Posts filed under DJ Industry

I Went To Vegas and All I Got Was This Awesome Photo Booth

Everywhere you turned, the exhibit hall was packed with photo booth manufacturers at the 2011 DJ conference (MBLVXX) in Las Vegas. The offerings ranged from a wooden box on a tripod, to an all metal booth with shiny, fleck filled automotive-type paint, and everything in between. The manufacturer of the booth we already own was there, with sparsely clothed models dancing around his exhibit space. This was our first stop. Not because of the models, but because we had already decided that we were going to buy a 2nd booth. 2010 was awesome for photo booth bookings, and 2011 looks even better. It was just a matter of negotiating a price and delivery terms. But when it came time to get some questions answered, we couldn't get the time of day. It seemed the photo booth guy was too busy delighting in the company of his barren-buttcheeked models. Ok, I guess I don't blame him, but we were there for business. We decided to try again later and have a look around.  

It's a good thing we did. If it hadn't been for the half dressed honeys, we would have missed out on the booth we ended up purchasing. We were just passing time when a photo booth salesman from a different company pulled us out of the aisle. He quickly showed us all the features of the booth, each one more impressive than the last. But I think I made up my mind when he showed us that the photo booth also records video clips! A brilliant feature that is missing from all other photo booths. We knew we had a unique opportunity to bring a product to market that is generations ahead of what's out there. Andy and I did some deliberating, but not much. We knew that even though it cost about double what we were expecting to spend, this was the booth for Starlight Photo Booth

In keeping with the company name and theme, Andy thought we should call it The Galaxy Photo Booth. Even the paint job fits with the theme of the company, it's called (coincidentally) "Starry Night." The booth is all metal, and the black automotive paint job has a metal fleck in it. Any cholo would be proud to have this paint job on his '64 Impala. The Galaxy Photo Booth is beautiful, and can be used in the open like our current booth, or in the traditional Arcade configuration. 

 

For more information about San Diego Photo Booth rentals, please visit http://www.StarlightPhotoBooth.com. 

 

Posted on March 11, 2011 and filed under DJ Industry.

Totally Self Serving Announcement - I have a PHOTO BOOTH!

On Monday, we drove all the way to Santa Barbara to pick up our brand new, custom built photo booth. It's not like other booths. There's no ugly wooden structure around it, nor are you limited in how many people can squeeze into a picture. It works perfectly well out in the open, or enclosed in a pipe and drape system. It gives us the flexibility to put it anywhere, and create custom looks. I just finished the first version of the web site for our new photo booth rental company. Of course I will update it as I get more pictures from events. But for now, you can get a pretty good idea of how it works by going to Starlight Photo Booth. Let me know what you think!

Posted on April 9, 2010 and filed under DJ Industry.

Sometimes, you have to fire the client.

I know a lot of DJs are willing to put up with anything to make the sale. But I’ve come to realize that there is such a thing as a “bad” client. Don’t get me wrong, demanding doesn’t equate with bad. Some of my best clients have been my most demanding ones. What makes them my best clients? Some of my clients with the highest expectations have become my most fervent advocates. They insist that their friends and family use my services because I promised the moon, and delivered. On the opposite side of the coin, if you find a client that seems like they just can’t be pleased even if you deliver the moon, and throw in the rings of Saturn as a “show special,” you aren’t doing yourself any favors by working for them.

This topic came to mind because of a bizarre incident with a potential client at a recent bridal show. I should have seen it coming. He rubbed me the wrong way from the moment he introduced himself. It was a very loud show with hundreds of vendors in an echo-filled convention center. So when this soft spoken guy came up to me and introduced himself, I misunderstood him. I though he said his name was Tim. I leaned in a little closer and said, “Tim?” I was about to comment on the fact that we have the same name. I was going to crack a little joke about it or something. You know how it goes when you’re trying to make small talk. But then he lowered his chin slightly, and in an exaggeratedly slow speaking voice, he said “No, you are Tim. My name is Tom. Your name is Tim, and my name is Tom.” He was enunciating each syllable as if he was trying to talk to me through a pane of glass. Then, he pointed at me with both index fingers, then back at himself with his thumbs as he slowly said “Tim, Tom. Got it now?” I immediately made a mental note. Either this guy’s personality lends itself to being too comfortable with strangers, or he’s the type of guy to give a waitress a hard time just for the satisfaction of it. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and continued our conversation.

