Thanks for the ad credits Facebook! Due to your generous contribution of $25 worth of free advertising, 800,000 people saw an add that links to a blog, that WASN’T PUBLISHING FRESH CONTENT for the entire run of the add… Smart move Nick, real smart…
Anyway, I hate writing these “sorry I haven’t been writing” blogs, but this time, I actually have some REALLY good reasons why I’ve been slacking… First and foremost, I bought my DREAM DJ controller, the Numark NS7FX. Expect a rather lengthy article about it in a few weeks, but in a nutshell it’s a fancy MP3 Player… A $1300 fancy MP3 player. I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing and learning the turntable side of the DJ craft, and have been ignoring much of what gets in my way.
Also, I’ve been playing a TON of weddings the last few weeks. Since the last time I wrote, I’ve played in Florence, Iron Mountain, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and Appleton, more than once each. It’s been a fantastic wedding season and I feel that I’ve really caught on to this year’s big trend (another blog that I have already started writing).
Monty and I are preparing for the September 25th premiere of Secrets of the Portal at Mielke Theater in Shawano. We’ve added some new material and have been training some additional helpers, not all of which will be seen on stage. This will be a larger production than I’m used to, and it’s certainly a show I’ve been looking forward to for a LONG time. He was on the radio promoting the show this morning, so we should have a decent crowd in attendance.
My EVE Online friends at Cha0sTheory have escorted me to my first PVP kill ever! Sure, the victim was on autopilot in low-sec, and yes, I stupidly allowed gate guns to take my ship, BUT I’M ON THE BOARDS BABY! The Simplistic Syndicate and the Cha0sTheory alliance are rapidly expanding and need to make some money quick so we can build our outpost, so I crunched some numbers and will be starting a PowerBall-esque lottery in game. As simple as this sounds, I’m expecting tens of thousands of players every week and I won’t be able to handle all of the transactions without a fairly decent system to manage the process. I’m in the process of writing a program that will handle all of the busywork associated with the lotto. Full details will be available when I launch, probably sometime in November.
And finally, I’ve been trying to find contacts that would be willing to speak at, and attend a TEDx event in the Green Bay / Appleton / Neenah area. I’ve been a fan of the TED Talks YouTube page for years, but only recently found out about the TEDx program that allows smaller scale events to be managed independently. I’d love to find or built a community of thinkers that share their ideas, and give them a forum to do so. Right now, I’ve got an event nearly ready to put on the calendar, but I’m waiting for TEDx to reopen the application process, sometime around October 11.
OH, I almost forgot about the Greg Jennings benefit at Oneida Country Club, Touchdowns for Hope! Greg has pledged to donate $1000 to House Of Hope for every touchdown he scores this season. I was invited to assist my good friend Steve Richer on the photography front. If you’d like to see the pictures our team took, you can do so at http://www.imagequix.com. You’ll need the following login info as well. Feel free to order a few prints, all proceeds to back to House of Hope.
- photographer ID: D9NK69K
- Event ID: Greg Jennings Foundation
- Pass: gopackgo
Friday night, I played for the first time at Brett Favre’s Steakhouse. I’m not sure if was it bad luck, or (NSFW) The Viking Curse, but for the first time in the 3-4 years I’ve been using it, my Numark CDN-88 Dual-Deck CD Player decided that it wanted the night off. I couldn’t understand why, but songs would pause for seemingly no reason and with no warning, and the deck would totally lock up mid-song. The only remedy was to eject the disc, and start over on the other side, which worked just great, until I tried cuing up another disc of course. Normally, I would have caught something like this during dinner, when music isn’t quite as critical as it is at dance time, but I had been playing some CDs that the bride and groom made for me that didn’t require cross-fading between them, so the problem never had an opportunity to show itself.
The first time the system went down, I thought it was a fluke, figured out how to unlock the unit, and kept going, hoping it was just some mistake I had made. Not 4 songs later, it happened again. I rewired my electrical, checked all my other cables, and gave it one more run. During that first song, it went down a third time. I had enough. It was time to call in for reinforcements. I called Dave, and he left the job he was at, and ran me a Numark CDMIX-2 which is nice, but as the reviewers on Amazon will tell you, it has a few problems of it’s own.
