Chris Bartosik, owner of Raptor Productions, is one those DJs on the mobile circuit who has seen it all.
He began as a college-radio DJ at the University of Alabama in the 1980s and transitioned to mobile/event work in the early 1990s. In recent years, “DJ Raptor” has been heavily involved in industry association work and, like many mobiles, had to survive the effects of the pandemic.
We caught up with the northern Maryland-based Bartosik to hear his story and explain how he persevered through tough times.
DJ LIFE MAG: You’ve been in the business for a while – what are the biggest changes you’ve seen and how have they impacted your business?
Chris Bartosik: Where to even begin? Over the past year, many of us have found ways to do our business online or do more outdoor events. We’ve moved most homecomings outside, even took part in many graduations and other events that would normally be inside. We went from covering a small ballroom to having to fill a football field or many other large outdoor areas. Also, last-minute changes and bookings have become expected. We even had a lineup change this past weekend, as 10 guests were not able to attend the wedding, and two of them were in the bridal party.
DJ LIFE MAG: What hurt you the most during the lockdown?
Chris Bartosik: What really hurt during COVID were schools. We were focusing so much on school dances that, when COVID hit, we lost a big chunk of our revenue, as it was right before prom season. This continued through the fall when some school boards even canceled homecoming dances. Most of our schools are hopeful for next year and we always try to work with them the best we can. Some even had other events for us to be a part of, which were a lot of fun and really help to bring more normalcy back.
Another major change is just staying in touch with other DJs in and around the area. They have always been our biggest supporters and we try to help each other out as much as possible. We all know we can run the one-man show, but having others to bounce ideas off and brainstorm can do so much more. It was good to hear how many others adapted and took to online events and some even took to social media.
DJ LIFE MAG: For Raptor Productions, what’s the elevator pitch?
Chris Bartosik: For homecomings, we turn their school into a nightclub for one night, making it the place they all want to be. We have DJs that mix and have a continuous flow of music while reading the crowd. We also aren’t limited to just social celebrations, as we can provide AV solutions and do rentals of much gear around our area.
DJ LIFE MAG: Sounds good…
Chris Bartosik: I really don’t have much of an elevator pitch these days, as I really want to understand what each prospective client is looking for – we try to make each event unique to the client and there have been a few that we just couldn’t do or I expressed that we weren’t a good fit. At the end of the day, we want to be a part of events where those in attendance will enjoy music and appreciate our talents. I also like to qualify each client before we move forward, as there are only so many dates available in each year. I’ve learned that we don’t need to book every event.
DJ LIFE MAG: Let’s talk about TikTok – how do you use it and how has it changed the way you program music at gigs?
Chris Bartosik: We touched on this back in March of 2020 and I even stated how the platform’s videos were only about a minute long or less. This has really helped in the aspect that the attention span for a song has become shorter. This really allows for us to quick mix, and play more songs per hour. I remember years ago when you would mix out of a song after a chorus that some guests would get upset. But not these days. Of course, we all would let a banger ride a little longer, but there is just so much music out there and we love playing as much as possible.
DJ LIFE MAG: What else?
Chris Bartosik: Another good thing that has happened, so many older songs getting new life and becoming popular once again. We really noticed this over the past homecoming season. It used to be that everyone would want mostly newer songs, or those that were popular on YouTube. Now with TikTok, many DJs are doing mash-ups… who did it first? And even where did that sample come from? On top of all the influencers doing short dances to many older songs. Know it’s just a matter of understanding which songs are more “family” songs and which ones will make the younger ones go wild, but that’s always been the job of the DJ.
DJ LIFE MAG: You’re a founding member of the United States Disc Jockey Association – what was the original hope for the organization, and has it lived up to those hopes?
