Hello Hello F22 Crew!
You know when you step into a party, a bar, a wedding etc and the vibes are just perfect? Who do you think is behind that? Well part of the team is the DJ/emcee for the night! A lot of people don’t realize how hard being self employed, or just working in the gig based world can really be. I see so many potential entertainers flounder, so I thought I would bring a professional on to F22 to talk about it!
Full disclosure, Adam answered my questions by video. I had my boyfriend transcribe them for me, since he’s a much faster typist. And I LOVE Adam’s sense of humor, so I left a lot of the dialogue. I know it will crack you up just like it did me!
How did you get started being a DJ?
I started with a company named Tommy’s Tunes in 1995. I was singing karaoke at a bar, and this Brooklyn Italian guy comes over, and he says, “Oh, your fucking voice is beautiful. I would love to have you sing for my little girls sweet 16.”
I said, “Well, you know I only really sing Broadway showtunes.”
“Oh no, my girl does theatre. She will fucking love you. Your voice is beautiful. How much do you want a song?” “I’ll give you $250 a song.”
I said, “Really? Yeah, man. I’ll sing at your daughters sweet 16.”
“Thousand bucks, right? 19 year old kid, thousand bucks?“
So, I sang the four songs, and it went over well. The emcee for that party was Tommy, that owned Tommy’s Tunes. He’s like, “I think you’d be great for this career. You’d be great for this business.” He recruited me, and that’s how I got my start, working as a wedding emcee. I was an emcee for most of my career, up until six years ago, I started DJing.
What’s your favorite part of being a DJ?
Jesus christ, there are so many different things that I love about the job. When I was younger, it was women. DJ’s and emcee’s definitely got a lot of attention from girls.
Now, what’s my favorite part? I love being around music. I’ve always been passionate about music. It depends on the event. I love doing weddings. I really love doing weddings. I love being around love, I’m a romantic.
I enjoy the clubs too, though. I enjoy doing bars and clubs. I enjoy the energy. I enjoy making people dance. I really enjoy the “oh shit” moments, like when you do a really, really good mix, and everybody’s like, “Oh, shit.” Those make me really fucking happy. I don’t know, man. There’s so many different aspects of the business that I really do love, and I couldn’t imagine myself really wanting to do anything else.
Note from Mar: Umm could anyone be more adorable and in love with their profession? I think not!
What’s your least favorite thing?
What is my least favorite part of the business? My least favorite part of the business is drunk assholes, fights, people confusing me with the bartender, ordering drinks from the DJ booth, people bumping into my stuff, setting up, and taking down.
What’s a common misconception about being a DJ?
Biggest misconceptions about DJs, or about DJing, or about this business is that it’s not a lot of work. People just assume that your job is what they see. They don’t understand the hours that go into prep. They don’t understand the expenses that go into providing the level of service that we do.
Tell us a funny story or something weird that’s happened at one of your events!
I was working as a wedding emcee! It’s about five minutes before cake cutting, and I tell the bride and groom, “Don’t go anywhere, cake cutting is in five minutes.”
So, five minutes comes, and we stop the music. Lights go up, and there’s the bride, standing by the cake. The groom is nowhere to be found. Where is the groom? I open up the door to the bridal suite, and I find the groom, hands down on a table, bent over and the best man is behind him. “Not in here!” Close the door.
Now, it’s like, “What do you do, right?” The lights are up. The music is stopped, and everybody’s paying attention to what’s going on. Now I have to cover up that the groom is in there being filled out like an application, stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.
I start playing around on the microphone, like looking under the tables. “Where is the groom hiding?” Of course, ten minutes later he comes walking out with the best man, arm in arm, and of course nobody suspects anything. Yeah, that’s probably the funniest story that ever happened to me.
Big change of topic now! Do you consider being a DJ a creative endeavor? How do you express yourself through your song choices?
It depends upon what I’m doing. So, if I’m playing a wedding, it’s not really that creative. It’s read and react. So, if I’m doing a wedding, or a club, or a bar, I’m reading the crowd, and they are telling me what to play by virtue of how they respond to the songs that I’m choosing. If I’m playing ‘90s, and they’re responding to ‘90s, I’m going to keep playing ‘90s. I just have to read the crowd, and react to them.
Now, on the other hand, when I’m recording, when I’m making recordings, that’s when I get to be me.
When I’m doing recordings, I’m not making dancefloor music. When you’re with your friends in your car, and you’re about to go out for the night, I want to be the soundtrack. I want to be the soundtrack of the fun time that you’re having.
Mar: Again, adorable. I love talking with people who love what they do!
What would you say to someone who wants to embark on a similar journey to you?
What do I say to somebody who wants to embark on a similar journey as me? Oh boy. “Why? Why?” That’s the first question, why do you want to do this? What is it about this that you love? Why? I’d rather find them another avenue to do it in. This is the hardest one. It’s super saturated with people that are not talented, and don’t know anything about music.
It’s actually shocking how little most DJ’s know about music. I’ve had four proteges, and all of them can go over, in great depth, any era of music of American history, starting with the 1920s, even the teens. The earliest recordings of music, they know that music, they know it’s place in history, they know the people who did it.They understand music theory. They understand the tech, and how to use it, fix it, work with it. They understand the mentality of the parties, they understand the mentality of the music they’re playing, they understand how to make money in the industry. They understand how to keep making money in the industry, how to get solidarity, how to get a solid reputation and back it up. So, the proteges that I’ve had, I’ve made them very good.
How long did it take you to go full time with this job? What is the average pay like for someone in our industry?
What’s the average pay for somebody in this industry? That changes. Bars and clubs pay less than private parties. If you’re doing bars and clubs, I would say you start somewhere around $25 an hour.
“Then, usually there’s a jump to $125 an hour for the top dogs in that area, in that market.”
Then, you get to national levels, and then you’re talking $250 an hour minimum. That’s entry level on the national level. $2,500 an hour is a veteran at that level. Then, when you talk about the elite, you could be talking about $25,000 an hour. When Avicii makes a public appearance, he’s looking at $25,000 an hour.
Mar: Who knew there would be so many ranks and different incomes! Just goes to prove that most people don’t know the nitty gritty of a self employed/freelance persons life and company!
If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be and why?
If I could do any other job, what would I do? Probably a history teacher, because I love history, and I love teaching. I would probably just do this at a higher level. I would love to be national in this industry. I love what I do.
Mar: Say it with me everyone, “Awwwww!”
This is where I usually write up some inspirational quote about how you could do this too if you just work hard yadda yadda. But I just love finding people who genuinely love what they do, and are so gracious to talk with me about it. Don’t forget to listen to Adam here and think of him next time you need to book an event, or need a killer track for your ride home.