The following is a blog entry I recently posted for the DJ company I work for, Complete Music and Video. Since the bridal show season is underway, I thought it would be good to post it here, too.
So here's the deal. If you want people to remember your event, it needs to be fun. Otherwise, why else would people decide to attend? But many times throughout the year, I hear this statement from a client:
"I don't want anything cheesy at my wedding."
I've discovered that the word "cheesy" is an extremely subjective term; it can mean different things to different people. Often, this comment is made by brides or grooms that have been to their fair share of weddings between the time they got engaged and their own wedding date, and they've probably seen a lot of sub-standard DJs doing a lot of the same things, either with a complete lack of creativity, or perhaps in an unprofessional manner. Naturally, that kind of approach can make anything look cheesy. But one other thing I've found remains true:
People like cheese.
As much as I hate to admit it -- as an artist and an entertainer -- a little bit of cheese can help in certain situations. How many wedding receptions have you been to where the DJ played the Cha-Cha Slide and no one danced because it was "too cheesy"? I'm gonna save you the effort of thinking of a time and just let you know right now, the answer is none. If anything, when a substandard DJ plays an audience participation or icebreaker song, it gets MORE people on the dance floor than were there before. That's the power of that kind of song; it makes even the most inept DJ look like he knows what he's doing.
Given that, the term "cheesy" actually means "overdone with inexperience".
One dance I use religiously at my shows is called the Snowball Dance. The premise is this: I start with a group of people (i.e., the wedding party, table captains, etc.) on the dance floor, and I explain to them that I'm going to play a song they can start dancing to. At any time during the song, when I get on the microphone and say the word "snowball", everyone on the dance floor has to run out, grab someone that's not dancing, and bring them back to the dance floor with them. I do this 2 or 3 times during the first song.
Now on paper, yeah, this does sound kind of cheesy. On the other hand, look at the dance floor 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the song. It's packed. And I don't just mean there are 20 people on the floor, I mean PACKED. Honestly, everytime I do this, 80%-90% of the crowd has made their way to the dance floor, even if only for that one song. And I'm not lying when I say that nearly 100% of the time, the Snowball Dance works flawlessly. The opening of the dance floor (once all the formalities are done, that is) is traditionally the most difficult time to get people up and dancing because no one wants to be the first person out there. The Snowball Dance takes the pressure off of your guests and makes it EASY for them to get up and dance. And once they're out on the dance floor, it's much easier for them to stay out there. Those that don't want to dance usually end up going to sit down, grab a drink, or whatever once that first song is over. Either way, there's no pressure; your DJ is EmCee-ing the action. That's what he's supposed to do.
The Snowball Dance starts the open dancing portion on a high note, bringing people into the "fun" aspect of the evening in a big way. Regardless of how cheesy it sounds when I explain it, once you see it in motion there's no denying its ability to transform a formal event into an event full of life, energy, and fun in less than 4 minutes.
And then there are the people that won't dance. One thing I've learned in my experience both as a DJ and a professional improv comedian is that even if people don't want to participate, they still like to be entertained. So I'll bring out little games and dance contests throughout the evening that will use a very small number of volunteers, but they create a spectacle for the rest of the crowd to enjoy. Nothing swings the energy up in a room like getting a crowd to laugh and cheer along with everyone else, so I'll make it easy for everyone to have some fun, evening if dancing isn't on their agenda.
Two of my friends from church recently hired Complete Music for their wedding reception in October, and they told me up front that they wanted me for their DJ. From what he tells me, the conversation went like this:
"Do you know who would be a great DJ but a little expensive?"
"And do you know who would be cheaper, but wouldn't be that great?"
"Yeah, I don't want him. Let's get Zach."
I'm not making this up. They'd heard so many good things about me as a DJ that they knew they wanted someone that could make their reception fun. (And to be fair, they found that Complete Music was actually more reasonably priced than they'd first thought, especially when they compared CM with other St. Louis area DJ companies.) And in an area like the Metro East, where there are literally hundreds of fly-by-night, single-system, independently owned DJ companies that charge a fraction of what Complete Music charges, they still decided their money was better spent making sure they got the kind of DJ that would make their event memorable and fun for everyone who attended. And you know what the sad thing is? Dozens of other people in the church have opted NOT to hire me and Complete Music in the past because they were worried that it would be too expensive. In fact, one of my other friends said they wished they had hired me after their son's wedding reception.
So while my two friends may be the first people from my area of Alton, IL to hire Complete Music, I guarantee that after their reception, they won't be the last.
There Is No Box.