The family had prepared an amazing video collage of various football players and coaches that used TV news footage out-of-context, offering the couple marriage advice. This was, by far the most creative and elegant use of a projector I had ever seen at a wedding. I did not, however, know how poorly the hall’s sound system would perform with the audio, making it nearly inaudible for everyone in attendance. I was unprepared to wire in any laptop without an external audio interface, so we ended up playing the video without sound, which was a such a major disappointment to me, I can only imagine how the bride, groom, and creator felt.
After the grand march, when I had a working CD player, there were a few minor hiccups, admittedly due to by lack of experience with the player, but overall we rocked the party hard. My confidence and heart were down in the balls of my feet, but for the most part, everyone who stuck it out with me seemed to have a great time. I even got a few compliments on how quickly I was able to get up and running and how well the party went thereafter, but it couldn’t erase the deep disappointment I felt from the earlier issues.
One of the major disadvantages of my business model and exclusive partnerships (I only take jobs from Action DJs and Monty’s Magic, and I always rent equipment from Action DJs or Camera Corner as a backup) is that my hands are typically tied when it comes to “making it right”. If the job was booked through Action, my preferred method, I typically don’t get paid until after I return the rented equipment, and as a general rule, I won’t carry cash out of town any time I’m traveling, business or not. Regardless, I felt that I owed something to the bride and her family, whether or not the problems that night were the fault of me, Action, or the venue, or whether they were just bad luck. Sure we made our best efforts to correct the problems, but that doesn’t change the fact that I couldn’t play music for 15 minutes, and someone’s hard work wasn’t given the time and attention it deserved.
In a feeble attempt to mend the wounds, I gave both the bride and her father my card and offered them 4 hours of my time at no charge for any future event, and I hope they take me up on it. They were both courteous and assured me that they understand the problem wasn’t my fault and that I handled it well, but that just isn’t good enough for me. I want them to be awed and amazed.
I left Bret Favre’s Steakhouse not knowing the cause of my problems, cursing the Vikings, and praying that my equipment would work the following night at Stone Harbor Resort. ( to be continued… )
When I’m out on the DJ circuit, the majority of the music I play is still on the traditional, audio CD. It’s not that I don’t trust a laptop, or that I don’t have my music stored on a hard drive, I just refuse to move to a media that doesn’t yet have an adequate control system. I currently use the Numark CDN-88 to play my CDs. It’s virtually skip-free, rack-mounted, and allows on the spot censoring, looping, same-disc advanced programming, and even some minor vinyl emulation features. Each function has it’s own button, clearly labeled and conveniently located. Besides, who can deny the utility of a real, solid mixer with EQ, volume, cross-fader, and monitor controls? Sure there are products out there like Traktor Scratch and Serrato, but they seem to focus a bit too much on the turntablism aspect of DJ life, an area that I rarely get involved in.
I want the hot cues, memorized loops, and 1-to-1 control mapping of Serrato, the precision and latency (or lack there of) of Traktor. Where both packages fall short is in library management. Luckily, I have found Mixxx, an open source DJ platform. Mixxx has a strong developers community, and a surprisingly large user base. While it doesn’t even come close to fixing my library problem with the commercial applications out there, it is open for me to write my own additions and modifications, which I plan on doing.
I see major potential to grow the capabilities of digital media management programs, especially in the realm of music. A library should do more than just display what is available, and it should be more than just searchable. If my software is tracking my setlist, why can’t I make comments on the setlist? As a wedding DJ, I frequently play the same or similar songs back-to-back, and rarely have the need to listen to a playback of the entire event. A library program should be able to look at the song I’m playing, then back at previous sets to help me find the next track to play… And it should prevent me from playing songs that frequently bomb. The system could look at my ID3 tags, and help me with harmonic mixing, providing features similar to Mixed In Key…
The bottom line is, i have a few dreams… Big dreams… But, I may need some help along the way. Mixxx, for the most part, is written in C / C++, a language I have not yet studied. Also, the Mixxx project is about 8 years old, so I’ve got a lot of (poorly commented) code to catch up on. Now, my first step is to introduce myself to the other devs on the mailing list, and see where they think I should start.
At about 3:00 this morning I got an e-mail from my favorite web service, LaLa, saying that as of May 31, they will be offline. Hopefully Apple does something to replace this service, or I’m going to need to start approaching artists for free demo releases… You may remember a few days ago when I listed LaLa as my primary source of new music.
