On the surface, this week’s DJ Expo at the Atlantic City Convention Center looked like an average weekend party — if your average party lasts four days and boasts thousands of pro disc jockeys, that is.
There were LED strobe lights vigorously shifting in every direction in a dark convention hall. There were so many DJs spinning and scratching that it all became one wall of sound. There were even children asking their dads if they could buy some light-up bracelets.
But underneath the manufactured fog spilling out on the floor, there were artists, manufacturers and software developers networking.
Attendees had left their glow sticks and vinyl at home in exchange for business cards. Instead of hard-candy necklaces, the audience had a bowl of saltwater taffies to chew on as they grabbed their passes and moved into the hall.
The event, which was founded in 1990, remains the longest-running and most attended DJ trade show, according to the expo’s website. About 4,200 people would attend the four days of events, according to Meet AC.
The expo was about more than just finding the perfect playlist.
The program featured 30 educational seminars. One Monday class, “DJ Wellness: Posture & Prevention,” was an exercise class focused on DJ-related health issues like lifting and carrying heavy gear. Another class, titled “Mitzvah Mania with Big Daddy,” talked about creating a unique experience for someone’s coming-of-age Jewish celebration. Even “Lawyer Up: Best Business Practices for DJs from a Legal Perspective” helped DJs learn about areas where the party rockers may be legally vulnerable.
“Aside from pushing buttons and scratching a little bit, there’s a lot of networking and business tips being passed on,” said Jim Tremayne, editor in chief at DJ Times, which runs the convention.
Tremayne said the event targets every type of DJ — from the performance DJ you see at a nightclub on Saturday night, to the bedroom DJ whose focus is on recording high-quality music, to even the mobile DJ who travels and performs at weddings and office Christmas parties.
Tremayne was standing outside of a hall room Tuesday afternoon where, in just an hour or so, Biz Markie would be hosting a Q&A panel.
The DJ expo is big. And it’s big for the city.
According to Meet AC, the expo was initially estimated to bring a $1.8 million impact to the city and the expo alone had contracted 1,600 hotel rooms at the start of the event, as DJs flooded in from all over the world.
Alan Kohn was one of them. Kohn, who owns Premier Entertainment in Connecticut, was hosting a panel for a seminar called “Country Music & Dance Seminar.” At the front of the room were three people in wrangler jeans, kicking their boots as they line-danced to techno country.
The seminar offer DJs an unconventional market — and profit — with country music fans.
Kohn, who formed Premier Entertainment in 1999, said he couldn’t imagine hosting this type of class even 10 years ago. But with the rise of country music in the top 40, mostly due to artists like Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert, Kohn said there is now an opportunity to blend genres.
“Now you have people remixing (country) songs into new (tracks). Things have completely changed only for the good,” said Kohn, of Connecticut.
The event would last through Thursday, with multiple parties taking place at Ivan Kane’s Kiss Kiss Nightclub and Boogie Nights.
But besides the party lifestyle, one that is almost synonymous with the term DJ, the week was a time for artists and manufacturers to combine their worlds and talk shop.
It shows how much the profession has grown, Tremayne said.
Tremayne said the DJ scene has grown dramatically, the festival scene is enormous and mobile DJs are often the focus for weddings, as he watched a group head into the next class. “The DJ scene isn’t going away. We’ve been doing this show every year since 1990, so we must be doing something right, and the DJ business must still be on the upswing,” he said.