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Vendor Spotlight: DJ Michael Antonia

September 11, 2009
DJ 1Photo by Jesse of the Flashdance

Creating mixed cassette tapes since the age of 9, DJ Michael Antonia describes performing as the “art of communication. It’s being observant, experimenting and understanding that communication.” These are keys to what makes Michael one of the most in demand DJs around. His right on the money, timeless taste in music for every moment and occasion has people clamoring to book him for their weddings and events!

For our first vendor spotlight, we were privileged to speak to Michael about his start, his love of music, and why he does what he does.

DJ 2

Photo by Jesse of the Flashdance

Inspired by his father, Michael started collecting records at the age of 9. You can imagine how many are in his collection now – upwards of 10,000! And that’s just records! His love of listening to his favorite tracks on repeat inspired him to start making monthly mix tapes for himself.  Not before long, his friends caught on and started requesting copies. What started as a fun pastime, soon became a tradition and a signature marketing tool for his business The Flashdance. He still creates mixes of the songs he’s listening to each month and offers copies to his clients, industry folk, and, of course, his friends. We have made it a habit of checking his blog (http://www.theflashdance.com/index.cfm) religiously to sign up for a copy ourselves each month! He has an innate ability to capture the vibe and feel of each month and passing season that always provides the perfect soundtrack for those long road trips and even those quick trips to the store.

Michael started DJing at the age of 19 in Seattle where the music scene was bursting. At the age of 20, he received his first paying gig at a local bar using his fake ID. Befriending the booking agent, Michael asked for a job and when asked for his resume, Michael sat down at the bar and drew a picture on a napkin and handed it over. Becoming fast friends, the agent offered Michael his first recurring gig during Happy Hour at the bar. And a career was born!

The gig quickly turned into a full time profession and soon Michael broke out of happy hour and began DJing in large clubs in and around Seattle. He began to take his skills on the road touring all over the country and soon partnered up with some friends to open a string of nightclubs around Seattle. Eventually, Michael got involved in full event production and planning and became a principle creative for Neverstop, a “multidisciplinary creative agency specializing in brand strategy, custom music, experimental marketing and events, guerilla marketing, and multimedia development.” Living in New York City for a few years, he enjoyed producing and creating large, over the top events at amazing venues – one he remembers fondly is a party for Nike on the top floor of the New World Trade Center. However, he craved full creative control and grew tired of being held back by politics, slashed budgets, conference calls and the unpredictability of the corporate world. On top of his DJ touring that kept him on the road for 4-6 months of the year, it seemed like the time was ripe for a change.

A move to LA with his wife, a beautiful daughter Elodie (9 months), the inspiration to really make his talents his own, he teamed up with wedding photographers Our Labor of Love and Max Wanger and THE FLASHDANCE was born.

THE FLASHDANCE is a unique combination between the two photographers and Michael. They can be hired together or separately for weddings and events and are “inspired by rad style, timeless music, unique design and photography that captures the spirit of the subject.” Michael writes in his blog “we didn’t get into this business because we thought it would be an easy way to earn a buck, we did it because our weddings were the most amazing days of our lives, and so much fun, that we decided to trade in the grind of corporate events, music festivals, and nightclubs, to make love and happiness the biggest part of our lives. We think we made the right choice!” And we think he made the right choice too!

We asked Michael what he loves about his job. Michael answered that it’s collaborating with such wonderful groups of people that make his job worth it. “Everyone wants to be helpful and is incredibly kind in the wedding industry.”

What makes him so fantastic at his job you’ll want to book him for your wedding in an instant? It’s his ease of knowing his audience and reading the vibe of the crowd. The skills needed “are not complicated, but not easy. What makes it easier for me, is that I have experience playing in such a wide range of venues for a wide range of audiences from bars to large clubs, from 10 people to 10,000 people. So I know what works.”

What song always gets the best reaction? “Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ makes people go bananas, but it only works if you play the right song before it and the right song after it. You have to know when to play each song and for how long.” This is part of the art of communication that Michael refers to at the top of this article – he navigates his crowd with the music, leading from one song or mood to the next. Michael mixes records, layers songs on top of one another and really defines his craft by producing a nonstop flow that makes sense not only for his audience but the mood the audience should be experiencing – rocking 80s classics for dinner, hits from all decades for dancing. He’s open to playing all kinds of music and doesn’t rely on predetermined playlists – he walks in to each event with thousands of songs at the ready. A laptop, a crate of vinyl and CDs in hand.

Does he take requests? “I don’t think you can say ‘No’ at a wedding. So, yes if I have it and it’s going to work, I’ll play it. But what I’ve noticed with requests is that they stem from one point in that person’s life where they had the best time. If they are requesting ‘Nothing Compares to You’ by Sinead O’Connor because in college they have this amazing memory of this song, I have to question their motivation (he chuckles)…I’ll usually ask the couple for 8-10 songs they would like during dinner or for dancing. I won’t necessarily play all of them, but it gives me a good baseline for the event.”

What are his inspirations? Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, White Stripes, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and David Lynch. “Living and working in Seattle, I met everyone on the music scene and have gotten the chance to work with some of my idols – Grand Master Flash for one.”

On top of his incredible DJing skills, Michael has really embraced the ways and waves of digital marketing to get his name out there. He doesn’t spend any money on advertising, he would rather put it into marketing (creating and mailing out those awesome mix CDs!), He’s actively updating facebook and his blog and relies of course on word of mouth. How much has the digital sphere impacted his business? “It’s the only way I would be doing it. Otherwise it would be impossible.”

And it’s working. People are finding his blog and becoming active followers well before they are engaged and ready to book a wedding DJ! He shared an email from a 19 year old girl who sent him a note saying how much she loved his blog and hoped he would still be doing what he’s doing once she’s engaged and ready to plan her wedding! He was touched and we admittedly sighed from the adorableness as well.

What is he listening to in his car right now? The August mix of course!

What is his ideal/dream gig? “I’ve played with all my heroes, but I guess I would have to say playing at Coachella [Music Festival]. If Coachella called, I would say ‘yes!’.”

Does he make his own music? “I do but it’s mostly for me. I play the guitar, the drums and I stumble around on the piano.”

What makes working on The Flashdance so rewarding? “I’m working with my best friends and I can be at home around my baby. I love being able to hire my friends or recommend them and see them grow and achieve in their business. That’s a great feeling.” Sigh…we’re Smitten!

Michael’s next year is already almost booked up so we suggest you give him a call soon!

DJ 3

Photo by Jesse of the Flashdance
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