Have you ever been a "corporate" DJ?

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jodi

Active Member
So, because of the wonders of Facebook - I recently found out that Peter Merry and I were both once DJs for Stuart Anderson's Restaurants. (Different times / different locations)

So, being a full-time "SEC" (Store Entertainment Coordinator), I had to DJ to a written and documented corporate standard.

Has anyone else ever done that - at Stuart Anderson's or somewhere else?
 

UNDJ

Member
I worked for Banana Joe's (a bar "chain"...think Fat Tuesdays) for a few months in 2001 when they opened one in my city. The DJ that trained me had a job of traveling to all the new locations and training the new DJs the "Banana Joe's" way. He always complained about having to behave ourselves when "corporate" was there checking up on things. They were really strict about what we could play and not play. Whenever corporate would visit, a few people would get fired the next day for various reasons.

I only lasted 3 months there but it was a lot of fun and I learned so much in such a short time. How to beat mix, how to put sets together better, left turns (doing a drastic change in the music to make people stop dancing and go up to the bar and buy drinks). When I went back to weddings, I applied what I had learned and my performances got 5X better.

Sadly, Banana Joe's didn't last more than a year in my city. It actually changed into a Fat Tuesdays but that didn't last long either. It closed down completely and is now just an empty building.
 

TMSOriginal

New Member
Years ago (circa 1995-1998ish), I was in management for Damon's based out of Columbus, OH (waaaaaayyyy *before* their current bankruptcy state - LOL) -- one position I held for quite a while was RAGM (Regional Asst General Mgr) and I covered a territory that had parts of three states -- one of my main "focuses" was to train and coordinate the CECs (Clubhouse Entertainment Coordinators) in my region; it was mostly sports & NTN/Buzztime programming with a lotta screens and a full audio/video matrix system...anyway, I also introduced a "WDRN - Wow! Damon's Radio Network" in a few of my locations where the CECs were truly excelling -- it was basically adding "DJing" to the CECs duties. It went over really well when I was with the chain (within my region, anyway).
 

Steve Lynch

Well-Known Member
I was music director for Jillian's, which was a Dave & Buster's type place. It sucked. Their policies of not carrying Hennessy Cognac, and no more than 1 Hip hop song in a row no matter how packed the dance floor was just drove me away. This place was eventually sued by a group of employees. Their printed training materials included such gems as "get a credit card up front for a party of young black males", and if the dance floor seems disproportionately "urban", we were to default immediately to an 80's track, or 70's disco to "break it up".

Imagine you're DJing, and Both Usher, and Michael Vick are both renting several lanes on the bowling alley, and spending up a storm... Place is packed, everyone is partying...
Then the GM comes up and says "Country, Now!" mid song, makes me switch over to Alan Jackson "Chattahoochee".

Not only did the entire dance floor look at me like I had 3 heads, I was booed, and actually threatened.

I got on the mic, Said "Sorry, This request is dedicated to My Manager Mike who thought the dance floor was too dark" to which there were boos and Jeers. I then picked the mic back up again, and said "Hey Mike, you can finish the night yourself This is Bull-ISH!" and walked out, never to return.

That's the last time I played for a venue who dictated my playlist.

I was so stressed that night, I could have punched him in the mouth.

I can understand If we had the bloods and crips in there, but we had 2 millionaire celebrities in the house buying the place up, and he's over my shoulder all night to play 3 "white" songs to each "Black" song...

I qas glad to see that place change hands.
 

DJSTEVEZ

DJ Emeritus
Yes, I worked as a DJ for Marriott at one of their hotel nightclubs...in Westchester County, NY (just north of NYC) They had what was arguably the 3rd most popular nightclub in Westchester at the time and certainly the 3rd largest (2 dancefloors). Their niche was the "older crowd" which was 26 and over (drinking age was 18 at the time). They had 3 shifts, 4 to 9 Mon to Fri, which was "Hungry Hour" and then 9 to 2 Sun to Thurs and 9 to 4 on Friday & Saturday.

The club was wildly popular and because of the age demographics back in the mid to late 80's, a lot of "classic" disco was played in the late hours, especially the high energy stuff like Lime, Sylvester, etc. The only rules we had to live by during the heyday was that every 3rd song had to be a video. The problem was the audio quality of VHS was horrible. So you've got the dance floor going and boom you go from your 1200's to a VHS tape and it was the equivalent of knocking the needle off the record and going straight to silence. People would get pissed and stare about at you like you had 2 heads. Finally what we did as a work around was play the video but sound source it from the turntables. It didn't always line up, especially with he 12" remixes, but it worked good enough that the powers-that-be left us alone.

