Mobile disc jockey
Mobile disc jockeys (otherwise known as mobile DJs or, in the United Kingdom, as mobile discos) are disc jockeys that tour with portable sound, lighting and video systems. They play music for a targeted audience from an extensive collection of pre-recorded music, using vinyl records, cassettes, CDs or digital music formats such as USB drives, Flash drives or laptop computers.
Mobile DJs typically perform at various types of events including: wedding receptions, Bar Mitzvah receptions, company parties, school dances, anniversaries, and birthday parties. They also perform in public at taverns, nightclubs, and block parties.
Business models for mobile disc jockey include full-time, part-time, multi-operator, and single-operator companies.
The concept of mobile discos started in the UK in 1966, when Roger Squire began an entertainment service in North London named "Roger Squire's Mobile Discothèques". The word discothèque is French for "record library". Within just two years, Squire had fifteen mobile discothèques performing at approximately sixty functions every week. He entertained at events attended by celebrities, including royalty, along with a countless number of college dances, wedding receptions, and other social events. Over the next few years, huge numbers of copycat "Mobile Discos" started to emulate his successful formula. During this period, London got its "Swinging London" reputation. Squire later set up a disco equipment supply service that sold disco sound and lighting systems to budding DJs, both in the UK and abroad.
In the 1980s and 1990s, mobile DJs began to form associations and create professional business networks that evolved into annual trade shows and internet discussion forums. Since the early 1990s there have been organized professional trade shows such as the Mobile Beat Show in Vegas, NV and the DJ Times Expo in Atlantic City, NJ. Seminars by numerous respected DJs such as John Rozz, Ray "Ray Mar" Martinez, Stacy Zemon, Mark Ferrell, Peter Merry, Randy Bartlett and Steve Moody have helped DJs to understand better their profession, as well as running their businesses professionally rather than treating it as a hobby.
In 1991, Mobile Beat magazine, geared specifically toward mobile DJs, began publishing. In 1992, MPEG which stands for the Moving Picture Experts Group, released The MPEG-1 standard, designed to produce reasonable sound at low bit rates. The lossy compression scheme MPEG-1 Layer-3, popularly known as MP3, later revolutionized the digital music domain.
In 1998, Final Scratch debuted at the BE Developer Conference, marking the first digital DJ system to allow DJs control of MP3 files through special time-coded vinyl records or CDs. While it would take sometime for this novel concept to catch on with the "die hard Vinyl DJs", This would soon become the first step in the new Digital DJ revolution. Manufacturers joined with computer DJing pioneers to offer professional endorsements, the first being Professor Jam (aka William P. Rader), who went on to develop the industry's first dedicated computer DJ convention and learning program, the "CPS (Computerized Performance System) DJ Summit", to help spread the word about the advantages of this emerging technology.
The American Disc Jockey Awards Show was established and its first edition was held in Las Vegas; since then, thirteen mobile DJs have been elected to the American Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. The thirteen members include: John Rozz, Al Lampkin, Joe Martin, Robert A. Lindquist, Jon Michaels, Mike Buonaccorso, Sid Vanderpool, Bobby Morganstein, John Roberts, Ken Knotts, Ray "Ray Mar" Martinez, Cesar Cosio and Bernie Howard-Fryman.
The American Disc Jockey Awards Show also recognizes and honors individuals yearly, that has given of themselves to the benefit of their community or charitable cause in the name of the ADJA or the DJ industry as a whole. Known as the Michael Butler Humanitarian Award, recipients include: 1998 – Mark “Peace” Thomas, 1999 – Ray Martinez, 2000 – Professor Jam (aka William P. Rader), 2003 – Patrick McDonald, 2006 – Larry Williams, 2007 – Jeremy Miller, 2007 – Roy Dueitt, 2007 – Bill Dunsing, 2008 - Louie Castellanos, 2009 - Ed Frank, 2011 - Eric Horne, 2012 – Geoffrey Sandler, 2013 – Mitch Taylor.
The 'DJ of the Year' winners at the DJ Times Expo include three-time winner Marcello Pedalino, Roxanne Greene, K.C. KoKoruz, Shawn "Big Daddy" McKee, Marz Lawhorn, Gerry Siracusa, Adam Weitz and Steve Moody, the first Canadian to take part in the competition as of 2013. Pascal Levesque from Québec, Canada was named 'DJ of the Year Runner-Up' and won 'Best Dance' award.
A number of books have been written about this legitimate trade, and by furthering their education at trade shows and seminars mobile DJs have gained a more positive public perception. In the 1970s Mobile DJs were averaging $350–500 per four-hour event; now a wedding reception can cost between $800–2,500 per event, with the national average being around $1,038.
While many club disc jockeys still use vinyl, most mobile DJs currently use compact discs, computer-based files (such as MP3s), or a combination of sources. In addition, professional-grade equipment created by a variety of companies expressly for mobile DJing has allowed for faster set-up and break down, as well as improved quality of performance.
With the advance of in-home sound systems, the expectation level of sound and lighting shows for concerts, conventions and weddings has grown. LED technology is the most recent light show technology available. A large selection of music, professional-grade equipment, good organizational skills, vocal talent as an MC, mixing skills, quality lighting, insurance for liability and on-site back-up equipment are typical customer expectations when hiring a mobile DJ. Suggestions for hiring mobile disc jockeys include requests for referrals, approximate age of equipment, level of insurance, agreed upon and written contracts with fees, and agreement of electrical sources.
Many mobile DJs also promote themselves as event planners, organizers and MCs (master of ceremonies). They work closely with their customers, guests and the event's other vendors (such as venue staff and photographers/video graphs) to provide quality entertainment that fits the event in terms of style and performance.
This increased role in event planning has been facilitated by explosion of over-the-top sweet sixteens thanks to the MTV reality show, My Super Sweet 16. Today's mobile DJs are tasked with putting together major productions for these event that require customization in every element of “her big night”. As huge as the demand for qualified teen event DJs is, the equipment list to bring a full production on the road to create a successful event is more than most can offer. From large screen video, fog, light up dance floors, glow lights, lasers, high end dance lighting, and booming sound, today's Sweet Sixteens are setting the bar high for future generations.
Further suggested reading
A Different Spin, a behind-the-scenes history of the mobile DJ industry, was released in September 2011. The author, Michael Buonaccorso, co-founded Mobile Beat Magazine in 1991, and founded the Mobile Beat DJ Show and Conferences in 1997. The information and ideas presented in the book are the result of the author's career in the DJ world, first as a DJ himself, then as a media and trade show professional with a higher vantage point than most in the entire industry.
What does a Mobile DJ do?
- Zemon, Stacy. The Mobile DJ Handbook: How to Start & Run a Profitable Mobile Disc Jockey Service, Second Edition. St. Louis: Focal Press, 2002.
- Gilbert, Jerry 1983 "The Beginning" Disco International & Club News (UK Magazine), August edition, pages 49 – 56.
- Graudins, Charles A. "How to Be a DJ. Boston: Course Technology PTR, 2004.
- "08:30am – A Different Spin: Behind All That Spin – Michael Buonaccorso". Mobile Beat. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
What does a Mobile DJ do?