The third consideration
a follow up to yesterday
Philippe, my clown teacher is was French. With the second war in Europe on his mind, he constantly mocked the Germans. According to Philippe they had terrible boundaries and were grossly inhumane and insensitive as a people. When it came to the Germans, Philippe held nothing back.
With this in mind, when describing the worst situation for a clown or performer, the culprits, the threats were always the Germans. One classic Philippe exercise involved pretending to perform for a group of German rugby players. They were drunk and expecting strippers. As the clown you need to make them laugh in order to save the furniture.
The others in the workshop had to pretend to be the drunk Germans. If you were not funny while performing, the audience was instructed to begin stomping on the floor and chanting ‘money back’. If this happened twice during the exercise, you were required to ‘finish the show’ as quickly as possible. As Philippe put it, By then, save your neck. To hell with the furniture.
During the DJ gig I wrote about yesterday, I had little but contempt for my audience. They were collections people. They were abrupt, rude, entitled, demanding and easily insulted. When they made requests, it was as though they were at work. Their tone was angry and there always was an implied threat. I liked them less than Philippe liked Germans in the 1940’s.
Yesterday Heather and Joe both had great comments on my conundrum. Who did I need to play for, the father of the bride or the crowd in the room. Both comments centered around what it means to be a pro and who do we serve in that situation. Given the choice of either losing the room or losing the man with the money I chose neither.
I chose myself. Realizing that this was in the Philippe sense, I was a French dude in a room full of Germans in the 1940’s. I chose to save my neck. As I played out the last of my songs to a rapidly dying party, I looked over to the people I was truly playing for: My colleagues, the remaining service staff at the venue.
Those folks had endured these collections people just as long as I had. The poor photographer had been with these assholes since eight in the morning. Though I was an itinerant DJ, I worked with many of these people several times a year.
Maintaining a good relationship with venues, staff, photographers and planners is essential to working as a wedding DJ. In fact, pleasing the venue and not playing past their curfew is essential to being recommended to other weddings. If you don’t finish on time, you don’t get asked back.
On this night people in the wedding party got so angry with me that everything died half an hour early. As people left, they made certain to tell me how awful the music was and that the entire evening sucked. Would you expect anything different from a family business made up of commission based collections people? They were terrible. I wish them every failure in both business and life. Ideally, their genes do not get passed on.
They were mean. My colleagues at the venue were sympathetic. Samir, who I worked with for years, came by shaking his head. Thanks for killing the party bud. We are all very happy to be packing up right now.
So, if you find yourself struggling with assholes, stuck in a position where a win seems improbable, expand your view on who else is getting impacted by your work. My decision between playing for the father of the bride or playing for the room initially didn’t consider the other staff.
They were subjected to the same abuse as I was. Complaints about the music and the dance are never considered by venues or wedding planners. All that matters after midnight is that the party ends by 1am. That’s it. In order to be a good wedding DJ, you need to remember the rest of the room. Finish on time. No encores. Send the staff home early and the customers home wanting more.
But most of all?
If you’re ever a wedding DJ and someone requests Nights in White Satin, pretend not to hear. Tell them you don’t speak English. Put your fingers in your ears and say MA MA MA MA MA MA as loud as you can.
Play that terrible song at a wedding.