Sunday, August 22, 2010

DJ Expo 2010 Highlights

Congratulations to DJ Times for organizing a successful 20th annual International DJ Expo this past August 16th-19th at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Attending this year were 3,800 disc jockeys from the mobile, club and karaoke scenes. There were also numerous music producers and bedroom DJs in attendance. This year I stayed from start to finish in order to absorb the full Expo experience, and I'm so happy that I did! Check out the bottom of this blog entry for photo and video highlights from the DJ Expo!

Each year, Ambient DJ Service subsidizes the registration fees and lodging expenses of any DJ staff member who chooses to attend. Staff members are encouraged to attend in order to sharpen their skills and gain inspiration from their fellow industry professionals. The Expo is also a great opportunity to enjoy time together and build camaraderie. Thanks to DJ Iron Mike, DJ Spinz and DJ Jesse Lambros for attending!

Below are some Expo highlights:

Seminars - As a business owner, I am extremely interested in staying fresh and relevant with regards to business and performance trends and techniques. I attended three or four seminars each day. Some of my favorites:

1) The Brand of You - Jason Jani from Sound Connection Entertainment. I have seen the short version of this presentation, but Jason stepped it up for the Expo, adding lots of new content, and revealing very specific ideas to improve one's image in the wedding entertainment industry (and therefore differentiate oneself and improve one's pricing).

2) Mitzvahs - Mike Wieder from Ultimate Sound DJs and Shani Barnett. Presenter Mike Wieder (who could easily work as a standup comic) and the bubbly Chicago-based dancer Barnett did a great job of providing both specific and big-picture ideas for producing successful bar and bat mitzvahs.

3) All-Star Wedding MCs' Secrets Revealed. From prepping a bridal party to how to rock a grand entrance, the all-star panel that included Mike Berrios, Adam Weitz, Johnny K., Elisabeth Daley, Mike Walter, Steve Moody, Jason Jani, and Big Daddy shared some amazing and specific performance techniques. I particularly enjoyed Mike Walter's detailed discussion of his music programming for a wedding and the psychology behind it. As we all know, wedding dancefloors can be very fragile and easy to derail.

4) Tips from the Closer by Jason Canaan of Quality DJ. Canaan boasts a 99%-plus closing rate for those clients who attend one of his in-person consultations. The presentation was light on gimmicks, and re-inforced many of the fundamentals of good salesmanship. In an increasingly competitive market, information from Canaan's presentation will serve us well.

5) Book It Now! 10 Scientific Ways to Persuade Prospects by 2009 Entertainer of the Year, DJ Steve Moody of Steve Moody's Entertainment Connection. Steve Moody is a great person and puts on a fast-paced, information-filled seminar. Moody selected ten techniques from the New York Times best-seller "YES!" and adapted them specifically to the wedding DJ market. While Ambient DJ is already using some of these techniques, I realized from Steve's presentation that we could be doing them better, or on a larger scale.

6) NJDJN Presents Peter Merry. California-based wedding DJ specialist Peter Merry presented an awesome seminar about how to improve the quality of our wedding shows using the play on words "Make it FUN." F- Fast-paced, U- Unexpected, and N- Notable. Peter has implemented these principles and transformed himself into an industry icon, with commensurate fees. Peter will be marketing his updated book "The Best Wedding Reception Ever" this Fall, and is angling to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show. Shout-out to our friend Anthony Ferretti of GSL Entertainment who won a case (16) of Merry's new book. I was proud to see so many of my fellow NJDJN colleagues making presentations at this year's Expo and asserting their leadership.

7) Success With Other People's Money by DJ Mark Brenneisen from Total Entertainment of New York. Brenneisen's presentation was thought-provoking, as he presented a business model with the potential to introduce new and substantial income streams to a mobile system operator, but without a huge investment of time or money. The big question is if this model can be adapted from the relatively insulated Adirondack market to the suburban sprawl of New Jersey and its overlapping geographic markets.

8) Keynote Speech by DJ Jazzy Jeff. While his former partner Will Smith has become a Hollywood star, quite frankly, I'd rather be DJ Jazzy Jeff, touring the world and rocking parties. Jazzy Jeff told stories of the West Philly block party scene. Back in the day, he needed a day job to be able to purchase the equipment and vinyl in order to play parties for FREE! Now that's passion that we can all be inspired by! Iron Mike and I listened to Jazzy Jeff's summer mix CD on the car ride home, and it was soulful, funky and fun!

