Experience really (only) counts when you can demonstrate it.

“I’ve been doing this for over 25 years.”

“I’ll help with putting together a timeline of events for your reception so that everything flows smoothly.”

“I’ll help you come up with unique ideas for your party so that things are more personal and exciting for not only you, but your family and friends as well.”

What does any of that really mean? Does that information truly represent anything tangible for the soon-to-be-married wedding couple sitting across the table from you? Without some demonstration of what you are saying, there may be belief or scepticism sitting across the table from you.

Unless you can find a way to demonstrate everything you say when meeting with a wedding couple for the first time, you may or may not be working with them in the end. You may not have built enough value, because really, anyone can “say” those things right? What will separate you from the DJ who can’t actually deliver on what he said he was going to, is to find ways to demonstrate, or provide real life examples, of everything you say. Everything.

There are many ways to demonstrate much of what we do these days. Video footage of ourselves at events, sample agendas from past weddings, testimonials from past wedding couples speaking about very precise details, etc.

A lot of the time, I choose to use spoken story to demonstrate my proficiency in these different areas. I love sharing examples of moments from past weddings with newly-engaged couples because it can often demonstrate many points within one neat package.

For instance, if I choose to share the story of a couple who had a really unique and fun cake cutting, I could, in that one instant, demonstrate all of the following points:

  • I help create reception timelines with a purpose (this cake cutting took place later in the evening because of the fun we anticipated that it would create)
  • Room layout is important to me and something I’m involved with (we ensured that this cake cutting would take place in close proximity to the dance floor so that the energy it created would, following the cutting, spill back to the dance floor)
  • I personalize moments based on a couples personality (they were a very outgoing couple and were open to ideas like this one)
  • I am proficient at programming music for particular situations (I suggested a song, based on her taste, that had the appropriate mood and energy for the moment they “smashed” the cake)
  • I have experience in the role of being an MC that brings importance to ceremonies, such as a cake cutting (I paraphrase the script of what I said at the actual wedding to the couple I’m speaking with)
  • I create fun moments that help to engage wedding guests (as they’re engaged in my telling of the story, I point out that, so too, were the guests at this actual wedding)
  • I get to know my wedding couples on a close and personal level (I refer to this past couple by name and wedding date and describe their personalities, even though that wedding was nearly 2 years ago)
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Story, and your own narration of it, is probably one of the most powerful tools of communication that we have at our disposal (if you’re a decent story teller). Learn it, practise it, be authentic with it, then use it.

Experience really (only) counts when you can demonstrate it.

~ Dave

My P.O.V. on Connect Music Licensing (formerly the AVLA)

Ladies & Gentlemen, I seldom wade into the topic of the AVLA (now Connect Music Licensing). This will be the most you’ll ever get from me on the topic. Take what you will, leave the rest. Just know that my points of view on this matter have been essential in allowing me to focus my time and energy where my business needs it most.

Many… many… MANY… people waste far to much breathe on the matter of what is now known as Connect Music Licensing. I say this, because I sincerely value your time. Maybe more then you do. I believe your time is far to valuable to write thoughts all day long (although some have been writing about it for years!) on something that, if most people stop and take the time to really think about, they *might* actually support (and if not, can at least be indifferent about).

As someone that I hope carries some respect with a few of you, please humour me as I share a few thoughts on the matter.

I make my living, in MASSIVE part, because of someone else’s incredible creativity & talents. Specific creativity & talents that I don’t have. Without them, I AM NOTHING (and neither are you for that matter). I’m ok paying a little extra for my music because of that. How little exactly? The fees I pay (2 computers = 2 licenses) are about 0.21% of what will be my gross revenue this year. For something that I couldn’t exist without, that seems to be a pretty decent return on investment. Argue that, and respectfully, you’re a fool.

I don’t care if they enforce it. Honestly. Because I’m ok with paying the fee as noted in the above paragraph for the above reasons. Get over it (0.21%… remember?!). The true cost of proper enforcement would be in the millions upon millions of dollars for which absolutely none of you wants to pay for. Really? Do you?