The end came when the Marriott's Corporate HQ started to dictate a playlist. It included country music and a lot of non-danceable AC. Clearly the list was developed in some office or boardroom somewhere and it didn't at all reflect the any of the subtle nuances of our area, and I suspect no one else’s either (who knew at the time radio would go on to be murdered by the very same method). My fellow DJ's & I basically ignored it except during Hungry Hour. The manager understood and turned a blind eye (or should I say deaf ear) to our disobedience. One week a "spotter" came in and that was the beginning of the end. We were dragged into a meeting and given an ultimatum. When we pleaded our case we were told that this was a "lounge that has dancing", not a nightclub. We complied with the policy as best we could except on Fri & Sat...as there was a risk of inciting a riot, lol. Eventually we were all pink-slipped as the hotel manager brought in a regional agency. The club went on for a few years after that with the new jocks, but business fell off sharply as the music being played wasn't what the crowd wanted nor had come to expect. Eventually the club closed and became a catering only club. Today it's not even there.

This phenomena seems to have taken place all over the country because shortly thereafter the Marriott's huge nightclub in Albany, NY, "Flirtations" closed. That club was a monster in size. It featured top dance cover bands alternating with a DJ. Finally it seems that Marriott got out of the nightclub business all together because all the tri-state area Marriott’s no longer have a nightclub. The one or two that do lease out the space to outside vendors. This is a perfect example of how corporate geeks can & often do, kill a good thing. Still, though, it was great while it lasted and the memories are priceless.
 
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Bill_Goode

Mobile Beat Moderator
Staff member
I absolutely was!!

I was the house DJ for a lot of years at the 57th Fighter Group in Atlanta, a place that was owned by Specialty Restaurant Corp. out of SoCal.

They let me do pretty much whatever I saw fit, including hiring and firing the DJs that worked when I could not.

Also took care of their private DJ functions and was the DJ for the "Cluck-Off". That event had over 2000 people every June.

I survived 12 GMs and three regional VPs. The last GM they had before shutting down was brought in to "clean house". She flushed the entire staff, and the place only stayed open 12 months under her watch. She flushed the place in more ways than one!

The place was closed for several years until someone bought it and reopened it, but it is a far cry from the glory days it has seen.
 

jodi

Active Member
Some cool stories - love the experience here.

We were taught a model of different genres, sets, vocals (say SOMETHING every ten minutes ha ha), in and out of slow sets, and more. Although, I had already been DJing a few years when I got the job, I bought into corporate model, and "some" of those things have proven to serve me very well in wedding world.

Corporate spotters? Well, they wouldn't have necessarily known the difference between a "dance song" and an "adult contemporary" song .. if they were trying to keep track .. but we did have to keep hand written program logs, and turn them in with reports weekly. fun:)

Anyone else? Love these stories of how some of us got where we are...
 

DJSTEVEZ

DJ Emeritus
Some cool stories - love the experience here. We were taught a model of different genres, sets, vocals (say SOMETHING every ten minutes ha ha), in and out of slow sets, and more.
I couldn't beat mix for anything when I started. The reason the manager hired me anyway (what was he thinking? lol) was that I came from a Radio background and treated m y audition and thereafter, the gig in many aspects like it was a radio show. At varying point during the night I would intro the waitresses, the bartenders, the bar-backs, etc. I would talk up the specials and monthly calendar, send out requests and dedication...I tried to personalize it without making it about me. I also had no problem playing a slow song or 2 early in the night and then again as the 2nd to last song at the very end of the night (gotta help my boys close the deal). The manager liked this and I quickly got a following...I also quickly learned to beat mix. A fellow Marriott DJ took me under his wing and taught me. He went on to become a big name in the Club DJ world (DJ Johnny Rocks) and even has done a remix or 2 for Madonna.


@jodi, the different model is what they do in ballroom too. I learned that the hard way. Coming from a nightclub background I tried to "mix" ballroom music. You would've thought I dropped trou and took a deuce all over their shiny dancefloor. I was re-edumacated very quickly that in ballroom, it's all about a wide variety and no repeats until you go through the rotation.
 
