Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 DJ Expo Highlights

With great anticipation, Ambient DJ Service returned to its fourth consecutive DJ Times International DJ Expo.  The Expo was held August 8th - 11th at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.  For those unfamiliar with the DJ Expo, it is a gathering of thousands of disc jockeys from across the country (and world) comprised of mobile DJs, club DJs, bedroom DJs, producers and industry vendors.  Attendees flock to Atlantic City to participate in business/performance seminars, check out cutting-edge gear in a massive exhibits hall, attend evening parties with celebrity DJs; and importantly, to network.  Regarding the networking angle, this year I made it a point to chat with disc jockey entertainers from outside of our home base of New Jersey.

L to R, DJ Iron Mike, DJ Jagged, DJ Greg Nice

DJ Times did an excellent job of offering high quality, relevant content, combining popular presenters such as Mike Walter, along with upcoming talent such as Vinnie and Strato from Hurricane Productions.  I attended nine seminars in all over three days.  Here are the highlights:

Steve Moody's All-Star MCs' Secrets Revealed - 2009 "DJ of the Year" Steve Moody hosted a panel of all-star Emcees that included Mike Wieder, John Rozz, Jay Thomson, Shani Barnett and Marz Lawhorn.   Marz recommended DJs to adopt a human approach to selling, to "step outside yourself, be more your self, and sell more." This personal touch has served Marz well - with the birth of his twin daughters, he received 75 gifts from clients.  Steve Moody, Mike Wieder and John Rozz spoke about the importance of laying the groundwork for a successful party by getting to know your clients and guests in advance.  While I have traditionally preferred to pack dance floors organically, several of the panelists advised staging a packed dance floor - for example, use an opening routine to get all guests on the dance floor; then riding the momentum of this opening routine for the rest of the evening.  Jay Thomson from Elite Entertainment presented a cool sample routine that helps to "show an Emcee's personality" parlaying a centerpiece giveaway into a packed dance floor.  Thomson also advised that "personality is the key to your success."

Jerry Bazata's Business in a Down Economy -  Maine-based finance guru and mobile DJ business owner Jerry Bazata provided a powerful blend of big picture economic insight and specific sales/marketing strategies.  On the big picture side, Bazata explained how the Section 179 deduction is set to expire at the end of 2011 and business owners would be wise to accelerate their equipment purchases to guarantee a tax deduction (the Section 179 deduction allows business owners to expense rather than depreciate equipment purchases up to $500,000).  Jerry also advised attendees not to be afraid of applying for an SBA loan, and said that local community banks might provide a better chance for loan approval.  Importantly, Bazata also cautioned that business owners should fully report their income - non-compliant small business owners have been negatively surprised by the wrath of the IRS that in some cases has included jail time.  On specific sales/marketing strategies, Bazata is fond of email marketing.  Not relying on canned responses, Bazata personalizes his emails and runs multi-touch campaigns.  For email subject lines, he recommended avoiding "salesy" overtures, and instead offered subject lines such as "Establishing a Budget for Your Wedding," "Music Selection for Your Event," "Avoid Embarrassing Songs at Your Event," and "Is Your Do Not Playlist Really a Do Not Playlist?"  Finally, Bazata said that social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogging) is a supplement to a corporate website, but never a replacement.

Simple Solutions of Being Different, The Power of the Upgrade - PA-based mobile DJ Michael Kindlick from Jam on Sound Productions gave an excellent seminar about the art of the upgrade.  After being introduced to Beyonce's "Let Me Upgrade You," Kindlick expanded on the principles of successful upselling.  Specific tips included 1) make the client want the upgrade and sell themselves, 2) don't copy upgrades, create them.... (or at least adapt them to "make them your own"), and 3) Use the K.I.S.S. Rule (Keep it Simple and Stupid)... upgrades should be easily understood by your clients.  In developing potential upgrade services, Mike recommended that DJs survey past clients to see what might have been missing from their event, and then to fill that void. Some specific upgrades that Kindlick is finding success with in his local market include a concierge service (i.e., an assistant to the bride and groom at their wedding reception), casino nights and trivia.

Kindlick also advised to identify and court your market's best event planner.  If successful in gaining their confidence, then your DJ company will benefit from an amazing deal flow that will fill your calendar!

Keynote Speech and Q&A - DJ Skribble.  Skribble, "America's Hardest Working DJ" discussed his road to success from his humble beginnings in Queens, to playing in the Young Black Teenagers, to reaching middle America during his MTV years.  Some things that I did not know about Skribble - 1) "Skribble" is a reference to his former activities as a graffiti artist, 2) he initially hated electronic dance music and was reluctantly torn from hip hop; now he loves them both, and 3) Skribble has dealt with a large amount of rejection and disappointment, particularly early in his career.   He advised upcoming DJs to rely on fire and passion to drive their career; that building and maintaining relationships is critical in the music business; and that producing tracks can  be helpful in fast-tracking your career.  Three DJs who currently impress Skribble are Skrillex, Erick Morillo and Tiesto.  Skribble also gave a dazzling, high-energy performance at the Wednesday night Pioneer party, performing on pimped out, New York Yankees turntables (Technics 1200s of course!).