We’re currently getting about a $25,000 renovation done to our house. When I called a guy I knew and asked him about getting it done, he came over to my house. We talked about what needed to be done, he offered us some really great design ideas, showed us some photos of his past work and then we hired him. As he drove away in his truck, I noticed he didn’t have a Makita logo on his truck. I immediately called him and said that unfortunately, we weren’t going to be able to work together after all, due to his lack of being Makita certified.

With potential clients that I’m fortunate enough to sit down with, I sell them on the results of what they’re wedding can be like. When I’ve done a good job communicating that, then they agree to pay me a liveable wage to help them produce the results they’re after. My having a license to legally operate my music library — for the purpose of deriving substantial personal income — has no bearing on the results that I will help them create. ZERO. For that reason it is seldom, if ever brought up. And no, I’ve never had anyone ask me about it. The only reason someone might is if another DJ told them to.

The story about the Makita guy is false (the renovations are happening though, tile goes into the porch today!). I made that part of the story up. I did so because it’s preposterous to think I would have based my decision to hire a contractor on the basic tools he uses to get the job done (next time you’re in to your dentist, ask him what brand of teeth hacking equipment he uses, some is better then others you know). 😉 (please note the sarcastic winky eye)

Remember when 20/20 did the wedding expenses exposé about a year(ish) ago? DJs slammed ABC for producing such garbage. Many cried foul… “How dare they expose a DJ industry that un-professional in North America?” Well, with the onslaught of negative messages they received from DJs all across the country, I daresay their image of DJs may have only been re-enforced.

There was so much bad blood associated with the AVLA, I’m glad they re-branded. If I was in charge of their PR department, I would have done the same. What saddens me though, was some of the comments and negativity that were poured onto their Facebook page earlier. In case we’ve forgotten how to have a meaningful conversation with someone, it helps to start off positively (which didn’t happen with the 20/20 situation as mentioned earlier either).

A lot of the messages to them on their FB page have been really great, so let’s continue to do so, but keeping a balanced tone (as many did) with constructive criticism will go a long way VS the knee-jerk reaction that has been much of the tone. Much of their responses have been decently well written though. They’re certainly trying very hard on that, let’s try equally as hard to listen.

Now before anyone jumps all over me for being an AVLA/Connect Music Licensing lover, know these things.

– YES, they could maybe have communicated this a little better (as some that posted to their page could have also). But it is their business, and we’re only a small (and sometimes not a very co-operative) part of it, so it’s entirely up to them what to call themselves and when to do it.

– I’m truly sorry that many of you have AVLA branding all over your printed materials/vehicles/etc. Leave those materials alone though, they’re still as good as new. Serious. Simply do this: talk about RESULTS with your clients, not the generic tools that you’ll use to create those results (the exemption being whatever processes that are unique to you that WILL directly impact the results you can help them create). Very few clients will, but IF they ask about, tell them there was a recent name change but nothing to do with that will effect their cost with you or the success of their event. Easy.

– EMBRACE the fact that Connect Music Licensing has taken the first step to more public dialogue with the world via Facebook. Don’t destroy it before it gets the chance to come alive.

Donny Lovering, Rob Kalmar, Dave Hastings & Norm Shaw all shared some very insightful thoughts that many of the commentators writing here today can learn from. To those with more negative points of view then positive (many of you are my friends, please don’t take offence, I say this because I love you), please for the sake of your business, use your time in a more valuable fashion. Hating on something you A) can’t control B) won’t change C) has so little effect on your DJ business it’s crazy! won’t do you a lick of good. In fact, the emotions we feed off of when discussing this might be costing us more money then we know (that’s a full topic for another day though).

WELCOME to Connect Music Licensing. Time to turn over a new leaf. Here’s to hoping that both sides (us AND them) will be mature enough to realize that in the big picture, we all mean relatively little to each other… and that it makes zero sense to expel more energy on this topic then you do on honing your talents as DJs & MCs for yourself and your company (unless you could give a damn about putting your time & energy into positive growth). 🙂

Remember, for 0.21% of total revenue (your % may vary), in order to exploit someone else’s incredible creativity & talents for your benefit?! That’s a big win for us, no matter how you slice it.