Evening Parties - Fortunately, the DJ Expo isn't some bland convention where you sit in your hotel room in the evening staring at the walls. In fact, you can literally enjoy live music performances and party until the wee hours of the morning! (just ask Captain Jonathan! ). On Monday night, I attended the Expo's kick-off party held at the Casbah and hosted by Mike Walter. Highlights included Steve Moody's "Mr. Potato Head Game" (I played on a team and it was great fun!), Bobby Morganstein's "Strip Tease" mitzvah game, a live performance by the EDM diva Jes, and Roonie G's high-octane video disc jockey performance shown on the Casbah's twelve or so big-screen televisions.

On Tuesday night, we attended the highly-anticipated Pioneer/Promo Only party at the House of Blues (aka, The House of Booze!). Hosted by Joey Fatone and Lillian Garcia, the night's top performances included The Jumpsmokers, Shaggy, Travie McCoy and my personal favorite - Salt n' Pepa! We ran into several performers in the hallway and got some great celebrity photos, some of which are posted at the bottom of this blog entry.

On Wednesday night, I attended a party at the Ego Lounge at the Taj. 2009 DMC Champion DJ Shiftee (who has a most irreverent sense of humor) started his set with some moderate tempo dubstep, before layering that with R&B by the likes of R. Kelly. From there, he took the BPM's up into brisk dance music, wowing the audience with his very dexterous scratching. DJ Skribble took the stage around midnight, and rocked the crowd hard for a good three hours. Skribble's set was a DJ master class with chapters in stage presence, technical ability, song selection, creativity and outright party rocking! I was so impressed, that I voted Skribble as America's Best DJ for 2010 (

Networking - Originally in order to encourage industry networking, I had designed a competition where collecting business cards generated specific point values. The winner would take home an LED lighting fixture. For example, an exhibit hall vendor was worth 1 point; DJ colleague - 2 points; industry VIP such as Ray-Mar worth 3 points, and Donald Trump -10 points. However, we were all too busy, so we opted to meet people more casually and enjoyed some great conversations at the breakfast tables and hallways of the Taj Mahal.

Exhibits Hall - The massive Exhibits Hall could best be described as heaven for DJs. The room was pulsating with energy - lights, sounds and party-rocking DJs around every corner. The Pioneer and Numark booths were outstanding. IDJNOW brought out an amazing assortment of lights and deals as usual. In terms of "Wow Factor," I was truly impressed by the laser light offerings of Maryland-based company "X-Laser." Its multi-colored laser lighting fixtures can project customized images. Ambient DJ would love to acquire some of these units in the near future! New on the Expo floor was Men's Wearhouse, with a large selection of new and gently used formalwear.

Grand Prize Giveaway - At 2:45 PM on Thursday, the remaining Expo attendees gathered around to learn the winner of the $16,000 Ultimate Prize Giveaway. The crown jewels of this package were Pioneer components (mixer, and multi-media CD players). The first selected card was a bust (winner was not present to win). Our hopes soared, only to be crushed when learning that a south Jersey karaoke DJ named Peter Crook was the winner!

As a consolation prize, DJ Iron Mike took home a pair of Pioneer HDJ-2000 headphones. Earlier, he and I had fought hard for prize cards dropped from an erratic-flying Pioneer Prize blimp. During the week, I won a few free CDs and a fashionable black Pioneer Pro DJ tee-shirt.

Conclusion -

My primary conclusions after this four-day intensive experience:

1) the DJ industry is alive and thriving, despite the economy!;

2) there are so many talented and hardworking people in our industry, and this can only be good in elevating the status of the professional DJ;

3) the knowledge and relationships that we gain from the Expo will serve us well against service providers who opt not to partake of the DJ Expo;

4) There are many different ways to be successful in the DJ business. There is no right or wrong way. It is truly hard to be everything to everybody. The key is to find an entertainment style that works for the DJ and where there is customer demand for that style. Ambient DJ Service will continue to focus on its niche, while selectively expanding its service offerings where that gels with our core competencies;

5) It is a blessing to be paid good money to do what we do!

6) We can't wait until the 2011 DJ Times Expo! Thank you DJ Times for producing such a terrific show in 2010!

