If you are a corporate DJ, a wedding DJ, or even a party DJ, you need to take a closer look at those post-event photos from the photographers. What do you see within your setup? Is it perfectly clean? How is your cable management? What about the scratches and scrapes on your DJ cases? Sometimes they can use a little brush-up, just like we need a new suit from time to time. It’s important to sweat the small stuff. Aesthetics are everything to a bride when she is shopping for a DJ and the photos of your equipment are a part of what your clients are factoring if you like it or not (or if they realize it or not).
With a few simple techniques and tools, you can make sure that you are never the butt of a joke when it comes to DJ aesthetics. You can build a kit, very quickly and easily, that will ensure a clean set up every single time.
When it comes to the look of your set up, this is one of the first things that will get noticed. Are you someone who just connects XLR and power cables to your powered speakers and lets them hang down? Have you ever considered that this is something that will definitely get noticed by people, and not in a good way? Exposed cables are an easy thing to fix. Here is an example of what you do NOT want your DJ setup to look like:
Now very easily, this setup could have taken a step in the right direction, and that would be to have put a facade in front of this entire setup. Sure, that’s one way to do it. If you want to read about facades and if they are right for you, be sure to check out our post about it. Since there are some mixed feelings about facades, we should talk about the other ways to fix this. How about a little proper cable management. For example, you can run all of your cables together in one line, and tape over that single line, so that the points going from the speakers and mixing board, power cables to the wall, etc. are minimal. Another technique would be to take your cables and have them coming out of a port on your DJ coffin, mixer box etc. so that they are minimal and easier to hide.
Wrapping your cables AROUND your speaker stands is a great starting place as well, as you’re sure to keep the focus off of them if they aren’t hanging down without any rhyme or reason. I’ll elaborate on this more below, but be sure to get some draping to hide your mess whenever possible. For less mess to hide, you can go to eBay or Amazon and spend just a few dollars on specific lengths of IEC cables and speaker cables so that you do not have a lot of excess cables to hide.
Velcro straps like these here, are always a cheap and worthy investment not only for storing your cables properly but for taking excess and managing it correctly. You can use these straps to attach cables to speaker stands in multiple places when needed to give a clean look if you do not have a speaker stand skirt or scrims, or if you are just using a wireless cocktail speaker or ceremony speaker that is temporary and are not planning on draping that particular speaker.
This is a simple concept, and yes, it still needs to be talked about because not everyone out there is doing this. Gaffer tape. Yes, I said gaffer tape. Not duct tape, masking tape, painters tape or any other type of tape you think will suffice, but professional gaffer tape. Use this like you are the first DJ to ever use it and your entire career is counting on it. It will avoid potential tripping. It will avoid someone accidentally unplugging your power cables (even yourself) and it will make beautiful presentations for your speakers, lights, AV cables and any other needs you might have. You can also find different color gaffer tape to have in your arsenal to really impress. A nice shade of brown goes great on wood floors.
White goes great for those pure white floors with white walls whereas black gaffer tape will stand out and look ugly. Black gaffer tape is very handsome and goes with just about any setup or floor (other than a bright white). So why gaffer tape? Duct tape leaves a residue not only on expensive floors but on your cables too. When you go to wrap them back up at the end of the evening, the glue-like residue is going to leave a mark on your pricey and valuable cables. They’ll collect dirt and grime and the stickiness will leave your hands feeling pretty gross too, which will then pick up more dirt and residue and frankly it’s just a mess. Sometimes the duct tape will leave such a residue on your cables, that it’ll be with you for the LIFE of your cable. Not good. Gaffer tape has a much more non-intrusive adhesive which will ensure easy removal from expensive floors, and your XLR and power cables. There are many venues I’ve worked at over the years, The Prado in Balboa Park (San Diego, CA) for example, that has it in their venue contract that duct tape is to not be used. Unfortunately, DJ’s have pushed this so far by taking the easy route that they have banned tape altogether even though gaffer tape is for the exact use and completely safe to use even on antique floors.
There are different lengths that you can buy, budget willing, but more importantly, the width is going to save you some time. I am a fan of at least 3-inch wide tape. This allows for multiple power and XLR cables to run under one pass and will ensure a quick and painless run of your gaffer tape.
There are some great tools out there these days like the GaffGun that allow for an even faster run of gaffer tape. When the video fo the GaffGun came out, it nearly broke the internet as it is something that we as DJ’s and audio professionals have been dealing with for years! Fortunately, as a mobile DJ, the need has diminished a bit over the years with battery powered lighting and wireless technology (wireless DMX!?). You can buy different size and color tape at your local DJ supply store, or even Amazon.com for the more niche colors and sizes. Here is one of the most popular gaffer tape purchases on Amazon and in three-inch wide variety for a reasonable fee.
Draping & Skirting
Simply put, drape your stuff. DJSkirts was the first company I had heard of that offered a DJ-specific product for draping (skirting) speaker stands and lighting stands. The company has since gone out of business (what a shame) and others have done their best to pick up the tab. From what I’ve heard at my local DJ supply store, the Ultimate version of these speaker pole covers has even been on back order from time to time since the DJSkirts business went out of business. At least from online retailers, it looks like they are available and they are a great product. I personally use the Ultimate tripod speaker stand skirts at every gig. There are a lot of professional mobile DJ’s who prefer the scrim look in either black or white if you want to play with a facade and lighting against the scrim, the options are pretty straightforward however and the results are simply put, a need for anyone trying to appear as a true professional. This should be a standard in the DJ industry, and it should be common practice among all DJ’s as it is a key element in proper DJ aesthetics and cable management.
If you are wanting to go with the scrim look, black or white work fine, however, using white will allow you the opportunity to use some uplighting or wash fixtures to match your facade or uplighting around the ballroom / venue space. I am a fan of using the speaker stand sleeves for the speaker stands themselves, however, I use an Odyssey scrim for the light stand as I prefer the larger cover to hide the mess of extension cords, lighting controllers, etc.
One consideration is to always put in the terms & conditions of your contract to have a 6 foot (or whatever you require for your setup) table and tablecloth. Of course, that also means you need to bring one to every event in the case it doesn’t happen. Do you really want to be the guy showing up asking people for a table for YOUR gear, or a tablecloth to hide YOUR mess and cables? Asking your clients for what matches the rest of the decor is a nice starting point. Do you want to have a black table cloth when everyone has white with a burgundy liner? Possibly. I know a lot of great DJ’s who prefer having a black linen to match their black equipment. It also does a great job of hiding cables and messes of any sort, when the lights go out (which is usually when lighting and everything is looking it’s best in the DJ world).
Another consideration: I have worked with many high-end wedding and event planners who would not be so fond of having a black table for a DJ setup when the rest of the room is full of flare and high-end decor. Sometimes it is best to match the event, other times it is probably best to use your judgment in what might look the best with your equipment. With the increasing popularity of facades, this is becoming less of an issue, but it’s still something to consider when approaching the aesthetics of your DJ setup. Remember, aesthetics are everything and the last thing you want to be is the guy who has nice gear, that still looks sloppy. Remember, use gaffer tape, drape your equipment, use tablecloths to hide your cables and dress like a million bucks!