25) Take Requests, But Know When To Say NO!

In Uncategorizedby djscottshirley

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 25

People ask if I take requests, and of course the answer is YES.

Requests are part of the fun of having a DJ entertain! Unlike most bands, who tend to focus on a single genre of music, PM DJs have no limit to what we can play.

Other than, of course, the client’s wishes, and good taste. It is never appropriate to play music that offends people.

So we are able to promise our clients that we will not play songs with obscene or racist lyrics. There is no good reason to play such songs, and plenty of good reasons not to.

When we plan events with our clients, we make a list of “must-play” songs, and a list of “don’t play” songs. But we don’t make a playlist for the whole event, because that defeats the purpose of having an experienced DJ, who not only takes requests, but has the knowledge to know what to play when, to make the party flow.

A loud heavy metal song with screaming guitars is not right for an elegant cocktail hour at the beginning of a wedding reception…but might be perfect later when the dance floor is rocking. Timing is everything.

So sometimes the answer to a request is, “Yes, but later, when it fits in.”

Children don’t get this. Kids always ask for their song to be NEXT! And it doesn’t matter to them, that there are other people whose requests are ahead of theirs. And there is lots of gender bias among pre-teens: the boys typically hate the latest teen heartthrob, which of course is all the girls want to hear. It can be comical, but experienced DJs have plenty of tricks for dealing with selfish and demanding kids and their requests.

Here is how one Dutch DJ handles requests for a kid’s event:

Gotta Have Pirattitude!

In Pirate Holidayby djscottshirley

Never miss an opportunity to dress like a pirate!

That’s one of my prime beliefs. So when the Perfect Wedding Guide (PWG) sent invitations to their New Issue party, I was thrilled to learn we were supposed to dress with a P, W, or G.

Some wore pajamas, lots of pink and purple, but for me, it was an opportunity to break out the Pirattitude, with the added bonus of my lovely wife (MLW) dressed as a saucy Pirate Wench Girl (PWG).

Scott and Brenda celebrating with PWG. AAARRRR!

Karaoke and the Dumb Blonde

In DJ Stuff, Weird Things at Partiesby djscottshirley

I’m not one to cast aspersions on any group, nor to perpetuate any stereotypes.

But stereotypes generally arise based on some real-life experience, so with apologies to my blonde friends who are reasonably intelligent, I share this recent experience.

PM Celebrations was providing Karaoke entertainment for a High School dance troupe that was in town for a contest. This group had plenty of talent, and several had obvious choral and stage singing experience.

One girl sang a solo of a current hit song, and was midway through and doing quite well, when the song went into an instrumental break. The on-screen instruction stated “Instrumental,” and then changed to say, “Spoken word.”

The singer panicked, threw her arms up, and shouted “I don’t know the words!”

Imagine her surprise when the words she didn’t know, magically appeared on the screen in front of her!

Yes, she was blonde.

24) Every Genre Has Great Music

In 35 Things Learned in 35 Yearsby djscottshirley

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 24

Musical taste is a strange and wonderful thing. Everyone has songs they love – and songs they just can’t stand. Humor columnist Dave Barry received more reader mail after a column on bad songs than he got for anything he ever wrote! This prompted a book, that is one of the funniest things ever written:

Dave Barry hits the nail squarely on the head in this book. But he also strikes a nerve, by naming some of your favorite songs among his list of bad ones. It’s hard to read this book, without taking offense about one of your favorites being labeled “bad.”

So it seems musical taste is not so simple! One man’s bad song is someone else’s sentimental favorite.

For a DJ to be effective, it’s important to suppress any tendency to play his own favorite music, and instead to become a sort of “musical chameleon,” reflecting the varied and complex musical tastes of the unique individuals in the audience of the event.

Each person has their favorite songs, and preferences for certain genres of music and certain artists. And, many of them will have a particular musical genre or artist they really hate.

In a great scene from the 1980 comedy classic “The Blues Brothers,” they pretend to be the band hired to play at a rough honky-tonk bar. The manager informs them, “We like both kinds of music: Country, and Western!”

The resulting chaos is hilarious:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5N35kQAPv0]

Most people are not as polarized about their taste in music as those bar patrons. The majority of us are pretty tolerant, and will gladly suffer through a song we know somebody else likes – as long as we know we will get to hear what we like too.

