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A B-boy Promoter’s Guide to Dealing with the DJ

I’ve spent a majority of my DJ career spinning b-boy and dance events and in that time, I’ve unfortunately seen and heard about a lot of shadiness and unprofessionalism. This is a real problem and I hear complaints from another DJs on a regular basis. If you’re a promoter, this article is basically so you get an idea of where a DJ is coming from, what they need from you, and what you should and shouldn’t expect from them. I’m hoping to establish some best practices to prevent problems in the future for DJs or promoters.

This is probably going to be a one-part, constantly changing post. As I think of new things or if someone brings something to my attention that should be addressed, I’ll add it. If you wanna keep up you might consider bookmarking this listing or subscribing to the blog via RSS. If it’s a major update I’ll make a new blog post to notify everyone of changes.

Before the Jam

Don’t take the decision to hire a DJ lightly

I’ve said this in two blog posts already and I’ll say it in every one if I have to, THE DJ IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR JAM. I’m not saying this as a DJ, I’m saying this as a dancer. A bad DJ will ruin your jam and your reputation. It only takes one bad event to end your career as a promoter. I’ve seen it happen to plenty of people. They hire a wack DJ for the first event or first few and then when they try to get a better DJ, it’s too late. Their jam has already become something to be avoided. Take the time, effort, and expense to find and hire a knowledgeable DJ for your event. If you build up a reputation as someone who hires good DJs, your job of promotion is cut in half. Word of mouth from your attendees will take care of most of the work.

This doesn’t mean you have to get a huge name. If you can afford it, go for it but if you’re just starting out, it simply may not be an option. I promise you there’s someone within a few hours drive that can play your jam. I know a lot of competent b-boy DJs and they’re spread out in every region of the country. Ask around and you’ll find someone.

What to pay

This is a tricky subject. Everyone has their own rates and it varies depending on the DJ’s experience, distance they have to travel, equipment they bring, size of the jam, day of the week, hours played, if they’re alone or playing with another DJ etc. I don’t want to give too many specifics because I don’t want to give a rate that’s lower than what someone might charge. Before I talk about b-boy jams, I’ll talk about what a DJ might make at another gig.

Let’s look at a mobile DJ who does weddings and bar mitzvahs and things like that since it tends to be very similar to what a B-boy DJ has to do in terms of what equipment they bring and hours spent actually playing. The low-end pay for a Mobile DJ is about $1000. Now you subtract the hours spent prior to the event talking to brides and families and you can lower that price a good bit. Let’s say by half, so $500 for bringing tables, mixer, music, and possibly the PA system depending on the venue and playing for about 6 hours. Keep in mind this is low-end. I’ve known mobile DJs who won’t consider loading the car for less than $2000.

In my experience with other DJs and promoters your average estimated pay charged by most b-boy DJs is around 200-300 per day of a jam (about 6 hours) if they’re playing by themselves, perhaps less if with other DJs. As a promoter, this is a good starting point for negotiating rates. Don’t treat this as a limit, treat it as your starting point. If this sounds steep, let’s really consider what a DJ is providing for a b-boy event.

Most of the time, they’re bringing their own gear and they’re not charging you for it. Turntables, mixers, needles, headphones, laptops, and hard drives all have a shelf life. Every time you take any of that gear out of the house you’re lowering that shelf life. The more you use it or let other DJs use it, the sooner you’re going to have to buy new gear. There’s also records and/or mp3s which constantly have to be bought to keep a playlist that’s fresh for each jam.

