DJ Jodi Embraces Same-Sex Wedding Market
Dover, N.H.—“I idolized my dad,” says Jodi Duston when I ask her how working at her family’s deli influenced her career decision.
“I would work my summers and weekends at the store just to spend time with him. From Day 1, about 43 years ago, you could find my dad behind the counter interacting with customers. When they would tell him about how much they loved his place, a certain product or a great experience they had, he would get this great smile on his face… proud, but humble. Maybe even more important, I witnessed his sincere disappointment over complaints. Looking up to him the way I did ingrained those feelings in me.”
Driven by a “desire to get that positive feedback,” Duston strives for perfection not in a deli, but as the owner of DJ Jodi Entertainment, a single-system DJ specializing in same-sex weddings, a market that is no longer on the cultural margins, and is certainly emerging as an opportunity for DJs looking to maximize their wedding gig skills.
It was through the family business that Duston first met a local DJ, a multi-system entrepreneur who was looking to add more DJs to the line-up. “I learned a lot from him,” she says. “About five years after I started working for him, he decided to retire. I bought a set of his equipment and went out on my own. I found jobs mostly through word-of-mouth over the next 10 years. Between being so well-connected in the area by my family business, gaining popularity in the gay community and referrals, I stayed pretty busy.”
Duston attended her first same-sex wedding in 1995. “The DJ was a woman—a first on both for me!” says Duston. “She noticed me peering over her shoulder and very kindly struck up a conversation with me. It resulted in an audition at the local lesbian bar that she managed. Her willingness to take me under her wing changed the whole course of my life.”
She learned early on how to cater to the same-sex crowd by using one simple time-tested technique: watching them. “They didn’t seem to care about beats matching, extended versions or brand-new songs they hadn’t heard yet, so I played what they wanted,” she says. “About two years into my first club job at the women’s bar, the men’s bar lost their lease and we decided to merge. The new DJ and I were talking about our very different music selections. He told me it was the DJ’s job to bring the new music to the people. I told him I thought it was a DJ’s job to get people dancing. I also have a very approachable personality. I am not a closed-door DJ. I love talking to people and listening to their requests. Through music selection and personality, I created a large fanbase, and I am so grateful for them!”
This fanbase hires DJ Jodi for their weddings, parties, parents anniversaries, and company Christmas parties, among other events. “They tell their friends about me,” she says. “They go to other bars and tell them they ‘need to get DJ Jodi in here.’”
Like any DJ, Duston has experienced bumps in the road. At the second wedding she ever performed, she called the father and daughter up for the father/daughter dance. The father, however, was out smoking a cigarette. “I now make sure as I’m lining up the wedding party for introductions, that I go over each person’s ‘duties’ and times… dances, toasts etc.,” she says. “I called the couple up once for the cake-cutting and the photographer was off eating their meal. I now ask in my questionnaire who the photographer is.’
To DJ Jodi, same-sex weddings “aren’t as different as you think. Some of the traditions may have a twist,” she says. “Gender terminology, as far as the introductions go, is, usually, the most different or challenging aspects. But you can get really creative and have fun with it!”
A recurring source of income in the gay community has been T-dances (or tea dances as they are also called), an event held in the gay culture that represents “the exact opposite of the English having tea in the late afternoon,” says Jodi. “They are late-afternoon dances, usually 4 to 8 p.m. I first heard of them in Provincetown, Mass., at a place called the Boatslip with DJ MaryAlice. The music is a mix of Top 40 and classic ’70s-’90s. Some are themed and the music reflects that.”
When I ask DJ Jodi where she sees the company in two years, she says unhesitatingly, “I would love to see a few more DJs in the company. Right now, I am in still in a position of having to take a few lower-paying club jobs to keep the income stream steady.”
And if she weren’t DJing, what would she be doing? “Traveling the world with my wife—enjoying the different cultures, food and, of course, music!”