Twenty minutes of abuse later, not only did I regret giving him the benefit of the doubt, but I began to regret waking up that morning. All of his questions involved laying out his low opinion of me and my profession, then asking me to defend myself. “I don’t understand why I can’t just ask one of my guests to make a few announcements, and have another guy play music. I mean really, how hard can it be? You don’t need a degree to do this, do you? You just switch songs and speak into a microphone a few times. Anyone can do that, right?” When I told him that I would provide a veteran entertainer’s perspective to the team, I would keep everything flowing smoothly, coordinate with other important vendors, and use my many years of experience to keep things on track and entertaining, his response went something like this… “It sounds to me like all these things you say you do, are responsibilities that overlap with other [pause] professionals I’ve hired. I wouldn’t expect my photographer to need a DJ to hold his hand so he doesn’t miss any shots, and my fiancé has hired a wedding coordinator. It seems like you get to twiddle your thumbs while other [pause] professionals do the work, but I still have to write you a big, fat check.”

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh snap, Tim! No he didn’t! I would have sent him packing!” So I feel the need to explain that I never turn down a client on the spot. I’ve had plenty of "difficult" clients turn out to be my best advocates. I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t want me to play even one song that you would normally hear at a wedding. I’ve had clients ask me to practice making scripted announcements in a foreign language. I’ve even had a client ask me to help clean up because they only had 30 minutes to get out of the hall. All of that is fine. I took those gigs, and I would gladly take them again. Those clients were not being difficult for difficulty’s sake. They considered me a part of their team, not the opposition. I always sleep on it before I turn an event down because I need to differentiate between the ones who are just trying to make a prudent decision the best way they know how, versus those who simply enjoy harassing “the help.” Tom was definitely the latter. Tom hasn’t called yet, but if he does, I’m booked. Whatever date it is, even if it’s three years from now on a Wednesday morning, I’m booked.

Posted on February 2, 2010 and filed under DJ Industry.

News About LED Uplights

This was actually a response to a question that a user asked in the comment section of my post about the NAMM show. It seemed to warrant its own post, so here it is. Manny asked me if there were any new developments in the lighting department. Here's my response...

Yes, there were two very important developments in lighting for Mobile DJs. Both having to do with the LED par can fixtures we use for up lighting. Many mobile DJs jumped on the LED band wagon because they are very light-weight (no heavy transformer needed) they never need their bulbs replaced, and because they can achieve many colors without color gels. There were two huge problems with this technology early on though. First, LED fixtures make colors by mixing red, green and blue LEDs, just like the old projection TVs with 3 lenses. The problem comes when you try to make white. This is simple for a halogen fixture, just don't use a color gel. But with LED, how do you get white from red, blue and green? Theoretically, you just turn all three colors up to equal intensity. But most fixtures were not capable of precisely matching the intensity of of all 3 colors. The result was a blueish beam, with an intensely blue halo around the beam. To really achieve white, you had to go back to the old school halogen fixtures. I saw an impressive demonstration in the Community booth. They set all their LED fixtures to white, and the light they cast on the wall was actually white. Other companies, like Color Key Creative Lighting, list "Balanced White" as a feature of their fixtures on their brochures. The industry seems to have caught on that this was a problem, and they responded.

The other problem with LED fixtures has been the effect they have on video. Many weddings have a professional videographer to capture the events of the day. Most LED fixtures cycle at a rate the human eye can't perceive, similar to a TV. Also similar to a TV, they flash when filmed. When viewing the playback of a video of a wedding where LED up lights have been used to accent the room, the beams of light from the fixture appear to be strobing and changing colors. It simply makes the video look terrible. One would also get the impression from watching the video that the DJ was using an inappropriate lighting effect throughout the whole night. They seem to have solved this problem by increasing the speed of the cycles, probably from about 60Hz to 120Hz or more. Some fixtures are now advertised as "Video Friendly."

Posted on January 18, 2010 and filed under DJ Industry.

