An article written by Anthony Winyard for the industry magazine for Mobile DJs, Pro Mobile, issue 62 November 2013
Every DJ that I know with any level of ambition wants to work with better clients at better venues and ultimately increase their earnings, but HOW do you achieve that?
There are many factors that will contribute to that desired result, such as improving your skills and knowledge in areas such as marketing, social media, customer service etc. but one key area to work on is improving your performance ability.
For those DJs that do seek ways of improving your performance and improving the experience your clients receive, have you ever tried a concept called a Ride-Along?
A Ride-Along is where you go with another DJ to an event they’re performing at, from before the audience arrive until the end of the night, or vice-versa, where a DJ comes to your event. You can gain vital information on methods that could improve your performance, or maybe just tweak a few little things to enhance the client’s night, which in turn means a more enjoyable performance for you.
It has to be done with a DJ that is qualified to critique you, and not everyone is qualified, and not everyone knows what they’re looking for. When I use the word “qualified”, I mean in the sense that they are at least as experienced as you, and at least as creative. A bloke that’s only been driving locally for a year since passing his test is unlikely to offer any great insights to Lewis Hamilton!
So ensure they are on the same wavelength as you, or even a higher level if possible, as you can probably learn far more from someone that is at a level you want to reach, be that in terms of the clientele they’re performing to, or the amount of creative techniques they regularly use, or the types of events they’re regularly doing.
I’ve been lucky enough to do ride-alongs with some extremely talented and creative DJs, who I’d rate as among the very top DJs in the country. The trouble with watching guys who are very talented is that much of what they do is already extremely good and thus difficult to suggest improvements, but then, as one of them remarked to me, “if you’d just told me my performance was great, that wouldn’t have helped me improve… “.
So sometimes it can be a case of treading the fine line between being pedantic and suggesting things they might be able to do just a tiny bit better. Even if it’s only a 1% improvement. It seems to me that most people who I’ve seen that are already at the top of their game, are the ones keenest to strive to improve their performance.
However, t’s not always about suggesting how something they’re doing could be done better, sometimes it might be something they’re not doing at all or suggesting an entirely different approach than what they’re currently doing.
Now I realise this might all possibly seem a little vague, and some people prefer examples, so for instance-
- You might notice that the DJ you do your ride-along with repeats a certain word or phrase almost every time he uses the mic, which he might be completely oblivious too, such as “ladies and gentlemen…”.
- Maybe he is always doing running mixes, whereas in certain situations and for certain tracks, a chop mix could be far more effective.
- Or maybe the background music played during the wedding breakfast was a little uninspiring, or not setting the appropriate mood.
- Could be that he looks at his laptop/mixer a lot while performing and not having much eye contact with his audience and thus not engaging with them as well as he might, and so on.
This is very much a 2-way street though, and if you just get guys to come on ride-alongs with you, but you never reciprocated and went to watch the performance of another DJ, word will spread and the availability of guys that will give you good critique will likely dry up! Besides, you can learn just as much from watching someone else, as you can from having someone critiquing you. You might see them do a clever technique in mixing difficult tracks, or have a great method to connect with the audience, or select tracks you wouldn’t have thought of.
A ride-along with a great DJ can be an incredibly valuable and inspiring experience
Of course the key to making this work isn’t just copying. A good DJ won’t just replicate exactly what they see, but adapt it to match their own unique style, or put a different twist on it.
Something else that is of the upmost importance in Ride-Alongs is to leave your ego behind! It MUST be with a DJ whose opinion you respect. You can learn a great deal from it IF you’re prepared to completely open yourself up, disregard your ego and REALLY listen to the honest comments/critique offered.
You don’t necessarily have to act on every point offered by the person giving you the constructive critique, but it can give you a completely different perspective, and you may learn some things you had no idea you were doing! And result in you giving an even better performance. Ideally the ride-along would also video you. It’s NOT a video to use for promotional/marketing purposes as most potential clients probably don’t want to watch a video just of you, but YOU can see your own body language and any idiosyncrasies you may have and watch how your guests see you when you work!
It is vital though that the person giving the critique is someone you trust, someone that you feel can offer good advice and someone that will actually do this for you for the WHOLE night, and not get distracted by the audience or their phone/Facebook/Twitter!
So why not organise some ride-alongs over the next few months, and make sure you’re both giving and receiving! You may find your performances improve, and in turn that provides you the confidence to justifiably increase your fees.
And for those of you that are doing more all day weddings, or wanting to; your ability to speak effectively on an impromptu basis really gets tested, and if it’s something you’re not comfortable with, how can you learn to be the master of off the cuff wit and charm?… Well, we’ll cover that in another article…
Published in Pro Mobile issue 62 November 2013