They’re providing a highly technical skill. DJ’ing (well) is hard. It’s really hard. If you know a DJ, ask him to teach you a little bit. Most of the time after about 5 or 10 minutes you’re just going to be staring at most of the equipment and going “Wait…you do what with the headphones?” It takes a lot of time and effort just to get down the basics needed to play a b-boy jam like beatmatching and basic juggling. Then there are more advanced skills on top of that; song selection, reading a crowd, harmonic mixing, scratching, advanced juggling, and just knowing how to spin for a b-boy battle or any dance battle, which is a very specific skillset totally separate from what the average DJ might know. Of course to get better you also have to pile on hours and hours of practice at home. DJ’s put in a lot of effort and time into their craft just like any other artist yet if you asked another artist to do the same amount of work in the same amount of time for the same amount of pay, most would scoff at the offer. Nowadays, there are some DJs who skip all that practice and just buy Serato and download a few mp3s and start trying to play. You should be able to pick these DJs out pretty easily and know not to hire them. Why not hire them? See above.

They’re the backbone of your jam. Again, the DJ is the most important part of your event. Everything else can be perfect but if your DJ sucks, your jam sucked. People won’t talk about how good the lighting was, how famous the judges were or how big the prize was. What they will talk about is how they couldn’t cypher or do well in their battle because of wack music. You’ll end up with a lot of people leaving early and a whole lot less repeat customers.

Now, going back to that original estimate of 200-300. If you look at what is actually provided for your event, this is actually a pretty reasonable price. Don’t be surprised if some DJs ask for a good bit more, especially those with more experience or more of a name. They’re not trying to screw you, they’re giving you an honest assessment of what they feel their time and effort is worth. And some may or may not charge you for the use of their equipment, especially if multiple DJs are going to be using it. Again, they’re not trying to screw they’re trying protect the investment they’ve made over the course of several years.

If you still feel like the price given to you by a DJ is too steep, then discuss it with them diplomatically and see if they’ll lower their price. I’d avoid the strategy of “I can’t pay you a lot now, but I’ll get you on the next one.” I’ve done this before and I know other DJs who do it but it only happens with people I know on a personal level and trust. The truth is there’s a very good chance there might not be a next one and most DJs aren’t going to want to take that risk. If they do lower the price, understand that they’re doing you a favor. Don’t treat it as “Well, this is what I’m always paying this DJ or all other DJs from now on.” When you can afford it, pay the rate you were originally quoted or as close to that rate as you can get.

A similar facebook note dealing specifically with what to pay a DJ which was the inspiration for this entire post was made by DJ Keeno from St. Louis back in April. Be sure to check out his blog and read the post found Here so you can get even more specifics about the true worth of a good DJ.

Extra Expenses

If your DJ is coming from out of town, you’re expected to pay for travel and provide a place to stay. Basically, you’re creating a situation where it doesn’t hurt your DJ to come to your event and the money paid isn’t coming out of the actual rate for DJ’ing. This means you’ll be paying for a plane ticket or in most cases, gas. When to pay gas is up to you, I’d say if the trip is over an hour, even just a little bit towards gas helps. If you want to calculate gas costs, AAA has a pretty good gas mileage calculator found here.

In terms of where to stay, you might have to pay for a hotel or provide a spot in yours or one of your friend’s houses. I’ve done plenty of couchsurfing in my time and a lot of other DJs have too. Most don’t mind crashing at someone’s house but check with them beforehand. Don’t automatically assume they want to sleep on a sleeping bag wedged between 30 other b-boys for 2-3 days. As a promoter you need to think in terms of “talent” and “civilians.” Your talent; judges, DJs, MCs, b-boys brought in for exhibition etc. should be provided with a few extra amenities beyond what other people attending your jam get. They are, after all, there to provide a service to you and your event. This helps to ensure loyalty in the people you bring out and earns you a good reputation in the community. It makes hiring bigger names much easier later on down the road. If a situation arises where someone has to choose between your jam and someone else’s, past experience can make the decision much easier for them. Now if they don’t mind the “30 b-boys to a floor” plan (some actually prefer it to sitting in a hotel room by themselves) then feel free to provide that. Just make sure they know the situation.

There’s also a thing called “per diem.” Latin for “per day,” this is a small amount of cash (less than $100, usually around $20-50 but any amount helps) given to someone for each day they are at an event to cover the cost of food and whatever other essentials needed to get through the day. I’ve never actually seen this “Per Diem” pay and suspect it may be a myth. Again, this is one of those perks that just helps to instill loyalty in the people you hire and earn you a good name in the scene.

