School & Teen Events Big Dance? What is success?

Valerie Hicks

Moderator
Staff member
  1. That happens as well..but they may also just move to another nearby school and if a valuable and mutually beneficial realtionship has been established, you can move with 'em and add that student body to your audiences.
  2. There are no magic elixirs or "tricks"...simply be honest, fair, professional and provide them with the results they request and that you promise to provide.
  3. Respect and honor their rules and standards as they have, or should have a higher responsibility for the behavior of and influences on their student body. Just know that displaying your "wikkid awsum" dj mixing and programming skillz are substantially less important than the standards they rightfully expect you to uphold.
  4. Take the necessary actions to assure they are aware that you appreciate their business and will make every effort to grow and improve so that you can continue to provide your unique and professional entertainment talents and service to their events.
You can't win 'em all but you can win often enough if you try.
yes, yes, yes, and yes.

I can't add much to what wifedj said. Yes, schools still come and schools go. We lost a school a couple years ago because we didn't have a particular request that was fairly explicit. The advisor wanted to be buddies with the students...the students ran the show. We prefer not to follow their path because the outcome is not good--they are increasing in gang problems, including violence. We can see the direction they are going and don't need to be part of it, so no lost love there. We've lost schools when faculty changed, sure. Some schools we've dealt with the same faculty for 10-15 years. The larger schools don't seem to have as much turnover as the smaller ones...or at least the ones we have worked for. That helps. In some cases when the dance advisor is changed the principal tells them they are hiring us. We've had principals say they aren't having any more dances unless we're the dj's. I don't think they've held true to that, but it's nice having the principals realizing our value. It's not often that the homecoming dance advisor has more to say in the homecoming date than the athletic director, but I know of some.

Loyalty has done us well over the years, and as of late, we've leaned on that heavily as we've had other business that has taken much of our attention. We have not been actively marketing the dj business. It's taken a toll with decreased bookings. We need to kick back into gear and get back on that. I don't think we've done any marketing for close to 5 years now. It will take some doing to build back up. A couple years ago we did 12 proms as a single system operator. Obviously we have not retained 100% of our clients. Some we don't particularly want to continue, and others for whatever reason aren't loyal; sometimes because we didn't follow up well enough and sometimes because staff changed and sometimes because a kid knew someone who could dj...the list goes on. In the past 25 years that we've been doing this, we have lost more due to unavailability/already-booked dates than any other single cause.
 

IceBurghDJ

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 17, 2015
1,697
57
Western Pennsylvania
iceburghdj.com
My observations locally:

local school district has 4 principals, 3 schools (jr/sr in same building but diff principals). For 40 or 50 years they did a twice monthly winter dance for the 4/5/6 grade...it died 2 years ago for lack of attendance. I was not involved, talked to them to try and bring it back...no interest.

The 7/8 grade does one dance where the student gov't does it all. They also did for a few year a 'welcome to 7th grade dance' that the principal chose the DJ.

HS: homecoming - done by the football boosters organization. Freshmore - freshmen students. Military Ball - JROTC committee of students. Winter Formal, sophomore/jr/sr only, sophomore class. Prom, prom committee. Mil Ball is around thanksgiving, big JROTC group so rarely a christmas dance. jr high dance is january usually, freshmore in the fall as is homecoming.

But every dance is run by some different group. And that group changes if not every year, every other then.

I got 3 winter formals this year from 3 different schools - all used a different DJ last year. All 3 had new people in charge. 2 I got from referrals to a degree, and one from Bark or gigmasters- some online lead generator, which is also how I got a prom 2 years ago. again, new 'sponsor' and they get ZERO info passed on from the previous person or just hear ' dj sucked' or maybe was too costly. 2 of the 11 school districts in my county have about 50 kids in a given grade. Makes for small proms and dances - and small budgets.

Half of my dance have been one-off - the Dj of choice was already booked. I'd like to think I can do such a wonderful job they want me back over them...but who knows.
 

rickryan.com

DJ Extraordinaire
Dec 9, 2009
11,970
54
Hendersonville, TN
www.RickRyan.com
My observations locally:

local school district has 4 principals, 3 schools (jr/sr in same building but diff principals). For 40 or 50 years they did a twice monthly winter dance for the 4/5/6 grade...it died 2 years ago for lack of attendance. I was not involved, talked to them to try and bring it back...no interest.

The 7/8 grade does one dance where the student gov't does it all. They also did for a few year a 'welcome to 7th grade dance' that the principal chose the DJ.

HS: homecoming - done by the football boosters organization. Freshmore - freshmen students. Military Ball - JROTC committee of students. Winter Formal, sophomore/jr/sr only, sophomore class. Prom, prom committee. Mil Ball is around thanksgiving, big JROTC group so rarely a christmas dance. jr high dance is january usually, freshmore in the fall as is homecoming.

But every dance is run by some different group. And that group changes if not every year, every other then.

