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The Pursuit Of The Right Price



 A DJ Alliance

  Scott Susor

The world of self-employment in the U.S. is changing.  In many industries, those who have traditionally owned and operated their own small business have come to discover that - while 100% independence is nice - there are also advantages to sacrificing just a little independence in return for higher revenue and increased income.

How is this being accomplished?  Independent professionals within industries are uniting in professional alliances.  And for the first time, these alliances are not being born of a need for internal causes such as networking, business trade-offs, and cross-support.  Today, these alliances are forming with an external cause in mind.  And that external cause has to do with making more money.

At the recent Mobile Beat 2000 DJ Conference in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Mark Ferrell presented the idea that mobile DJ entertainers are "worth more than a veggie platter."  He correctly observed that, while mobile DJ entertainers are most responsible for the success of an event - and most often the best remembered feature of the event - mobile DJ entertainers are not paid properly in relation to the value they provide.  The fact is that the mobile DJ entertainer usually costs less than the veggie platter.

While that comparison should amuse you, it should also open your eyes to a financial injustice that has been imposed on our own industry.  Who has imposed it?  No, it's not our clientele.  No, it's not the venues we perform at.  No, it's not other vendors in the event industry.  It's us!  WE are the reason why - when $20,000.00 is the average amount spent on a wedding and reception, the mobile DJ entertainer usually gets only 5% or less of it.  Yet, aside from the venue itself, WE have the greatest investment in equipment, WE have the most talent, and WE have the biggest chunk of responsibility at our events for making sure that our client and their guests have a good time.

A column in the Houston Chronicle Business Section by L.M. Sixel on March 17th, 2000 cited two groups of self-employed workers who were coming together to address issues in their industry.  The two groups are software engineering contractors and independent truckers.  But these are not the only two industry groups that are creating this "new labor movement."  All over the U.S. self-employed individuals, in a variety of industries, are recognizing that there is indeed strength in numbers.

We are NOT talking about unions.  The fact is that none of these groups meet the federal requirements for union formation.  As independent workers, they do not share a "commonality of interests" in working for the same employers, getting the same pay, and receiving the same benefits.  These workers contract with various employers, they set their own pay, and most have no benefits.  Does that sound like another industry that you are familiar with?  It should.  The mobile DJ entertainment industry is in perfect alignment with this model.  And while we can't - indeed most likely don't want to - form a union, we CAN move outside the traditional "logic box" of thinking on the benefits of organized labor, using tools other than the National Labor Relations Act.

What will it take to accomplish this in the mobile DJ entertainment industry?  A movement -- A labor movement -- A labor movement that begins at the local level and slowly but surely migrates from a local presence to a regional presence, and then from regional to national.  It will not be easy nor quick.  Things of great value are rarely easily and quickly obtained.  But this IS a thing of great value that CAN be obtained - if we're willing to do what it takes to get from where we are today to where we want to be tomorrow.

There are several characteristics of the mobile DJ entertainment industry that make it particularly viable for great successes in a labor organization movement.  First, ample top-tier professionals who have been in the industry for many years - who recognize the need for rates that are commensurate with value delivered.  Second, a consumer base that hungers for education about our industry - there is possibly no other service industry where prospective clients have so little information available to assist them in deciding which company is best for them.  Third, the continued presence and threat to the industry's reputation from incompetent "bottom feeder" mobile DJ entertainers with below-standard equipment and performance - their negative impact on the revenue of true professionals in the industry has been felt for too long.

The goal of the alliance I am proposing is NOT to create an exclusive club of mobile DJ entertainers who see themselves as better than non-members.  In fact, it's just the opposite.  It will encourage new members, not shun them.  It will seek to satisfy it's own membership, not alienate it.  And it will promote and act in the interest of the collective, while ensuring the business independence of each member.  Impossible?  Not if you look at the industries and organizations that have already done it.

There is one other point to make.  The mobile DJ entertainment industry already includes a number of national associations, local/regional associations, Internet web sites, and national publications.  This proposed organization would be open to affiliation with all of them, assuming it would be in the best interests of the organization to do so.  All of these entities provide benefits which alliance members could more easily gain access to by their membership.  But affiliation does not have to stop where our own industry does.  Those software technology contractors last year affiliated with the Communication Workers of America in order to commence a relationship whereby benefits available to that union's members could also be made available to their organized but non-union brothers and sisters in the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers.

As for the mobile DJ entertainment industry -- We have consumers to educate -- We have "bottom feeders" to weed out -- And we have money to be made.  What better way to take the first step toward accomplishing these goals than to unite under a new collective professional labor organization?  I welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions.


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