A View form both sides of the Podium By: Stu Chisholm

January 26, 2012 by Aaron Burger

When my book The Complete Disc Jockey was launched, I was asked to present a seminar that tied in with some of the concepts within its pages. Titled, “Supplement Your DJ Income” WITH DJ INCOME!”, it was included in MBLV as a bonus seminar
for early arrivals. The bonus seminars came as quite a surprise to a lot of the attendees and more than a few who came to my presentation came up afterward to express their thanks and maybe have me autograph a copy of the book. (A very surreal experience!) I opened my presentation by telling my audience that it would not be a big commercial for my book, but rather a supplemental seminar that would enhance and
expand on what I had written. A lot of hard work went into that seminar and I knew that I had achieved my goals. While I had spoken many
times before at events back home, MBLV was my very first speaking appearance at a major expo. It would
lead to my being invited to speak later that year on the DJ Cruise and again early the next year at the CDJA (Canadian Disc Jockey Association) show in Canada.

My brief career as a seminar presenter was encouraging, and I also liked the idea of simply showing up, putting on a show, giving people a good experience and not ever having to play a single tune or set up a single light! But I’ve never wanted to be the next Bill Hermann or Mark Ferrell. I was, am and always will be a DJ first and foremost.
When the conference began in earnest, I was allowed to slip back into the crowd in near anonymity and enjoy the other presentations offered by the more seasoned professionals that Mobile Beat had lined up. Along with the educational feast, I frequently made my way to the dealer?s room. If you have been to a Mobile Beat show and spent way too much money there, you aren’t alone!
The bargains were so off-the-charts awesome, I just couldn’t say no. Also impressive was the sheer amount of? STUFF. The free swag being passed out by the various vendors was worthy of a Hollywood awards party, which I found pretty impressive, since the economy was all anyone could talk about. All in all, I went home feeling that both my public speaking side and my entertainer side had both served and been served well.


The afterglow soon faded when I was confronted by the chatter on the internet. (The specific forums shall remain nameless.) Apparently no one who was posting that day had attended my seminar, yet that didn’t stop them from criticizing it?as one big Stu Chisholm, a mobile DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, has also been a nightclub DJ, done some radio, some commercial voice-over work and has even worked a roller skating rink! Stu attended the famous Specs Howard School of Broadcasting and has been a music collector since the age of seven. Stu?s guide to the profession, The Complete DJ, is available from ProDJ Publishing.

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Commercial for my book! It seemed like everyone had the idea that I was just there to “sell something.” They repeated this whenever discussing any of the presenters who happened to have a book or DVD out at the time.
Now, I won’t lie; I had spent the better part of a year pouring some 30+ years of my experience and insights into my book and had high hopes that it would be a popular item at the show. A paycheck is certainly nice, but when you work that hard on writing something, you just want it to be read. That sentiment was a tough sell to the online posters, who then demanded that I “just give them a copy,” as if books somehow got printed by magic, without a huge investment by a publisher.


Another recurring topic that irks me to no end: DJs questioning the qualifications of speakers that Mobile Beat brings in. “They just let anybody give a seminar!” Now, a novice DJ could be forgiven for spouting such a question because they don’t know the names and accomplishments of the people they’re seeing. What struck me as funny, though, is that the DJs in the forum seemed to think that presenters should have some tangible accomplishments. Hey, isn’t writing a BOOK an accomplishment? (If you don’t think so, try getting a publishing deal sometime!) BUT…if you have a book, then you’re “just there to sell something.” I don’t think my forehead will ever recover from all of the slapping it got from that twisted bit of logic!
The reality is that a book deal isn’t just handed to anyone. I confess that it may have been just a bit easier for me because I’d been a columnist for Mobile Beat for nearly five years and the publisher of my book also publishes this magazine. But even a small run of a small book can cost thousands, and even tens of thousands of dollars. It is ludicrous to think that “just anyone” would be handed a deal if they don’t have a solid concept and proposal.
The DJ profession is different from many others. A course on “DJ 101” is virtually absent from most college curriculums. Some enterprising DJs and/or companies have started DJ trade schools and there’s also the very informal “DJ University” online, but as of yet there is no universally recognized diploma, certification or academic credential that bestows the title of “professional DJ.” There is also no law against anyone buying some gear, grabbing some music and setting up shop as a DJ. (As opposed to just anyone buying some medical gear and setting up shop as a doctor.) The vast majority of disc jockeys get their training through a multi-op company or learn as I did; by scoping out bands, chatting-up other DJs and a lot of trial and error. I would ask the critics this: How long must someone work in a field and be successful before they’re considered not only a professional, but an expert? I don’t know the answer to that question, but did I mention that I have more than 30 years of experience?
I performed my first gig in 1979 and have supported myself as a full-time DJ since 1985. In nearly any other field, such a feat would get you on an advisory board, a national council, or have corporations head-hunting you as a consultant. But not the DJ industry. We’re different there, too.
Big experience and accomplishments are still not enough to take the stage at a Mobile Beat show. There’s one more hurdle a potential speaker must vault: THE man, when it comes to booking presenters, show producer Michael Buonaccorso. An industry expert in his own right, his
job is to vet each presenter personally. A proposal must be submitted, topics approved and the speaker must have a time-tested track record or other similarly impressive credentials.

With all I learned from my experience on both sides of the poduim, I can only boggle at the caliber of this year’s presenters. Each year, the industry’s current movers and shakers, along with the legendary superstars equipped with new and exciting presentations, gather together for what has become the premier show and conference for the mobile DJ world. Each year builds upon the last, so it’s no joke when you see the ads saying that MBLV16 is the biggest and best DJ event yet. I invite you to go and see for yourself! Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to buy a copy of my book.
Until next time, safe spinnin’. MB

Filed Under: 2012