Vendor Love: Alton of SoundFire DJ
It always makes me smile inside when things come full circle and you realize why certain things happened the way they did. I first met Alton Olson of SoundFire DJ when we were both photography students at UWGB. We reconnected a few years after we graduated, and since then I have had the pleasure of getting to know Alton and his lovely wife and son through multiple family photo shoots and hangouts. Not only is Alton a warm, insightful friend, he’s also an incredible wedding DJ. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Alton a few weeks ago over a cup of tea and we really dug into what makes the SoundFire DJ experience so special:
What areas do you consider yourself most successful in helping your wedding clients?
Bringing everything together. Our job as entertainment and Master of Ceremonies requires us to be the glue that holds the event together. It's very important to have the proper mindset as one who is primarily on a microphone representing a couple on their wedding day, and maintaining that the guests and the couple of honor are the stars of the show.
If you could give any advice to wedding planning couples, what would it be?
Hire your entertainment and documentarians first. Prioritize them in your budget, and do not try to save money here. If you love a provider and what they do, or how they do it, book them. If you don't love what they have to offer, keep doing your research. Book them before you even book your venue. They can help you find the perfect venue quickly and easily. These are the professionals that will have the most impact on what happens during your day, and the memories you take with you for the rest of your life.
What makes your service unique?
Our background and high level of service. As the owner of SoundFire DJ, I am a professional musician with 26 years of experience that has literally taken me around the world to work with and perform for people from all walks of life. We're the only DJ company in Northeast Wisconsin to sit on a board of directors for a major educational conference, and we’re the only company in Northeast WI to have personnel trained by the Marbecca method.
How many years have you been providing services to wedding clients?
Nine incredible years!
How many wedding clients do you take on each year? Do you take on other clients as well?
40+ wedding clients. We also help with corporate and non-profit events.
What type of wedding client will be happiest with the services you provide?
Clients who place a high value on the experience they want to provide for themselves and their guests. We love working with clients who have unique ideas, and we're proud to say that our clients consistently report a huge reduction in stress when working with us! We also find that clients and their families who have a more cultured background work well with our more formal & professional way of guiding their event.
What are some of the policies/rules of your services that you think researching couples should know right away?
For DJs ask if you can see them at another event. This is a trick question. If they say, "yes" then hang up/walk out/disconnect. Why you may ask? If they're willing to let another couple crash your wedding to make a sale then there's two things this says about the DJ: 1. They're not putting you first on their wedding day. 2. They're willing to risk inviting someone else to your wedding who may drink your libations and eat your food that you've provided for your guests.
The bottom line is that, sadly, there is no barrier to entry to becoming a DJ. Even hairdressers have to obtain a license. There are DJs out there who will print out some business cards, build a free website, pirate a bunch of music, buy a couple speakers from the local music shop to hook up to their laptop, and then call themselves a DJ. Their only value proposition to you is that they'll undercut everyone else, but that's all you're going to get is a low price. You're not really getting anything else.
This is the hard part for couples - they have to do their research. Does the DJ operate ethically, legally, and offer a contract where they have something to lose if they break the deal? What are their accolades and awards? Do they participate in the community both in general locally, and are they respected by their peers, or even known about, in the DJ community?
Ask what training they completed to become a DJ & MC, or if they hire existing DJs/MCs, what qualifications they must have to join their company. If they can't answer this definitively in a way that is both qualitative and quantitative then they don't have any set standard.
What are some of your favorite wedding details to work with? What are some of your favorite, unique items/ideas you've seen couples bring into their wedding day/wedding planning?
We love working with their timeline along with unique ideas for the wedding reception traditions. It's always a lot of fun when a couple states they don't want the typical bouquet or garter toss. We've helped several couples come up with unique ways to make traditions of their very own by putting their personalized twist on it.
What is the price range of your services?
At the time of writing this $1,700-$5,000+
How far in advance do you recommend couples book your services? Are you available on short notice?
I recommend 12-18 months in advance. We book dates fairly quickly, but couples are always welcome to inquire on short notice if we have their date open.
What do you think is most important for wedding planning couples to consider when they are researching vendors in your field of services?
Research what "average" is in the area and nationwide. Then ask yourself, "Do I want only 'average' at my wedding?" Talk to several providers and do your homework. Make sure you talk to providers who are above average, average, and below average to give you an idea to compare. How will you know which is which? Look at their website and starting price or average booking. Those two things will help you determine at what level in the market they exist.
What do you think is potentially the most stressful part of wedding planning? Do you have any tips on how to avoid this or get through this easily?
For a lot of couples it's knowing where to start. It's a big job planning an event this large! Every couple has different aspects that can cause them stress. The biggest stressor is not having the help you need when you need it. The more couples try to DIY to save money, the more stress there's going to be. Hire quality professionals, lean on them, ask them questions, and trust their experience and expertise. When you have a pro that can solve your problems, that's the best stress relief you can get.
Are there other area professionals in the wedding industry that you've been really impressed with (besides KLEM Studios ;) )?
Stone Arch at Riverview Gardens, Grand Meridian, Badger State Brewing Company, Kristin Reuter Photography, Sash & Bow, Buds & Bloom, Nature's Best Floral, Monzu Bistro, Cake Anatomy, Ruby Designs, Zozo's Kitchen, Chive's Catering, Woodwalk Gallery, About Thyme Farm, The Landmark Resort, Ken Cravillion Photography, Simply Love Films, Films Nouveau, Aphrodite Studios, Gather on Broadway
When you're not working, what are some of your favorite hobbies or past-times?
I love spending time with my family, bike riding, ultimate frisbee, and reading.
Is there any other information you would like researching wedding couples to know?
Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and have a conversation, or even schedule a meeting in person. You'll get the best information and feel for who you'll potentially be working with this way.
You can find out more about SoundFire DJ at soundfiredj.com