For many of you, a world without Facebook and social media is unfathomable. But, for the veterans of our DJ industry, we indeed did exist at a time where peer-to-peer communication was limited to physical get-togethers. This is a story about an educational movement that began in 2001, and it helped change the face of our industry.
Back in 2001, I was just finishing a very productive period of involvement in my local DJ association here in Connecticut. The association was ending a very good run and I found myself in a creative growth period without an avenue to direct that energy. So, in April of that year at a local restaurant, we held a networking-event-by-invitation to area DJs where we could all share ideas. About 50 people showed that night and we discussed a myriad of topics – from business to performance to line dances. It was a blast! And for some of the attendees, it was a career-altering experience.
Requests for another get-together poured in… so, for October of the same year, we held another event. This time, it was attended by 90-plus DJs. And because I was looking for a more formal approach, a name was needed. And thus, DJ Idea Sharing was named with a mission statement: “To raise the level of professionalism within the DJ industry through communication and camaraderie.”
The following year, 2002, would prove to be crucial as we set yet another Idea Sharing event at the same restaurant, but this time we invited DJs from outside the Connecticut region. And with that, I met Rob Peters from Massachusetts. Rob and I hit it off so well that he agreed to come on board and help me organize future events. This would take us on a much more aggressive path.
With a team in place, there now could be growth and expansion of the event. After making a few phone calls (on a flip phone), we contacted several DJ stores in the New England area to host our event. Over the next several years, DJ Idea Sharing events were held over several states. The DJ-store atmosphere would prove to be very popular, as DJs loved the opportunity to play with all the latest toys and go home with some nice deals. Clearly, we had tapped into something important for DJs, so we were determined to ride the wave and keep on keeping on.
Enter social media and Facebook. Upon attending the Wedding MBA conference in Phoenix, Ariz., I was blessed to meet the late, great Andy Ebon, who gave a fascinating discussion about social media and the growth of a platform called Facebook. He pounded into my head that I needed to have an immediate presence for my business and personal promotion. But we saw a possible opening to use Facebook for spreading the DJ Idea Sharing moment beyond the small New England region and get into associating with colleagues all over the country. It would prove to be a great idea.
At the same time social media was exploding all over the world, Rob and I, along with my brother Steve, started up a upstart podcast to try and participate with DJA Radio, which was a concept by Mark Ferrell. As quick as we put together a demo podcast, Mark decided to put his energy into other things, and so we found ourselves in a strange place: End the podcast or move forward independently.
Well, we decided to use the name recognition of DJ Idea Sharing and turn it into a podcast. Dozens of episodes were produced featuring interviews from the who’s who of our industry, along with entertainers and product reviews. We even did live broadcasts from the showfloor of DJ Expo in Atlantic City!
It was at this point of expansion and growth that Facebook offered their “Group” feature, and it just seemed to fit what we were trying to do. And so, on the very first day of the Facebook Group feature, we created DJ Idea Sharing on the platform and sent out an initial invitation to join the group to about 500 DJs. It quickly grew to 1,000 members, then 2,000 and 4,000. We were literally communicating in a way we never realized was possible, but here it was on our laptop. Peer-to-peer sharing of every idea imaginable at the touch of a button!
As the Facebook group became super-populated, I could not keep up. So, around 2008, I approached a select group of trusted friends to join me in moderation of the group. This idea came direct from the chat forums of the early 2000s that were quickly turning empty as Facebook was all the rage! Our moderators operated with a list of rules to keep the group clean and productive. Turns out that without these dedicated DJ friends I would have never been able to maintain the Facebook Group.
Our success was tremendous and we hit 10,000 members only about four years after the creation of the group. I found this bully pulpit to be a great opportunity to include my blog and podcast along with a website. All of this education was free and remained not for profit. This is something I have been proud to say for many years, even though I’ve questioned the missed financial benefit.
But, I happen to know that thousands and thousands of DJs have become better at what they do as a direct result of this movement. I call it a moment because it’s not a company, an organization, a private club, or anything other than a league of DJs who want to help others succeed, all while trying to raise the bar for themselves in the process.
So, that leads me to today and this column – of course, I will call it “DJ Idea Sharing.” I had long been an admirer of DJ Times – the precursor to DJ LIFE mag. In fact, DJ Times was the very first DJ magazine I ever picked up. DJ Times birthed DJ Expo, the first DJ show I attended and the show – now run as DJX by DJ LIFE – remains a heavy influence on my career. So, in lieu of a blog… moving forward, this monthly column will focus on everything and anything about our DJ industry. And thus, from the eyes and mind of a 35-year veteran of our precious DJ business, I humbly offer my thoughts, opinions, and ideas to share for the readers of DJ LIFE!
This editorial will be a raw and very direct take on what we do for a living and/or hobby. There will be biting sarcasm, insightful philosophy and straight-to-the-point honesty. And I pen this column with great appreciation for the opportunity to deliver the same objective I set out to accomplish 21 years ago with our Idea Sharing gathering: “To raise the level of professionalism within our industry.”
And that’s what DJ Idea Sharing is all about.
Since 1984, Mike Fernino has run Music In Motion Entertainment in Seymour, Conn., and since 2008, he has run the Facebook Group, DJ Idea Sharing.
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