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Mobile gig basics

Part One

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OK you've got your music and complete rig, you've booked your first gig and are ready to start working. Before you begin there are some useful tips I have acquired through my 13 years as a mobile DJ that you may find helpful.

Punctuality is crucial

Before you begin, call the Banquet facility to arrange a setup time. Some Banquet Halls and Hotels book afternoon parties. When this happens they often only calculate the time they need to set the room for the evening affair without any regard for  your setup requirements. If you find out they have the room booked for the afternoon, ask what time the afternoon party ends and plan to be there about that time. You may have to wait for the banquet crew to change the room, or install a dance floor before you can set up, but at least you be there ready for the frantic rush you may find yourself in. Also plan to change your cloths at the hall.

Allow plenty of time to travel to the hall. Factor in traffic, getting lost, a mechanical breakdown or bad weather. Be conscious of other events in the area ( Parades, Fairs, Sporting events) or any other large gathering which could cause traffic delays. If you are not 100% certain how to get to the hall, get a map and directions. I use to get my directions. They give you door to door directions and the ability to print  maps. They usually are right on the money.

Calculate your minimum required setup time and allow about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes more for setup. Some hall are very easy to get into, and others require a lot more time and work in order to bring your equipment in. You just never know what you may encounter when setting up. Recently I had a wedding at a waterfront banquet hall. The hall is on the second floor overlooking Lake Erie and the Buffalo Harbor. There is an elevator at this hall for handicap access. With this in mind, I allowed around an hour and 15 minutes for setup because this was a large Wedding which required a fairly large rig. When I arrived I was informed the elevator had been overload by a DJ the previous week and the hall had paid over $3500 for repairs and they refused to let me use it. (No matter how much I pleaded) I ended up carrying an entire rig with light show and subwoofers, 2 amp racks and 5 boxes of CDs up 27stairs. This obviously was not what I had planned when I booked the job. I barely got set up and changed in time, and I was sore for a week! In hindsight, I don't thing there is any amount of money that would convince me to do that again. 

While we are talking horror stories and the importance of being early, I had a gig at a large Hotel in downtown Buffalo NY. It was a fraternity party. I unloaded my entire rig into the elevator for the trip up to the Banquet halls located on the 5th floor. When I arrived at the 5th floor and started taking gear out of the elevator I noticed a DJ was already setup in the room I was supposed to be in.  The sign had the name of the Fraternity that booked me. After confirming I was at the right Hotel on the right day, I checked with the catering staff and found out their were 2 chapters of the same Fraternity with the same names but different Colleges at the same hotel on the same night. My party was located in the Atrium area in the Hotel lobby. What are the chances of that? Luckily I allowed enough time for set up that I was able to move to the Atrium in time to start at 6:00.

Another consideration is if you get to a gig and experience an equipment breakdown you need to have enough time to make a repair, check connections, swap components or try to arrange an emergency rental before the guests arrive. No matter how well you maintain your rig, things do break! And since it's not practical to test your equipment before you arrive at every show, you need to allow time to react to unexpected equipment failures.  


Location of your equipment and placement of the speakers is very important to sound quality, functionality and the comfort of the guests. Most banquet halls are rectangle shaped. Try to set up on one of the short walls closest to the dance floor with your speakers directing the sound parallel to the long walls. This will insure the dance floor gets the most volume while projecting sound throughout the room. People sitting at the tables like to be able to talk so you want the bulk of the sound to be in the dance floor area. Setting up in this way allows you to play the music loud enough for the dancers without blasting the other guests out. It also helps eliminate complaints about the volume.

Place your speakers on each side of your table and slightly in front of you. Doing this helps eliminate feedback while using your microphone. The most common feedback occurs when your microphone picks up the speaker output and feeds it back to your speakers causing a looping action. This will start as a slight hum or squeal and get louder until you turn off your microphone or reduce the mic's volume. Placing the speakers in front of the mic will reduce the risk of feedback.

Avoid running wires where people walk. If someone is injured by tripping on a wire, you can count on a lawsuit. If you must run a wire in a traffic area, be sure to tape it down so no one trips. You can also run wires over doorways as opposed to on the floor. I found by rolling a piece of duct tape about the size of a cigarette and sticking it on top of the molding over the door, the wire will say put without causing any damage to wallpaper or paint in the hall. Which leads to my next point.

Don't abuse the facility! Make every attempt to prevent damaging the banquet hall. Do not tape anything to the walls or floors that can not be removed at the end of the night. Open doors with your hands, not by ramming your speakers or 2 wheel dolly into it. I can't tell you how many restrictions halls place on DJ's for this reason. I have had to work twice as hard as necessary to appease the banquet manager of halls that have had DJ's break windows, destroy wallpaper, and yes even break elevators by being careless and inconsiderate of their property. Because of this, many banquet halls in my area have installed their own built-in sound systems and do not allow you to bring your own gear into their facility. This in itself wouldn't be so bad, but some charge their customers up to $125 for the use of the system if they hire an outside DJ service. In contrast they will waive the fee if you hire the house DJ. This is causing many DJs in my area to lose business because charging the customer an additional $125 prices you out of the market. Your only other option is to reduce your price by the cost of the equipment rental. Either way you lose.

To be continued

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