Top Mobile DJ Memories – 2016

Each December, I like to publish various countdowns and lists, re-capping the past year.  This post recounts the top memories and achievements (mostly good) from 2016, taking readers into the life of a mobile DJ company owner.  I’ve been operating Ambient DJ Service full-time since 2010.   It’s been a primarily positive experience with more highs than lows.  But as with any small business, the demands of the job can be intense at times.  With a larger operation comes the need to delegate responsibility and to streamline operations.

The list below is in no particular order:

1.  Expanding Our Staff.  In 2016, we added eight music mixologists (DJs) to our staff.  Two of our DJs moved out of New Jersey during the year, leaving us with a net addition of six.  The majority of the new entertainers are specialists such as DJ Nick (karaoke), DJ Jonathan (kids entertainment), DJ/Producer Cloak Dagger (high-performance, high-end retail, corporate and lounge/club), DJ Dre Ovalle (Latin Events) and DJ Linda Leigh (techno/underground electronica).  Other newcomers included musician/DJ Joseph Grillo, DJ Vinny Blanc, DJ Statle  and dancer Sasha Saco.  It’s great to know that we at Ambient DJ likely have the right guy (or lady) for any particular party type.

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DJ Cloak Dagger – Live in NYC

2. Performing with an American Idol Star.  In November, I had the pleasure of working with singer Devin Velez, a finalist American Idol Season 12.  Devin was flown in from Chicago by birthday girl Marie, who threw a 70s themed birthday party for her milestone birthday.  Devin’s vocal performance was incredible, and he was a true gentleman as well.  For a musical recap of the party, see the mix below.

3. Ambient DJ Sponsors Logo Design Competition.  Our original logo was invented in the late 1990s in the midst of the Acid House / Rave scene.  Our business has grown and evolved significantly since then.  Thus, we sponsored a logo design competition and selected the following winning design that pays homage to our past, present and future.  The winning designer was from Indonesia!

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New logo, 2016 – Welcome to the Wedding Boutique!

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Our original logo, created in 2003 – Feel the Rave / Electronica Influence

4. The Wedding Cocktail Hour Series Spreads Its Wings.  What began as a pet project with cocktail hour music playlists paired with signature drinks, we achieved critical mass on this series in 2016.  As of year-end, we’ve published 79 carefully crafted playlists and over 1,600 song selections.  Themes for 2016 included Boy Bands (DJ Iron Mike), Bossa Chill (DJ Dre Ovalle), Disco Love (DJ Gregg Ambient) and even a 420 “High Times” playlist.  To view the playlists and selected signature drinks, see https://ambientdj.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/2016-wedding-music-master-class/  While we’re in no rush to hit 100 playlists, it’s a distinct possibility in 2017 or 2018.  To my knowledge, no mobile DJ company in the world has compiled the depth of wedding music playlists as we have.  Be on the lookout for our “Wedding Music Master Class 2017” to be published in January.

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Our Favorite Client Models, Sarah and Michael #HelloWeAreSciscilo

5.  Ambient DJ is Interviewed for Debut Episode of Mobile DJ Tips Podcast.  DJ Shri is a New Jersey-based DJ who has created a phenomenal educational podcast series for DJs that is available for free on i-Tunes.  I was fortuitously interviewed for the debut podcast on the topics of “Scaling a DJ Business” and “Financial Forecasting for DJs.”  Shri has been on a roll all year, interviewing an impressive list of A-list DJ entertainers (now up to 26 interviews) including Mitch Taylor, Marcello Pedalino, Bill Herman, DJ Magic Mike, Joe Bunn, DJ Shelly,  Jack Bermeo, Scott Faver, Sean “Big Daddy” McKee and more.  To connect with DJ Shri, visit  http://mobiledjtips.com/   I can’t recommend this free resource enough for DJs who want to improve.  Listen at home, listen in your car – just tune in!

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6.  You Never Know Who is Watching.  Over the summer, we received an offer from an entertainment company who was interested in acquiring Ambient DJ Service.  This company is perhaps one of just a handful of companies who I’d ever considering merging with.  While the deal dissolved due to exogenous factors, the moral of the story is in that building a business (even in a small business environment), you never know who might be evaluating you.  Understand the value drivers of your company and keep in mind that mergers & acquisitions do exist in the mobile DJ entertainment field.  Want to grow your own DJ business?  Then consider acquiring or merging with a synergistic DJ/company.

