consider is, “Whom am I inviting to the event?” A large factor in considering a DJ is the caliber of people you invite to the event. Let’s be perfectly honest, there are folks who are going to be considerably jealous that you hired a good DJ. These are often the folks that spent their entire wedding budget on other things, and ended up using a music service or mp3 player as their music entertainment. All their guests left right after dinner, and were generally bored during the event. There was no form of organization during the evening either.
When certain guests see everyone having a blast at your event they become jealous because they didn’t provide that type of fun at their event. I see these folks a mile away because they will often request some wacky song, and then tell the bride and groom that I didn’t play their request just to annoy them.
You must be strong-minded when hiring a DJ because the haters will definitely try to influence your perception. As an example, I once did an event where the clients had provided a playlist of specific songs for me to play. I played many of those songs during the cocktail hour, and while the bride and groom were away for pictures. Of all people, the bride’s own sister tried to tell the bride that I completely ignored the playlist; nothing was further from the truth. That type of jealousy can come from the strangest places, and having a strong mind allows you to standup to false statements, and understand that people will often say these things because they wish their event would have compared to yours. I came to find out later that the sister hired an overpriced DJ for her wedding that failed at pretty much all facets of the event, and she couldn’t handle the fact that her own sister had a more impressive event.
In the end, a good interactive DJ can bring organization, preparation, and quality service to your event. Also, a DJ can take requests; try coming up to an mp3 player and requesting some Usher or The Beatles in real time. There are many tiers of DJs around the world, but it always comes down to your gut feeling When You Meet Them In Person! So, do you need a DJ? Like the answer to most questions, “It all depends.”
Thanks for reading.
You Get What You Pay For?: Follow The Money (August 3, 2015)
I worked with an attorney for approximately two years. When potential clients looked like they were deciding not to hire him he would always use the line, “you get what you pay for.” I always found it insincere when he would use this phrase because, as someone who saw things from behind the scenes, I always knew this was more of a scare tactic than a substantive statement. After the service contract was signed, 9 times out of 10 the attorney would ask a friend to appear for court on his behalf.
This attorney would charge upwards of $2500.00 for a first DWI case. And, folks would pay it because they were afraid that if they spent less with another attorney they would not get good representation. There were even instances where the attorney would not even show up for court.
The statement of, “you get what you pay for,” is often used in the DJ realm. And, it’s better to consider the statement at face value. If you pay for a particular package or option then you should expect to receive that certain product. Considering the statement for its underlying connotation of, you need to pay more with me because you will receive a better product, is a falsehood.
DJ companies that charge more than $1000.00 for their basic packages must do so because of their overhead, as well as, enormous ego. A large portion of their income from events goes toward advertising costs. So, let’s break those costs down.
Weddingwire Account: $200.00 per month
Perfect Wedding Guide: $200.00 per month
The Knot Account: $200.00 per month
Google Adwords: $300.00 - $500.00 per month
Chambers of Commerce: $100.00 per month
Site Webmaster and SEO: $300.00 – $600.00 per month
Franchise Fees: $200.00 per month
Direct Mailing to Vendors/Facilities: $100.00
One of the most significant of these ad costs is Google Adwords. Google Adwords is a pay-per-click service that allows a vendor to obtain a top position in Google search. The vendor must pay more money per click to maintain a higher position. For instance, every time a person clicks on a Google Ad under a search for, “Albuquerque DJs” the vendor is spending about 10-12 dollars per click. You can see how these costs add up very quickly.
Looking at other costs besides advertising, consider if they have a commercial office; this is a huge monthly expense. Does the company have numerous DJs, MCs or assistants? I’ve done tons of shows, so I often will see the more prissy type DJ company owners who have a team of four or more employees setting up their gear. Bottom line is that since they don’t have enough employees with enough skills to conduct an event they must hire more people. Such is the case when the DJ company has to send both an MC and a DJ out for a show. Neither one is capable of perform the job of the other, so both are needed. In order to justify their inefficiencies they use phrases like, “you get what you pay for."
My prices are in the median amount because I run an efficient service. At least half of the money from an event will be reinvested back into my equipment, so I always have the latest upgrades in the market. I own four audio systems, and each one is tailor made for any setting. To me, overboard advertising is a considerable waste of money; it’s more of a way to buy an event rather than obtaining the event through merit. I’ve been able to have an excellent career as a DJ because most of the events I obtain are from prior clients, their families, and friends.
To be fair, the concept of, “getting what you pay for,” definitely applies to goods such as electronic mixers or amplifiers for instance. I’m a hobby electronics repairperson, so I can tell the difference between well-made capacitors or transistors, and the other junky stuff. See, this is quantifiable because you can calculate this information through math.
Services are never quantifiable in the same manner. Each one of us can attest to having paid lots of money for a cruddy service, and then paying less money for an excellent service. The clients that come to me are folks who work for their own money. They have enough pride to pay for their own expenses especially with regard to more luxury items such as a DJ, limo service, or videographer for instance. They may receive some monetary help from others for cost of venue, photographer, or food, but don’t want parents or others to have to foot the bill for everything.
This indicates responsibility, and those who are responsible are respectable, and in turn, folks that I enjoy doing events for because they always want to have a blast. You work hard, you play hard. When the credit card bill comes around and you see a $2500.00 payment to a DJ that was pretty mediocre, you will know you were ripped off. So, ask yourself, “did I really get what I paid for, or did that money pay for vendor inefficiency?”
