In this article, we look at some of the challenges facing the solo musician performing at weddings and events. We talk to a successful award–winning performer about how he evolved as an entertainer. He took on new ways of doing things and offered his clients more options and got more gigs!
There are a number of solo musicians that have discovered that by offering a dual entertainment package, they don’t have to share the budget with the DJ. In fact, now they can charge more! They perform as a solo musician in the beginning of the evening and then take the wheel as the DJ for the latter part of the night. This scenario has become a growing trend among musicians for obvious reasons!
You know from experience, that as the night continues, the party kicks in. Then the requests for a plethora of favourite dance tracks take over, and if you’re on your own, this can be hard to pull off. Plenty of musicians have stories of when the party escalates, the demanding dancers can get pushy when they want “their” song. Sometimes aggression can even be focused on the musicians because they are not playing what the crowd wants.
Catering to the crowd...
People have different tastes in music and it can be difficult for the musician to know all of these songs. To have all popular tracks in their repertoire requires many months of rehearsal, organising charts and lyrics and it can be impossible to achieve.
To retaliate in the demanding marketplace for live entertainment and also to hold on to what they love, many solo and duo musos are now providing a different scenario. They play a couple of sets of live music with vocals and instruments and then later, change hats and become the DJ, playing popular dance tracks and requests to keep the punters happy.
Many musos have been doing this using iTunes or Spotify from their smart phone or tablet. This way they can access the requests thrown at them in the heat of the night. Many of them have also purchased DJ decks so that they can mix it up and also look the part, bringing with them simple light rigs to add to the atmosphere.
An interview with Michael Vos
We talked to Michael about being a solo musician and adding “DJ” to his promo to offer more as a solo performer.
Michael Vos has been a full time musician for thirteen years with regular spots at the Star Casino but he has since found his niche in the wedding industry! Michael is now four times winner of the “Brides Choice Award” and two times winner of the ABIA (Australian Bridal Industry Academy) award! Last year, in amongst his normal gigs, he still managed to squeeze in 127 weddings!
Michael, you’ve obviously become very successful at what you do. Tell us, what are the things you found difficult when doing weddings and events?
I love playing live music, but one of the biggest things that I found was by the end of the gig, when everyone’s hitting party mode and they’ve had a few drinks, you can’t keep up with them. You’re on your own, a solo musician just playing guitar and singing and I found that I had to start DJing. I had to play dance and party tracks to get the dance floor pumping.
How have you found your way around that problem?
In the start, what I ended up doing was have my iPad set up and when I had finished my last live song, I’d have some tracks ready on an app on the iPad and I’d let that play. But then as time went by, people would come up requesting songs, and you’d be expected to lead the dancefloor as a DJ. I just couldn’t do that from an iPad and I discovered that I needed more. To be able to DJ properly, I needed the gear to pull it off. I had to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do it.
Then I had to figure out how to handle the transition from muso to DJ at the gig, having a guitar and mic and DJ gear plugged in as well. This started to become a little bit of a mess for me, so that’s when I really had to start figuring out what I could use that would work better.
It’s a musician’s worst nightmare, having leads everywhere, stuff on the floor looking untidy at the event, especially when they have gone to the trouble of making the venue look amazing! So now, my journey has been about making things simple, tidy and compact. I want less gear, but need more options, and to be able to have something where I can have everything plugged in to one main hub that covers all performance options for me.
I noticed you're using the DJ-707M. What's it like?
Roland actually asked me to check out the DJ-707M and to be honest I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but I actually love it!
It’s such a handy piece of equipment with so many possibilities. For me, being able to un-plug once I’m finished playing guitar for the night and switch over to being DJ is now much easier. Normally I pack my music mixer, guitar and pedals away. Now I can just unplug my music gear from the DJ-707M, put it away and I’m ready to DJ.
Here’s another thing, at the end of the night at almost every wedding you get asked to play Wonderwall or something like that. You get asked to play a song for the farewell to the bride and groom. To be able to just grab my guitar out of the case and plug it straight into this thing is so handy. I don’t have to set a mixer back up again, I don’t have to bring all of the gear back in and plug it back into the speaker, I can just play that song. It’s all ready to go!
I’m also loving the fact that you have separate outputs called zones. I can have my main speakers in the room for my live performance on guitar, and at the same time I can play different background music outside of the building from an iPod, it’s perfect!
Recently I’ve also been doing a lot of live video streams on YouTube. I’ve just found out that I can actually plug straight into my iPhone and stream all of the audio out of the DJ 707M! This is so handy, especially when you’re wanting to stream live. I can do that now, even from weddings if I wanted to, so people could watch me and my audio is going straight into my phone for live video streaming! I don’t have worry about any other gear. It’s so unbelievably handy! (A note from Roland “check out how to stream directly from the DJ-707M here)
Some other great features are the fact that you’ve got full EQ on your inputs, you’ve got great effects, and it’s even got classic Roland drum machines. Something else that I would actually love to experiment with as a live musician that does looping, is try and play and actually mix in some DJ tracks with my live stuff. That would actually be really cool!
As an entertainer, singer, musician and now a DJ, this is the best piece of equipment I’ve tried in a long time!