(Note: Actually since originally writing this, I have spun events where I received per diem along with the other judges and DJs. It’s a small thing but I can say it improves moods and definitely influenced my decision to return to those events. The amount of money doesn’t matter, it’s just a matter of good promotion and hospitality.)

When and How to Pay

Chances are, the DJ may have specific conditions on how they get paid. Be sure to ask if they don’t tell you but it’ll usually go a couple different ways. There can sometimes be a deposit, retainer fee or booking fee that needs to be paid up front. They are all meant to cover the costs of preparation before the event (gear repair, acquiring new songs, time spent organizing, etc) and to reserve the date so the DJ can’t double book. Those all sound like the same thing but legally, they are all different.

A deposit is considered the first payment for a service to be provided at a later date, usually around 20% of the total costs. It might say “Non-refundable deposit” in the contract but legally, that doesn’t stand. If the event is canceled and the event never performs their job, then in court, the DJ may be forced to refund the deposit since the job was never done. Remember, the deposit is legally only the first portion of a larger payment for a service.

A retainer fee reserves the date and provides resources to pay for any necessary preparation in legal terms. Again, this a situation where if the job gets cancelled, it could be ruled refundable if the job is never actually performed.

A booking fee only covers reserving the date so the DJ cannot make other committments. This is truly non refundable. It is unrelated to the service and therefore can not be affected by whether the promoter decides they don’t need the dj.

Regardless of what it’s called, this fee typically needs to be paid up front at the time you book the DJ. It might either be a percentage of total cost or an entirely separate fee. Don’t look at it as just a way for the DJ to squeeze more cash out of you. You need to understand that when you book a dj for a date, you are preventing them from taking any other gigs that might potentially pay more or provide more exposure or other advantages.  You are quite literally costing them money. The deposit, retainer or booking fee reimburses the DJ for that potential money loss or at least lessens the sting when they have to turn down a lucrative bottle service night to come play for a bunch of sweaty, judgemental dudes.

Whatever money beyond those fees should be paid on the day of the event, at the beginning of the day. Your DJ is going to be a lot more relaxed and excited to play your event with money in their pocket. They don’t want to spend the event worrying whether this might be one of those days they go home angry and empty handed.

As for how to pay, cash is always preferable. Checks bounce and I don’t probably don’t know you so i might not be totally at ease taking one from you. Paypal’s a great alternative because it’s immediate. I can get on a phone and immediately see that money is being transferred directly to my account.

If you’re working through a college,  that throws a wrench in things. They’re massive institutions which can make it difficult to meet the demands of a DJ. You’re usually just a student who’s reporting to a faculty sponsor who’s reporting to a department head and so on. It’s a big ladder of responsibility and rather than go to the top someone in the chain might just say “screw it, get someone easier.” It’s worth a shot to try and meet whatever payment demands they may have, every situation is different and it might work out fine. IF you can’t satisfy certain conditions like a deposit or you have to mail a check later, do everything you can to set your DJ at ease. Provide them a university contact, a check stub, a time frame…whatever you can do to let them know that they WILL get paid.

If you have a contract drawn up it is a legal document and the DJ’s pay becomes a potential legal issue that the school won’t want to play around with so you have some leverage if the university is dragging their feet, and if that is the case, you should be acting as the DJ’s advocate to speed things along. Don’t just leave them on their own to work any problems out.

Get It In Writing

Whatever you decide to pay the DJ, get a simple contract typed up and have the DJ sign it at the event or, if possible, in advance of the event and make sure you both have a copy. It simply has to say “I agree to pay DJ ____ this much money for this amount of time on this date. I will also provide travel expenses (Plane ticket, cost of gas) and they will be staying at my house/floor/a hotel.” This ensures that you’re both on the same page and avoids situations that might occur at the jam where someone says they were supposed to get paid one price but someone else says something else was agreed to. That’s why it’s better to get the contract worked out before the event. You don’t want to have to hash this out the day of the jam. The day of the jam you and the DJ both have a job to do and it’s much better if you can both get straight to it and not have to argue about pay or where you’re staying.