(L to R) DJ Spinz, DJ Greg Nice, Peter Merry, DJ Iron Mike

DJ Skribble rips it sick at the Ego Lounge!

"Salt n' Pepa Here!"

Photo Opp with the Jump Smoker dancers!

Mike Wieder and Shani Barnett's Mitzvah Masterclass!

DJ Jesse grabs photo opp with Lillian Garcia!

IDJNOW booth and the American DJ Nuclei Lighting Effect

DJ Shiftee live at the Ego Lounge, dropping dubstep and razor-sharp scratches!

Ambient DJ staff poses with the Cold Crush crew in the Taj parking garage

DJ Greg Nice performs Jedi Mind tricks on Iron Mike!

DJ Spinz demos the Numark V7!

Greg Nice scopes out the IDJNOW lights, before dashing off to the Denon booth!

DJ Skribble, "America's Hardest Working DJ"!

DJ Jagged Lounge Appearance with DJ Emm Bangkok - NYC

On Friday night, August 20, 2010, I co-DJ'd a party with DJ Emm Bangkok at the Alpha II Restaurant and Lounge in New York City. This was our second appearance at Alpha II, and we made some adjustments that enhanced the show. The biggest adjustment was bringing out our own sound system - which had a much fuller sound than the house sound system.

What I love about DJing in bars and lounges is that I have more freedom to build my sets and take the guests on a "journey." Mobile DJ parties tend to be more programmed with an expectation to hit the guests hard with the big hits. For our set in NYC, we started the party at 11 PM with down tempo dub and deep house, before moving on to R&B and getting dancers locked into a groove. Later on, we hit them hard with the funk and hip hop, before upping the beats per minute and unfurling an extended Latin dance set. It was a cool New York crowd that danced often and well. Koto, the Japanese bartender, kept the drinks flowing.

Key tracks - You're Making Me High (Toni Braxton), One for the Money (Horace Brown), Return of the Mack (Mark Morrison), Too Close (Next), Heartless (Kanye West), Atomic Dog (George Clinton), Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (James Brown), Fantasy (Earth, Wind & Fire), You Rock My World (Michael Jackson), Freedom 90 (George Michael), When Doves Cry (Prince), Alejandro (Lady Gaga), XXXO (M.I.A.), Shutterbug (Big Boi), DJ's Got Us Falling in Love (Usher, Serafin RMX), Ghosts n' Stuff versus Wicked Game (Mashup).

Despite some ugly events behind the scenes, Bangkok and I were immensely satisfied with the vibe of the party and guest feedback. Whether at Alpha II or elsewhere, we intend to continue throwing these parties for our fellow FunkBrothers and SoulSisters! Stay tuned.

To book DJ Jagged, Emm Bangkok and Latin percussionist Tommydrums for your next party, contact

Wedding Gig Log - Patrice & Andrew, with Additional Music by Chelsea and Ronnie

On August 21, 2010, I had the pleasure of providing DJ services to Patrice and Andrew. The ceremony, cocktail hour and reception party were held at the Breton Woods facility in Brick, with beautiful water views. The weather was comfortable and breezy in the afternoon, perfect for a wedding ceremony.

This was a second marriage for both the bride and groom. Their vision was for an intimate, romantic, and casual gathering among family and close friends. There were approximately 75 guests in attendance who enjoyed cocktails and cigars on the balcony, before later settling inside to dine on a delicious spread that included enormous lobsters. In lieu of giveaways, the couple opted to make a donation to, an organization dedicated to animal welfare and pet adoption. Guests were provided magnets and additional literature.

After dinner, Ronnie Grieco (saxophonist) and Chelsea Palermo (vocalist) performed outdoors. Ronnie is a seasoned musician, formerly with Joey Dee and the Starliters. Chelsea ( is a talented and upcoming jazz singer. The duo's past performances include the Trump Taj Mahal, Mohegan Sun and Madison Square Garden. Chelsea and Ronnie put on a thoroughly enjoyable performance for about 45 minutes, playing songs specifically requested by Patrice and Andrew. Among my favorites were "Peel Me a Grape" and "Just the Two of Us." I would highly recommend Ronnie and Chelsea to wedding couples seeking a unique and memorable cocktail hour. In addition to being great musicians, Ronnie and Chelsea are great people.