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7.  Ambient DJ Joins the Board of NACE.  In 2016, Ambient DJs’ Executive Director Gregory Lambiase was appointed as a Board Member of the National Association of Catering Executives (NACE) of New Jersey.   In addition to his new executive responsibilities, Greg also competed in NACE’s “Battle of the DJs’ competition held over the Summer.

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DJ Greg Nice, NACE Board Member

8.  Ambient DJ is Inducted into The Knot Best Of Weddings Hall of Fame.  With our fourth win for Knot Best of Weddings – determined by reviews from real wedding couples, Ambient DJ was inducted into the Knot Best of Weddings Hall of Fame.  This achievement is a testament to our consistency and quality in the wedding DJ entertainment segment – an area where the stakes are high and the degree of difficulty for performances can be lofty.  Many thanks to our core wedding team of DJ Greg Nice, DJ Spinz, DJ Iron Mike, DJ Sully and DJ Marti Gras.

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9. Ambient DJ Rocks The DJ Times International DJ Expo.  Each August, some 4,000 DJs gather in Atlantic City NJ for the DJ Times DJ Expo.  An important leg of the program is the seminar track.  In 2016, myself, DJ Iron Mike, DJ Linda Leigh and DJ Dre Ovalle all participated as speakers at educational seminars, sharing our expertise to the DJ community at large.  In this “talent based” business, it’s comforting to know that Ambient DJ has a huge pool of talent.  My advice for DJs of all skill levels – is to check your ego at the door and never stop learning.  Stay hungry to improve and refine your skills.  You will benefit professionally and financially from being at the top of your field.

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Learning from DJ Skribble at The DJ Expo

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10. The Passing of the Queen.  Ambient DJ’s official pet mascot for the past 15 years was Queeny, a fiery Bichon Frise who greeted all of my DJ visitors with a shrill bark.  A true sweetheart and loyal companion for a DJ with long and irregular work hours, the Queen didn’t quite make her Sweet 16.  She is sorely missed.

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In Conclusion

2016 was a year of positive experiences and growth.  With a strong foundation and eagerness to improve, 2017 should be our best year ever.  We are particularly optimistic with Alain Adams (DJ AQ) spearheading the launch of our new Philadelphia/Delaware operation effective January 1, 2017.

Thank you for your continued support.  We look forward to partying with you in 2017 and beyond!  For more information or to book Ambient DJ Service, visit us online at www.ambientdj.com

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DJ Cloak Dagger Rocks Gotham Hall, NYC

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The Top 25 Songs of 2016 – Selected by DJ Gregg Ambient

It’s an annual tradition – my Top 25 song countdown!  First, let’s recap 2015’s top songs:

(1) Shut Up and Dance – Walk The Moon, (2) Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson w/ Bruno Mars, (3) Cheerleader – OMI, (4) Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) – Silento, (5) Trap Queen – Fetty Wap.

2016 Was Not a Great Year for Dance Music.  Innovation was lacking overall.  Importantly, there was no summer smash hit like “Uptown Funk” or “Blurred Lines” of years past.  We, as mobile DJs, kept waiting for this epic record to drop, but it never arrived!  Instead we got recycled tracks like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”  Nor were there powerful new sounds or genres created in 2016.  It was more of the same.

On the urban dance front, Drake continued to pump out hits, but at dreary tempos.  Catchy tracks like Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” (Mannequin Challenge), Desiigner’s “Panda” and Young M.A.’s “Ouuu” became embedded in many a DJ’s cranium.

And of course music lovers mourned the loss of icons Prince, David Bowie, George Michael and DJ David Mancuso – among others.

Selecting a top track for 2016 was no easy task.  However, my selection for the #1 reflects a belief that this track’s full power will be seen in 2017!  Behold the Top 25 playlist, listed in countdown fashion: (note: you can listen to all of the songs in the Spotify player found later in this blog.  Also at the bottom of this blog, check out my New Years Eve party mix that includes many of these tracks along with tributes to the fallen musical heroes of 2016).