Thanks for reading,
Online Reviews: A Tall Tale (February 12, 2015)
Today's marketplace has moved over to online advertising. Take a look at the difference between a phonebook from 2005, and today; the difference is significant. Part of that advertising comes in the form of online reviews. Even Google uses reviews as part of their algorithm in ranking sites for SEO. And, this often leads to businesses often asking former customers or clients to place reviews of their products or services online. The important part to remember is that not all reviews, nor review sites are considered equal.
The review system in today’s marketplace is extensively abused. In the grand scheme, Google has probably the most reliable review system available. Google requires reviewers to setup a Google Plus account before they can post reviews of a business. This system allows for Google to monitor that account to determine whether it was setup only to post a single review of business (ghost account), or is an account that is regularly used, and contains unique content and activity. Google also has a system of filters that allows them to detect if a review comes from an IP address that is too closely associated with the IP address of the business or business members. Even so, this algorithm does not always detect an unreliable review. In essence, Google is generally able to kick out reviews that don’t meet certain criteria for legitimacy. Always keep in mind that a friend, family member, coworker, or another vendor is always capable of posting a review, and it's nearly impossible for any review system to catch those occurences. This problem lies at the heart of this unreliable review system.
Yelp is another review-based system, and has a very strict review evaluation algorithm. In fact, more than 50% of reviews for any given business are filtered out as “Not Recommended.” These are reviews that may fail a single factor in the Yelp protocol. There is a multi-op DJ company here in Albuquerque that placed a review on Yelp under their own account, and you can actually see that the review is, “Not Recommended.” So, Yelp does catch most unreliable reviews, but it also filters those that are legitimate as well. Being too stringent in their review system makes the whole system unreliable. Did you know that there are folks who will actually sell reviews as a Yelp reviewer after they become a trusted Yelper?
Then you have a company like WeddingWire, which has gained most of its online presence around 2011, and into the present time. Most vendors signup with a free storefront on WeddingWire because it has an substantial backlink system, and a network of other Wedding and Event sites. WeddingWire gives out an award every year called the Couple’s Choice Award which was formally called Bride’s Choice Award. The site claims that the award is based on four criteria:
1. Overall Rating (Quality)
2. Total Number of Reviews (Quantity)
3. Review Performance over the year (Recent)
4. And Consistency of reviews from year to year (Consistency)
The winners are able to put some fancy language on their site about excellent quality and service, and then a misleading 5 star icon on their website. All this fancy stuff is created to make the vendor look special, but let’s go ahead and dissect what this award really is. Now, I could break down each factor in this criteria, and give you the problems associated with each one, but let’s just consider the one thing that the award is based on, WeddingWire reviews.
The WeddingWire system is much more inferior at filtering out fake reviews than say Google is. If you go onto WeddingWire and have a look at the reviews that get posted for vendors there are certain red flags that indicate a fake or biased review. Look to see if the string of reviews all sound the same. One of my competitors has a list of WeddingWire reviews containing maybe two to three sentences with almost all qualifying language such as (they are the best, he was awesome, he was remarkable, etc...). You hardly see any details about the event such as where it took place, any dates, how they mixed genres together, if they were recommended, the type of equipment they used, etc…. A client who actually hired the vendor will have a ton of detailed information to talk about, and a fake poster will have very little and less factual. Also look for a vendor response containing facts instead of qualifying language.
Another factor to look for is who made the posting. Does it sound like a typically used name? Is the review made anonymous? Is there any picture posted of the person? A real reviewer will often show they are proud to have made the decision to hire a particular vendor. They will post their full name, a picture, and the date of event. Also consider how many posts that person made; if only one, that screams out fake review.
Also consider whether there are lots of WeddingWire reviews (eg. 20 or more), and virtually none or just a couple of Google reviews. This is a huge discrepancy since it’s much easier to post a fake review on WeddingWire and much harder to post a fake review on Google or Yelp. Look to see if the same reviewer also posted the review on Google or Yelp.
Last but not least, make sure you uncover if the company receiving the award pays WeddingWire for advertising. WeddingWire charges between $700 and $2400 per year depending on the advertising package a vendor purchases with them. Take a step back and consider the process that takes place here. Do you really think that WeddingWire is going to give an award to a vendor that has not purchased a package with them? To me, this is the same process of bribing a judge for higher placement in a beauty contest. Do you really want to depend on an award given out by a company that has not even seen the vendor in action? That’s like the Oscar judges giving out an award for best picture to “Gigili” based on what was posted on Twitter (if Twitter was around back then).
There are other wedding advertising companies out there that partake in the same sort of award process as WeddingWire; it’s just that WeddingWire tends be the most brash and unscrupulous in its approach.
So, now that you’ve seen how unreliable the review system can be, how does one make a reliable decision since reviews suffer from such untrustworthiness? MEET THE VENDOR IN PERSON!! Reviews and meaningless flashy awards cater to the lazy client. These clients have a major event such as a wedding, but are not willing to put in the footwork to meet vendors in person. They see a few reviews, and figure a decision based on that. I've worked with a certain photography company many times, and I like their philosophy that you should meet with at least 10 photographers before making a decision. The same goes for DJs.
A DJ can sound great on the phone, and often acts as the sales person of company who is only wishing to close the deal with you. And, when you do meet in person, make sure that you meet with the DJ who will be doing your event!! It does you no good to talk with the owner who meets with you in a flashy outfit, and an ego the size of the Sandia Mountains. Demand to meet with the one who is actually going to do your event because he or she is the person you will be dealing with before and on the day of the event. If the arrogant DJ/Salesperson doesn’t allow for that then come talk to me, and we will treat you the proper way.
Thanks for reading.