They came. They learned. They partied. Such was the vibe at the 2003 International DJ Expo, held this past August 25-28 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. More than 5,000 DJs converged from all over the planet to flood the exhibit floor, where more than 120 booths with the latest products dazzled all.
“The DJ Expo is my vacation,” said an exhausted Greg Wallace, owner of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Elite Entertainment, as he sat on a couch in the Sheraton Hotel lobby on the last day of the conference. “I come here because I always go back to the West Coast with some piece of information, a game, or a dance, that my competitors don’t have. It really sets me apart from everybody else.”
Other DJs pointed to particular Expo seminars as instructive. “I thought the bridal showcase was outstanding,” says Tommy Demers from Salem, N.H.-based Get Down Tonight Entertainment. “When I left the seminar I called my wife and raved about it. I'm still raving. My company is involved with our own showcase this Wednesday evening, and we are performing it very similar to what we saw here at the show.”
In addition to the seminars, which were moderated by the industry’s top DJs, the Expo’s exhibit floor consistently generated a buzz, and major-player manufacturers like Harman International (represented by JBL, dbx and Crown) and Pioneer Pro DJ reached out to DJs with dedicated demo rooms. While the Harman crew gave away three products daily via a drawing, Pioneer used its Expo demo room to show DJs a working prototype of the DVJ-X1 – a beatmatching DVD player that expects to hit the market in early 2004. Similar in layout to Pioneer’s CDJ-1000 mkII, the groundbreaking new unit can read CD, DVD-Audio, DVD, DVD-R and DVD singles, plus it allows users to backspin videos.
"The International DJ Expo, for us, was an awesome opportunity to offer a sneak preview of our new DVD player,” says Pioneer’s Neil Altneu. “The concept of bringing video to the DJ is such a powerful move in the industry that we realized it was the key to our having a successful Expo. In a nutshell, the 2003 DJ Expo was a good show for us because it was a launching pad by which we were able to announce product to the end user—and the Expo in general is a good vehicle for advertising what's new in the industry.”
Martin Professional also used the Expo as a launching point for a new product – the Mania EF-1 effect light. “There were lots of folks there to learn about new products,” says Martin Pro’s Gray Fallon. “And we indeed did have a new product line, the Mania series. It was rather refreshing to get feedback from the Expo attendees on the new product line and to stay in close contact with our customers. We are looked upon as a rather large organization by DJs and customers in the industry, but at the DJ Expo, it was good to let folks know that we are real people working for the company that are concerned about their needs."
Chauvet’s Barry Abrams was impressed, too. “The caliber of the clientele was much higher that we had ever experienced," says Abrams. "The 2003 DJ Expo was a major success as far as this company is concerned. We will definitely return to upcoming DJ Expos for the simple fact that as the DJ Expo itself has grown and evolved. This year's show was successful, and I feel the upcoming shows will continue to go in that direction."
Gemini’s Alan Cabasso concurred. "We had a great show. The opening exhibition day was the best we've ever had, and we've been to over 10 DJ Expos. We sold out of everything by day three. We got a ton of leads. Most refreshing of all was the fact that the DJs that were in attendance were there to buy."
Of course, many DJs were there to win, and the big winner of the 2003 show was Joe Morganella of Somersworth, N.H.-based Jukebox Jems, whose business card was drawn to win The Ultimate DJ System. Valued at $15,000, the system included products from American DJ (full lighting system), Carver (ZR-1600 amp), Community (TD 2115 speakers), Furman (PL-Pro DJ power conditioner), Gemini (PDT-6000 turntables), Pioneer (CMS-3000 CD player), Promo Only (Optoma EzPro 730 projector), Rane (Special Edition Empath mixer) and Sennheiser (EW135 wireless system and HD280 Pro headphones).
“I was stunned,” says Morganella, a two-system mobile who says he will be expanding his operation to four. “I was down a few dollars in the casino and my girlfriend said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you took that prize?’ And then I heard my name called. I’m still in shock, but this will help – and I’ll definitely be back next year.”
As always, the DJ of the Year Award drew a huge crowd with everyone interested to see if two-time winner Marcello Pedalino of Mine Hill, N.J.-based MMP Enterprises could three-peat. “You don’t win this thing two years in a row just on luck,” says Mike Walter, owner of New Jersey’s Elite Entertainment and organizer of the Awards. “Marcello showed once again that he is one of the most polished and dynamic entertainers our industry has to offer. He and his dancers did the ‘Bootie Drop,’ which they had been working on for over a year.”
In the end, Pedalino won for Best New Dance, but did not three-peat on DJ of the Year. Instead, that honor went to KC Kokoruz of Chicago’s Spinnin’ Disc Entertainment. Ross Akselrad of Southampton, Pa.-based Pulse Entertainment’s won for Best Game, and Pedalino took home awards for Best Choreographed Routine and Runner Up for DJ of the Year.
Other Expo nightlife included the annual Promo Only/Pioneer Party at Planet Hollywood, plus three showcase nights at Club Déjà Vu, which included performances by Robbins Entertainment artists Reina, Katrina Ruiz, and Reneé Stakey, Music Plant’s Georgie Porgie, plus newcomer Marcy Faith. Performing DJs included WKTU’s The Riddler, Freddy Bastone, Gary Deane, John Hohman, Frank Garcia, Randy White, and Phil Turnipseed