From a respectful colleague, thank you for reading.

Written as originally posted to the CPDJA online Facebook group on March 7, 2014.

Mobile Beat 2014 re-cap

The Mobile Beat conference in Las Vegas has once again come and gone. This was my 4th consecutive year attending and the overall experience once again met, and at times exceeded, my expectations.

As you’ll come to learn by reading what I write, there are many layers of satisfaction that can be found by attending any training, networking or conferences. Mobile Beat is no exception to that. What the conference itself might lack, is more then made up for in the after hours dinners and conversations between DJs that take place. Some of the highlights of the conference itself were presentations on personality types, lighting design, personal growth and wedding performance critique.

Vickie Musni’s presentation “Speaking Her Language: The 4 Dialects of Speaking Bride“ was incredibly insightful. Vickie’s insight into the 4 basic different personality types and how to use that information to better communicate with prospective brides & grooms was spot on. I’m really looking forward to having better conversations with those that I speak with as a result of this seminar. Of course this won’t only help when dialoguing with just brides & grooms, but also DJ colleagues, friends, family and yes… even my wife!

Producer of the 1% Solution DVD series, Randy Bartlett, gave a very honest critique of much of what holds wedding DJs and truly entrepreneurs of all types back. His presentation “7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Wedding DJs” was delivered with Randy’s signature humour, honesty and straight up great advice. One very memorable line from the presentation was “When we believe our own hype, we cease to move forward.” A fantastic challenge Randy offered in order to encourage personal performance growth was “Try to do one NEW thing at EVERY event… at EVERY EVENT.” This should — in theory — be easy to do as I came home with countless new ideas that I can’t wait to implement at the next wedding I’m a part of. In practise of course, it will be much more difficult. It’s so easy for us to slip into “routine”.

The most powerful and dynamic speaker (that I’ve ever, ever seen!) was Bryan Dodge. His presentation “How to Build a Better You” was over-the-top incredible. The inspiration he filled the room with was so infectious it’s impossible to describe. I’ll simply say that in one moment he had us laughing hysterically and 30 seconds later we’d all been moved nearly to tears. His speaking ability was truly amazing. And to think he had everyone glued to him for over an hour and a half without using a PowerPoint or a single sheet of notes! His presentation alone was worth the price of conference admission.

The morning breakfasts were of course very insightful (for a variety of reasons!) and the night after night dinners with DJ colleagues from around the world payed off in spades. I was truly lucky to have my wife Kathryn attend the entire conference with me for the very first time as well.

Lastly… Chauvet DJ planned their own educational seminars to take place alongside Mobile Beat in one of the Riviera Skyboxes. Of the seminars they hosted, “Wedding Lighting Tips and Techniques” by Jeremy Brech & “1% Solution” by Randy Bartlett were two of my favourites. Compliments of Chauvet DJ and Disc Jockey News TV, you can actually watch everything Chauvet DJ hosted by clicking here!

To sum up… the trip was well worth it. As with any conference though, what you get out depends entirely on how much you put in. There is usually very little downtime for me while attending any conference. Every moment of every day is spent visiting, networking, learning and building with colleagues, both new and old. I have so much more to learn.

While I might be attending the ARMDJs conference in Tennessee this coming June, I am really looking forward to the Las Vegas DJ Show in September. Over the last few years, their content has been truly exceptional (many say the best) and I can’t wait to experience what the 2014 edition is going to bring.

Chat soon and as always, call or email with feedback or questions about anything anytime.

As originally written for the CPDJA via their weekly memo to their membership in February, 2014

Event execution is only part of the equation

How can we, as mobile DJs, stay relevant in today’s society of “I don’t need you, I, or my friend, can do it”?

There are already more than 1 billion smartphone users in the world, out of which, well over 95 million are from North America. Nearly over night, this gave each and every person on this planet the entitlement to call themselves a lot of new things because of what they can now “do”. 

