Meet Vinny Liotta, DJ Expo Champ
Clifton Park, N.Y. – Vinny Liotta had been attending the DJ Expo for 10 years, during which time he’d noticed something missing from the “DJ of the Year” competition—the Expo’s annual competition show for mobile entertainers.
So, this year he entered—and won. “It was an amazing experience,” he says. “The night was electric.”
“I think I won because I didn’t create a routine just for the competition,” he says. “I was told by many of the judges afterwards that my performance was very organic and real. I also believe that starting with a love song really blew some minds. I have been attending for about 10 years and have talked to some friends that see the competition every year and they’d never seen a love song. I believe that was a huge part of the victory.”
Liotta says he treated the competition like a wedding or any other event he’s booked. “I felt really great, well rested and was ready to give it all I had. I showed everyone a fabulous way to close out any type of party: Jason Mraz’s ‘I Won’t Give Up’ to pack the dancefloor into The Dynatones’ version of ‘Shout,’ then into the high-energy last 45 seconds of ‘The Time (Dirty Bit)’ by The Black Eyed Peas.”
Liotta thinks the victory will bring recognition to his company, Events by Cool Cat. “My entire staff is very excited and proud to be a part of this,” says Liotta of his Clifton Park, N.Y.-based crew. “And that will translate into them bringing their attitude to another level and creating better
“After every event, when the couple, Mitzvah kid or guest of honor give me that big, huge hug and tell me how magical their night was, that’s what keeps me motivated.”
experiences for all of our clients, which will help the business.”
Other winners of the “DJ of the Year” competition have had a similar “Expo Bump.” It’s a hard-earned and coveted peer approval.
His business is an outgrowth of Liotta’s experience DJing in Florida for eight years for a multi-system operator. When he moved to Upstate New York in 2001, Events by Cool Cat was born. To get gigs, he “literally talked to everyone I could about the business, spent money on online advertising and put business cards everywhere I could.”
Still, despite his experience DJing, challenges existed—namely, gaining the trust of venues. “It’s one thing to tell them about yourself, but gaining their trust is not as easy,” he says. “They are needed for a huge referral base. Proving to clients that you are what you say you are, being from another state was difficult, especially back then, when video and an online presence with testimonials were not as developed as they are today.”
So, whenever Liotta had the chance to work in some of the bigger and more popular venues, he emphasized being a team player. “Always,” he says, “I followed house rules—load in, location of set-up, etc.—with a smile, and, of course, I delivered a great event for our mutual clients.”
Naturally. In a relatively short amount of time, he says, he was being referred quite a bit. “And as far as proving my value to potential clients, the key was meeting them in person and sharing my knowledge and expertise,” he says. “The more events I did, I created a great reference list. Between the venues and very happy clients, it became no problem at all to gain trust and have people start to give us a chance.”
It helps that Liotta’s team of DJs and MCs remain motivated, which is made easier because he’s got a knack for finding Alpha talent. “We find most of our staff at events,” he says. “I find that person who is the life of the party, and then talk to them at the end of the event and give them my card. If they are truly interested, they call and that gives us the chance to start with a new employee. Also, friends of our team have been a great addition to the company.”
Liotta says the most important traits in a team member are reliability, kindness, little to no ego at all, and “a true love for making people smile.”
He spends a lot of time and energy working with his team, and says he has little problem keeping them motivated. “After every event, when the couple, Mitzvah kid or guest of honor give me that big, huge hug, with a big smile, and tell me how magical their night was, that’s what keeps me motivated.”
But, realizing that employees have different motivations, he tries to share all that he knows. “And I’m kind to them, I pay them fair and I encourage them all,” he says. “It’s been working so far.”
When it comes to learning, Liotta says there are “so many things we learn on a regular basis—we love going to seminars whenever we can.”
But the biggest lesson he’s absorbed was expanding to more than only a DJ business. In the last year, his good friend and business mentor, Mike Walter of New Jersey’s Elite Entertainment, encouraged him to expand into photo booths, photography and videography. His bottom line reflects the fact that it was a wise choice. “This,” he says, “has been a life changer.”
Oh, yeah, and how did he ever come up with the name Events by Cool Cat, anyway?
“When we moved here from Florida, our kids came up with the name Cool Cat and we’ve since added Events to reflect that we are a full-service company. It’s unusual, and it’s a great conversation starter.”