Mike Walter's Maximizing Employee Training - Mike Walter, the head honcho at multi-operator Elite Entertainment, provided a fast-paced, multimedia seminar about finding and training DJ talent.  This material was primarily from his 2011 book/audiobook "Running Your Multi-Op." It seems obvious, but Mike is correct in saying that the success of a DJ entertainment company hinges on the quality of its talent!  Mike recommended keeping a list of qualities sought in a new recruit, so that you'll recognize this person when you cross paths with them - quite possibly in the course of your daily life.  

On the performance side, Mike advised that an Emcee use prompts (e.g., "Clap Your Hands," "Raise the Roof") to maximize your dancers' potential, and that a DJ should not be afraid to shine saying that a DJ will never steal the spotlight from the bride and groom. On the business side, Mike advised to "get over yourself," to "delegate or suffocate," and to "ABC - Always Be Closing."

Walter's seminar was a mere executive summary of his new book, and for about $25, I would strongly recommend that DJ company managers and business owners purchase "Running Your Multi-Op" at  

New Media Marketing:  Control Your Media Message.   Vincent Velasquez and Strato Doumanis from Hurricane Productions are social media pioneers in the mobile DJ industry and shared specific tips and strategies for Facebook, Twitter and blogging.  Impressively, Hurricane Productions does not spend any money on advertising and relies solely on its social media platforms to promote its business.  Based on my read of the room, while most DJs have a basic social media presence, few are practicing it at an advanced level.  This could represent a huge opportunity for those DJ companies who grab the bull by the horns.

Did you know that on your business' Facebook Fan Page, there is a tab for administrators called "View Insights" that will show a demographic profile of your Facebook fans by age and geography?  This tab also spits out other graphs and statistics that show how frequently your Fans interact with you. According to Hurricane, having a large number of Facebook fans is not impressive in and of itself.  Rather, it's about engaging your fans and having them interact with your company and sharing content.

Hurricane advises creating high quality content for distribution over social media.  For example, it shoots video in HD and its photos using an SLR camera.  To protect its images and promote its brand, Hurricane watermarks all of its photos.  For its videos, Hurricane uses a "logo sting" (a professional opening scene that promotes branding).  For about $200 per year, Hurricane uses Vimeo Pro to host its videos (importantly, this service allows Hurricane to watermark its videos with the Hurricane logo).

Three specific tips for maximizing the ranking of your content in search engines: 1) create a name for your photo file that is relevant to the subject of the photo.  For example, "Sweet 16 Grand Entrance.jpg" would be better than "IMG0012.jpg," 2) when creating tags for blog entries, use hyphens between words, not spaces.  For example, "NJ-DJ" could rank better than "NJ DJ," and 3) in titling a blog entry, keep it simple and representative of the subject matter.  For example, "Ambient DJ Sweet 16 at Nassau Inn" would be better than "Ambient DJ Raises the Roof at Ashley's Sweet 16 at the Nassau Inn."

Their Perception is Your Reality.  Mike Wieder from Ultimate Sounds DJs based out of my home town of East Windsor, NJ explored how as DJ entertainers we view ourselves, how clients view us, and the relationship between the two.  Mike started with a powerful story of how a prospective client, probably due to his burly weight, asked a question about what happens if Mike kicks the bucket prior to the mitzvah that they were considering him for? Wieder won this job, but the incident was one of the catalysts that motivated him to shed 70 pounds.  Mike correctly stated that "you never get a second chance to make a first impression."  Appearance, demeanor, personality and attitude all play an important part in creating this important first impression.

At a party, a great DJ can be the difference maker by motivating guests who might or might not dance into action.  A lesser DJ would simply blame the crowd for a dance floor that never reached its potential, using an excuse such as 'it was a bad crowd.'  

Wieder advised DJ entertainers to work hard at what we do well, but to work even harder at things that we don't do so well.

Randy Bartlett, the 1% Solution.  Presented by the NJDJN, Randy Bartlett gave two seminars on Wednesday, exploring in detail specific techniques that help to stack the deck towards a successful wedding event.  The idea of the 1% solution is that small measures of improvement in a wedding DJs' preparation and performance can be amplified into highly successful events that result in robust referral streams.  

