David of Griffin Alliance (they're DJs, people..)

Did you know that there is just one question you need to ask to help determine if someone is a trained, experienced and professional wedding DJ? 

It was during my interview with wedding photographer and nice guy, Luke Simon, when I first heard about this cool DJ/businessman that I have never crossed paths with before; David Bartholomeusz. David's level of commitment to client satisfaction and business excellence is inspiring. And even though David and I couldn't match our schedules for a face to face chat, he generously volunteered to record his answers to my hard-hitting questions for us.

I hope you enjoy his take on DJ trends, the science of holding a crowd and the difference between extroverted and introverted DJs as much as I did. One day, we may even get to have that face to face chat.


Over to you, David!

Celebrant Camille Abbott

David Bartholomeusz here from Griffin Alliance DJs. I'm the principal host and DJ in our team. We've been working in South Australia for almost twenty years now and we also operate into Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane and the Northern Territory. 

How long have you been DJing professionally and can you remember how you got started?

So I've been DJing professionally for nineteen years. The way I got started was I was actually working at a nightclub a long, long time ago. I was working there as one of the managers and I was really interested in what the DJ's were doing because I noticed the extent to which their performance really determined how successful our business was. I thought, wow, this is something that I really need to understand, so I said to the DJ's, 'can you teach me about what you're doing, because I don't feel like I can run this business properly unless I understand what you're doing'.

So they taught me the basics of, not so much the mixing side of things, but they really taught me about holding a crowd and how you mix music in different sections and stuff to keep the dance floor and to keep people going. Not to play too many good songs all in a row, but to keep people at a level so they don't get too excited but not so bored that they leave and all of that sort of stuff. So I was really fascinated by this way in which people could influence people to really enjoy themselves and keep them at a level of enjoyment which was good but not too crazy. How you get that perfect balance, and I was fascinated by these people who specialised in that.

I decided that I wanted to do it myself, so I said to some of the guys, 'could you teach me how to do this, I'd like to do it for a job', and they were like 'sure'. 

When should couples book their wedding DJ? 

This is quite important for couples to think about, because there are some different types of suppliers. So one type of supplier is called a 'supply limited supplier'. A supply limited supplier is a supplier that can only do a limited number of the things that they do in a given day.

A really good example of a supply limited supplier, your best example, I think, is the photographer, because the photographer really, even more than us, they're there on-site sometimes at 6 in the morning and they're sometimes still with us at midnight, you know? The other one is 'not supply limited suppliers'. An example is someone who makes wedding cakes.

In this regard, DJ's are quite supply limited. Each DJ can only DJ at one event per Saturday night. I say to people, if you want to get somebody who's really good, you want to be [booking them] 6-12 months in advance. If you're booking for March or November, you'll want to have 12 months clear, or even 18.

Camille Abbott celebrant

What qualities should couples be looking for in a great wedding DJ? 

There are a lot of qualities to be looking for, but it's hard to look for them, because unless you've seen the DJ perform already at a wedding, it's hard to figure out if they're going to be a good fit for you. So that's where we come in as an agency. We've got over five thousand surveys back from brides from past weddings. So we know the DJs in South Australia who do a good job, and that's one of the really good reasons to use an agency, particularly for a DJ. You know, you might notice that there's more DJ agencies around, but there's not so much photographic agencies, and that's because with a photographer, you can say, show me your photographs and you can see their past photographs.

The problem with wedding DJs is you can't actually generally see a DJ at a wedding before you book them, unless you happen to be a guest at a wedding and you see a DJ there that you like. I would really love it if I could say to my prospective clients, 'hey, come to the wedding that I'm DJing on a Saturday night and see what a good job I'll do'. But the reality is that you can't just invite random people to a wedding to come and see your performance. And also, every wedding is completely different, and so the music that we play week to week is completely different as well. Some people say, 'well, can I come and see you play at one of the clubs or pubs that you might play at on a Friday night?' I'll say 'well, you can come and see me DJ there, but playing at a public venue is completely different to playing at a private venue and at a private party'.

Ask the DJ if they'll MC for you and if they go, 'aaah' or 'I can get someone', they're probably not an event DJ. They're probably just a nightclub DJ or someone who's pretending to be a DJ, so you'll give them your money. So probably the quality that I really say to people is don't ask someone to DJ for you, ring someone up and say 'hey, I need someone to MC and DJ at my wedding', and if they're really confident and they're like 'yep, no worries', then you've probably got someone who knows what they're doing. 

This is why so many people and so many venues recommend that people use us, and it's because we've got the data on the DJs that actually do a good job and we can match you with someone who is going to be accountable for a great performance on your night. 

Celebrant Camille Abbott

Have I noticed any new or emerging trends in wedding DJing that I'd like to share? 

