Drummer Taps a Different Beat for DJ Clients

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By Vern Delahunt

Stroudsburg, Pa.—John Donovan is looking to buy a house with his wife in The Pocono Mountains for a simple reason: “I can get to New Jersey and Long Island. Going south, I can get to Philly, and locally I’ve been able to build up the concept in Lehigh Valley, which has been really nice, too.”

The “concept,” is one that has been going on for 30 years, started in 1982 by Richie Hart at Long Island’s Hart to Hart: live percussion at a DJ gig.

John Donovan is the Party Percussionist.

“It’s a term I started using loosely in the spring of 2008,” says, “and some people were making fun of me, telling me that the term was corny and people would never catch on to it. Now I’m hearing that term used everywhere.”

Indeed, Donovan, born on Long Island and raised in The Poconos, has been a drummer since he was four, and by the time he was a teenager he had joined the drum-and-bugle corps, intrigued by the physical prowess needed to accomplish that style of drumming.

After moving back to Long Island to put his wife through school, he began to see guys were successful playing with DJs as Latin-style percussionists.

“That’s when I decided to tap into my drum-corps roots,” he recalls. “I first started working with a DJ company on Long Island, and the owner told me to start soliciting myself to all the DJ companies in the area.”

So Donovan started dialing and e-mailing, built a website with some demo videos online, and started his service at $225 and, as more companies started seeking him out, the market guided him to where he needed to be, price-wise. And he hasn’t stopped.

“I have my Facebook posts with my existing audience,” he says. “I’ve been developing relationships with DJ companies, private communication with company owners to get to know them as people, and I’m able to augment that audience by attending DJ-related networking events. Funny, everyone thinks that people who work on the weekends don’t have anything to do during the week, but I’m constantly on the computer, on the phone, in order to work on the weekends, which, from March to New Years Eve I’m booked pretty regularly, although it’s slow in the winter.”

Of course, like any DJ, Donovan fields the typical questions from callers. “If someone calls me up and the first thing they ask is, ‘How much do you charge?’ that’s a turnoff,” he says. “And I’ve learned from the DJ Expo seminars that you have to have that mindset, and it’s been working. When they ask that, I ask them where they heard about me, and then I ask if they’ve seen what I do. I try to show them my videos, and try to show them what I’m doing in the DJ industry, and only then I’ll let them know what my rates are.”

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