It should be noted that a contract is a legal document. If someone is so inclined it’s possible they could take you to small claims court over a breach of contract so take it seriously.

“Do you have a table?”

I’ve asked this question way more times than I’d have liked. For others you can replace “table” with speakers, microphone, RCA cable, XLR cable, a bottle of water, etc. The point is there will always be something the DJ needs that you won’t have. It’s much better to talk before hand and come to a decision as to what you’ll provide and what the DJ will provide. In general the promoter is usually responsible for the sound system and cables needed to hook up and a table for the DJ to set up on. These are the things that are usually too unwieldy for a DJ to bring with them when coming from out of state. If they’re coming even further out of state or have a car full of other people coming to your jam the promoter may be responsible for getting turntables and mixer. A DJ should ALWAYS bring their own slipmats, hard drive/laptop, records, needles and headphones. Always is bold because I want DJs to see that too. For you DJs, don’t always expect that the DJ you’re playing with is going to be friendly enough with you to allow the use of his needles or headphones and if you do want to use another DJ’s equipment, ASK. When you have to provide turntables and mixer, let the DJ know exactly what brand and model equipment you’re providing and if there’s any known issues. If there’s a problem with the equipment it’s better that the DJ knows beforehand so he can plan accordingly.

In terms of equipment, if you plan on doing this for a while, it may not be a bad investment to go ahead and buy your own DJ gear so that out of town DJs can use it without worrying about bringing their own. This a major plus if you’re trying to draw an out of state DJ. If you’re going to do this, go with the standards: Technics 1200s for the tables and for the mixer you’ve got a lot of options. If you know a lot of DJs are going to be using serato, a Rane 57SL, Sixty-Two or Sixty-Eight. Otherwise go with a Rane, Vestax, or one of the new Pioneer mixers. Make sure it has 2 channels, smooth crossfaders, and both XLR and RCA outputs. Talk to a DJ you know to get more specifics. Same goes with a PA system. If you have a PA system your options for venues becomes much better. You can basically throw a jam anywhere if you have your own sound system.

When it comes to the sound system, depending on the situation, it may be taken care of by the venue. As a promoter though, it’s your responsibility to make sure. Talk to the DJ and find out what kind of cables will be needed or extra equipment will be needed. There are some DJs who have their own systems and may decide to bring them instead but don’t automatically assume that a DJ has their own sound system. It may not be a bad idea to ask for what’s called a “Performance Rider.”

A rider is a list of things required by talent. You’ve probably heard the famous story about the Rolling Stones only wanting brown M&M’s in their dressing room. This was in their rider along with important things like stage setups, equipment, power requirements, and other things. The brown M&M thing was there as a “canary in the coal mine” sort of thing. If they showed up and there were no M&Ms they knew that no one read the rider and they’d have to double check all the essential things they asked for. A DJ’s rider will probably just include things like “Table, XLR cables for output from mixer, a bottle of water.” It rarely gets more complicated than that. If they ask for the brown M&Ms just tell them “I read the rider and I know what you need.” If you say that though, it better be true. If something is just completely unreasonable, just let them know that you’re not seeing a legitimate reason for you to provide that.

A rider is kind of an advanced thing and is usually reserved for much bigger artists, concerts or events but it’s not a bad idea to work it into how you run things. You want to be seen as professional by the people you work with and every little thing like this helps.

Also, when it comes to tables, please nothing wobbly or two or three tiny tables crammed together to try and make a table. The equipment is expensive and you don’t want it to fall and break and ruin your jam and the DJ’s life. Also, scratching and juggling causes a lot of motion and can make needles skip on a bad table which will make your DJ sound much worse than he is and can make it nearly impossible to loop breaks during battles. One of those basic white folding tables you get at Wal-Mart is perfect for just about any DJ setup.