It was early in my PM Celebrations career that I learned a simple fact: every genre and category of music has its great songs – and some real stinkers, too. With a diverse group of people, I can always keep them happy with an eclectic mix of different styles, by playing the truly good songs from every genre.

I always run out of time before I run out of good music.

Take a simple test: think of your least favorite kind of music. Maybe you don’t like rap music, or you just can’t stand country. Now, try to think of some song in that style that’s maybe not so bad. Now try harder. Listen to some songs in that genre. Open your mind, and get a friend who likes it to play some of his or her favorites.

It’s a fact: every genre has great music. At PM Celebrations, we understand this, and can and will play the best of all kinds of music.

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College Cake for Graduation

In College Traditions, Let them eat cake!by djscottshirley

We see a lot of college themed cakes at weddings for the groom’s cake. This SMU cake was made for Graduation Day, complete with a mortarboard:

Southern Methodist University is in Dallas, and their team is the Mustangs. The mascot, for sports trivia fans, is named “Peruna.”

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There’s a Cake App For That!

In Let them eat cake!by djscottshirley

The first time you see one, you think it’s unique.

Of course, we’re talking about the iPhone cake.

There’s an App for that!

Then you do a Google search, and find out that you might be in the minority, if you haven’t had an iPhone cake.

But if you still seek originality, you can always go with iCupcakes:

Cupcakes make changing Apps easy.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the bakery!

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How to Make The Longhorn Groom’s Cake

In College Traditions, Let them eat cake!, Weddings!by djscottshirley

There have been many kinds of groom’s cakes to honor the University of Texas, most of them simple flat cakes with a longhorn on them.

But the three-dimensional cake is pretty impressive!

You expect it to “Moo!”

I had seen several such cakes, and had been scratching my head wondering how they are made, and how much of the statuary is truly edible.

Let Them Eat Cake, Inc.” tells how this one was made on their blog. Enjoy!

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Another Aggie Fan’s Cake

In College Traditions, Let them eat cake!, Texas Aggie Weddings, Weddings!by djscottshirley

This one is not like the classic Aggie Bonfire cake, but it captures the sentiments that many Aggies have for The University of Texas, while at the same time dissing rival Texas Tech:

Bevo with sawn-off horns and a side of Red Raider.

This was the groom’s cake at Jay and Morgan Behrens’ wedding, where my friend Tommy Evans of Specialty Sound was the DJ and MC. Bevo is branded with Jay’s initials and wearing an Aggie banner. For those outside the loop of Texas sports traditions, “Bevo” is the nickname for the UT Longhorns’ mascot, an actual longhorn steer. Many Texas A & M fans have T-shirts and bumper stickers that threaten to “Saw ’em Off,” referring to Bevo’s horns.

In fact, the mascot’s name was born of this rivalry. Many years ago when the Aggies beat the Longhorns, a group of Aggies branded the UT mascot with the game’s humbling score: 13-0. When Longhorn fans discovered the offending brand, the poor bovine suffered another branding that changed the “13-0” lettering to read “BEVO.”

College mascots now have bodyguards to prevent such shenanigans, but they can’t do much about cake bakers.

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Amateur Wedding DJ Horror Stories

In Professionalismby djscottshirley

We hear them all the time. It’s usually a FOAF: “Friend Of A Friend.”

When I meet with brides, they often tell horror stories about a recent wedding they attended (often as a bridesmaid) that was ruined by a terrible DJ. They start our conversation by spelling out what they don’t want at their own celebration!

Sometimes brides don’t hire a professional, because they over-spent on other items (food, flowers, decorating) and don’t have enough left in the budget for a professional Master of Ceremonies. So they hire the low bidder, and live to regret it.

Here are some of their stories:

We should have hired the DJ my sister had:

“Oh my God !! Our DJ was the worst. He was a friend of my maid of honor. She said he was good so I hired him. Though the music was decent, everybody hated him. He was obnoxious and rude on the microphone. I guess he thought his jokes were funny, but this was my wedding! My husband asked him to stop talking. We should have hired the DJ my sister had at her wedding. He was very professional.”

LESSON LEARNED: A friend may mean well, but often will not treat their important role in your wedding as seriously as a professional. Avoid hiring the FOAF.

SECONDARY LESSON: It’s more than just music! Notice, she said the music was “decent,” but she hated the DJ anyway. You need someone with a gift for public speaking, who can manage the mood, the flow, and the energy of your event, not just play music.