I got 3 winter formals this year from 3 different schools - all used a different DJ last year. All 3 had new people in charge. 2 I got from referrals to a degree, and one from Bark or gigmasters- some online lead generator, which is also how I got a prom 2 years ago. again, new 'sponsor' and they get ZERO info passed on from the previous person or just hear ' dj sucked' or maybe was too costly. 2 of the 11 school districts in my county have about 50 kids in a given grade. Makes for small proms and dances - and small budgets.

Half of my dance have been one-off - the Dj of choice was already booked. I'd like to think I can do such a wonderful job they want me back over them...but who knows.
I'm curious, have you ditched your photography biz and gone all DJ? Are you really able to make more as a DJ than as a photographer?
 

IceBurghDJ

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 17, 2015
1,697
57
Western Pennsylvania
iceburghdj.com
up to 2012 photography was good - 25-30 weddings a year at $2500ish avg. 40-50 HS seniors at 1100 avg.
Now?
Hell, A photog I know has a GoFundMe setup to raise $400 to fix his camera...'for my birthday'...pathetic.

Weddings are now 4 a year at maybe 1200 avg. The inquiries are just not there. Seems brides are hiring 'people like them' - aka, women in their 20s and 30s.
I"m running some FB ads..we'll see if the phone rings, but i'm not even seeing leads on thumbtack or bark for wedding photography.

HS seniors is slowing..friends' kids, siblings of past clients is 80% of it, and "it" is 50% of what it was in both count and average. Senior portraits was a 'need' created by studio marketing...with no studios around to market it, well, it's going away. Used to be almost a competition among the kids to get the best pics, most interesting pics, etc. No more. Too many MWACs entered the biz and ruined it - why pay for a lousy average picture when you can do that with your cell phone yourself? "PRO" became so watered down with lack of quality no point paying for it. SOME will, but few. And it's the parents', not the kids - used to be the kids chose the photog and the parent chose the budget. Ah, the good old days.

Sports (team and individual) is still viable. School photography was done by local studios here..when they folded Lifetouch marched in and took all but a few still held by the one true main street studio left standing. Lifetouch has no fans, but they do have strong arm sales tactics.

Gonna push much harder on the volume (sports) business...and more on the DJ end of things. Raising prices on the DJ end of things without pushback so far. I'll have to wait and see how that goes longer term. Starting to get steady repeat customers for some things which is nice.

Per hour DJ and photo pay similar, well, except for the volume photography stuff which can do much better. I"m probably gonna go high end on the wedding photography...no reason not to at this point, nothing to lose.


I'm curious, have you ditched your photography biz and gone all DJ? Are you really able to make more as a DJ than as a photographer?
 
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rickryan.com

DJ Extraordinaire
Dec 9, 2009
11,970
54
Hendersonville, TN
www.RickRyan.com
I"m probably gonna go high end on the wedding photography...no reason not to at this point, nothing to lose.
We've been having exactly the same discussion. Wife wants me to raise her price to $3k. I tried that game of raising our prices to premium level about 18 months ago. Found out the hard way that you don't drive demand by raising prices. You drive prices by raising demand. The phones got really quiet for a while and I've spent the last 18 month scrambling and hustling to rebuild. This year looks a lot better and we're currently sitting at 30 events so far. 20 are bundle combinations and the rest are mostly DJ-only with 1 or 2 photo-only. One thing I did do right is adding a free photobooth or free uplighting with the bundle package. That one has worked and I just raised our price by $100 ($2795 currently) and it doesn't seem to have affected inquiries. I appreciate your candor and it seems to echo with what I've seen in this market as well. Too many brides want to hire "someone like me", which translates to a newbie with a Rebel. It takes about a year before they'll finally admit to themselves that they made a mistake. It convinces me that a transition to all-inclusive venue is the right move for us.
 
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IceBurghDJ

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 17, 2015
1,697
57
Western Pennsylvania
iceburghdj.com
I want to 'retire' and move south within a few years...so investing in a venue here isn't in the cards. I got my CDL in anticipation of 'retiring' (whatever that means..I can'tjust sit home and have no 401k or such). I really don't want to start over in a new plaxe with the photo biz...DJ perhaps. You're still young.

I've seen discussino where if you're too cheap, so the word is now spreading, you're not very good. A DJ under $750 for a wedding isn't any good - so higher price IS going raise demand. At least they don't question your quality/ability. I"m upping my marketing to show 'more' - when I get an inquiry I send all sorts of info to them - useful stuff. The old theory of making them feel obligated to me (it's why you offer a drink to start a sales presentation or buy them dinner).

Unfortunately i'e not found much if anything that works year to year...did this or that at a bridal show and WOW, then the following year the same concept falls flat...free photobooth one year, gift card for dinner with a booking, free drawing, etc. Works one year and not the next.

