DJs are the new rock stars of modern nightclubs. The DJ is the main entertainer of the party. He is one of the most crucial members of your team; he also plays a crucial role in your marketing efforts. A professional DJ does more than play music; he sets the tone for the party. The dance floor will become the focal point once prime party time commences, making your DJ the center of attention. As a nightclub operator, you need a good DJ who will help bring people to your venue and consistently put on entertaining shows.
Every now and then, I’ll come across a DJ who says something like, “Just fill the room, and I’ll play music,” as if he thinks it’s everyone else’s job to do all of the marketing. For some reason, the DJ who says things like this also talks of his technical skill behind the decks, focusing solely on scratching and mixing rather than promoting. A real DJ knows that the nightlife business is about making money and ultimately understands the promotional and marketing aspects of the industry. A good DJ should have a positive attitude toward promotions. If all he talks about is playing music, he’s not your guy. What you are looking for is a DJ who can bring people to your venue to spend money.
A good DJ does a great deal of networking on his own accord in addition to making connections at whatever club he happens to be spinning at. One of the keys to identifying a good DJ is to see how much effort he puts into his own promotions. Ask the following questions:
• Does he have a press kit?
• Does he have a mix tape ready, or is he unprepared?
• Has he ever been on TV or radio?
• What promotional groups has he worked with in the past?
• Does he already have a customer list?
• What other night clubs has he worked for?
• When is he planning on releasing his next CD?
• What other projects does he have within the industry? Is he producing music?
Different DJs will, of course, be at different points on the spectrum, and as you ask these questions of more and more DJs, you will find that there are varying levels of seriousness among those who call themselves DJs. Do your best to filter out those who are just playing around with DJ-ing and focus on the professionals.
I recently met with a friend who is a very successful DJ. He brings a tremendous amount of value to the clubs he plays. A real professional, he maintains an internal list of customers and creates a large amount of marketing for his parties. His has had gigs with big-name performers, which are clearly mentioned on his website and promotional materials. He also has a weekly prime-time slot on a popular radio station, during which he promotes upcoming parties to thousands of listeners. When I last spoke with him, he indicated that since the radio show, his exposure has gotten larger and venues now are lining up to bring him in for events. Although he is a great DJ who puts on amazing shows wherever he works, his prime value to nightclubs is his ability to draw a crowd.
I have met many struggling DJs who do not understand the marketing aspects of the business and, as a result, do not provide enough value. Anybody can sit around and play music. What a club needs is a DJ who can bring a solid crowd to the party and put on a show. When you find a winner, he can become a key selling point for your venue for months, sometimes even years, without going stale.
Great DJs Need Good Booths
A good DJ booth should have a central elevated placement in the venue with high visibility over the dance floor. I am continually shocked at the number of clubs that tuck away a small booth in the corner, with only enough room for the DJ and his equipment. One venue I visited recently spent millions making the bar a Vegas-style project, with nice tile flooring, granite countertops and an aesthetically pleasing structure — and yet the DJ booth was placed exactly as I previously described: a little cubbyhole that only fits a DJ and turntables. With this setup, the club struck out in three ways:
• Club management effectively ruined their ability to bring in a big-name DJ (if the patrons can’t see the DJ, he won’t be putting on much of a show).
• By not being able to sell proximity to the DJ during big events, bottle-service tables cannot command maximum booking fees.
• The club also has lost the ability to allow VIPs into the DJ booth/stage area, which is one of the “rock star” experiences that can be a big selling feature for a club.
Stage presence is a huge show feature — one that will never lose its appeal. A DJ booth should encourage stage showmanship just as much as music selection. Although this type of construction may cost more, the rewards are worth the investment.