“You’re gonna be playing the b-boy battle, the popping battle, the All Styles battle, and then there’s an after party where you’ll need to play nothing but Italo-disco and Pre-Carter 3 Lil’ Wayne”

Please let the DJ know what you want them to do before the jam. Don’t spring it on them the day of the jam that they have to play a million and one battles they didn’t know were even happening. Most DJs prepare at least a general idea of what they’re playing prior to a jam so they can concentrate on the hundreds of other things they have to think about the day of an event. If they’re going to have to play a popping battle they may need to prepare for that. They might need to add things to their travel hard drive or repack their record crates to account for the battle. If they show up and you want them to play a battle they’re not prepared for, don’t be surprised if the results are less than what you hoped for.

If you’re going to have any shows or performers and the DJ needs their songs, discuss this with the DJs and performers. Our setups our fickle…some DJs want a cd, others want a digital copy (mp3, wav or aiff please. No one uses Windows Media files). CDs skip, flash drives freeze, songs are mislabeled…this type of thing grinds events to a halt. Before the jam even starts, get the DJ whatever songs they need so he can be sure they work and there’s no waiting for a song to load in the middle of a jam.

Multiple DJs

If you have multiple DJs playing you have to think about who’s doing what. Who’s playing the finals? Who’s doing cyphers? Who’s doing popping battles? A lot of that stuff can be worked out between the DJs but if you know one DJ is more experienced than the other don’t be afraid to step up and say “I want him to play the finals.” This is your jam and you do have control of what happens. This also helps to avoid a lot of bickering between DJs. Every DJ wants as much time on the tables as possible and sometimes it’s not a bad idea to step in and delegate. However, if you trust both DJs equally and you know they’re on good terms, let them work it out. As much as a little structure helps, knowing when to back off is just as important.

Be sure to let the DJs know that there will be other DJs. There are sometimes situations where I’ll be spinning and someone will come up and say “Hey, i’m supposed to spin.” Now I don’t have a problem with other DJs playing a set but I want to be sure that it’s been cleared with the promoter. I don’t want to just let anyone play. This does happen in the DJ community. Some random DJ will show up with records (If you have records or big headphones at a jam, people just let you go anywhere. Please don’t do that) and say they’re supposed to play, when in reality, they’re not. Let all DJs know who the other DJs are and introduce them before the jam starts in case anything needs to be discussed.

In terms of equipment and setup, you and the DJs need to discuss how this is going to work. Will they be sharing the same turntables and mixer or will there be multiple setups? If they’re sharing they’ll have to figure out if they want to share headphones and needles and in the case of digital situations, there’s a lot that needs to be figured. If they’re using the same digital DJ software, it’s not that big of a deal. We usually just trade out laptops or share a laptop and use a hard drive (I think this is better…seperate post for DJs to come later about this). If they have different software though, then you have a problem. All digital DJ software requires a hardware interface to work and that interface is different for each brand and it’s that part of the setup that requires the most setup time. Luckily, you probably won’t run into this situation much since Serato has become the norm.

In my experience, two or more turntable setups is the best option (meaning four turntables, 2 mixers). Two setups makes it much easier when switching DJs between battles and allows one DJ to spin a battle while the other is able to prepare his set for the next battle. You avoid long delays as DJs trade out laptops, records, needles, and headphones. There’s a lot of wires and delicate equipment getting moved around and it can sometimes be a huge hassle. If your DJs have worked together before or have a good rapport you can get some pretty good results in the cyphers as well with multiple setups. There’s a lot of things that two DJs and four turntables are capable of if they’re comfortable with each other.

More than two setups is pretty rare and you’re really only going to see that type of thing at big events like R-16, BOTY, or UK Championships. Two setups should be enough for most events.

A lot of the things like sharing setups, who plays what, etc. can be worked out by the DJs but it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the process in case an issue arises. This is also another reason all the DJs need to know who the other DJs are so they can discuss all this in advance of the jam. Get them in touch with other so they can work all this out.