After the band, I began my DJ set, starting with a disco groove, before moving on to some mainstream dance music being requested by the younger guests. After building up the dancefloor into a frenzy, I slowed things down with Michael Buble's "Just Haven't Met You Yet" for all of the unmarried females. Instead of tossing her bouquet, Pat danced with each bachelorette and then gave them a flower - very unique! For cakecutting, Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy" was used at the request of the groom.

The wind dissipated in the later hours, and the humidity factor increased. The music mix featured a combination of classic wedding ballads and upbeat dance music. The second to last song of the evening was "My One and Only Love" sung by Frank Sinatra, a favorite of the Pat and Andrew's. The closing song was Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song."

Overall, this was a highly memorable event - great people, delicious food, good music and some unique touches. Congratulation to the new Mr. and Mrs. Murray!

Key tracks: That's Amore (Dean Martin), More Today Than Yesterday (Spiral Starecase), Everything (Michael Buble), My One and Only Love (Frank Sinatra), Hips Don't Lie (DJ Niso International RMX), I Put a Spell on You (Queen Latifah).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Be Excited About the 2010 International DJ Expo

On August 16th-19th, Ambient DJ Service will attend its third consecutive DJ Times International DJ Expo at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, NJ. This annual event is billed as the world's largest gathering of disc jockeys, with typical attendance at 4,000+. The Expo features a compelling schedule of daytime seminars, a massive exhibits hall with the latest gear and a star-studded party program for the evenings. Attending this year's Expo from Ambient DJ Service will be owner Gregg Hollmann, as well as DJ Spinz, DJ Iron Mike and DJ Jesse Lambros.

Here is the top ten reasons that we are excited for the 2010 Expo:

10) To see mind-bending performances by Video Disc Jockeys (VJs) such as Rooney G., DVDJ Unique and Kris P.

9) To attend informative seminars, many by New Jersey Disc Jockey Network colleagues such as Mike Wieder and Jake Jacobsen.

8) To attend this year's keynote speech by DJ Jazzy Jeff.

7) To continue our winning streak of free prizes - in the past two years, DJ Iron Mike has won high ticket-priced items from Pioneer. To win the grand prize giveaway on Thursday would be the ultimate dream come true!

6) To opportunistically meet celebrity DJs. Past encounters have included Afrika Bambataa, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Skribble!

5) Monday's "All-Star Wedding Emcee Secrets Revealed," hosted by Steve Moody, and featuring content by performers including Mike Walter, Liz Daley, Big Daddy, Jason Jani and Adam Weitz. This seminar will be heavy on specifics and light on fluff!

4) Tuesday night's Pioneer/Promo Only Party is always amazing - 2008 (Lady Gaga, Cyndi Lauper), 2009 (Pitbull, Naughty by Nature), 2010 (Salt-n-Pepa, Shaggy). Pioneer/Promo Only is known for sneaking incredible surprise performers into the lineup, so let's see what tricks they have up their sleeve this year!

3) To see live product demonstrations on the floor of Exhibit Hall, so as to make more informed purchasing decisions.

2) The chance to be inspired, and to refresh our drive and passion for what we do!

1) To spend time and socialize with Ambient's talented team of music mixologists, as well as catch up with industry friends.

Monday, August 9, 2010

More Summer 2010 Photos

Beach-themed corporate event - surf videos running on 90 inch screen

Wedding at the Twin Maples Estate - Summit, NJ.. DJ Gregg and amped-up guest

Providing music for cocktail hour at the Twin Maples Estate - can you see the Bose system stick?

Happy bride checks in with DJ Jesse Lambros!

In character as Don Johnson, VJing a local 80s Night

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Summer 2010 Photos

Sweet 16 - Congratulations Courtney!

Uplighting at the Tides Estate - Congratulations David and Mary-Kate!

The Maid of Honor gets her Groove Thang on at Pheasants Landing!

Fist-pumping to some electro beats!

