Athens, Ga. – Outside of the Classic City, Athens, Ga., is well-known for three main exports: a live-band/club scene that has produced influential rock acts like The B-52’s and R.E.M.; the University of Georgia and its massive alumni base; and UGA’s wildly popular football team, the Bulldogs – 2021’s National Champs.
So, in a college market of 125,000 that loves its live bands, what opportunities remain for a mobile-DJ/entertainment service? If you’re David Osborne, a longtime Athens resident, 2004 UGA grad, and multi-op mobile, there are plenty.
Not only does Osborne run Sound Insight, a premium outfit for higher-end events, he also runs Athens DJ Service, a wedding-only company – and he offers live-band services to clients with Side Hustle, a 10-piece cover band, complete with horn section.
Speaking of side hustles, Osborne recently launched The Blueprint, “a full training resource for solo-op and multi-op DJs to train their teams.” And at DJX, this Aug. 8-11 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Osborne will reveal some of that “secret sauce” when he helms “Grow A High-Performance Team,” an hour-long tutorial on recruiting, training, and maintaining DJ-staff in, what he calls, “a difficult market to operate.”
We recently caught up with David Osborne, 39, to discuss how he’s thrived and evolved in this unique Northeast Georgia market.
What inspired you to DJ? Was there a moment, an event or a person who lit that fire?
DJing is quite literally the crossroads of all the things that I’m good at. Trust me, there’s tons of stuff I’m terrible at – that’s just a different set of questions. I came out of the womb talking and entertaining people, I have my degree in music from the University of Georgia, and I come from a family of engineering-minded folks. So problem-solving and technology is in my DNA. I’m happy doing any of the mentioned things, but when they culminate at DJing it’s a Zen-type experience.
How did you actually get started DJing? Did you work for another jock?
I totally fell into DJing by necessity. My mom got remarried in 1998 and my step-dad said, “Hey, you should DJ the reception with all your CDs.” I remember then knowing that my CD collection wasn’t going to cut it and I sourced as much as I could from the local library and played my first party on my boombox! Some years later, in college, I was always the guy making the burned CDs for parties and road trips. Right after college, I was attending what felt like dozens of weddings – and the DJs were awful. At one of the weddings, I told a friend, “Hey, I can totally do that,” and they challenged me to get started. I bought some gear and never looked back.
Did your music studies at UGA help you in your DJ business? How so?
My degree in Music Education/Trumpet Performance has helped me tremendously. I spent 13 years teaching elementary-school general music – 2004 to 2017 – and was a professional trumpet player from 2004 to 2007, so my ability to understand and support people, as well as put on a show, come from my earlier experiences.
Can you describe your company? How many DJs? What range of services do you offer?
I own two brands. Sound Insight is a signature-level brand – i.e., more expensive, higher expectations, higher results – that has four DJs, soon to be five. We offer DJs, lighting design, photo booths, live musicians, a live band, and FX. The second brand, which is like our minor-league-training team – Athens DJ Service – is a wedding-only DJ company that just offers DJ/dance lighting. We have five DJs at that brand.
What are your company’s main gigs?
Mostly weddings, corporate, and non-profit. Our band does work with a lot of UGA sororities.
You’re working in a town that’s well-known for its live music – describe your live-band services?
We have a band called “Side Hustle” – it’s an eight- or 10-piece cover band. The 10-piece has a full horn section. The sax player is part of both groupings and is actually a working, wedding DJ with our company, so he helps with the client-facing side of the band.
What kind of mobile-DJ market is Athens? How does a DJ get and keep his or her part of the pie?
Athens is a two-faced town. The locals and surrounding areas are relatively lower-income and surrounded by barn venues in the North Georgia country. Our Athens DJ Service brand serves much of the local market and can travel up to an hour away. Our signature brand, Sound Insight, serves the destination-event side of Athens. Proud UGA grads who go off to law school or own businesses in other states come back to Athens to host their weddings. All the guests are traveling in and stay downtown. Those couples usually are bringing a much larger budget and want that “college-party atmosphere” at their weddings.
How much does university life impact your business?
University life impacts my business a lot. It’s hard to recruit staff because qualified grads often move back home to Atlanta or to other cities, which makes it difficult to retain staff. There’s all kinds of university events, Greek-life events, corporate, non-profit – Athens is a major social-services hub – and more.
Obviously, Georgia Bulldogs football is a big deal in the Athens area. Each game draws over 90,000 fans to Sanford Stadium, so there’s an enormous influx of humanity on game weekends. How does each football season impact your business?
Football season means I know exactly when we’ll be sold out – on UGA bye weeks and away-game weekends, people swarm the town to host private events. On UGA home-game weekends, we’ll definitely be working outside the city.
The Athens area has grown so much this century. In fact, the population has nearly tripled in the last 30 years. It’s not the sleepy, old college town it once was. What kind of non-university business are you getting?
Just in the past 10 years, the city has changed economically to start to attempt to attract more professionals to stay. I mean, when I say we’re getting an REI and a Costco, that’s a big deal for Athens standards. The amount of corporate work – companies that are looking for non-DJ services – is growing. They are starting with looking for photo booths or lighting – sometimes with DMCs – and then we’re able to add the DJ side on, as well.
What are the venues like for mobile DJs in and around Athens?
In town, venues are awesome – old Southern estates that have been turned into venues, Prohibition-era ballrooms. Outside of Athens, there are a lot of barns and former cotton mills turned into venues.
What gear do you carry in your main DJ systems?
At Sound Insight, we’re mostly all using the Pioneer DJ DDJ-1000SRT controller with Serato DJ software, V-Moda headphones, Sennheiser G4 mics, and a variety of DJ furniture – I use a ToadMatic and one of our DJs uses a Bunn booth. We use Astera Lighting and Eternal Lighting, plus loudspeakers from Electro-Voice, Bose, QSC, RCF, and JBL. At Athens DJ Service, they are using Pioneer DJ’s DDJ-SR2 controller, using Serato DJ software, with QSC K12.2 powered speakers and Shure BLX wireless microphone systems.
How do you see your next five years going?
We’ll be growing exponentially. This past New Year’s Eve, I launched The Blueprint – www.blueprintlearn.com and @blueprintlearn on Instagram – which is a full training resource for solo-op and multi-op DJs to train their teams. We’ve been using it with our own team and it’s allowed us to grow faster and with higher quality. I see us easily multiplying several times over.
At DJX in August, what can show attendees expect to see from your “Grow a High-Performance Team” seminar?
Attendees can learn my exact process – the secret sauce – of how I recruit, train, and maintain our staff of DJs in a difficult market to operate. I’ll share every step of the way and every piece of the puzzle, as if I were training them to take over our process internally. It’s the information I wish I had five years ago when I started building our multi-ops. Come, check it out – we’ll see you in Atlantic City.
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