Getting an Out of State DJ When You’re New

In Pick Your Battles (Part 1) I mentioned that I may not want to travel out of state if I don’t know a promoter. If you’re new and you want to bring someone from out of state and they’re wary, simply doing a lot of the things I mentioned (and will mention later) can go a long way towards soothing those reservations. Things like a contract, a rider, constant communication, having a lot of the details like travel and lodging already worked out make a MASSIVE difference in how I look at a promoter. If they appear professional and are handling themselves professionally I’m far more likely to trust them. On the flip side, if you turn out to be untrustworthy, it’s that much worse for you. If you raise expectations, live up to them.

In Closing

Whatever you can get worked out before a jam, work it out. You want the day of the jam to run as smoothly as possible so everyone involved can be relaxed and concentrate on whatever their job is.

 

The Day of the Jam

When to show up

“B-boy time” will be your biggest enemy on the day of a jam. Your competitors will be late, your battles will start late, your judges will disappear for no reason and for long periods of time, but try and make sure your DJ is atleast running on time. If they’re not make sure they get in touch with you. Try to stay in contact with your DJ the day of a jam to make sure they’re running on time and if they’re not when they can get to the venue so you can set up an iPod or have another DJ start playing till they arrive. This is just as much the DJ’s responsibility and make sure they know that. If they don’t show up on time, take that into account next time you hire them. It helps to give yourself some extra time to protect your schedule. If you really want them there by 5, tell them to be there at 4 or 4:30. Do that with all your talent and staff. It’s better to have things set up early and have to wait around than be running an hour behind.

Loading and Unloading

On the day of the event, try to make sure the DJ has a place to park so equipment can loaded and unloaded quickly and easily. Also, have some one come out and help. Turntables and record bags are really, really heavy. The sooner this stuff gets done the sooner the more important things can happen like…

Sound Check

Make sure your DJ has the time to do a sound check. Factor in maybe 20 minutes to get gear set up. This should be about how long it takes for one person setting up DJ gear and includes actual physical set up along with setting up Serato, laptops, balancing needles, etc. Add another 15-30 minutes for getting sound right and to check to make sure all equipment is running properly.

When it comes to sound check, you also need to talk to your venue or whoever is providing the sound system. There’s probably an in-house sound engineer or tech. You need to give them a time to be there that’s close to the same as the DJ. The DJ can’t or shouldn’t really do anything without them. Sound systems can be finicky things and the DJ probably won’t be able to set things up properly in their own.

The engineer is part of your staff for the day so you should give them a call time like anyone else. If the venue won’t provide theirs or they won’t show up on time, be firm. Let them know your event has to start at a certain time and they’re not fullfilling their obligation, you won’t be held responsible for anything that happens when you try to set it up yourself or they need to give you a discount for every half hour the tech runs late. Get that all in writing beforehand or talk it out with the venue owner or sound system provider.

Equipment Issues

Add another 15-20 minutes as a buffer in case there’s an issue with equipment. If there is, this is now your priority. Whatever else you’re doing, put it on hold or delegate to your staff. You need to solve this problem now. If you don’t have sound, you don’t have a jam. Try to build relationships with local DJs and have some numbers you can call if a problem arises. If possible, talk to them before the jam. Just say “Hey, I’ve got an event this weekend, if something comes up, is it cool if I borrow (or rent) some equipment from you?” If that’s not an option, talk to the DJ and see if you can troubleshoot a solution. I’ve played a jam with one turntable before, I played one without working headphones and another without a monitor. If they have to, most DJs know how to improvise. Just know we don’t like to if we don’t have to and if we do have to, you’re not going to get 100% out of us because we’re in a less than ideal situation.

Where to put the DJ

The DJ needs a clear and unobstructed view of the battles. When we DJ battles, we try to change the tracks at times when it’s not going to negatively affect the dancers and their runs. If we can’t see the battle, we can’t do that. We have to guess. Make sure the DJs are set up so that they can see both sides at all times. If people start standing up in front of the DJ, you or someone else needs to tell them to sit down. Work out a signal with the DJ so they can let you know when they can’t see.

