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Volume 2 Number 6

Don't Pass Up Video Opportunities

An Article by Dennis Eberts
reprinted by permission of Today's DJ

A disc jockey who is doing a good job of marketing can get requests for services which are outside his expertise, video road shows, for example. The jock's initial reaction might be to refer the client to a company that specializes in video road shows. But perhaps that is too quick a reaction.

Peter O'Desse, the Publisher of Today's DJ, who is also a disc jockey, recently received a call from a singles organization for a video show. His first thought was to say he couldn't do it, but then he spoke with me about it. I made some phone calls.

One company seemed interested in doing the function. The company was Mike's Music Machine of Pickering Ontario. Mike was booked on the night in question. But the booking was for what Mike called "...a basic DJ job." That's what he called a regular audio disc jockey function. His video equipment would be gathering dust that night, however. Mike would handle the setup, take-down and supply personnel to run the show. He just could not be part of the show as he was already committed on that night.

Peter O'Desse and I then finalized the deal with the singles organization with Mike's Music to subcontract.

On the afternoon of the function, Mike and his crew showed up for the set up. Mike's standard show consists of two giant screens and video projectors, in addition to special lights and three VCRs, mixer and all the other equipment that is necessary to run a video road show. His setup time is about an hour. Much of the time is taken by the lighting array. Mike's Music has lighting already set on a giant portable truss system. This preset display takes some assembly, but it takes a fraction of the time needed if each light had to be set individually.

Mike's Music Machine was an excellent choice for the function, as Mike May is an electrician as well as a disc jockey. Video road shows, with all the lights, bells and whistles, require a great deal more 'juice' to power the show, than the regular mobile disc jockey performance. The show requires a 'stove outlet' which a building may or may not have. The community centre did have such an outlet, but even so, a wiring bypass may have been required. this is not a big deal for a licensed electrician like Mike. A novice video jockey could get electrocuted.

Another interesting point about Mike's skills was his mixing ability. Video mixing on the run can require a very expensive mixing console. That is why many video road shows sometimes have a studio truck at the location. The equipment is standard for the broadcast industry, but very expensive. Mike used an AV7-2 mixer from Davoli. It is what may be called a pro-sumer piece of hardware. That is, a consumer product that can be used by pros. Even so, this product had to modified by Mike so that it could be used for road show configuration. Apparently a rival video road show company bought the same unit and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work the same as Mike May's. this is one reason why Mike is able to keep the quality of his shows hight and his costs lower than the competition.

Video shows are a great deal more complicated that a regular mobile DJ function. As A result, when sub contracting a video show, an experienced pro like Mike May is essential.

When the set up was complete, Mike went to arrange his other function across town. He left two young video jocks to do the show.

I had been briefed by the president of the singles organization about the people who attend these functions. They were between thirty and sixty years old. They liked mostly older stuff: fifties, Elvis, disco: the music they listened to in their 'hey daze'. I had discussed this with Mike and he quite candidly stated that perhaps the two guys who he had selected for the function were more suited to a dance with a much younger crowd. But as request cards with promotional pens were a part of the show, selection of the music should not be a great problem. It was.

Most of the music released since video became the essential marketing tool of the artists and record firms is available for video road shows. As a result, video shows are most popular with a young crowd - the MUCH or MTV generation. Few videos of the popular songs of the fifties, sixties and seventies are available for video road shows. This is mainly because, if there is footage of Elvis doing Jail House Rock or Viva Las Vegas, the rights are usually controlled by an independent powerful agency. In the case of Elvis, most of his footage is controlled by the motion picture industry studio he worked for. Elvis made a lot of money in the movies, but it also ruined his career. The same situation makes it impossible for a video road show to exhibit a video version of Hound Dog, but you might get Blue Suede Shoes.

Many artists from the past did shows on variety television programs such as Ed Sullivan. This type of footage would make great videos, but it too is unavailable. When you see videos of early material, such as Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World, it is because that song and all the archival footage was bought for the soundtract of Good Morning Vietnam. The producers of this Robin Williams movie wished to promote it with the new soundtrack. Bingo. That makes the song available for road shows.

The rock videos we see on television is the end product of a billion dollar business. In the early days of rock video broadcast, video could be shown free of charge for 'promotional purposes'. Artists and record companies lost a great deal of money in those early years. Perhaps they are hesitant to 'give away the farm' anymore.

The video jocks that Mike contracted to do the show, took a while to gage the crowd. They were used to a younger, more receptive audience. Gradually he came to a formula that kept the patrons happy and up there on the dance floor - three fast songs followed by three slow songs. It worked but I just couldn't help wondering what the response of the crowd would be to Elvis belting out "...viva Las Vegaas. Viva las Vegaaas. Vivva! Vivvva! LAAS VEEEGASSS!!!"

If you are interested in knowing more about Mike try contacting him at his website which is http://www.m-m-t.com/about.html

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