Bartlett asserts that transitions are critical to the success of the event.  For example, cocktail hour is a transition point from the serious ceremony to the reception party.  The cocktail hour creates expectations, so Bartlett recommends that DJs make it count by programming fun, exciting, upbeat numbers rather than a stale, elevator-music soundtrack.  

At the reception, Bartlett provides coaching and guidance for those delivering toasts, with the end-goal of a natural, heartfelt toast that creates a special moment.  He also cautions that DJs need not tell guests at every step of the way to applaud.  It is actually better for these moments to occur naturally and organically.  

The end result of smooth transitions and heartfelt moments is a crowd that wants to stay and dance.  The final hour of the reception, when the dance floor is either packed or not, is often the culmination of everything that has occurred earlier in the day.  

Exhibits Hall

Admittedly, I spent more time partaking of seminars than in the exhibits hall.  This year's exhibits hall seemed somewhat larger than last year's in terms of the number of exhibitors.  Regarding trends, there was definitely an increase in the number of photo booth providers and in new age DJ frontboards/facades.  The Pioneer Prize Blimp (one of our favorite parts of the Expo!) was grounded this year, but with Pioneer passing out its swag at the Wednesday night party, which included throwing high-end components into the crowd!

I participated in several speaker demos, and was particularly impressed by the Yamaha DSR series.  These speakers provide a warm, high-definition sound that would be perfect for the wedding events that our company specializes in.

On Thursday, Gemini had an exciting round of giveaways, and I was the lucky winner of a pair of Cortex headphones!  Ambient DJs' music mixologists did some shopping, with DJ Spinz acquiring a new E-V powered subwoofer, and myself purchasing an E-V R-300 wireless microphone at a steal!

DJ Spinz (L), DJ Blackjack (R)

The Expo's nightlife activities were enticing as usual.   The highlight of Monday night's Kickoff Party at the Casbah was an opening performance by John Donovan, Party Percussionist.  John has actively networked with the DJ community and was offered this opportunity to showcase his substantial abilities.  

Tuesday night's highly-anticipated Promo Only Party at the House of Blues was a tale of two cities.  The early part of the program was relatively weak with newer artists, many of who missed the mark.  Perhaps we have been spoiled by prior year Promo Only parties who broke new artists like Iyaz and Lady Gaga. Fortunately, the party picked up after midnight when Crystal Waters hit the stage to the upbeat "Party in the Ghetto."  Subsequent performances by Iyaz, Jason Derulo and Jeremih were all outstanding.  Jason Derulo danced his heart out to his new hit "Don't Wanna Go Home."  Not surprisingly, the segue from Jeremih to headliner 50 Cent was their smash hit collaboration "Down On Me."  50 Cent, assisted by Lloyd Banks, closed down the show with his hundred million dollar smile, oozing charisma and stage presence.  To my delight, 50 Cent did not pander to old pop hits such as "In Da Club," but played some of his newer and harder material.

Wednesday night's closing party sponsored by Pioneer was held at the Casbah following the crowning of the 2011 DJ of the Year, Jack Bermeo from LJ Productions of Belleville, NJ.  The entertainment card was the equivalent of having Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Chopin on the same stage - only, it was DJ Skribble, DJ Shiftee, Qbert, BT, DVDJ Unique and DJ 2nd Nature. 


This year, four of Ambient DJs' music mixologists participated in the DJ Expo, and I was pleasantly surprised to see an increased interest in attending the seminars.  We enjoyed some great meals and conversations along the way.  On Monday night, I also dined with an awesome group of DJs in an event organized by Hank Degenering, meeting up with colleagues from across the country such as Alan Dodson,  Mike Fernino and Joe and Heather Staniszewski.  On my final night in A.C., with low expectations, I began gambling, and quickly turned $20 into $300.

Thank you DJ Times for a well-organized, informative and inspirational Expo!  This event will be continue to be a cornerstone of our company's continuing education program.  For those who have yet to attend a DJ Expo, we strongly recommend you to join us in 2012!

DJ Jagged wins new pair of headphones at Gemini Booth

About Ambient DJ

Ambient DJ Service an award-winning mobile DJ company based in Central New Jersey.  Connect with us online at , on Twitter at and on WeddingWire at

DJs that Play Together Stay Together


  1. Great write-up! I love my experiences and the new things I learn at the Expo (my second), but missed a few of the seminars this year. Thanks for the blips!! Next year, definitely check out the Games seminar...they are always a blast!
    Becca Barringer
    Steve Moody's Entertainment Connection

  2. Thanks for the comment Becca - I actually did check out the games seminar this year - but writing about what I saw and observed - was difficult!

  3. Haha! I can amen that! Especially Adam's scavenger-hunt game! :P

  4. great article. i am gonna post it on my Facebook wall.
    Good Luck
    360 feedback