Place a monitor near the DJ. A monitor is a speaker placed directly to the side or behind the DJ so he can hear exactly what the audience hears and so he can accurately beatmatch the songs in a mix. A DJ cannot go by the same speakers the audience hears. Every venue has a certain amount of echo and what a DJ hears without a monitor is actually the sound from the speakers bouncing off all the walls in the room. When they try and beatmatch off of that everyone’s just going to hear what we DJs call a “trainwreck.” We also need to hear our levels. Sometimes it sounds very bassy or very high from behind the speakers but to the audience it’s fine. If I can’t hear what they hear, I might end up adjusting levels wrong. Monitor or not, you and the DJ should walk the space while a song plays to check the sound.

If you have two DJs playing the battles with multiple setups try and get them close to each other so they can easily communicate during cyphers and battles. You still want to make sure they can both see clearly.

Make sure there’s enough space around the DJs so that they can put their equipment and records within easy reach and that they can move around each other easily. Having a couple chairs handy to put record crates in wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Please, please, please make sure there is restricted access to the DJ area. Equipment is very expensive and some of the most expensive items like needles, laptops, hard drives, and headphones are very easy to pick up and walk away with without anyone noticing. The DJ area also tends to be where other talent or staff (photographers, videographers, judges, etc) put their gear under the assumption that it’s safe or that the DJ can watch it. The truth is, we can’t. When we’re working our eyes go between four places; the mixer, the turntables, the crowd and our records/laptops. That’s it. We don’t really have time to also concentrate on what’s under the table, behind us, or who should and shouldn’t be in that area.

A DJ didn’t show up

If you have a jam with two DJs and one doesn’t show up the day of the jam, let the remaining DJ know what’s up as soon as possible. Don’t wait till two hours into a jam and then go “Oh yeah, the other guys not coming.” If you find out at 5:25, the other DJ(s) should know by 5:30. Most DJs come with a game plan, if something changes they need to know so they can make adjustments. Also, transfer the missing DJ’s pay to the other DJ. They are now doing twice the work than what they were told they would have to do. If you don’t have two DJs, then you really have a problem. First off, unless it was some type of emergency, don’t hire that DJ again. Second, this is another reason you want to have relationships with local DJs. If you have no other choice, call up a DJ that at least plays hip-hop or has some knowledge of what b-boys like. Most DJs want to work so badly that once they know you throw b-boy events, they’ll probably try to build up at least a small collection of B-boy friendly tracks so they can get put on at your next event.

On a side note, if you have a DJ willing to do this, it might not be a bad idea to encourage them. Show them the ropes, give them the names of other b-boy DJs to check out, show them some DVDs, etc. However, don’t use them to replace a dedicated b-boy DJ, which will always be your best choice since they have years of experience already built up. The other DJ is very useful as a back-up DJ or cypher DJ for the time being until they have the experience to become an actual breaks DJ.

Food and Drink

This is something that doesn’t get discussed a lot because I don’t think most non-DJs even think about it. When I’m spinning jams, it’s pretty common that I’m playing for 5 hours straight. I’m standing up the entire time and I don’t ever get much more than one song to walk away. As you can imagine we get hungry during that time. Think about that when you hire a DJ and try to work out getting a sandwich or something, some water, maybe some coffee (please). Anything you can do to keep your DJs comfortable, do it. After a couple hours things can get rough, your mind wanders, you get hunger pangs, you get sluggish…all that is going to affect how well the play and therefore how well your jam goes.

During the Battles

During the battles a DJ has a lot to to keep track of. Try to make his job a little easier and have someone nearby counting rounds. It’s not always easy to do when your juggling one track while thinking about bringing in another one that still needs to be beatmatched. There have been times where I thought a battle was in it’s last round and I didn’t have a new track cued up yet so I end up playing a song for far too long. The opposite has also happened where I thought a battle was going to go much longer and end up burning a killer song on one person’s run. Good for him, but not so great for the other side who is going to stare daggers at me. It’s much easier if the DJ can say “How many left?” and someone can point two fingers at one side, one finger to the other and they know exactly how much time is left so they can cue up what they need.

