Mr. Music’s No Good, Very Bad Wedding Season
How one of Northern Michigan’s most popular wedding D.J.s is faring through the summer that wasn’t.
By Ross Boissoneau | Aug. 22, 2020
Jordan Anderson knows technology. He knows how to help people have a good time. He knows all manner of tunes, from rock to country to hip-hop.
Now, if only there were some parties where Jordan, a.k.a. Mr. Music, could pack the dance floor. “I don’t know when things will return to normal, but people’s needs won’t go away,” he said.
Those needs: to celebrate good times, be social and sociable, hang out together, and when the occasion calls for it, dance, dance, dance.
There’s no doubt the pandemic has scuttled most of the celebrations Mr. Music usually has on his calendar at this time of year. “Who knows what it will look like going forward. I had my first wedding of the year in July — 19 people in a backyard.”
That’s a big hit to a business that depends on the spring-summer-fall wedding season. Anderson estimated that 85 percent of his business typically falls between May and October, with events like Christmas parties and school dances making up the rest.
Anderson has owned the company since 2010, when he and his sister, Erin Anderson Whiting, bought it from company founder Norm Jones (Erin left the business this year to concentrate on her full-time job with Parallel 45). Jones, who passed away earlier this year, was a longtime voice on local radio. He started Mr. Music in the early '80s after working with another local DJ business.
“I remember Norm DJing some of my middle and high school dances,” Anderson said. "We met as adults, years later." Anderson, who graduated from Central Michigan University’s broadcast and cinematic arts program, took an internship at WTCM in Traverse City, where he again ran into Jones.
Things have certainly changed since Mr. Music changed hands. When Jones started the business, it was all vinyl record albums and singles. Then it went to cassettes, followed by CDs. “When I took over, I had a system with iPods. I’ve upgraded to laptops. It makes it easily searchable,” said Anderson.
While he appreciates no longer having to haul crates of records, Anderson said the necessary equipment still fills a small trailer today. “It’s a hefty rig,” he said of the amplifiers, speakers, lights, and other accouterments of the trade. Fortunately, the booth that contains much of it is on casters, but Anderson still has to wheel it in, set it up, and make sure everything works. (That’s one of the nightmare scenarios — getting ready to rock the joint and having some piece of equipment fail, he said: “You’re a live-performance sound engineer. You have to anticipate [problems] and have [the tool for the solution] in your arsenal,” he said.
Another change: the days of not being able to fill a guest's request. No matter how many records, cassettes, and CDs a DJ had on hand, it was impossible to have every potential country, hip-hop, rock, or swing song ready to go. In these days of Pandora, Spotify, and immediate downloads from Amazon and iTunes, that problem is a thing of the past. “As long as you have WiFi, you can play any request in the world,” Anderson said.
Anderson also provides music for wedding ceremonies or sound equipment and reinforcement for other performers and musicians. It’s just another part of the versatility the industry demands today. He said it takes a host of skills to be a good DJ: musical knowledge, organizational skills, technical knowledge, being able to interact with and manage people. “It’s an art,” he said.
The cost varies, depending on the occasion and length of time; Anderson said it generally runs around $200 per hour. Not only does that get you a live disc jockey, complete with musical knowledge, banter, and the ability to spin records, um, click tunes, but also lights, effects, and troubleshooting. Anderson’s wife, Christal Frost Anderson, is also available as a day-of-show coordinator. “Some weddings are looking for more than just a DJ. She makes sure everything is on track. She’s not a wedding planner but takes the plans others have created. Plus she can step behind the mic as needed.” She is a regular on WTCM, where Jordan also works.
Despite the slow season, Mr. Music has managed to keep the music — and the party — going. He’s hosted dance parties on Zoom (later posted to YouTube). He also has streaming gear and a studio in his home, which has allowed him to provide music for private parties who still want a curated soundtrack rather than a playlist culled from their own favorites.
Then there’s “The Tuneup with Mr. Music,” Anderson’s podcast. He’s interviewed local songstress Miriam Pico about finding one’s own voice; Courtney Kaiser-Sandler of Interlochen on teaching songwriting remotely; Brian Chamberlain of the record shop/recording studio/performance space Studio Anatomy on the challenges of live and recorded music; and others in the field on aspects of the music industry.
What’s next for Mr. Music? Hopefully playing some tunes in the flesh for an actual crowd of people. “I’m doing some outdoor events,” he said, pointing to Yen Yoga's street yoga party taking place every Wednesday in August on Traverse City's Front Street, which has been closed to vehicle traffic all summer because of the pandemic. “There’s a lot of cool things people are doing outdoors. People are resilient and being creative.” A lot like Mr. Music himself.