Coaxing Overtime from Holiday Gigs
It’s corporate party season, a time for cheer, reflection, and, for DJs, overtime at their parties, an increasingly important source of revenue as many booking calendars seem to be produced in Anorexistan.
Here are some time-tested techniques to assure overtime.
“The trick is to definitely have the party peak at a later time,” says DJ John, who booked a gig on Christmas day this year. “Some DJs do it by giving out the party favors at a later time. If you’re using lighting, don’t put it on until after the guests are finished eating. And if you wait until after guests eat to start the uptempo dance music, you have a great shot at overtime. You don’t want a high energy level until the crowd is ready for it. I’ll sometimes wait for people to come up to me and ask when the dance music’s getting started. I’ll hold out because that’s how you get a great reaction.”
Conversely, another technique is to stress to the clients the importance of playing music for the guests as they first arrive. “This easily eats up to an hour and a half off our basic four-hour package,” says DJ Mac. “It makes it seem like the party is shorter than it actually is. The party is almost over by the time everyone is getting into it so the client is more likely to request overtime. Getting the party started early also gives the guests the impression that the reception is organized and fun, which makes them eager to participate.”
Corporate parties tend to have plenty of these “time killers,” according to DJ John. “If the president of the company gets up there and makes a speech, that’s a great ‘network time killer,’” he says. “If you have a raffle, that also kills a lot of dance time. If the party ends at 10, at 9 p.m., I’ll kick in the really good dance music—whatever it might be for that crowd. So during the evening I play my variety of music and people approach me to request songs, so by the time the last part of the party comes about, I know what they’re aching for. Today it’s usually hip hop. If you leave that towards the end, you have a shot at the overtime. You don’t want your energy level to peak before 9:30. You want your peak at 10-15 minutes before the end. It’s more likely they’ll go overtime, and you’ll leave them on a high.”
Many banquet halls impose a curfew, making the prospect for overtime difficult. “The first thing I do is I talk to the caterer,” says DJ John. “A lot of times they don’t tell you the truth and if they know that the DJ is scheduled to be finished at 10, then they’re done at 10, too. In reality, however, they’ve contracted with the client until midnight. I’ll mention to the hall that my end time is midnight and I’ll gauge their reaction. This makes them tip their hand and tell you what time the client really has the hall booked until. I usually pad my time by an hour. If the hall says, ‘No way, you’re done at 10,’ then I know I probably won’t get any overtime. But if they say the client’s paid up until midnight, then I know I have a shot. It stacks the odds in my favor.”
John’s trick keeps both the client and hotel happy. “I don’t want to get the hotel upset,” he says, “because they’re a source of referrals.”