Different DJ than who we were told we would have:

“The DJ we received from this company was a different DJ than who we were told we would have. We met with him 2 days before our wedding to go over everything and he seemed confident that we would do a good job. However, during our reception, he played the wrong wedding party entrance song, mispronounced the names of my mother, my maid of honor, and the best man. He sounded very unprepared and unprofessional. Not only that, he barely spoke for the rest of the evening, and failed to announce our cake cutting so that half the guests missed it. I would never recommend this company to ANYONE.”

LESSON LEARNED: Some DJ companies you find on the Internet are only booking agencies, skimming a commission and contracting the cheapest DJ they can get, who often lacks the critical experience needed to do justice to your wedding.

The opportunity to meet your DJ face to face:

“He played the wrong song during the Grand Entrance, and he played the wrong song during the father-daughter dance, caught the mistake and then played the correct song. Both errors could have been avoided if I had an opportunity to meet my DJ face to face prior to the wedding date to clearly review what I wanted. Unfortunately this service does not provide you the opportunity to meet your DJ face to face until the day of the wedding. All correspondences are done through the owner David, and he may not be the DJ at your wedding.”

LESSON LEARNED: ALWAYS meet your DJ face to face! These days many people try to take care of things online. That works for buying a product. But when contracting for a service, especially one that requires talent and experience, you need to meet them in person. Your DJ and MC will be the “Voice” of your celebration, the host who represents your family. This is one vendor you should always meet in person.

This guy who DJ’d “on the side”

‎”A friend told us about this guy who DJ’d “on the side.” He was a fraction of the cost of other companies. We found out why, when he started hitting on the single girls during the bouquet toss. He did many inappropriate things that were completely embarrassing. We learned our lesson. Unfortunately, we can’t go back and do it again the right way!”

LESSON LEARNED: Professionals must earn a living from good referrals, and will always behave in a professional manner. An amateur doesn’t care about his reputation. Amateurs and wanna-be’s should be avoided!

OVERALL LESSON: Always get references, and contact them!

I always provide extensive references to brides. I find that most brides never check them (although often Daddy-with-the-checkbook will!) The best way to avoid “Cousin Darrell” is to hire vendors with outstanding recommendations. Take the time to check references, and your wedding won’t become another horror story!

And NO, the professionals are not unaffordable! Experienced professionals always have offerings for their low-budget clients, and care enough about you to work out a package that fits your budget. We understand that every bride deserves her special celebration!

When you make your living at this, you must not only be good at it, but must strive to exceed the customer’s expectations. Only then can you enjoy the kind of reputation that has made the Party Machine the top choice of event professionals for 35 years!

At PM Celebrations, we always meet with brides, grooms, parents and wedding coordinators, in person and face-to-face. I will always be your MC, not some trainee. Your wedding will be impeccably planned so it will turn out just the way you want it – Your Wedding, Your Way! And PM Celebrations staff will always adhere to the American DJ Association Code of Professional Conduct.

23) Listen for the Squawks!

In 35 Things Learned in 35 Yearsby djscottshirley

35 Things Learned in 35 Years # 23

I love to fly. I have friends who are pilots, and have flown with them in small planes on numerous occasions. Today’s lesson was learned from pilots, but has served me well in the entertainment business.

The aircraft must be maintained 100 percent.

Every time a plane takes flight, it has to be perfect from a safety standpoint. 100% safe; if it’s only 98%, the plane must stay on the ground. A little thing like a loose connection could cause a tragic accident. So a pre-flight safety check must be performed before each and every take-off.

And every pilot keeps a “Squawk list.” If he notices an unusual noise or vibration, or that a light bulb is burned out on an instrument, he writes it on the list. Each item that needs attention is called a “squawk.”

And every squawk must be investigated and repaired, before the plane flies again.

This is a great way to maintain anything. With sound, lighting, and video systems, there are many little things that could go wrong. One bad cable could spoil a presentation. So we began tracking “squawks” at PM Celebrations.

Failure to fix squawks can lead to disaster!

By keeping equipment impeccably maintained, and replacing gear as technology improves, we are able to maintain our perfect 100% service record: we have never had an event that started late, or was delayed by a technical malfunction. Never.

In 35 years, we have certainly experienced technical difficulties! But because of redundant systems, the show always goes on, without a delay.

But we don’t have many technical problems, because paying attention to the squawks prevents them from happening in the first place.

It’s part of “the PM Celebrations Difference.”