One of the most frustrating parts on how the company ran their dj buisness was how referrals from cans worked.
For every referral you received from a can you were paid $10 (eventually I got a "raise" to $15.) The problem came in that if a dj could not do the function, they were never docked the money they were awarded as bonus AND the savior DJ would never receive compensation for doing the job. What this led to was a bunch of people going to cans, getting boatloads of referrals then leaving the company OR passing off the gigs to other djs. Bill's NY guys were the main culprits of the latter.
So what happened when someone backed out of a gig? He phoned a friend (me) asking me if I could do the gig, naturally I said yes.
This happened numerous times without me making a peep about compensation. Why? Well for one I was glad to be working and secondly I equated good work with salary increases. Ex instead of 25/hour I'd get 50/hour. Yeah, that never happened.
The other dispicable thing the company did was if they did replace a dj they NEVER informed the party they did so. The first time the clent found out that it had a new dj was when I called them monday or tuesday THE WEEK OF THE EVENT! You have no idea how many times when I called the client I got "what happened to so and so" and my standard reply ws always was "oh they aren't with the company anymore." Surprising to me now is that only one person out of the numerous gigs I did ever got mad at this practice, it resulted in her not wanting to speak with me and them speaking with Bill. About 2 days before the gig Bill finally coerced them into letting me do the gig. It was the worst non-equipment malfunctioning gig I ever did, naturally.
Things were going routinely if not smoothly through the begininng of 2004. I was working full time at ING, and my weekends were dotted by the occasional DJ gig (casino funds). Since My normal work hours were 9:25 to 6 Mon thru Fri, I could hardly ever attend any cans (especially not the ones near NY) but I made it to the ones they held near my house. This led to some more friction between Bill and myself, but as long as I did his dirty work he couldnt be too upset.
Around March of '04 I noticed I hadn't been paid for 2 cans that I had showed up for in January and February. For Can's you got paid $25, so yes while not breaking the bank, I was still owed this money. I led it slide thinking "oh they will realize their error and pay me", nope didn't happen.
In July I was asked to be "on call" for a weekend. Essentially what this meant was, that issue that happened to me on my first gig where the box malfuntioned? Yeah if that ever happened now someone who wasn't scheduled for gigs was on call and would drive out to wherever you were and hook up their backup system. This was easy enough, all I had to do was call in at noon on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday to a specific number and say "hey im alive and ready to fly". That weekend went awesome as there were no calls, so I got paid for doing nothing that weekend. Hold on to that thought.
Working two jobs is not fun, especially when I basically sacrificed my weekend for pay that amounted to chicken scratch as to what I was earning at my other job. The other thing is that the wedding thing was wearing on me. It really was the same thing week after week. If you thought your wedding was really "special" and I DJed it, chances are it was not special, only the venue changed. Yet it wasn't the wedding reception itself that irked me, who can argue with getting paid to have free food and good tunes? What really got on my nerves was the people. Think back to your wedding (if you're married) remember that drunk best man? Remember how the wedding party got sloshed? Remember how everyone at your party got sloshed? Yeah this only happened when you got married, but I had to live it multiple times a weekend, and yes drunk abusive people started to dampen my love for djing.
This particular weekend was the absolute back-breaker in terms of suckiness. When I called the couple early in the week to setup music choice (during this time we figure out the theme music for entrances and go over songs for the first dances, along with setting the do and do not playlist for the reception) and they made it clear no Chicken Dance, no Electric, and no current music. They had a lot of older people at this wedding and they did not want to alienate them by playing Hip-Hop or Rap. Done.
So the day arrives, and I get paid a little extra on this gig to play some church music before hand as they were getting married at the hall in a small chapel on the property. Problem is, the small chapel didn't have outlets, and secondly it was raining outside. So no go for the mimi-system I was supplied with. Luckily I am always very resourceful and had a boombox on hand. Even after explaining the difficulties of the setup, you could tell the couple was irked anyway, and I was in for a long night. After we got through all the formalities and dinner the reception was starting. I held to their wish to not play any popular music, and in response there was absolutely 0 people on the dance floor. It went on like this for about 30 minutes before the first guest came up and requested some popular tune, I respectfully told her that it was the wedding party's wish to not have music of that kind played. Then a few more people, and a few more people after that. Evenetually after the something like 15th person asked if they could do the chicken dance or electric slide, I deferred to the bride and groom. Having kicked a few back by then the bride said to go ahead. Wouldn't you know I played the Chicken Dance and a bunch of people got up on the floor and danced (including husband & bride). So I switched to 80s music and kept a few of those dancers out there. About this time we are 1 1/2 hours into the 3 hour ordeal. The entire wedding party is drunk beyond all recognition. People keep coming up and asking if i could play this or that. Im deffering as much as I can to the bride and groom who finally relent and let me start playing today music.