If you own a smart phone, you can be a photographer (and in some cases, rightly so). 
If you own a smart phone, you can be a DJ (and again, in some cases, rightly so). 
I’m sure you can think of many other examples.

What makes us of any value anymore? Sure we can read a crowd, but that other person might get lucky and also play music that’s just right. Sure we’ve got tens of thousands of songs, but that other person might have access to iTunes (over 26 million songs).

One of the reasons I’m attending The Business of Weddings conference in Toronto next month is because of the continued inspiration I receive from Sean Low (through his blog) who will be one of the keynote speakers. In response to a question from an interview with Sean (just recently posted on the Business of Weddings website) he states:

“Execution is inevitable and therefore worthless as a differentiator. The only thing that matters today is what happens in between engagement and execution.”

There are many things that matter, but that statement in large part, reflects why some DJs book full calendars, on average, 5 – 6 times the average price of what they’re told “the market can bear”. Those DJs don’t likely sell their entire services, based on what will inevitably be, execution of the event itself. In large part, the reason they’re getting paid more, is because of the service they’re providing from the moment a prospective client initiates contact with them, right up until the start of the event.

I have been surprised by clients twice in the last 14 months, particularly due to the size of wedding fee I already command as a DJ/MC, by getting tipped 3 – 4 weeks before the wedding date itself. I don’t believe there can be any further proof to the statement that Sean Low makes above, than that very fact.

How can we, as mobile DJs, stay relevant in today’s society of “I don’t need you, I, or my friend, can do it”?

Written as originally posted to the CPDJA online Facebook group on October 2, 2013.

The pleasure of working with you (the DJ)

This isn’t exactly playing “hard to get”. The delicate balance, if you can find it, is that setting up specific guidelines for working with you, can lead to increased desire on the part of prospective clients to hire your services. You’re sending a message that people need to do certain things in order to have the pleasure of working with you.

One of my policies, is that I won’t share my price with a prospective client until I know they’ve got all of the information they need to properly make the right decision for themselves (which isn’t always to hire me). If I was to provide price first and allow a prospective client to make up their mind before they had enough information of what my service is about, then I’ve just done them a great dis-service (see Seth Godin’s post here for more info on this). The most effective way for me to provide them with that information, is to meet them in person. Face to face is my greatest method of communication.

I know many DJs insist on a meeting (consultation) ahead of sharing their price if they get the chance. I don’t leave that to chance. I require a face to face meeting with prospective clients before I’ll take them on.

Hiring my services is actually more work for wedding couples then if they would have simply hired the average DJ from down the street. That would in fact, be far easier for them. I’m not looking for couples who just want it easy.

The request, to have them to follow the path you’ve found to work best for your and your clients, needs to be carefully framed of course. This post isn’t about how to do that, but I will briefly provide an example from a recent interaction.

The following is from an email I sent off a few days ago. We’ve spoken once on the phone already, this was her reply, with mine following it. Will I let this prospective go if they aren’t available to meet me by one of the two methods I’ve suggested? Absolutely.

“Hi Dave,

I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you! Unfortunately my fiancee and I are both back in Winnipeg for the school year, is there anyway to tell me about your rates and services via e-mail??

Thanks so much, BRIDE”

My reply to her:


Thanks so much for getting back to me.  Really appreciate it!  We do need to meet, even if it’s just on Skype.  As odd as it sounds, I won’t actually consider taking on clients until we’ve had a chance to meet.  🙂  Just part of what I do.

Would you be available any evening to Skype?  Another option would also be that I’ll actually be in Winnipeg on Saturday, September 21st for a wedding that I’m working with.  I’ll be staying overnight in the city and could possibly meet with you the Sunday morning before I leave.  I’m awaiting confirmation on one other possible appointment that morning, but would that work for you?

Let me know, thanks BRIDE!  :-)”

This isn’t exactly playing “hard to get”. The delicate balance, if you can find it, is that setting up specific guidelines for working with you, can lead to increased desire on the part of prospective clients to hire your services. You’re sending a message that people need to do certain things in order to have the pleasure of working with you.

Written as originally posted to the CPDJA online Facebook group on September 11, 2013.