DJ Gregg Ambient’s Top 25 Tracks of 2016

25. Feel – Mahmut Orhan w/ Sena Sener (take a trip to a Middle Eastern bazaar.  While the song didn’t hit critical acclaim, it was a personal favorite)

24. Be Here – Duke Dumont (Dumont channels early 90s house music.  Another personal fave)

23. Broccoli – D.R.A.M. w/ Lil Yachty (fun song, even if they’re rapping about a different kind of broccoli)

22. Give It Up – Nathan Sykes f/ G-Eazy (Sykes breaks away from British Boy Band The Wanted to drop this huge, soulful performance)

21. Juju On That Beat (TZ Anthem) – Zay Hilfigerrr and Zayion McCall (feel energy levels explode when playing this track in a gymnasium packed full of teenagers)

20. I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner (a super cool song that showcases Posner’s silky smooth voice)

19. Fade – Kanye West (this song has a deep dance groove and gives a nod to Master at Work’s “Deep Inside” – check out the souped up Freejak dance remix)

18.  I Feel it Coming – The Weeknd w/ Daft Punk.  (This dreamy collaboration delivers with Daft Punk’s production magic and the Weeknd sounding amazingly like Michael Jackson)

17. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd w/ Gucci Mane (this song became synonymous with 2016’s mania, “The Mannequin Challenge”)

16. BOSS – Disclosure.  (what Top 25 playlist would be complete with a track from Disclosure?)

15. Millionaire – Cash Cash w/ Digital Farm Animals, f/ Nelly (raise the energy with this feel good party track.  Cash Cash performed this song live at the 2016 DJ Expo!)

14. My Boo – Ghost Town DJs (this song from 1996 was resurrected when it came to be associated with dance craze “The Running Man” Challenge)

13. All the Way Up – Fat Joe, Remy Ma w/ French Montana (sounds like that real hip hop that’s been in short supply these days)

12. Ginza – J. Balvin (Colombian artist J. Balvin produced this sleek reggaeton track.  Honorable mention goes to J. Balvin’s “Safari”)

11. Gyal You a Party Animal – Charly Black (a joyous Soca/Calypso track to jump start your Caribbean set!)

10. My House – Flo Rida (Flo Rida continues to apply his winning formula of rapping with swag over hot dance beats)

9. Cake by the Ocean – DNCE (a song about cake enjoyed at the ocean?  Who would have thought it possible? A fun party track reminiscent of 80s new wave)

8. Feel Like I Do – Disclosure w/ Revd. Al Green (soup up your wedding sets with a R&B love song over Disclosure’s groovy beats)

7. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake (one of the most requested songs of 2016.  Great to jump start a party!)

6. This Girl – Kungs vs. Cookin’ on 3 Burners (an infectiously fun track that makes you want to get out of your seat and start dancing)

5. One Dance – Drake w/ Wizkid and Kyla (the dance floor power of Drake cannot be denied.  One Dance was his biggest floor filler of 2016).

4. Cheap Thrills – Sia w/ Sean Paul (dancers consistently enjoyed this song.  I recommend raising the 90 BPM tempo by 7-10% for more energy)

3. Let Me Love You – DJ Snake w/ Justin Bieber  (DJ Snake has the hot electronic sound, and JB’s vocals take this track to the next level and make you want to sing along.  Honorable mention for JB’s 2016 hits “Sorry” and “Cold Water”)

2. Closer – The Chainsmokers (the nonsensical lyrics of this track did not prevent it from becoming a huge peak hour track!  Listening to this song repeatedly is much safer than chainsmoking)

1.  24K Magic – Bruno Mars (this song – the title track off Bruno Mars’ new October 2016 album is all about the party! The track sounds timeless and pays homage to vintage funk.  Look for 24K Magic to wield its full power in 2017.  And don’t forget to “PUT YOUR…. PINKY FINGERS… TO THE MOON”

Listen to the Top 25 on Spotify

New Years Eve 2017 Party Mix

Our Experience with a Logo Design Competition

Ambient DJ Service’s original logo was created in 2003, and while it’s served us well, we were overdue for an upgrade.  Several respected DJ colleagues of mine suggested a logo design competition.

There are numerous online sites that host logo design competitions.  After some research, we decided to go with the service at www.logomyway.com.  Attributes that we liked about Logo My Way included:

  • A wealth of positive testimonials and design samples;
  • A money back guarantee in the event that our contest did not attract at least 40 logo concepts;
  • The fact that the service was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and on CNBC.

Here’s how the service works – you select the cash prize for the contest (minimum $200 and maximum $1,000) and provide detailed instructions on your design concept.  The cash prize selected is the amount that is actually paid to the designer. There is an additional fee paid to LogoMyWay for hosting and administrating the contest.  This fee was reasonable.  As a part of the service, you also have access to a product specialist who checks in with you periodically to make sure that the contest is on track and that you are totally satisfied.