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dmcclure

New Member
Sadly this is what has become of many bars in this new era. The owners dictate song list , blacklist artist and so much more. That to me is not being a DJ , that is just being a overpriced jukebox with announcements. I have never worked in a real corporate environment like most of you in this thread. I have ran into many bar owners who don't have a clue on how to run a bar and they all seem to be experts in being a DJ. Why did they hire me if they are such a expert ?

I worked at a bar who not only had a list of songs and artist who could not be played. They also had a policy of no request. You hire a DJ to entertain and not just hit the play button and make announcements. I even worked one place for a short time which they had a hook-up in the office where they could cut the DJ off and play off a ipod and the owner was very much a dick and had no problems doing it. I never got cutoff but I know DJ's who did and pretty soon the bar got blacklisted by most every DJ in the local area. Honestly it makes the DJ bad , cause you have to be the bearer of bad news if you can't play this or that or have tons of rules. Those people don't care who made the rules and the DJ get's all the heat and not the owner or manager.

I've been reading many stories lately of how high profile DJ's have been kicked off the decks at some upscale clubs for music that didn't fit the owners preference and even if said music had the dance floor packed. The Bar & Club scene isn't what it was long ago. I honestly am about at the end of doing Bars & Clubs. I have gotten verbally assaulted more times than I can count. I have been threatened to have my *** kicked or worse many times. All because someone can't handle their alcohol.

This is why I am focusing my efforts to going full time weddings , birthday parties , school dances this next year.
 

DJSTEVEZ

DJ Emeritus
Sadly this is what has become of many bars in this new era. The owners dictate song list , blacklist artist and so much more. That to me is not being a DJ...I worked at a bar who not only had a list of songs and artist who could not be played.
I get why a particular establishment may not want 2 Live Crew's "We Want Some P****" or Mix Master Scott's "The Roof Is On Fire" blaring out of their speakers, so some "No Play" lists could be reasonable. I have no issue with reasonable guidelines. All the music I play is edited for radio airplay and I think that too is a reasonable thing for owners to ask for. That being said, dictating a playlist is out of line and it's been my experience that bar & club owners need to stick what they know, and DJing isn't it.

In bars & clubs where I worked it was a prearranged agreement that I had a coded distress call for @$$holes who threatened me. I would hit the mic, lower the music just enough for security or a bouncer to hear it and in came the Calvary, and out went the offender, no questions asked. I have NO TOLERANCE for threats to my safety. In some other clubs where I worked I wasn't even reachable to the crowd...unless they were allowed in via security.

There was one club on Long Island, in Port Washington...the booth was awesomely equipped, but it was too accessible by the crowd.. I come back from a quick p!$$ one night to find 2 chicks flipping through my milk crates (with drinks in hand spilling them of course).
I was like "WTF do you think your doing?!"
"Chill Out, what are you getting so upset about?" was their response.
I retorted: "What am I get getting so upset about? How'd you like to walk into your bedroom and find me rummaging through your panty drawer? Get out of here now before I have you thrown out!"

They promptly left.

Same club, the cliche wannabe jerk comes up to the booth, with friends & girlfriends in tow, to tell me he's a
"DJ too". These stories never end well for the guy who does this.
"Cool, good for you man." I always try to be polite initially, but the effort is rarely worth it.
"Yeah, and not to insult you bro, I'm way better then you. Give me 5 mins and I'll show you!".
"Yeah, um sorry bro, it's against the rules. Let me ask you a question though. What day is it?"
"It's Saturday", he replied.
"Yeah huh. If you're so awesome why then are you here listening and watching me rock the house instead of being employed as a DJ at a club doing it yourself?

Tail between his legs, he walked away. -Z-
 
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UNDJ

Member
Nice to see that a lot of us had to deal with the same issues that “corporate” brought to us.

Their printed training materials included such gems as "get a credit card up front for a party of young black males", and if the dance floor seems disproportionately "urban", we were to default immediately to an 80's track, or 70's disco to "break it up".

At Banana Joe’s we were told that if there were more than 10 black guys in the club (they didn’t have an issue with black women apparently), play “Sweet Home Alabama” followed by nothing but country songs until most of them left. Although I didn’t agree with it, I will say that their strategy worked quite well. It usually only took about 2 or 3 songs.