If an argument arises

There’s always a chance something might get heated. There’s always more than a few egos at a b-boy jam. If that’s the case, diffuse the situation immediately. If someone decides they want to yell at you, stay calm, be respectful and try to solve whatever problem is going on. Don’t get drawn into a yelling match. That’s not your job, it doesn’t help, and it reflects poorly on you to bystanders. “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” You’re only thought during these situations should be; “I have an event to run and I don’t have time for this. What can I do to get things back on track?” If nothing you do can solve the problem and this person is just an asshole, kick them out. If you offered travel expenses, take care of that but withhold any other pay or at least let them know that’s what will happen if they decide they want to keep arguing.

May not be a bad idea to add a little clause to your contract that says if the DJ breaks any sort of venue rules (fighting, drug use, drinking, disrespectful to staff…depends on your jam) that you will withhold pay and the DJ will be kicked out. Don’t use this as an excuse to abuse your DJs and fire them to avoid paying them as I’m sure someone will try to do.

If you’re a DJ and you see the above clause, make sure the promoter clarifies exactly what would have to happen for you to get kicked out/not paid. This is, of course, an extreme situation but extreme situations do happen from time to time.

Respect

This is probably the number one rule. Whoever you deal with, treat them with respect. Don’t talk down to them. You hired them so it means you trust them to do their job. Act that way. There are promoters that I will never deal with no matter what the money offered because of how they treated me or other DJs.

Stick to your word. Don’t say things lightly. If you make a promise, keep it. If you have a contract with the DJ or if you promised a certain prize to the winners, don’t waver. If it means you don’t make a profit or you lose money, then so be it. That’s what has to happen. That’s the nature of throwing an event. If you’re shady with your staff or competitors, don’t expect their support the next time around.

And if a situation arises where you can’t pay what was promised, you better come with your hat and in your hand and find a way to make up for it later on. Don’t just go “Well, that’s how it goes. Here’s what I can pay, peace.” Apologize for the situation and explain what happened. “I really want to keep this money that we made at the door,” isn’t an explanation. DO NOT get into throwing b-boy jams if you want to make money. First off, that’s just plain dumb. Go get day job if you really want to make money. You WILL lose money on your first few jams. Be prepared for it.

If you can’t pay no matter how much you want to, be humble, respectful, and try to do what you can make up for it. Most of us DJs understand the nature of throwing jams and know that sometimes things don’t go according to plan and you lose way more money than expected. We don’t like not getting paid what was promised but most of us at least understand and can walk away without a sour taste in our mouth if we’re treated with respect. And if you promised to make up for it later, make sure you do. Keeping promises goes a long way towards your reputation.

And if a DJ asks, I have no problem telling them if a promoter treats their DJs well. We all talk and word gets around. If you’re disrespectful or shady to the people you hire, you can very quickly find yourself on the outside looking in.

COMMUNICATE

Ok, maybe this is tied for “Respect” for the number one rule. 99% of the problems that can arise will be taken care of you just keep in touch with your DJ leading up to the jam and during it. I really can’t put too much emphasis on this. You must talk to your DJs about what you expect from them and find out what they expect from you. When it comes to talking to your DJ during a jam, pick your times to do it. In the middle of a battle isn’t the time. They’re concentrating and are not only thinking about what they’re playing but thinking about what they’re playing in the next 2 or 3 battles. Wait till between battles or rounds if you have something to tell them. Unless of course it’s really important (“That surge protector is on fire.”)

Hopefully this list will help you out the first (or next) time you throw a jam. If you’ve got any more questions, feel free to ask.

Also, big shout out to all the promoters who have hired me over the years both good and bad. This post definitely wouldn’t be possible without some of the things you guys have put me through (Relax, it’s a joke, but seriously, even the good ones have their off days).

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