I have to admit: I’m still reeling! Last weekend I was hired to DJ at a wedding. We agreed that I would DJ during their after party for three hours, which is normal for a wedding reception here in the Philippines. Fast forward to the day of the wedding. The ceremony’s over, dinner’s been served, and bottles of expensive bubbly are being downed. Everyone’s ready to party! I take my place behind the DJ booth: A handful of people dancing turns into a throng, and then into a frenzied crowd. When guests started climbing up onstage, that’s when I know I’m doing it right!
I continue to pump out tunes in between high-fives from the groom, bottles of Armand de Brignac, and shots from pretty girls. I was well into the first hour of my set when suddenly, this guy comes up onstage with the bride, a pair of headphones, and a bag of CDs.
“I’m a friend of the bride! I’m gonna DJ now, can you end your set already? And can you remove your controller and laptop and set the CDJs up for me? Where are they, anyway? I only mix with CDs, you know!”
It was bad enough that this guy interrupted me in between song transitions to tell me that he’s jacking my set, but what’s worse is that he actually expects me to hook everything up for him!
“Oh and do you have that connector-thingy for the headphones? I left mine in my car, can I just borrow yours? And can you hurry with the CDJs?”
My blood was boiling at this point. I had my hand beside a champagne bottle, and it was taking all my willpower not to grab it, smash it in this guy’s face, and throw him in the LED wall behind me! Lucky we think these things and don’t do them, eh?
So having resisted the grand temptation to attempt something beautifully violent, I spoke to the tech booth guys to hand me the CDJs (which they were kind enough to plug themselves), gave the guy a “jack connector-thingy” (it’s a headphone adapter, mate!), and played two more songs so he had time to set up.
When it was his turn, he gave me a thumbs up sign and a grin, which is apparently douchebag code for “I just hijacked your set, thanks for warming up for me!” and so I exited the booth to cool off. I congratulated the couple, thanked them for asking me to come on, and left without causing commotion. In fact, no one knew what happened onstage even though the dancefloor suddenly emptied and the music became questionable at best. I don’t know how it ended. I left.
But you know, I’ve been a pro DJ for many, many years playing everything from club gigs to bar gigs and well-paid weddings, and I really ought to not have let this happen. So now I’ve calmed down, I thought about what went right and wrong at that gig, and – just like our founder, Phil, did in his DJ Gig From Hell article a few months back – I’d like to share.
Four things I did right
- I didn’t bludgeon the guy – Despite the great pull to do so, I didn’t assault this guy with a bottle of expensive champagne, which would’ve been disastrous legally and for my reputation as a wedding DJ. Takeaway: In DJing and especially in the mobile circuit, your reputation is your only ticket to your next gig. Guard it with your life!
- I didn’t make a scene – I could’ve just exchanged heated words with him, complained to both bride and groom after my set, and acted like a total diva in front of everyone. I didn’t, and when something like this happens to you, the most important thing is to not make it look like something’s up behind the booth. Takeaway: Not only do you have to be a professional, you’ve got to look and act like one every single time, even when another DJ at the party is anything but…
- I was prepared and knowledgeable – I had my own headphones, had my own leads and plugs, knew my way around my kit, etc. Takeaway: Don’t be like this guy: Know how to hook up your own gear, it’s your responsibility as a DJ. Go through a checklist of stuff that you need to bring to the gig too, and don’t forget your DJ Emergency Pack!
- I gave people a great time – On the long drive home, my only consolation was that guests had an excellent time, and continued to express their satisfaction with my performance in the days that followed. I don’t think that would be the case if I sent someone to the hospital for stitches. Takeaway: At the end of the day, your sole purpose as wedding DJ is to give people a night to remember. Set your ego aside; it’ll save you from doing things that’ll make people remember you for the wrong reasons
Four things I wish I’d done
- I wish I’d stood my ground – I’m a “giving” person by nature, even if that means giving away things that I should be holding on to! I maybe should have been firm and told the guy that I was hired to DJ the whole evening, and wasn’t informed that he’ll be taking over the dancefloor I’d worked to build. Takeaway: Don’t let anyone bully you into giving up what’s rightfully yours
- I wish I’d negotiated a win-win scenario – So I know for a fact that this dude is hell-bent on getting behind the decks, so instead of just handing everything to him on a silver platter, I should have asked if I could at least finish the second hour of my set before he came on. That way, if the couple and their guests really wanted him to DJ (I’m guessing they do, even though half of the crowd left), then I’d have done both most of my job and given in to my clients’ wishes at the same time. Win-win. Takeaway: Everything is negotiable, even during a DJ set. If a flat-out “no” from you just won’t work, find how both you and the DJ after you can meet in the middle
- I wish I’d got a written contract – This is a big booboo on my part: I didn’t have a signed contract with me. If I had one, I could’ve just shown it to the encroacher and told him to suck it. Just kidding, but having something in written form always holds a lot of weight in situations like this. Takeaway: It may be tedious and unnecessary, but always have a signed contract for any formal DJ performance. It’s written proof that you’re in charge behind the decks
- I really wish I hadn’t beat myself up over it – I seriously got pissed over this whole thing to the point that I was starting to doubt who I am as a DJ and why I was doing this in the first place! I was starting to look down on myself for being this guy who mixes with a laptop and a controller, rather than a “superstar” DJ who only comes to the gig with his headphones and thumb drives, entourage in tow. I’ll admit that I felt beaten, like I had lost all desire to DJ, and was thinking of hanging up my phones for good. Good thing I got back to my senses! Takeaway: Bad things happen to all DJs young and old, headliner or not. Roll with the punches, learn from your mistakes, and get on with the next!
I’m not a selfish guy: I love sharing the stage with other DJs, especially ones who bring something to the table that I can’t, because it just makes the party even better, but you’ve got to draw the line by looking out for yourself at some point. There are just too many desperate DJs out there who will do anything to get ahead in the game, even if that means taking advantage of other DJs. This is the perfect example of the wrong kind of “hustle”: You never get anywhere in the long run by stepping on other people.
What goes around comes around.
Have you had an experience similar to this one? Ever been kicked out of the DJ booth by another DJ? We’re here to listen! Go ahead and vent in the comments below. We can all learn how to handle situations like this from each other, especially since it’s such a sensitive topic. This is a chance to share what you’ve learned with our other readers. No bashing other DJs!