July 2000

Recently, while surfing the web I saw a site from Canton, Mass based DJ Gary Titus. Besides be­ing a fine site, it also contained a touching tribute to his late father. He must be a pretty nice guy, I thought. So I gave him a call, and I was right. Along with his wife, Sarah, DJ Gary Titus books about 150 gigs every year -not bad for a supplemental pur­suit -and generates a ton of inquiries from his web site. Find out how he does it in "Mobile of the Month."

Web Weaves Wonders for Massachusetts Mobile

By Brian O'Connor
Canton, Mass. -Six months before "Saturday Night Fever" changed the world and lapel widths forever, Gary Titus was a 20-year-old cook in a Canton, Mass., nightclub called Shenanigans. Every Thursdays, when the club sponsored "Music Trivia Night," Titus would frequently impress the boss with his encyclopedic knowledge. One night, his boss called him on it. 

"How do you know so much about music, kid?" demanded the cigar­chomping boss. 

"I've been collecting records ever since I can remember," Titus replied, recalling his childhood when mom would constantly yell at him after he had spent all his money on 45s. 

"Is that right?" the boss asked quizzically. "Do you have any disco records?" 

Titus nodded eagerly. "Plenty." 

"Bring'em in tomorrow," said the boss. "My DJ just quit on me and I need a replacement."

Titus was thrilled, but he had a problem. Being a rock-n-roll guy, he owned no disco records. So he went home, swallowed hard, took a deep breath and asked his mother if he could borrow $20.

"What for?" she asked, impatiently. 

"I need to buy disco records," he admitted. After an exasperated sigh and a roll of the eyes, Mrs. Titus reached into her little black purse and peeled off a $20 bill -legal tender that would change the course of her son's life. 

The next day Titus arrived equipped with 20 newly purchased disco records. As the club's MC gave him a hasty introduction to the Plexiglas-and-plywood DJ booth, Titus noticed two turntables on either side of the mixer. "Why is more than one needed?" he asked. 

"Continuous music," said the MC. 

"Ahhhh."

It's been continuous music ever since for Titus - from "Love To Love You Baby" to "I See You Baby." As the owner/operator of DJ Gary Titus Entertainment, the Canton-based Titus performs 110 gigs per year, and during each one he draws on his 10-year experience as a nightclub jock.

"You've got to keep the energy level up, get them going for five or six songs, then get them going again," says Titus. "I remember when I first started, I would watch DJ Captain Wendell. He did these four- and eight-beat mixes that were just incredible, So I used them. It's always to emulate what works. He was the one that taught me how to count beats and pretty soon I was on my own."

Soon, boogying patrons began approaching Titus at the booth. -perhaps between a mix of "Night Fever" and "(Love is) Thicker Than Water" -to ask if he would DJ their weddings, their birthday parties, and other assorted affairs of the heart. Titus agreed, and these mobile gigs quickly showed him where the "real money" was.

So plentiful were the referrals that Titus saw no need to position himself in a particular niche. "Whatever [jobs] came my way from the club, I took," he says.", "I thought I should build my business and reputation first. "

After seven years at Shenanigans, Titus picked up his turntable talents and headed for the bigger swim of Hyannis, a Cape Cod vacation hotspot well known for both picturesque sunsets and beer­soaked nightclub floors. A resort nightclub, Pufferbellies, had a capacity of several thousand, signaling that Titus had "arrived" as a DJ.

"The greatest thing is when you do a great mix and the people recognize the beat and they scream," says Titus. "DJs will never get enough of that feeling. But Shenanigans only held 300 people, Pufferbellies held 4,000, so it was quite a change when everybody screamed." Playing a variety of standard beer­swilling classics from the likes of Billy Idol and The Romantics, Titus also specialized in voice-over drink-special announcements, radio-commercial copy writing and various other tasks. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, he booked no mobile gigs.

By 1994, however, as a result of tightened drinking laws, the nightclub business took a downward plunge. Fortunately, in the two previous Labor Day to Memorial Day off-seasons, Titus did book mobile gigs, dedicating almost all of his time to the endeavor. It proved fortuitous, because by 1994 his mobile business doubled and he was only working two nights a week in the club. Suddenly, Titus was a full-time mobile operator. 

Besides relying on referrals ("Your last job is your best advertisement"), Titus took an ad in his local newspaper, which turned out to be about as effective as a snow shovel in a rainstorm. He decided against using a big banner that ad­vertised his company name at gigs. "Oh, no", says Titus. "I never used a sign, never put up a big flashy sign."

Today, he only advertises in one place: the Internet (www.djgarytitus.com) and it's been his greatest source of gigs. Just five years ago, his web site generated only two or three gigs per year; today, that site is responsible for more than 100 requests for information per month. "I made a web page five years ago," he says. "And it's really taken off. I just get people who see my page and, because it looks good, I get jobs." 

And the key to running a successful web site? "You really have to shop your web site around, you've got to get it out there to search engines. So you need a good host and you need people who will work with you and help your web site. I recently added the 'Refer-This-Site-to-a­Friend' button, which works out good because if someone is planning a wedding, they usually know someone else who is planning a wedding. Also, people can give me feedback, they can sign my guest book. In fact, the only advertising I do at my gigs is a shameless plug for my website at the end of the evening - remember, I don't carry a big sign, so it's my only Ross Perot self-promotional moment.

"Generally, though, people seem to like my presentation," continues Titus, who charges in the $600-$800 range per job. "I always tell my brides and grooms that I won't embarrass myself or them at their wedding- that I won't try to be a comedian, because I'm not. And that's basically what people want. I've found that making people feel comfortable is the key to performance."

When meeting with clients, Titus customarily tells them to select 20 of their favorite songs, and to put a star next to 10 that they really want to hear. "The 20 songs won't fill the night, but it allows me to take requests from people," says Titus.

One of the greatest advantages to being a full-time mobile operator is the lifestyle flexibility it allows. About five years ago, Titus married Sarah, and when their first child was born, papa Titus was able to stay home with his son for the first year while also running the mobile business. And although he was sacking money away for retirement, Titus needed more comprehensive medical benefits for his family. So he took a full-time job as a test technician at a computer company. "And I didn't have to cut down on the mobiles, since they're on weekends."

Besides knowing that he's got a solid supplemental income, Titus also has a great way to share his part-time endeavor- with his wife. "I was never the kind of guy who can run a 10-show business," he says. "I envy those guys who can do that. But I had my hands full running just my one system, and I felt like I couldn't guarantee anybody else's work but my own. So, when I'm booked up, instead of passing bookings to other DJs, my wife made the suggestion that I teach her how to DJ. I told her, 'Fine, but you have to go out with me on jobs for one year- she probably went out 40 times that year. I'd have her set up, run the equipment and finish the gigs for me. And she's good, she sees the big picture: that it's not that hard to do a good job." 

When she's not DJing - she does 40 gigs a year- Sarah Titus teaches therapeutic horse training for special needs children while pursuing a Masters Degree. "We're hoping that turns out to be a good business for us," says Titus about the possibility of buying a farm. "And I'll be able to help her out and at the same time do my DJing. Here I am, 43-years­old, and 50 is no problem. The DJing business keeps you young."

Reprinted by permission of DJ Times Magazine