DRM free + on-demand full song preview = epic win!
As a DJ, you are expected to know all of the newest, hottest tracks. To be quite honest, more music is released commercially than I could ever want to listen to. On April 20, 2010 the music industry cranked out 30 new albums. Another 21 were released today, and on May 4th, there will be another 29 more albums to catch up with. The list goes on. There is no way I am going to thoroughly listen to 80 new albums in two weeks time, and know every song well enough to add them to my set.
I have a system that I use to discover music. Pandora doesn’t cut it for me, as the library is too large to ensure enough fresh music, and Mufin has too many other issues to mention here. First, I filter the list. Let’s take a look at what was released today.
|Avi Buffalo||Avi Buffalo|
|B.o.B.||B.o.B Presents: The Adventures Of Bobby Ray|
|Bullet for My Valentine||Fever|
|Mary Chapin Carpenter||The Ages Of Miracles|
|Miranda Cosgrove||Sparks Fly|
|Daddy Yankee||Daddy Yankee Mundial|
|Drowning Pool||Drowning Pool|
|Melissa Etheridge||Fearless Love|
|Peter Frampton||Thank You Mr Churchill|
|Gogol Bordello||Trans-Continental Hustle|
|Lali Puna||Our Inventions|
|Lonestar||Party Heard Around The World|
|The Mynabirds||The Mynabirda|
|Nathaniel Rateliff||In Memory Of Loss|
|Transhcan Sinatras||In The Music|
|Two Door Cinema Club||Tourist History|
|White Fence||White Fence|
|Wounded Lion||Wounded Lion|
I’m really only familiar with B.o.B., Drowning Pool, Melissa Etheridge, Peter Frampton, Gogol Bordello, Hole, and Lonestar, so I’ll listen to them first. Everyone else goes on hold until they get radio play. The first two times by, I’ll listen to the entire album. The third time around, if I don’t recognize a song by the 20 second mark, I skip it, give it 1 star in iTunes, and probably never play it again.
This sounds harsh to some (and annoying to my girlfriend who hears me skipping songs so frequently), but the reality is that in one night, I’m only going to play 70 songs at the most… I want every song I play to be recognized and danced to immediately. I want that “Dancing Queen” effect on every song, where they hear 2 seconds, know what’s coming, and jump out of their chairs. And you know what, sometimes I’m wrong… Sometimes, I blow away a track that deserves a better rank and more time than I give it, but if I DO miss something, it’s only for one or two shows. The Hodown Showdown is a perfect example of a song I missed, because I wasn’t playing to the audience that cared… But once I realized what I was missing, I corrected the problem before it became a problem again.
I also listen to the playlists from Promo Only, the leading distributor of music to radio stations and Disc Jockey services. They will give me the best tracks from all of the artists I choose not to listen to, which will sometimes lead me to checking out the rest of their album as well. How do I check out all of this music without breaking the bank? Check out LaLa, a music service that streams each track free of charge once, with the option to buy a DRM free, high-quality MP3 download, or unlimited streaming rights for a far lower price.
At first, I never gave thought to it, but after about a year on the road I realized how vital it is to carry tape to every event. From weak microphone connectors, to avoiding a power outage or “trip and fall” lawsuit, tape is vital to being seen as a professional, and not just another guy that has a lot of CDs or MP3s. Quick fix, right? Head down to the hardware store, slap down $7 for a roll of duct tape, and you’re off… But is that really the right way to go?
Duct tape has a few problems when you look at the applications of a traveling DJ. First, depending on the brand and quality of the tape, Duct Tape can be extremely hard to tear. While it is available in a wide range of colors, Duct Tape is typically found in a shiny sliver variant, designed to blend in with the HVAC parts that it was designed to mend, occasionally throwing odd, perhaps blinding, reflections. Lastly, and most importantly, duct tape sticks TOO WELL. The rubber-based glue is difficult to remove from surfaces (especially the rubber outer layer of speaker and microphone cable) and can damage or leave residue on walls (paint chipping), floors (gummy or sticky carpet, linoleum, and hardwood), and electrical outlets if not handled carefully.
