About 15 years ago, I was like most DJs in my market. I only charged around $500 for an event and other than finding out the most basic details, such as the venue and start/finish times, I really did no show preparation at all. For weddings, I’d know the couple’s first names and the song that they wanted for their first dance, but that’s all.
I also carried no backup equipment. I couldn’t afford it because I wasn’t charging a professional fee and the equipment I did have was dated. My gear was always clean and presentable, but it was dated. I couldn’t afford to have spare components and I couldn’t afford to update things to keep pace with technology. It’s a common problem for DJs who charge at the bottom end of the range.
The downside of this frugal approach raised its ugly head one evening. I’d been booked for a school dance at a local college. Half an hour before I started, I set up my amp, speakers, lights, CDs and console. I plugged it all in, sound checked it and started getting the first few CDs ready. Teenage party goers filled the hall and I kicked into it.
The party was well underway when one channel on my heavy-duty Crown CSL1400 amp dropped to about 10%, dropping the volume by half. Then the other channel did the same a couple of songs later. Then it shut down completely. As silence filled the hall I realised how serious the problem was.
It turned out that the internal cooling fan had dropped off its shaft, causing the amp to overheat and go into protection mode. Had I known this I could have fixed it with only a screwdriver. I didn’t know this at the time, so I quickly hunted out another solution.
Luckily the school had an amp rack (incredibly fortuitous!), so I patched into it and within 10 minutes had the hall rocking again and the students had a fantastic night. This incident gave me a proper shake-up and forced me to look hard at all of the weak links in my chain of equipment.
It also made me think about where I’d set my fees. Two things I’d failed to factor into my fee structure were equipment upgrade and purchase/maintenance of backup gear. I’d also failed to account for proper show prep, business expenses, vehicle running costs, retirement, or anything related to running a business professionally and legally, but that’s a subject for an entirely separate blog post.
These days I carry backup gear for every possible contingency, in fact almost to a fault. I have backups for my backups in some cases. I even bring spare electricity in the form of a generator, just in case. I’m a lot more relaxed at my events now.
Ask your entertainer- where are the weak links in your set up? What backup will you have on site in case the extremely unlikely occurs? How would you cope if a microphone, amp, CD player, mixer, speaker, cable or computer failed on the night? How quickly could you be back up and running?