Vermont Vinylist Scratches Ahead
Evan LeCompte got into DJing in the late ’90s, at a time when turntablism and deck wizardry was adding fireworks to the art. He followed all the DJ battles, watched the videos, and tried to replicate those skills on his own, in the sanctity of—where else?—the bedroom.
“I was looking up to all of the top DJs that were battling in the DMCs and touring, but my mentors were the DJs that were around me on a local level,” he recalls. “I learned a lot from friends and older DJs that had been doing it longer than me. Their skills and experience were huge in my learning process.”
In college at Burlington, LeCompte was the typical bedroom/college radio/house party DJ, not thinking about money, just doing it for the love of the fader and the scratch. That changed when an upperclassman DJ at the station (WRUV-FM Burlington) asked him to do a gig with her. They would split $150 for a Saturday night at a club. That, of course, for a college student, is the equivalent of pulling off a Brinks Job. “I was pumped!” he says. “But it wasn’t until I had some real consistent club residencies and events that I saw real money could be made.”
These money-making DJ schemes informed his post-collegiate pursuits, when he had been DJing weddings, mostly generated through word-of-mouth. At one wedding, the groom was starting his own SEO web business. “He encouraged me to start an official website so that I could reach more clients,” says LeCompte. “We launched the site in the fall 2010 and by the spring of 2011, I had enough weddings to leave my full-time job and fully focus on the business.”
“Fully focused” meant he had more time to pay attention to the challenges of running a business, which he named SEO-friendly “Wedding DJ VT.” Says LeCompte: “Projecting the growth of the business was a challenge when it was just me in the beginning. One person can only do so much. I felt like eventually I might have a team of DJs, but didn’t know how to get there. Because I was focused on my own success with DJing weddings, I didn’t plan very well for growth. It just sort of happened and I am thankful that it did.”
The other challenge was spreading the word of his wedding-DJ company’s unique selling point. “It was a little different from the others in the area,” he says. “We were doing well on Google searches and Facebook, but the problem was getting venues and other vendors on board. Simply, the more weddings we do put us more on the map with venues and vendors. As we all know in this business, word-of-mouth is invaluable, and it’s happened more over time and I am really thankful for the great venues and vendors that continue to recommend us.”
By 2012, he was booking more gigs than he could handle, so he recruited a friend and fellow DJ. “I started to be more aggressive about recruiting the good DJs in the area,” he says. “I even have a friend who lives in NYC that comes up to DJ weddings with us. It just snowballed from there and I started adding any DJ in the area that I knew was good, actively DJing and personable.”
Oh, and that unique selling point? LeCompte and his crew—there are now more than a handful—are all turntable DJs, using old-school vinyl and Serato DJ software. You can take the DJ out of the bedroom….
“It is a definite requirement of mine to DJ with us,” he says. “It was a niche in the market that was not being met. I saw an opportunity there. Most of our clients and their guests really appreciate the turntables. It is the classic DJ look, very aesthetically pleasing. Every wedding I do, someone young or old will make an approving comment.”
The basic set-up includes: two Technics SL-1200 turntables, Serato DJ software, a Rane Sixty-Two mixer, two QSC K10 active 10-inch speakers, and a KSub active subwoofer.
“I use Serato for dinner and dancing, but I use vinyl for cocktail hour,” says LeCompte, who also books club-oriented events under the DJ Cre8 handle. “It’s mostly jazz, Rare Groove, Afro-beat or Latin kind of stuff. I go record-shopping in New York, Montreal, online with Discogs.com, and wherever I am traveling. I also work at a record store called Burlington Records where I get records.”
Since going full-time in the spring of 2011—he says it was a bit scary, and took nearly a year of planning to get there, but that it’s “been one of the best decisions of my life”—the business has grown modestly. “It has been pretty simple. More DJs on the team has meant more weddings for us. And again, the more that venues and vendors learn about our unique style we are able to spread the word and become more prevalent in the forefront of the wedding industry.”
Seventy weddings in 2014 expects to grow to 80 this year, slow but steady growth, with enough room in the market that LeCompte plans to keep promoting the unique aspect of his service. “Just continuing to do more weddings and events in the New England area is the plan,” he says. “I would like to add more DJs to help make this happen. I think that couples getting married are going to continue to look for ways to make their wedding unique. More and more couples are being thoughtful about the music and want a really good DJ that they can connect with.”