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It helps to know people—as well as music—if you’re looking to launch a DJ hobby.

Did you ever wonder what karaoke DJs think of the songs everyone always asks them to play?

“I’ve learned to hate certain songs I used to love,” says Rick Parker, a member of HFMA’s New Jersey Chapter. “Whatever you do, just don’t tell me you want to me to play ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’” [the lengthy rock ballad by Meatloaf]. 

The over-repetition and painful renditions of certain crowd favorites are two of the few downsides Parker has discovered in a decade and half in his hobby as a DJ.

But the hobby gives the former CFO at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway in Rahway, N.J., a taste of his childhood dream to host a radio rock show. “It’s a way to stay close to the music,” says Parker, who played drums in rock bands until his mid-20s.

Parker, executive director of CBIZ KA Consulting in East Windsor, N.J., began his DJ hobby shortly after receiving a karaoke machine for Christmas in the late 1990s. Home karaoke jams were followed by Parker leading karaoke nights at the local Knights of Columbus, and eventually, Parker was hosting a bimonthly karaoke night at a friend’s bar. Parker supplemented the karaoke jams with traditional DJ gigs at birthday parties, anniversaries, and community events. His DJ outfit was called the FILOs (as in, first in, last out), which was a reversal of an inventory accounting term and a reference to his accounting background.

It turns out, there’s no shortage of people looking for a DJ for their events. Parker realized he had to scale back his hobby to keep it enjoyable. “I decided to step back and do it less, and now it’s fun again because of that,” Parker said about the half a dozen events he now DJs each year.

So how do DJs pick what songs to play for a given crowd?

“You kind of feel the crowd out,” he says. “When you’re playing a certain genre and you see people bopping a bit, or when it’s not yet time to dance, but you can see when people are really into something being played—that’s when you know you’ve hit upon something with appeal.”

The joys of entertaining folks through both karaoke and standard DJ gigs have included some basic lessons on human nature. For instance, Parker has found people are more likely to start dropping their inhibitions and belting out an off-tune favorite if he leads the way with his own renditions.

“I tell them, ‘If you want keep hearing me all night, don’t pick any songs,’” Parker said. “That usually gets people up and singing.”

The DJing experience has served Parker well in his role on the HFMA chapter advancement team, which entails educational visits to many of HFMA’s local chapters. After all, the ability to get a crowd engaged and participating is what being a DJ is all about.

For Parker, a successful DJ is one who is remembered for the party and not for what he does at the party. For instance, the DJs he remembers for all of the wrong reasons played cover versions instead of the well-known fan favorites and blasted rock through the dinner portion of an event.

“There’s all kinds of stuff involved in being a DJ that sounds simple, but DJs have to remember the details,” Parker says.

Publication Date: Monday, December 02, 2013

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