I don't remember if it was the best man or just some regular groomsman, but that was the person who started all the trouble.
"Dude can you play that new Outkast song?"
Guy runs back to his girlfriend and some of her people and is telling them I'm going to play it. Then they head off to the bar.
Some background, at this time Outkast was informally broken up and had released a double LP with Andre3000 doing an up-tempo album and Big Boi doing a smoothy Jazz album. Andre3k's song "Hey Ya" was the tops of the chart during this time, and Big Boi's "I Like The Way You Move" was just starting to get airplay. I did not have a copy of "ILTWYM" because it was too new and it wasn't really a dancey song, so to be honest the fact he was refering to that song wasn't even in my mind.
So I play "Hey Ya" and the dance floor gets packed. I move on to the next song and it seems like I've finally got the crowd going, thats when drunk guy aproaches me again....
"When you gonna play that Outkast song?"
"I Just did."
"No you didn't."
"Yes I did, just before this song."
(Drunk guy leaves and comes back with some pretty bridesmaid who is CLEARLY not in any thinking state of mind)
"I asked her, she was on the dance floor and she says you didn't play it."
How can you argue against a drunk guy and a drunk girl who say you didn't play the song you just played?
"Alright, I'll play it again."
After the song ends, I throw "Hey Ya" back on. A chorus of "what the?"s and boos start raining down.
"Its Andre 3000 from Outkast, its his new song."
"Thats not the song I was talking about."
At this point Im incredulous, surely he couldnt be referring to a song that has been in airplay for no more than 2 weeks and I myself have heard maybe once or twice? Sounds kind of like the mentality at the limit holdem tables, "surely he could not have called a raised pre-flop, gut shot draw all the way to the river... right?"
So he takes off, to where I have no idea. More drunk people come up asking why I played a song twice, can i play this song etc etc. Thats when drunk dude reappears with a pissed off groom.
"He says you are refusing to play songs."
"Thats not true at all, he asked me to play the Outkast song, I played the Outkast song. He told me he meant another one which I do not have."
"Play every song people request!"
"I was respecting your wishes to NOT play popular music..."
"You play every g-d song they request, no excuses."
And he stomped off. Right then and there is when I decided DJing was probably not for me anymore. The only reason I didnt go off on him was because I was working for a company and not for myself.
I finished up the gig, caught a few "you suck"s from the inebriated crowd and went home.If I had any change of heart, it was aptly destroyed just a few short weeks later.
The Monday after that gig I left Bill a voicemail at his office and on his cell regarding non-payment of both of the cans from the beginning of the year and also I was not paid for the weekend wehere I was "on call" and a wedding I did in early June. The next time I heard anything from Bill was an email containing another one of those passed off wedding gigs that I had said yes to earlier in the year. Feeling slightly pissed about this, I replied to his email in a very nice and professional manner asking if he received my voicemails and to get back to me ASAP. Another week goes by and nothing. I reply a little firmer this time:
Still waiting on a response to my last email regarding the non-payment for services performed: Wedding on 06/05/04, June 18th-20 I was on call per your request I did report in, can in January and a can in February. Please respond to this email or call me with information regarding this issue. Thank you.
After waiting almost a month, heres the response I got:
Sorry about the response, been in Philly with managers meetings (for a month???). As far as your checks i called corp and there is missing some paperwork ie a valid credit card for collateral, the one you gave came back no good. So when I get that, the check will be released. Sorry did not know that, just respond to this with a valid credit card and it should go out this week. Anyway, you all good for this party?
Needless to say I was pissed. Very pissed. The credit card thing they needed for collateral, you know just in case you run off with their equip. My cc had expired and when I was asked to provide a new one I did, it was the same number with a new exp date. So I hadn't been paid for months because of something like that, and he DIDNT know??? I put my anger into words:
You had asked for a good credit card in March and I gave you one on March 2nd. The old credit card expired 10/03. I had left a voicemail a few weeks back regarding not being paid, and I heard nothing at all at that time. Since I have already provided a valid credit card number, I would like to be paid immediately for the work that was done earlier this year. You may also consider this email to be notification of my resignation. I do not wish to work for a company that conducts buisness in this manner. I can return the equipment to you Thursday 08/12/04 at your convienience.
If that was the case, all would be fine. That one did not go through. Bring the Equipment back THIS Thursday.
I didn't bring the equip back until the day I said. When I finally did get paid, obviously they screwed me out of money. I tool them to task with the CT government department that handles that and got an extra $120 I was owed.
So my stint with "The Pros" had come to and end, but a new hell was about to start.
Tomorrow: Part 4 The grass is always greener....