Fiesta time

Ambient uplighting by Ambient DJ Service

Uplighting at Sweet 16, Maggiano's Little Italy, Bridgewater

Ambient DJs' newest staff member, DJ Nadine, rocking out at the all-night American Cancer Society Relay for Life held in Woodbridge, NJ

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Martin Lighting Roadshow Hosted by Dynamite FX

On July 20th I had the pleasure of attending the Martin Lighting roadshow hosted by Dynamite FX (DFX, in West Berlin, NJ. DFX was originally a mobile DJ company, and later expanded into audio and lighting installation. DFX understands the needs of the working mobile DJ. The staff from DFX was very gracious, and gave me a tour of their expansive warehouse, which featured a well-organized inventory of sound equipment, lighting, video components and screens, trussing, and wiring. The rental prices are very reasonable, and DFX generally gives the renter about a week to return the item. One of the most impressive rental items was a wireless uplighting system with a controller. DFX can also provide turnkey intelligent lighting shows.

As pictured above, Martin's showroom was found inside a large trailer. The showroom was tricked out with the company's latest products, and numerous demonstrations were conducted. Martin's products include a highly impressive line of moving heads and color washes. Their gear is extremely well-engineered and produces dazzling light shows. Martin's products are often found in concert halls and high-end clubs. I have also seen Martin fixtures in the mobile DJ world, although less frequently.

As a mobile DJ owner, tricky questions to answer about intelligent lighting include:

1) should I offer an intelligent lighting show?
2) If so, what effects and lighting brands should be in the show, and what grade of truss will be required?
3) To what extent do our clients (such as brides or corporations) appreciate the difference in a Martin fixture versus a mass market fixture?
4) Does the lighting show truly pack a "WOW Factor" wallop, or is it just pumping out a bunch of light beams?
5) Will a large vehicle be required to carry the lighting gear and truss? Will additional staff members be required? Are there additional insurance requirements?
6) Based on the above purchasing and staffing decisions, what do I need to charge in order to earn a profit based on an assumed number of intelligent lighting shows per year?
7) How do I effectively market lighting versus music/entertainment services?
8) Would it be better off to outsource intelligent lighting to a third party specialist firm, foregoing both the capital expense and potential profits? In this scenario, the DJ could continue to focus on his core competencies of music and entertainment.

It should come as no surprise that mobile DJ companies offering high-end lighting will charge $500 to $2,000 and up to bring out intelligent lighting shows and plasma televisions. A significant upcharge is definitely warranted. I have attended weddings with intelligent lighting shows featuring Martin scanners, and been blown away by the quality of the effects that look particularly awesome in large, majestic ballrooms. My favorite effect was a pink and yellow, swirled, rotating "lollipop" that was brightly lit onto a dark marble dancefloor.

One image that remains seared into my memory about the potential negative nature of intelligent lighting stems from a performance several years ago at the Martinsville Inn. I DJ'd in the smaller ballroom, while another DJ company worked a retirement company in the large ballroom, and had three plasmas on a big truss. While I was loading out and getting ready to leave, I observed the other DJ and his assistant loading big road cases into a box truck - they were stripped down to their tee-shirts and sweating profusely. They exhibited surly facial expressions.

On August 16-19th, Ambient DJ will attend the International DJ Expo at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. I am particularly interested in checking out the latest lighting gear in the massive exhibits hall, and also attending seminars about lighting presented by some of the industry's best!


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ambient DJ - Manhattan Lounge Appearance

On Friday night, July 30th, Ambient DJ mixologist Gregg Hollmann (aka DJ Jagged) performed at the Alpha 2 Lounge in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. Sharing the card was the hard-driving DJ Bangkok (aka DJ Emm Bangkok) and Latin percussionist Tom Costagliola (aka Tommydrums). The action started at 11 PM, and we played until 3 AM.

Alpha 2 is a swanky sushi restaurant and bar/lounge located on 8th Avenue between 18th and 19th Streets. There is a cozy room in the back where we set up our DJ booth, and also had our own bar, tended by the lovely Tanya. Plugging in to the house sound system, our set was also heard on the sound system in the packed front bar/restaurant area.

For the first hour, we kept things chill and loungey. The dancefloor kicked in hard when Bangkok dropped Wham's "Everything She Wants." The music mix was wide and eclectic, including everything from salsa, merengue, Brazilian, electronica, 80s, disco and funk - with a smattering of pop, hip hop and mash-ups.

Stay tuned for future performances, as this spot could evolve into a monthly event. For a fresh and contemporary look to your wedding reception, Latin percussionist Tommy Drums can join the stage with a DJ and take your party to the next level! To book DJ Jagged or DJ Bangkok for your trendy underground house party or formal event, contact