The “Streaming” DJ
Technology today is amazing!
I remember when I DJ'd my first event with my brother, Craig, when he was in still in High School. Prior to the event, I rode along with him to local record stores like “Licorice Pizza,” and “The Warehouse” to find a single vinyl record album – that contained a single song he wanted to play at his upcoming event. Even back then, records cost anywhere from $8.99 (Super Saver) to $15.99 each.
Yes – that's what we used to pay to get (1) song. In fact, when I first started DJ'ing on my own, we were buying CDs at approximately the same price and still had to travel all over town to find a specific album – to simply get a specific song.
It wasn't long before USED CDs and Records became the DJ's favorite tool boxes. I remember hanging out at GROOVE TIME records in San Bernardino and MAD PLATTER in Riverside on "Crazy Parking Lot Sale Saturdays" thumbing through thousands of records and CDs looking for great deals on media to share at my next event.
Early in my career, I made a massive mistake (which I have never forgotten). I was up and running a wedding at our local hotel. The ceremony went off well. I was all setup in the ballroom playing cocktail music when the coordinator came up to me and asked me to get ready for the Grand Entrance and First dance. I pulled out my notes and realized I didn't have her 1st Dance Song on me; “True,” by Spandau Ballet. (to this day I get the shivers every time I hear this song) – I had to confess that there was nothing I could do – we had to choose another song. Nearly in tears, the bride chose “Stand by Me,” Ben E. King – and we continued with the event.
Following the event the coordinator told be what a crappy DJ I was and how irresponsible it was of me to forget a song AND that she would bad-mouth me to everyone she knew in the industry. I was 18 years old at the time and decided to hang up my headphones for good.
(OK, Spoiler alert – 15 years later – I got new headphones and started over :-)
Now – fast-forward to 5-10 years ago – if I realized I was missing a track – I likely had the ability to instantly download it and have it ready to play in seconds. In fact, we made this known in our early marketing efforts – that if “We don't have your request, we can probably buy it in seconds (Wi-Fi / 4G service pending).”
Today, DJs have more music at our fingertips than ever before. So much so, that many up-and-coming DJs don't even have music stored on a hard drive. They simply show up to the event and expect to stream their music via Spotify, Apple Music, or some other service. I mean, what an awesome advantage to any up-and-coming DJ! My music collection alone is estimated to be worth more than $20,000 – and today, all it takes is a monthly subscription at $5 - $10. So Awesome!
So, what happens when you are working somewhere that doesn't have Wi-Fi – or worse yet, no Wi-Fi and virtually no cel signal?
Really, even today, does this ever happen?
Yes – and More often than you might realize!
In fact, we regularly work at a venue that has virtually no cel coverage and uses a network that operates off a “line-of-site” dish to a building ¼ mile away. The signal is so bad, that when we connected to it recently, we were unable to get iTunes store to resolve on our laptop. (NOTE: we knew this ahead of time – Mom of Bride asked for an unusual track she wanted to sing for her speech as a surprise – so to make a little magic happen – I sent my assistant DJ to his car, drive 2 miles away to get a 4G signal and get the track so she could make a great speech even better – by the way, it was AWESOME)
Two weeks ago, we arrived at the same venue to run a Photo Booth and witnessed a massive “DJ Fail” – he arrived expecting to stream his music for a ceremony of 100+ guests – and realized – it was NOT possible. Needless to say, this guy admitted he had never DJ'd a wedding and was at a loss for words. One of the guests actually had to leave the facility, and buy the songs for the DJ so he could provide the music for the bride to walk down the aisle.
Granted, this is one place with the worst of both worlds – but what about those places that have bad cel service and good Wi-Fi? Wi-Fi is still not 100% reliable. Have you ever lost Wi-Fi at your home? Or had websites go down (mainly on weekends) for maintenance? Cable outages, etc.? The fact is simple – if the DJ company you are considering is 100% streaming or online and carries no offline media (digital files, CDs, records, etc) – you might want to run for the hills and find a better solution.
When it comes to the wedding business, redundancy is key.
The best wedding venues and vendors will always have backup equipment – just in case.
I can't wait to see where technology takes the DJ industry in the next few years - but for now, our DJs get a massive offline-music database for every event.