(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the mobile DJ sector
Mobile DJs are part of the leisure services industry, and this tends to be one of the first to feel the effects of fluctuations in the economy. There was plenty of demand for mobile DJ services during much of the 2000s thanks to a strong economy. People and businesses were happy to spend money on entertainment. Unfortunately, the late 2000s saw the economy nosedive, and businesses in the entertainment industry suffered as people cut back their spending on non-essentials. The economy stayed very weak during the early 2010s but began to pick up in 2013, with the mid 2010s seeing the recovery continue. Nevertheless, many people continued to be cautious about what they spent, particularly when it came to non-essentials. The recovery slowed in the second half of 2015 and into the first half of 2016.
Despite the added economic uncertainty following the vote in June 2016 to leave the EU, consumer confidence and spending on leisure held up surprisingly well for the year as a whole. However, the fall in the value of the pound, increasing inflation, and little increase in wages in real terms put pressure on disposable incomes. Consumer confidence declined and spending on leisure activities was down. The economy continued to perform poorly through 2017 and 2018 and little change is forecast for the foreseeable future. As businesses and consumers continue to tighten their belts it is expected that items of discretionary expenditure on things like entertainment will continue to suffer.
One positive trend is the fact that people seem to want to put on ever more extravagant parties to celebrate events like birthdays and engagements. 'Landmark' birthdays like fortieth and fiftieth are often celebrated with a big party at a venue where music might be provided by a live band and/or DJ, while children's and teenagers' parties also seem to be becoming more and more lavish. All this has opened up more work opportunities for professional DJs who market their services to this type of customer.
In terms of music, the mobile DJ sector is nowhere near as volatile as the club DJ scene, where a DJ's reputation is often defined by unearthing new songs and creating popular new re-mixes. The mobile DJ tends to play a combination of popular chart hits, both current and from recent years, and old favourites like Abba's Dancing Queen. The average audience won't expect - or want - to hear anything hardcore or obscure.
The success of a mobile DJ depends mostly on whether they can appeal to a wide range of audiences, are good enough to generate repeat bookings, and have a sufficiently businesslike approach to actually make money out of it.
The technology used by DJs has seen some huge changes over the years. The 2000s saw many DJs switch from using CD and vinyl to MP3 and other digital music file formats. Storing music on a laptop or other device enables a DJ easily to carry a huge range of music around with them. And the changes have had a huge impact on equipment costs - a mobile DJ's basic equipment now costs much less than it did in the days before everything was digital. It is very important, however, that all downloading and CD copying is carried out legally, while all public performances of copyright music are also properly licensed. Licences for CD copying and the storage of digitally downloaded music for public performance will be required from PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). Both organisations have streamlined their licensing process for mobile DJs in recent years.
Other technological developments in DJ hardware and software have affected things like the range of sounds and effects that can be achieved and also things like lighting - most DJ lighting now uses LEDs with sophisticated electronics to control them.
One result of technological developments is that modern DJs can now almost effortlessly achieve effects that would once have required a great deal of skill and practice. A technological development that can be something of a mixed blessing is the phone voicemail box. DJs often have other full-time jobs and may be busy with gigs in the evenings and at weekends so it's tempting not to answer the phone and to leave all prospective customers to be directed to voicemail. If the voicemail box is full or the message indicates a lack of interest or urgency, it is likely that the potential customer will be lost. Try to ensure that your voicemail message is positive and promises to return calls promptly. It's the same with emails - try to reply on the same day or at most within 24 hours.
In 2012 the Live Music Act deregulated live music performances, but in most cases DJs' performances were not affected by this relaxation in the law and continued to be covered - where applicable - by entertainment licensing rules. However, further changes made to the entertainment licensing regime in 2014 saw certain performances of recorded music by entertainers like DJs removed from the scope of licensing in April 2015.
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry.
The National Association of Disc Jockeys (NADJ) represents the sector as a whole. Visit their website to find out more about their work.
There are also plenty of regional associations and a web search should reveal whether there are any in your area.
Reading trade journals and magazines is another excellent way of staying up to date. Titles aimed at professional DJs include Pro Mobile and DJ Mag - find out more on their websites.
You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show. The main trade show for the sector is the PLASA (Professional Lighting and Sound Association) Show. There are many suppliers and equipment manufacturers there who will be able to show you the latest innovations in the sector.