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What Every Mobile DJ Wants To Hear!
Scott Susor

"You are underpaid, compared to the value you provide ... And I'll tell you why!"  Who among us would not be tempted to hear more?  Who among us wouldn't agree?  Don't most of us already suspect this is true?  Who among us wouldn't get all excited to hear that getting more money is simply a matter of asking for it?

Oh, and one more thing -- The premise on which this "all you have to do is ask for it" economic theory is founded is that you are ALREADY worth double, triple, or more!  You simply don't know it!

Too Good To Be True?
Well, things that sound too good to be true usually are.  And, as I'll illustrate here, this is one of those cases.  However, the flaw inherent in the methodology should not be automatically extended into turning the goal into an unreachable or unwarranted one.  You see, the geography is a given, we have an accurate map, and our vehicle is in top condition.  We're simply on the wrong road (i.e. "methodology") if we want to get from "Point A" to "Point B."

Now, it would be really nice and clean if "Point A" and "Point B" were clearly definable locations, like they are on a topographical map.  But we're not talking about a topographical map, nor are we talking about two physical locations.  We're talking about the wholly theoretical world of Point A and Point B being where the mobile DJ entertainment industry is priced now and where it could be priced in the future, respectively.  And the correct road we need to travel is far from the "direct route" that "all you have to do is ask for it" promotes.  Both are nice roads, but one will get us there and one will simply provide us with a nice Sunday drive in the countryside, ending up back at home.

As I said, geography is a given.  Now, the "all you have to do is ask for it" crowd argues that perceived limitations are simply a mirage.  In fact, they usually say something very persuasive and catchy like, "Argue for your limitations, and they are all yours."  That's a nifty admonishment.  It's too bad it isn't true.  Just as one has to cross very real rivers, mountains, and valleys in physical travelling, one has to deal with very real obstacles, or limitations, in theoretical travelling.  To argue that aren't really there, or that they don't matter, is moronic.

Simple Vs. Complex
We are still faced with a conundrum however.  "All you have to do is ask for it" represents an overly simplistic perspective of what is truly a complex issue.  That's a big part of its allure, I might add.  "Getting what you're worth," a quotation that has graced many book titles over the years stands as the complex issue.  I now ask you - How often can a complex question be solved with a simplistic answer?  Well, it can't this time either.

While mobile DJ entertainers may represent a somewhat unique commodity in terms of characteristics, there is nothing unique about what they represent in terms of economics.  Thus, we have encountered our first very real "obstacle" in dealing with the complex issue of "getting what you're worth" - standard economics in a free market based society.  Unfortunately, very few of us are accomplished economists in regard to education.  But we live economics every day of our lives, so its not like we're totally ignorant of the subject either.

Basic Economics
I'm certain you've at least heard the two most critical words used in association with economics - supply and demand.  Without going too far into economic theory, we can fairly say that supply and demand are what governs price in EVERY non-regulated free market product/service situation.  Lower supply and higher demand forces price up; higher supply and lower demand forces price down.  Additional effects include entry into the market of additional product/service suppliers when demand is high and departure from that market when demand is low.  Availability of capital on both the supply and demand sides is another additional construct, but ironically is of little consequence in this particular illustration.

We (DJ's) know for sure that all DJ's are NOT created equal.  But DJ's don't hire DJ's - Clients hire DJ's.  Here is another missing piece from the oversimplified "all you have to do is ask for it" methodology.  It has to do with a more remote economic concept, usually referred to as "perfect information."  Perfect information assumes that every consumer knows everything and every product/service in the marketplace.  It would be downright preposterous to believe that the typical consumer knows everything there is to know about mobile DJ's.  The fact is that mobile DJ entertainers may be one of the things a typical consumer knows the least about of any product/service.  Why?  Because the odds are excellent that he/she has never hired a mobile DJ entertainer before.

The Typical Consumer
How does the typical consumer deal with such a lack of information?  Ideally, they should seek to educate themselves before making a purchasing decision.  Do they? - Very seldom.  What OTHER methodology is usually seen (incorrectly) as more efficient? - Minimize expense!  Seek the cheapest alternative available!  In this manner, the conclusion (erroneous) is, "If I don't pay a lot, and the product/service is bad, then at least it didn't cost me much."  And he/she proceeds to call, in this case, as many DJ's as he/she can reasonably locate, wanting to know one thing and one thing only - "How much do you charge?"

The Mobile DJ Marketplace
Now, let's return to the more definable concept of the mobile DJ entertainment marketplace.  Nobody would deny that this is an industry that attracts a disproportionately large share of new start-up enterprises year in and year out.  Due to the overwhelming consideration of "imperfect information" (or really just a LACK of information) in the consumer base of our industry, the impact of new entries on the VOLUME of business for existing companies is relatively minimal.  This is due to the omnipresence of referral business in this particular industry.  The "all you have to do is ask for it" crowd proudly points to referral business and proclaims that this is proof that the sky is the limit on rates for competent mobile DJ entertainment enterprises.

And they have a very valid point.  If a competent enterprise is operating virtually 100% off of referral business, they have little incentive to market AT ALL.  That admirable "word of mouth advertising" which costs nothing and still produces customers is, without a doubt, a worthy goal.  But is 100% referral business also a worthy goal?  Should every "top tier" mobile DJ entertainment company cease advertising once they reach a position where's its possible to rely totally on referrals?  Let's link these analyses together and see where we end up ...

First, we have imperfect (lack of) information on the part of the majority of consumers.  Next, we have many new DJ's entering the marketplace annually, because it's cheap and easy to do.  Finally, we have the best existing DJ's NOT marketing - instead relying substantially on referral business.  It doesn't require an Albert Einstein to see where this leaves the mobile DJ entertainment marketplace and the typical consumer.  Essentially, the consumer is left to choose ONLY from the companies he/she can FIND.  And due to many of the BEST companies NOT advertising the odds are tremendously increased for that consumer to end up with a below-average (or totally incompetent) DJ - even though they might have wanted to pay more for higher quality.  They just couldn't readily find it!

Common Sense Conclusions
Conclusion:  More "bottom feeders" find work in this industry than are deserving of it.  Result:  An inordinately large number of consumers are dissatisfied with their DJ.  Extension:  So are those 100, 200, 300+ family members, friends, and guests who are present at the dissatisfactory event.  Impact:  Artificial suppression of rates on an INDUSTRY WIDE BASIS!  Why?  Because many more prospective customers have had a "bad experience" with a DJ in relation to those who have had a "good experience."

And there you have it.  Growing one's revenues with an "all you have to do is ask for it" approach WILL NOT WORK because it's the MARKETPLACE that determines "what you are worth" and not YOU!  YOU may indeed think that you are worth double or triple what you currently charge.  And if you are in the right market area, at the right time, providing the right product/service, you may be!

One of the most basic principles of business is to MAXIMIZE REVENUE.  And nobody should ever accept LESS than they are worth, regardless of personal "business philosophy."  But to suggest that simply hiking up one's rates to some arbitrary hyper-inflated level is, at best nonsensical, and at worst dangerous to a company's survival.  PUSH THOSE RATES AS HIGH AS YOU CAN!  But do so with reasonability, sensibility and care, acknowledging that in an non-regulated free market economy, it is the MARKETPLACE that ultimately determines "what you are worth" - NOT YOU.  It may take a little longer to get from "Point A" to "Point B" but you'll be safe in knowing that your business will be alive to see "Point B" when you get there.

Scott & Doreen Susor are the Owners/Operators of "Your DJ" Professional Entertainment Services in Houston, Texas


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