Our contest ran for 10 days and offered the winning designer a prize of $325.  Over this time, we received 114 submissions from designers all over the world including the United States, Iceland, Brazil, Indonesia, India and various Eastern European countries.  The submissions with just a couple of exceptions were good to excellent.  The logos were also incredibly diverse and produced design concepts that we never would have thought of.  Graphic art is a specialized skill, and clearly logo design competitions are attracting top level talent.

Another great feature of the process was that we could rank the designs each day and provide feedback.  Designers were quick to provide variations based on our suggestions.

Selecting a Winner

At the conclusion of the contest, we began the difficult task of selecting a winner.  The three big picture design concepts that we asked to be reflected in our new logo were:

  • A music-centric, artistic approach
  • Sophistication; and
  • the concept of musical ambience or ‘vibe’

We short listed the 114 submissions to half a dozen finalists, and then debated the designs both internally and with our clients and networking partners.  Bad news – people were very much divided over their favorite design!

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The Finalists

In the end, reflecting that we are more a boutique style wedding shop than nightlife club DJ, we went with a design submitted by Indonesian designer “Oin” – this design featured a fashionable font for “Ambient DJs” with the word DJs contained in a circle (the circle was a feature of our prior logo).  We asked Oin to create two variations:  1) for the circle, make it black and add very subtle record grooves, and 2) create versions of the logo in gold, blue and hot pink.  Oin was quick to make these changes.

We received our final designs in various file formats, including a super high-res .eps file that can be used for posters, t-shirts and mugs.

Sponsoring a logo design competition with LogoMyWay.com was a great experience!  The process forces a business owner to think carefully about his or her brand.  In our case, we received an outstanding logo design that properly communicates our brand attributes, also reflecting our past, present and future.

The Logos

 

 

The Far East Wedding Cocktail Hour

This DJ had the fortunate experience to live and work in Japan during the 1990s.  The following cocktail hour playlist is inspired by my time spent in the Far East, reflecting the complex fabric of life in Japan that combines traditional and modern elements.  The playlist is deliberately heavy on ambient electronica, but takes on a more pop feel later in the set.  While the selections are focused on Japan, the list includes a delightful R&B track from the Thai artist “Groove Rider” – you don’t need to speak Thai to feel the good vibes.

For a signature drink, we’ve selected a glass of Suntory whiskey on the rocks.  This is a salute to actor Bill Murray who promoted Suntory in the movie “Lost in Translation” set in Japan.

Following the track list below is a link to a Spotify playlist.  Since not all songs were available on Spotify, we’ve included YouTube videos for the missing selections. Finally – enjoy a one hour continuous dance mix inspired by my time in Japan in the early 90s titled “The Osaka Mix Sessions” – it includes many of the songs from the playlist, as well as early 90s R&B.

The Far East Wedding Cocktail Hour – by DJ Gregg Ambient

  1.  Sakura, Sakura – Aiko Shimada (traditional song about cherry blossoms)
  2. Elegy – Mio Isayama
  3. Space Maker – Air
  4. Astral Projection – Tom Middleton
  5. Shinkansen – David Arkenstone
  6. Kyoto – Ferry Corsten
  7. Sukiyaki – A Taste of Honey
  8. Laserman – Ryuichi Sakamoto (see YouTube video below)
  9. Stop – Groove Riders (Thai artist) (see YouTube video below)
  10. Beautiful Life – Hikaru Utada (see YouTube video below)
  11. Say That You Love Me (AK Remix) – Francois K. and Eric Kupper (see YouTube video below)
  12. Harajuku Girls – Gwen Stefani
  13. Big in Japan – Alphaville
  14. Turning Japanese – The Vapors
  15. One Night in Bangkok (from “Chess” soundtrack) – Murray Head
  16. China Girl – David Bowie
  17. Mr. Roboto – Styx
  18. Nick and Masa (from “Black Rain” soundtrack) – Hans Zimmer
  19. Sayonara – Ryuichi Sakamoto

Spotify Playlist

YouTube Videos

Japan Dance Mix – The Osaka Mix Sessions

About Ambient DJ Service

Ambient DJ Service is mobile DJ entertainment company based in Central NJ and specializing in weddings.  To learn more about our services or for booking info, visit us at www.ambientdj.com.