Enter a new world of tape: Gaffer’s Tape. While gaffer’s tape does tend to cost about three times as much as it’s stickier counterpart, it was specifically designed for the entertainment industry where we commonly need to hold things together for only a few nights, rather than months or years. Beyond the tuned adhesion formula, Gaff tape tears easily and cleanly, in both directions. So you can use either 60 yards of 2-inch tape, or rip it in half when you don’t need as much, and get 120 yards of 1-inch tape. The matte black finish is discreet and professional looking, prevents any tripping, and won’t ruin cables or wall plates when it’s time to go.
Don’t be shy about using expensive tape. The owners of your venue will appreciate the care you took to protect their property, but only if they notice. High School gyms HATE having sticky residue on their hardwood floors. Make it a point to say you’ve got something special… It may be that competitive edge that puts you over the guy they booked last year.
Earlier I had discussed how I would be going to my first prom this weekend, and it turned out to me more eventful that I had originally planned. For one, this was the first time i had worn my Tuxedo this year, and I was unaware that my stain was so poorly stained, so I headed out to Du Bois for a new shirt, and a pair of shoes, as I figured they could use an upgrade too. Then I had an idea.
To hit such a fresh, young market, I should try to engage with them more, meet them in their world, and show them that an “old guy” like myself is still cool. To make it to the job on time, I had to leave by 6:00, and at about 4:30 I got the idea for my new business card (I’ll post it after I get an artist to touch it up a little). On one side, it’s a fairly simple card design, based lightly on the top of my homepage. On the other, it says: “Taking requests by Tweet or Text, @WautierEnt or 920-471-4627“. It worked! I gave out about 30 cards, all to clients that will probably be having parties over the next 4 months, and I received a few texts, proving my CTA worked (about 7% conversion). Furthermore, I was able to connect with some old friends, teachers, and even a few family members that were in attendance while putting on a decent show. While it wasn’t technically my strongest night, it was certainly a learning experience, and a whole new audience to play to.
On Sunday, we were off to Milwaukee to see Ingrid Michaelson perform live at the Northern Lights Theater. This venue was much more comfortable than Turner Hall, where Trisha and I had previously seen Ingrid’s show, but also didn’t seem to have quite the same atmosphere either. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ingrid, she describes herself as someone who “makes music… I had a song in an Old Navy commercial in 2007…” While the majority of her songs are sappy love songs and I take all kinds of heat from the guys over it, she is by far the funniest musician I have ever seen, ranking up there with Weird Al and Richard Cheese in my book even though the laughs are generated through in a totally different way.
We also stopped at The Oriental Theater to see a limited showing of The Runaways. It was a decent movie, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again… There were many graphic scenes of drug use and sexual activity, seeming gratuitous at times. Other than that, there’s nothing for me to pick on, other than that it wasn’t overly memorable.
I slept till 12:30 this morning to recover from last night, and still have nothing inappropriate or embarrassing to report like some other people. After working a full day at Camera Corner, going to Stacey’s’ refreshingly casual wedding,and assisting a new Action DJ with his show, I had a great evening upstairs in The Enchanted Ballroom at The Black Forest. I’m not used to having an opening act, much less one the quality of Gunn & Bordini (they truly are amazing artists, and I mean no disrespect by my little “opening act” joke).
Oddly enough, last night’s wedding is going to seriously help with my prom nerves for next week. After playing my first 5 songs, I knew it was going to be a dance / hip-hop heavy evening. Only 19 of the 55 songs I played were part of my usual repertoire, which really opened me up to focus on a different corner of the musical universe that I don’t always get to play with. Now to start buying some of these new tracks and load up for next week!
I have previously commented on the iPad’s battery replacement policy, but I held back on stating that I don’t think the iPad is all that special. I have an iPod touch and a laptop, why would I want to combine the two in a way that makes it extremely uncomfortable to use. In fact, it’s so uncomfortable that it inspired Kevin Pereira and Chris Hardwick to come up with a new way to sit. There is nothing that the iPad has that I can’t already do with my existing hardware better!
But now, the game has changed. Korg has announced the iElectribe (official site), a drum machine app designed specifically for the iPad. I’m a huge fan of Korg and am the proud owner of the Kaossilator and all three nano devices. The $9.99 price tag is amazing considering that similar hardware products cost nearly the same as an iPad and only serve one purpose.