I got on the mic, Said "Sorry, This request is dedicated to My Manager Mike who thought the dance floor was too dark" to which there were boos and Jeers. I then picked the mic back up again, and said "Hey Mike, you can finish the night yourself This is Bull-ISH!" and walked out, never to return.

Put ^ this man ^ in the Hall Of Fame!!! You’re our hero Steve!

..but we did have to keep hand written program logs, and turn them in with reports weekly. fun

Same thing at Banana Joe’s. This was another tool that served me well though. I kept music logs at my weddings for a few years after that. It allowed me to study what worked, what didn’t, good sets to use, etc.

I also had no problem playing a slow song or 2 early in the night and then again as the 2nd to last song at the very end of the night (gotta help my boys close the deal).

At Banana Joe’s I learned that playing a slow song at the end also helps calm the crowd down and get them out the door. Yet another tool that’s served me well at weddings.

I have ran into many bar owners who don't have a clue on how to run a bar and they all seem to be experts in being a DJ. Why did they hire me if they are such a expert ?

Amen to that! Through my experiences in bars I learned that there is no lower life form than a bar owner. I’m so glad I don’t have to do them anymore. I haven’t played in one in 4 years and don’t miss it at all.

There was one club on Long Island, in Port Washington...the booth was awesomely equipped, but it was too accessible by the crowd

Learned that one the hard way too. At weddings I will back my table up as close to a wall as I possibly can, leaving only enough room for me to wiggle in. If you leave any open area behind your table, you’re just begging for guests to want to come up and “hang out”. Or you get all the little kids that want to run laps around your table. Sometimes I wish I could bring in a security barricade!
 

Ausumm

Active Member
Many of the nightspots around here TRY to dictate the playlists,
unfortunately, it's to attract or keep what THEY think is the "right crowd".
Unfortunately, the crowd they want to attract is usually NOT the crowd that shows up.

So they open the right kind of club in the wrong part of town...and expect the DJ to fix their stupidity.
 

Old_Goat

Senior LDJC Member
I've worked for different companies, charities and even political parties at their shindigs. MOST of the time they had "please don't go there" lists, and that's okay...you have to work with peoples' "sensibilities" sometimes. Most of the time, it makes perfect sense. THAT said, I don't work well with "Thou Shall Not" types. And I will NOT stand for ANY issues regarding the safety of myself, my crew or my gear. Mind you, it does happen. Sometimes more spontaneously and quickly that you would imagine. The very first time I walked in to a place with a chicken wire stand, (think "Roadhouse"), I LEFT.
 

Bobby D

Member
No, I never was a corporate DJ, but when I was working as a solo act (one man band) I was offered a gig at a bowling alley bar. The owner wanted me to chase out the black crowd with Country etc. It gets better! He offered to pay me minimum wage which was around $5 per hour in the '90s.

This was a very hot venue in the '70s and is now a strip mall.
 

Jason Cathcart

New Member
I did it - but unlike most I really enjoyed it, and my time there was too short lived but other responsibilities (read... children) made it a less than desirable lifestyle.

In 2004 I was the Friday & Saturday night DJ at a place called Ceili's which was an upper scale pub/lounge with 2 floors and a rooftop patio right next door to, and owned by the same people as, the biggest night club in town. I mostly did the main floor - the upper floor usually had a band. Most Friday & Saturday's there was a lot of spill-over from people who decided not to wait in line next door. I'd start playing at about 5PM on Fridays for the older after work crowd, and then about 8 o'clock the staff would start moving tables, and by 9 we'd be in full on club mode. Saturdays I didn't come in until 8. My DJ booth was actually part of the central bar which put me right in the middle of all the action and was incredibly hard on my liver. I pretty much played whatever I wanted, except when I was catering to the tastes of the bar staff - which was mostly female and let's just say they had very strict hiring policies ;) I played lots of Top 40, but I had a tendency to dive into the 80's, 90's and brit-pop. One of the dance floor faves was when I'd mash up Man II Man's Male Stripper with Tiffany's I Think We're Alone Now.

Really - the only rule we had to follow was to play 2 Country songs at 1AM. Management felt it brought the crowd back to a manageable state so they wouldn't have too much trouble kicking them all out at 2AM. Once the public emptied out, I'd often start playing again, going until 4 or 4:30 while the staff cleaned up.

Fun times - I could share more stories, but this is a public forum ;)
 
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