There is one emerging trend that I've noticed, which I think is really, really cool, which is that DJs are becoming much more [like] hosts. So you might notice that I don't call myself a wedding DJ, I call myself a wedding host, and this is really my view of what's worth paying for, for a wedding. If all you need is some background music, you can just put a great playlist on an iPod and play it out through your speakers.

A lot of DJs get really mad at me for saying that, but I'm going to keep saying it because that's the reality. If all the DJ is doing is playing good music, then that's valuable and that's helpful, but it's nowhere near as valuable and helpful now as it was thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, we kind of had the music and to buy all the music was really expensive. So we had the music and we were able to play it and we had all the latest tunes and the technology wasn't available for people to do that themselves.

But these days, the technology to put together a really good playlist that is good for background music is easy and anyone can figure it out. What you can't do, though, with background music, and this is the question that I ask people, because they ring me and say, 'I don't know if I need a DJ, do I need a DJ?' I just say, 'do you want people to dance?' And they're like, 'well, if I put on a playlist, people will dance'. I am like, 'well maybe they will and maybe they won't', and they probably won't, because there's a lot more to getting people up and dancing than just playing songs that people know and like. 

The way that people are greeted, going around to tables and asking people if they want to make song requests and all of that sort of stuff. This is something that I see more and more DJs doing and it's something that we really drill our DJs on. We say to them, 'you know, that's great if you're a nightclub DJ, but if you want to be a wedding level DJ, you have to learn how to be a host and to really be the host of a party, you need to be able to MC, you need to be going around and chatting to people and you really need add far more value than just playing music'. If we just needed someone to play music, then I could just make the client a playlist and give that to them. We really need you to go out and host and make a splash and make people notice that they've got a great opportunity to have a really, really fun night.

If I could dispel the most common misunderstanding or urban myth about my profession, what would it be? 

The biggest myth, I would say, is that the DJ needs to be extroverted to do a good job. So a lot of people say we want someone really outgoing, which is fine, if people want someone outgoing - we've got lots of outgoing DJs who are quite extroverted. But one thing that's really interesting is that we do personality type testing of our DJs, and there's no difference between an extroverted or introverted DJ in the average ratings. What really matters is that the DJ is concentrating and focussed on the outcome for the couple and for the group.

Camille Abbott celebrant

If I could educate my couples so that they have realistic expectations, what would I want them to know? 

We don't make people dance, because that's not something that can be done by anyone. If you've got children, you know, you can't make people do things. If you can't make children do things, what hope do you have of making adults do things?

We're there to increase the likelihood of things that you want to happen and that's something really important for couples to understand. There's a lot of preparation work we can do if we know what the couple's vision for the day is, the things that are of fundamental importance to them. You know, a lot of people think that every couple wants everybody to be dancing the whole night, but really, that's not the case. 

So in terms of the tools to make us be able to do that job more effectively, one of the biggest things which a lot of brides have really been helping me out with is that we really like the bride to actually go out and request from people in their invitations songs that they'd like to dance to. This is really helpful for us. It doesn't really, we don't just get those songs back and then play those songs in no particular order from start to finish. But having a list, even if there's only twenty songs that have been specifically requested by guests who like to dance, it gives us a window into the minds of the people that we're going to be working with.

David Bartholomeusz of Griffin Alliance
Ask the DJ if they’ll MC for you and if they go, ‘aaah’ or ‘I can get someone’, they’re probably not an event DJ.

What is my number one tip or best advice for brides and grooms to be? 

My number one tip or best advice is to get experienced people to help you. When I got married, I'd already DJd at probably about four or five hundred weddings. I was a super duper experienced wedding person, but I then went to the market and I got super-duper experienced people to help me with the different elements of the day. I paid the extra money to get those experienced people because when you've got experts on the ground on the day, it's not that they don't do a better job, they do do a better job, but that's not why we spent the extra money of getting real experts in key areas. The reason we did that was because when you've got experts in key areas, things happen on the day that are beyond anyone's control and really experienced experts know how to deal with that stuff on the day and not make it your problem.

Our wedding day was so, so cool because things happened on the wedding day and we didn't even know. Two weeks later we found out that these things happened, because things happen at every event, but the thing was, because we had experienced people on the spot, we were not bothered with anything. We just got to enjoy our day from start to finish and we never heard about the little things that happened on the day that were then sorted out by these experienced people.

You're talking about making sure that your wedding coordinator, if you've got one, even if the venue is supplying a wedding coordinator, making sure that person is experienced. Your number one experienced person to have is your photographer, because they're with you from start to finish. And the other person who is there is the DJ. A lot of us DJ at the ceremony and the reception, so we stood right there and we bring our experience to bear on the whole day and we really support that day.

Griffin Alliance



To help you get your ceremony music sorted, I have produced a FREE 14-page ebook: Wedding Ceremony Music Guide, packed with advice and 300+ song recommendations. Click on the ebook below to download and get planning!


What's your experience with DJs at weddings? Please comment below.

Give me the gold and the horror stories! ;)