May do the county fair again...long term it's generated business. Gets my name out there, you're face to face with 40k people in a week. Cost is cheap other than the time.
Not high end though...farmers are tight with their money
 

prodjay

DJ Extraordinaire
Dec 13, 2009
488
Bossier, Louisiana
Your longevity speaks volumes to your quality. It does raise a question that I'd like to know. My experience with schools is that the sponsor or person(s) in charge change pretty frequently, and the level of control that some want to exert comes into direct conflict with us doing our jobs. I can't speak for you but my experience has been that whenever I run into a new Principal who wants to over-control the music, he's going to end up killing the event to where the kids stop showing up and the event dies a natural death as a result. Do you have any insight or special tricks/advice on how you effectively deal with these personalities? How do you prevent them from killing your gig?
If I could like this statement more that one time I would have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

rickryan.com

DJ Extraordinaire
Dec 9, 2009
11,970
54
Hendersonville, TN
www.RickRyan.com
If I could like this statement more that one time I would have!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Actually, I'll risk answering the question I posed to Valerie. From everything I've seen, they carry a HUGE system to most (if not all) of the gigs they do. From a buyer's perspective, there likely just isn't another company that's available, that has that big of a setup. The kids obviously dig it, hugely, and I'd say it's quite likely the adults in charge know that Val (and hubby) are "the pros" and back off trying to over-manage them. In my own case, I walk in looking pretty much like every other stupid DJ-slacker with a pair of speakers, so the in charge folks feel like they need to exert more authority into the situation. I'd really love to personally witness one of their shows but there ain't no way in h$ll I'd want any part of their load in/out.
 

IceBurghDJ

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 17, 2015
1,697
57
Western Pennsylvania
iceburghdj.com
There's a dj, master school dances, that does similar..big x truss over the dancefloor. He's getting 2-3k for a dance..BUT...they are dances of 1000kids...same per kid cost here is 300 for most, $100 for some.

If love to do that but it makes no financial sense. As of now I'm prolly best equipped during around for school dances. Hopefully that is seen and spreads the word.
 

IceBurghDJ

DJ Extraordinaire
Apr 17, 2015
1,697
57
Western Pennsylvania
iceburghdj.com
For the dance of 400 in a gym I brought 2 18" subs and 4 12" tops Plus truss and UV lighting, acrobat, moving heads, pars, kinta, laser.
The 'best' school dj out htere (does a lot of local proms) brings 2 subs and 2 tops for a prom of 400 in a banquet venue (i've done a photobooth there for the past 5 years). 4 lights, mounted on the speakers, no truss.
and he's NEVER on the mic ever. he's a nice guy but hates talking on the mic. Strange for a DJ, huh?

Another good local DJ filled in one year and brought about the sdame - i'm not sure if he has his truss setup anymore, used to use it all the time, even at weddings (or some weddings).

I need a screen...have a webcam and OK for now projector - want to webcam the crowd, videos, etc on the screen.

Plan is to 'rule' the market and make money on volume, so to speak.

Actually, I'll risk answering the question I posed to Valerie. From everything I've seen, they carry a HUGE system to most (if not all) of the gigs they do. From a buyer's perspective, there likely just isn't another company that's available, that has that big of a setup. The kids obviously dig it, hugely, and I'd say it's quite likely the adults in charge know that Val (and hubby) are "the pros" and back off trying to over-manage them. In my own case, I walk in looking pretty much like every other stupid DJ-slacker with a pair of speakers, so the in charge folks feel like they need to exert more authority into the situation. I'd really love to personally witness one of their shows but there ain't no way in h$ll I'd want any part of their load in/out.
 

Valerie Hicks

Moderator
Staff member
Actually, I'll risk answering the question I posed to Valerie. From everything I've seen, they carry a HUGE system to most (if not all) of the gigs they do. From a buyer's perspective, there likely just isn't another company that's available, that has that big of a setup. The kids obviously dig it, hugely, and I'd say it's quite likely the adults in charge know that Val (and hubby) are "the pros" and back off trying to over-manage them. In my own case, I walk in looking pretty much like every other stupid DJ-slacker with a pair of speakers, so the in charge folks feel like they need to exert more authority into the situation. I'd really love to personally witness one of their shows but there ain't no way in h$ll I'd want any part of their load in/out.
You have hit the nail on the head. In most cases, when we arrive, we are more likely to be asked if we need anything, if we need a soda or water, if we need help, if we need a table. It's partially because we do bring something that is more over-the-top than most, and we arrive in semi with a 53' trailer full of gear. It's also that we've done our prep work and had good communication leading up to the event. We've told them how things will progress, when we will arrive (we are RARELY late and USUALLY early). We have told them exactly what to expect for load in and set up time and space. We've arranged for power. We've told them how long it will take us to pack up and be pulling out. There are no surprises except that things go according to plan. I have on many occasions, after the first event at a location, had event workers in awe and giddy at how things went, while we say well that went according to plan.

Honestly the only place I recall being treated like crap DJ was a union convention center in Chicago where we butted heads a bit our first time there....returned several times without issue, but also without any special treatment. This facility typically had 4 proms going on in the same night.
 
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