The NAMM Show, 2010

I just attended the NAMM show at the Anaheim Convention Center. I don't have much to say about it, except to complain about the layout. They used to put all the DJ gear in one spot, near the arena. Now, DJ vendors are peppered all throughout the entire show. It was exhausting trying to get through the whole thing, and I still feel like I missed some vendors. 

There wasn't much there to excite the Mobile DJ industry. Serato was demonstrating a program that lets you use 4 turntables at once. Hurray for all you 4 handed DJs out there! Another company was trying to sell a 10' cable for over $100 that could be adapted to various applications. You could use it for a guitar, or snap on some new ends and use it for a microphone. Who would want such a thing? It seems like a solution without a problem to me. 

Posted on January 17, 2010 and filed under DJ Industry.

Angie's List... Slowing the Progress of Humanity?

I recently got into a discussion about Angie's List, and why I don't advertise my DJ company there. Angie's list is kind of like an online phone book where you can find local services. It's not that I think brides don't go there to find wedding DJs, maybe some do. It's just that I don't like the fact that they charge their users a subscription fee in order to see the reviews.  I simply don't believe in their business model, so I don't support them. The world is moving on to new and exciting business models, and Angie's List is slowing the progress of humanity! Okay, maybe that's taking it too far, but I still wish Angie would go away. 

Charging the user is the complete opposite of what should be happening. That's how they tried to make the Internet work in the early 2000's. Newspapers and other content providers tried to charge a subscription fee in order to view their content. This seemed intuitive to the newspaper companies because that's how their paper model worked. You pay, they deliver content. But to apply this concept to an online business completely ignores the key advantage of the Internet, it's a two way street! You can be much more successful by creating an online community of content consumers, then charge businesses to engage the community you've built. The key word is engagement. 

Many of the major success stories in recent years have been based on the community business model. Ever heard of a little company called Google? How popular do you think they would be if they were subscription based? After all, they spend a lot of money creating cloud based applications and search algorithms. Don't they deserve a subscription fee from you?  What about Facebook? They've really created something of value for you, shouldn't you pay for it? Of course not!

In order to support their subscription model, Angie's List bombards all the major cities with very expensive TV and radio ads. Not a day goes by that I don't see or hear at least a few of their ads. Yet, the best estimate of their revenue is somewhere between $20 and $50 million. That can't possibly cover all the commercials they buy. 

To put that in perspective, let's look at a modern business model, Craig's List. I think everyone knows that Craig's List is a website for free classified ads. These days, many of us have probably browsed the help wanted section on Craig's List. On Craig's List, you can post a classified ad for free, and the world can read it for free. So how do they make their money? While most classified ads are free on Craig's List, they charge to post help wanted ads, and adult services ads. I don't know what a "massage therapist" pays for an ad, but a business can expect to pay from $25 to $75 per job posting, depending on what city the job is listed in. Craig's List is a private company, so their financial info is not readily available. However, several sources, including this article in the New York Times estimate Craig's List's revenue to be around $100 million. Have you ever seen a Craig's List commercial? No, and you probably never will. Angie's list spends millions upon millions in advertising to build a subscription base, yet they do half as well as a company that doesn't need to advertise. Out with the old, I say. 

Posted on December 15, 2009 and filed under DJ Industry.

Alternatives to Overpriced Software

This is the first post in a series dedicated to alternatives to overpriced software. Since I own my own DJ company, I need to do lots of things that bigger businesses pay other people to do. I design and mange my own web site, design my own printed marketing materials, do my own accounting and anything else it takes to run a small business. I love finding perfect software tools to get the job done, but I HATE the pricing scheme of many of the software producers. Their ridiculous pricing schemes tend to cause piracy. I'm not saying people have the right to steal what they can't afford, I'm just saying that when a popular piece of software, like Photoshop, costs as much as a week's pay for some people, you've got to expect more piracy, not less.

For example, Adobe's Photoshop sells for $625 to $700. Photoshop has been around since 1990, it is currently in it's 10th version and hasn't changed much since the 7th version. So why does Adobe charge so much for it? They say they need to charge so much to make up for piracy. So, is the price the chicken, or the egg? As iTunes has proven, if people are offered a reasonably priced alternative, they turn away from piracy. The competition to iTunes is FREE. Yet Apple's iTunes store still makes more money than you can even count because people are basically good and don't mind paying for stuff they want. They just want it at a fair price. Since I already mentioned Photoshop, I'll give you two free alternatives to Photoshop, as well as a cheaper path to owning a legitimate copy of the real Photoshop. 

