Though its dance card continues to be filled with clubs, Los Angeles-based American DJ Supply moves to a different beat these days. The company, which started in 1986, has grown into a key component for clubland over the past decade, but has also found applications for its products in other venues, and has added the PROformer Series of audio gear to its growing catalog.
Years before opening their firm, owner Chuck Davies and general manager Scott Davies were in Montebello, CA, catering to what had been the small niche market for disk jockeys. Affordable products were lacking, so the brothers moved in. "At the time, there were very few people handling a specific product, and when you finally found it, it was out of stock," Scott Davies recalls. Initially they imported units on a limited basis from Taiwan, and after discovering that the products were popular, they started American DJ Supply. "It was quality that was selling more than anything else," Davies says. "The only competition was three companies with sketchy, poor stock that basically fell apart."
The first thing Davies and his team did was to look at special effects lighting gear that was already being built and reengineer it with better quality for clubs and mobile DJs. Today, mixers, amplifiers, equalizers, wireless mics, speakers, and dual CD players are manufactured and distributed by facilities in both California and Pennsylvania.
Adding audio was always part of the plan. "It's a natural extension," Davies says. By analyzing the weak points of products already on the market, American DJ set to work building its new and improved gear. The company is home base to a staff of employees who have all been DJs at one time or another. "We sit around and ask ourselves about what could make the job of being a DJ easier and more effective--whether it be lighting, the controller, mixers, or a CD player," he says.
American DJ has also been a pioneer in putting together effects systems. By packaging several pieces of equipment into the same box and selling it as one unit, the company creates various systems at affordable prices for entertainment venues, the traveling DJ, and even home party use. And just to be sure that the products being pushed are worthy of its aggressive marketing techniques, Davies points out its QC (Quality Control) line, where all products are tested in an effort to minimize the number of returns.
Marketing-wise, Davies says that the main goal as a supplier is to pre-sell the customer on the American DJ name before he or she even walks into a dealer's store. One way this is accomplished is through exposure at trade shows. The company participates in the NAMM show, LDI, SIB, PLASA, the Mobile Beat DJ Show and Conference, as well as CALM in China and ExpoLatina in Miami Beach, where its Spanish catalog and signage helped spread the word to a new market.
This exposure has earned awards like Light Show of the Year at LDI98 in Phoenix. For its next trade show booth display, the company is working on a hands-on exhibit that allows a show attendee to actually operate the different controllers the company produces.
As Davies prepares to travel to PLASA this month, he laughs that the international market, especially Europe, seems to respect price a bit more. He adds that business is a bit more refined in the international market. "Certainly Europe is ahead of the buyers here. Their DJs were buying intelligent lights and sophisticated mixers far earlier than in the States."
The company reaps the benefits of its marketing efforts as it acquires sizable installation projects. One such example is its exhibit on the exterior of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, set up last year. Although American DJ's products are typically used indoors, this venture proved the company's versatility. The intention was to create a tower of moving light to keep up with the glitz and glam of the Vegas strip.
For the project, American DJ worked with LD Jim Hiett by weatherproofing 500 standard 5' strobe tubes and fortifying them for cleaning. The project installation took six weeks, and resulted in a display of light streams that run up and down the building's 31 stories, then change direction and move from side to side, crisscrossing each other at varying speeds. Each of the four preprogrammed patterns runs for approximately 10 minutes.
In another project that shows its international reach, American DJ collaborated with the owners of Beachcombers in a recent renovation. The south-of-the-border beach town of San Felipe plays home to the giant club, where a 1,200-capacity addition was built. The intelligent lighting package of effects included six Virtual Beams, four ADJ Maxx units, four Mighty Scans, a Patend Light 1200, and various PAR cans and strobes. This Mexican nightspot also uses laser effects from Mobolazer.
All of these units installed at Beachcombers are operated by a single American DJ controller, the Show Designer, which makes DMX control affordable for clubs and DJs. This unit is capable of working with a variety of DMX intelligent lighting fixtures, and its preloaded library of fixture settings made it the ideal choice for this huge club.
LDI98 attendees may have witnessed this new controller firsthand at the trade show in Phoenix. American DJ's special effects presentation, entitled "Images of Arizona," used the Show Designer to control several intelligent fixtures. Continual software upgrades can be downloaded directly off the Internet into the unit. Downloading is done from any Windows PC linked to the Show Designer's trackball connector, using a standard PC serial lamplink cable. As a result of online software upgrades, American DJ says the product will never become obsolete.
"We put a tremendous amount of effort into this DMX controller, and now we can't produce them fast enough," Davies says. He adds that the Show Designer has made people who wouldn't normally think of American DJ for that type of controller sit up and take notice--and is proof besides that the beat goes on at the company.
Joy Marie Lofton writes on entertainment design from Los Angeles.