Chris Bartosik: Originally, the concept was to expand nationally on what we were doing at the local level with BADJA [Baltimore Area Disc Jockey Association’s educational seminars and business development content]. Having a minimum standard for DJs, peer-reviewed applicants, and local networking were all part of the concept. As more DJs starting working together across the country – rather than working against each other – we saw the quality of DJs increase, which helped meet our goal of seeing average contracts prices grow. In our sixth year, there is still much to do, and hope our best is yet to come. Jason Walsh, President of the USDJA, has always believed DJs should work together improving their craft, as we have so much to share. I first met him when I first joined BADJA many years ago and he helped with much of my early marketing.
DJ LIFE MAG: Are you a solo operator or multi-system DJ?
Chris Bartosik: I would have to say a little of both. Years ago, I met one of my really good friends, Justin Icenroad of Crossing the Line Entertainment, and at that time he was just getting into doing mobile events. He asked a lot of really good questions and has really been knowledgeable on gear, and we just hit it off. At that time, we started working together on events and it worked out well. This was when I really found the benefit of working with another DJ and having a team. With so much going on behind the scenes of a wedding, before the dancing, it just made it work. We were also able to mix before and during dinner, which just added to the celebratory atmosphere.
He’s also introduced me to many great people, not just other DJs that have worked for both our companies. Jumping to a complete multi-op is a really big fear of mine, as it’s the brand and name that you have to trust to someone. I do book other DJs from time to time, but I’m very selective when I’m doing it. I’ve seen too many in my area have to push the panic button because they double- or triple-booked a date and didn’t secure a DJ or a DJ has canceled on them for something else.
DJ LIFE MAG: What audio gear do you carry?
Chris Bartosik: I have RCF HDL 6-A speakers, QSC’s entire K Series, QSC KW181 subwoofers, QSC KW153 3-way speakers, and Electro-Voice Evolve50 speakers. I have Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT and a Denon MC7000 controllers for Serato. I have Shure mics, a Behringer X32 Rack digital mixer, and a QSC TouchMix-8 compact digital mixer.
DJ LIFE MAG: Lighting and accessories?
Chris Bartosik: Lots of Chauvet lights and effects – Intimidator Beam 140, Intimidator 375Z, Wash FX 2, Freedom Par Hex-4, Gig Bar IRC, EZpin, plus the Hurricane Haze 4D hazer and the Nimbus dry-ice machine. I have Dragon Frontboards, VBM TE-074 Lifters, a ADJ Entour Ice fog machine, multiple TVs and projectors and 200-inch screens.
DJ LIFE MAG: How has the recovery been for the business post-lockdown?
Chris Bartosik: It’s definitely been interesting. With so much rescheduling, the biggest fear was losing an event due to the date change – luckily, they all worked out. As I mentioned about our school dances, that’s been the hardest part to recover. Many schools were not able to have a homecoming at all, even outside… so we had to put many on hold. Some are hoping to do something in February or March, which was are hoping for. We did notice that many other DJs just haven’t recovered or have closed-up shop. We have gotten a lot more last-minute inquiries, and on the positive many are booking way in advance. Trying to buy new gear is almost impossible these days due to so much being backordered. We did finish strong for the end of 2021 and really want to see how things pan out after the holidays. The one exception are holiday parties – there just aren’t as many this year as there were in the past, which is to be expected.
DJ LIFE MAG: Do you think about how long you’d like to continue DJing? Is there an exit strategy?
Chris Bartosik: I would love to continue as long as I enjoy it. Since I’ve already started bringing in other DJs, I would hope to continue on that path and be connected as long as possible. Years ago, I started putting money away for retirement and I continue to do monthly. I would love to do this forever, but I know at some point I’m just not going to be able to. Many older DJs I’ve met along the way are still doing their thing, but among their peers. I have a couple of friends that are still doing events in many senior-living facilities. Of course, their gear is much smaller and potable and they really don’t need all the “fancy DJ toys,” just some good music. Until then I’m going to surround myself with great, supportive DJs, as we all continue to travel down our paths.
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