The first free alternative to Photoshop is The Gimp. I know, it's a funny name, but a serious competitor to Photoshop. The Gimp is absolutely free, and open source. Open source means the source code to The Gimp is public and therefore, it is safe to install on your computer. The first thing you will notice about The Gimp is that it looks just like Photoshop. There's practically no learning curve if you've used Photoshop. If you've already wrapped your mind around the concept of working with layers, then you should feel right at home. For Photoshop power users, you will notice some very advance features are missing. For example, Photoshop has a much more sophisticated way of handling perspective correction. But you can get similar results with the Gimp's perspective correction, which is basically doing a "tranform" on an object. The Gimp is also missing the vanishing point tool, but you'll see similar results by using the clone tool (called the clone stamp in Photoshop) The only major drawback of The Gimp is its inability to work with CMYK. In other words, if you are sending your work directly to professional printers, they will want a CMYK file in order for it to be considered "print ready." Sending an RGB file to a professional printer usually means the colors on the printed product will not look anything like what you designed. 

My second free alternative to Photoshop is actually a web based solution called Pixlr. I guess the name is the result of letting the text messaging generation name a product, vowels optional. I discovered Pixlr while on vacation in Nevada. My wife needed a new web site ASAP, and I was stuck with a computer that didn't have any photo editing software installed. I was immediately struck by the fact that there's nothing to install to use Pixlr. All the work is done completely over the web. Even though I was using a fairly slow Internet connection (a tethered EVDO connection because I was in rural Nevada) I was able to use Pixlr to crop pictures, adjust brightness, round the edges, add a border, brush over a blemish, add text and many other tasks that I would normally use Photoshop for. It uses the same layering system as Photoshop and The Gimp, so again, no learning curve. It works perfectly for editing images for a web site, but unfortunately, it suffers from the same lack of CMYK capabilities and advanced features as The Gimp. 

If neither of these free solutions to Photoshop work for you, there is a cheaper way to get a legal copy of Photoshop. This is exactly how I did it. I purchased a used, original disc of Photoshop version 7 for $60 from eBay. Then I purchased a CS2 (version 8) upgrade disc from Amazon for $135. So for $195, I got the same version that would have normally cost me $700. I'm still using CS2, but I do qualify for the upgrade to CS4 if I wanted to. 

Both The Gimp and Pixlr have ways you can donate to the developers from their web sites. If you like the software, and use it, donate $5 like I did to keep them going. Support open source software and free alternatives. Hopefully, as these products get better with each new version, companies like Adobe will feel the pressure and come up with a realistic price for their products.

My next post on this topic will be alternatives to Microsoft Office. In a future post, I'll also tell you how to set up a computer as a software test platform. I install and uninstall so much software just to try it out, my computer was as slow as a turtle and infected with all kinds of diseases. I fixed that and I'll tell you how to do the same. 

Posted on November 30, 2009 and filed under DJ Industry.

The beast is dead!

I've finally destroyed the hideous beast that was my old website! I decided in June of 2009 to stop patching the old code in Dreamweaver and just build something new from the ground up. The biggest thing that bugged me about the old site is that it was so static. It was a brochure just parked on the web and frozen in time. This new site solves that problem in two ways. First, I've moved to a content management system. Which means, my content is completely separated from the formatting of the web site. I can add, change and remove anything I want and never have to worry about breaking the web site. I can't tell you how many times I broke my old site with some seemingly innocuous task, like deleting an outdated paragraph. Secondly, I've added this blog. Obviously, there was some trepidation on my part about attaching my personal blog to a web site about my business as a DJ. But after much consideration, I've decided that my occupation warrants an exception to the unwritten rule of keeping your business identity separate from your personal identity. My potential clients want to learn about my personality, and they want to see if they relate to me as a person before they hire me. Therefore, not all of my posts will be DJ related. This is my personal blog, and I invite everyone to get to know me better. 

Tim English

Professional Mobile Disc Jockey

San Diego, California

Posted on November 15, 2009 and filed under DJ Industry.