For The Record

There is a grave misunderstanding out there, with many of you, about an important element of my work. It is something that comes up in conversation every now and then and today, I’d like to “set the record” on this matter.

The matter is really quite trivial, unimportant to me. But through conversations with many of you, it has become very apparent that this needs to be shared. So allow me just a moment, if you will, to put this on the record.

I don’t live in metro-(fill-in-your-city) or even a city itself. In fact, I live nowhere near a city.

The countryside is my home. Well, not quite. Our current home is in a lovely little town called Minnedosa in the province of Manitoba, Canada. Population 2,587. (our house is bottom, right, in the above photo)

We’ve got a post office here…two grocery stores…two gas stations…a Subway restaurant…elementary & high schools…a train track…a beautiful lake and the dam that holds it back from flooding the town…the Dari Isle (THE place to get ice cream in the summer)…a couple of little hotels…some small town restaurants you’ve never heard of…I think you get the picture.

Getting to “the city”, requires a 35 minute drive South, down the open highway, surrounded by wheat fields, canola fields, scrub bush, and currently, loads and loads of snow. Some days in the winter they close the highways around here. But that depends how much the polar bears are shivering.

(I’m kidding about the polar bear part.)

At the end of that drive, you’ll be greeted by the lovely city of Brandon with its population of 58,003. If you head East from Brandon for two hours on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway #1), you’ll find yourself in the city people love to hate, and hate to love, Winnipeg.

Winnipeg is the largest city between Calgary, Alberta (13 hours West) and Toronto, Ontario (21 hours East). Winnipeg has a population of not quite 780,000 people.

So why do I tell you all this? I tell you this to illustrate the region where I live and to dispel any misconceptions about the size of (or, lack thereof) community that supports my work as a mobile DJ and MC.

An endless expanse of farmer’s fields and wide-open skies without a building for miles upon miles upon miles is what surrounds me. Suffice it to say, that I live around very few people. Well, “few” people, relative to most of you.

And why is that important? Here is why: My current DJ/MC business was built here and it is thriving here. Surrounded by the barns, legion halls, tents in farm yards, small town halls and the occasional hotel banquet room in the city of Brandon, my work, at my pricing, thrives here.

I was speaking with a friend from Toronto last week, Danny Floh Back of DJ Floh Back Productions, and the conversation turned towards the places that we live. Where we live provides the context from which we all work and the context from which I share my experiences on this blog.

As I described to Danny the area in which I live, he expressed surprise, as many others have done in the past, that what I’ve built for myself here, was actually built here. And functions here. Danny was sure I lived in Winnipeg, at least. Doing what I was doing, at the wedding pricing I work for (weddings start at $4000), would surely require that, wouldn’t it?

The wedding budgets I work with here seldom crest the average $29,000 price of a wedding in North America. And only occasionally, do the weddings I work with reach even close to the $50,000+ range. Most of the weddings I am asked to participate in would sit very comfortably below the $25,000 mark and many would sit below even the $20,000 and $15,000 mark. And then, of course, there was the wedding from a few years ago where the mothers and aunts of the bride and groom prepared all the food themselves and served it cold. That wedding wouldn’t have come even close to $10,000. I have another wedding like that coming up later this year. (And others that skip serving dinner altogether, in order to save even more money!)

Where I work, and the wedding couples I work with, and the places I load my gear into, are most often exceptionally and very reasonably, average. That’s not to say I work with average people of course. They are generally quite exceptional people. But I think you know what I mean.

I don’t work with people who drive BMWs. And I don’t set my equipment up at the Ritz Carlton. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally work with wealthy individuals or in exceptional place likes that, but those situations, are rare exceptions to my “normal.”

Most of the time, I am working with everyday people like teachers, nurses, bakery department managers, restaurant servers, paramedics, car salesmen, farmers, etc. Regular, normal, everyday people.

On average, I personally work between 40 and 50 events per year (I have no employees). They’re mostly weddings (20 – 25 total as weddings rarely take place on days other than Saturdays here and mostly in only the summer months) with the occasional corporate party, fundraiser, wedding social (I’ll explain those another day) and the very rare school dance thrown in for good measure. From that, I earn a basic living. It’s not an exceptional living, but combined with my wife’s full time job and some pretty stringent money management, we live quite comfortably. (I know there are a few more topics in there too, but those also, will be for another time)

Where I live, the couples I work with, the budgets for the weddings I am involved in, probably surprise you. Let this end the surprise.

I often wonder where I might be with my service and pricing if I lived in a region with high population numbers…numbers in the hundreds of thousands, or even places with populations over a million people. With more potential clients to choose from and a wider variety of wedding budgets and locations with which to work. Where would my pricing be then? $5000? $7,500? $10,000? $15,000? I don’t know.

Now back to you…and that city/town/region you live in. Do you think you can’t make higher quality pricing work where you live? You might be right. And you might be wrong.

It blows my mind — daily — that I am doing what I do out here in the middle of nowhere (sorry, neighbours and friends), in the middle of the average countryside. (Or out in the boonies, as some might call it!)

If you live in a region where the population is many, many times more what the population I live around is, please think long and hard about what I am sharing here.

This. Blows. My. Mind.

Don’t let your region define you. Define yourself, for your region.

Don’t let your competition define you. Define yourself, for the competition.

Don’t let your market define you. Define yourself, for your market.

If I can do this in Minnedosa, who says you can’t do it there?

~ Dave

13 thoughts on “For The Record”

  1. Absolutely love this! Especially the last bits about defining yourself for competition. I see so many in the entertainment industry worrying about what others are doing and charging instead of working on their own offerings and the level of experience they provide.

  2. Awesome article Dave! Never knew your geographic whereabouts in Canada but this definitely clears it up! It’s interesting I live in the middle of the New York city where it’s hard to get a second of quiet. (Sirens, bus engines, and people yelling all day) Being in such stark contrasting places it’s remarkable how the demand for good music will always be there. Kudos to you sir for spreading good music to the people of Minnedosa 🙌🏼

  3. Thanks Dave. Great Post. Always look forward to the read. I have always felt that we are not defined by any geographical boundaries but by the highly Specialized Service we provide. This allows us the freedom to ask for our service fee and to have an open market free of competition. I live in Vancouver but also have many events in the Okanagan area and beyond. I recently had a bizarre discussion with an Okanagan DJ that feels we are simply a commodity service defined by boundaries and price and not by our unique service profession. I would love your thoughts on this and as well as ask if you ever leave your area for events.

    1. Hey Mark — I leave my local region whenever requested to do so and the compensation provided is adequate. I’ve had weddings in Mexico, Palm Springs (California) and, funny enough, in the Okanagan region (Kelowna in October 2015). In EACH of those scenarios I was compensated my full performance fees PLUS travel/accommodations/etc (some travel costs were as high as $2500 over and above my performance fees). These weddings were not just “oh just get me there and I’ll do your wedding because it’ll be great promo for me and make me look good” situations. These were very well and properly paid for events. So yes, I leave my local region when requested.

  4. Thanks for sharing again Dave! Many DJ’s work alone in a vacuum and by sharing your thoughts you help me confirm I am not crazy! My shows get up over $4K but I think it is just because of the fact I live and work in the core of Toronto. Part of the problem here is that is so many hobby DJ’s. Hopefully they can read your insights and it will help expand and sustain a part time job they love.

    1. Thank you for your comment Sam. In Toronto, the average price of a wedding is certainly much higher then it is out here, so speaking from the position of averages, I would hope that difference is reflected in what DJs get paid too. (which, it would seem, is being applied to you — which makes me happy!)

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