The Story Behind
Lake Erie Events
Josh was featured on their website back in 2016.
At the age of just 29, DJ and business owner Josh Bennett is already a veteran of the industry.
“I was probably 6 or so, when I caught the DJing bug. I grew up with my grandparents and they were heavily involved with the local Moose Lodge where a karaoke DJ would bring the party every week. I was in awe of how many people would drive up to two hours just for the karaoke nights, sometimes as many as 100-200!”
Eager to get involved, the young Josh offered to help in any way he could. From setting up lights, to getting out the right CDs, he did his best to be useful while soaking up the atmosphere and learning from his first mentor. He watched intently and picked up tips from several DJs and was soon ready to set out on his own DJ career.
“By the age of 10 I was bringing CD players and whatever speakers I could find – home stereos most of the time – to any party I could play at. Family gatherings, graduation parties, you name it - if they’d let me play, I’d be there! Then at the age of 14, I finally got my first real equipment along with a rack mixer, CD player, and laptop.”
As well as documenting the infancy of his own DJ journey, Josh was also inspired by other more-experienced DJs who were sharing videos on YouTube. Josh launched a YouTube channel which today now has over one million views between the various videos. At just 15 years old Josh DJ'd his first wedding and he credits his success on the night to his online education and networking.
Having networked with other DJs online, Josh went on to progress some of those relationships in the real world. At the age of 17, Josh met DJ Bo from Meadville. Bo was a mobile DJ and local radio DJ (MAGIC FM). Bo and Josh would work for years together as a team until Bo moved in 2016. Bo is now the Program Director and DJ for Walmart Radio in Bentonville AR, and is in charge of the music, entertainment, and interviews that plays at all Walmart's across America.
"Bo gave me the experience and gig exposure I needed at a young age and because of it I was able to go on to work with other local DJ companies in the area, and eventually launch my own multi-op outfit.”
Josh grew up in the small town of Harbor Creek, PA, which is around 20 minutes away from the city of Erie. Still based in Erie, he describes his location as “a hidden gem for DJs” as it is within driving distance of three large markets: Buffalo, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; and Cleveland, OH. Today, Lake Erie Events has a full team of DJs that covers the entire region and hundreds of events each year.
Although he doesn’t think of himself as a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, he does admit that it’s a good way to describe his DJ experience. After starting out as a mobile DJ, he gained radio experience presenting on college radio station 90.5 WERG FM, and eventually hosting a mixshow weekly on MAGIC 99.3/104.5, and Star 104.
Since turning 21, Josh has deeply rooted himself in the local nightclub and bar scene. Josh has not only played in nearly every local nightclub establishment in Erie PA, but also traveled to several cities all over including Las Vegas as a featured DJ for the 2019 Mobile Beat DJ Conference.
“With four colleges within 20 minutes of the city, downtown Erie is a great place to DJ. I’ve played at lots of different clubs and bars, including a two-year residency at Erie’s best club that ran from 2013 to 2015. With thousands of people coming through the door on some nights, the feeling of playing in front of a huge crowd, jumping and screaming, is hard to compare to anything else. That was when I finally felt like I had made it!”
More recently, Josh has turned his focus back to weddings, which are now the ‘bread and butter’ of Lake Erie Events’ business. He personally DJs at dozens of wedding parties, fitting in club bookings and other events – including school and charity bookings – when his schedule allows.
“I really enjoy the school dance atmosphere, you can bring a nightclub DJ to schools, and bring that experience to students, which is EXACTLY what they want. Not the ‘90s style of hokey-pokey DJing. I sell weddings in the same way, as a young DJ who mixes and provides high energy full dancefloor fun.”
From a technical point of view, Josh’s time as club DJ has influenced the service he now offers as a wedding DJ.
“Erie is a music-video city, the DJs who paved the path before me all got into video, and now all the major bars and nightclubs have it. Mixing video is expected to get booked downtown, so video files are 90% of my catalog. That means that I now mix with music video files even when I’m DJing at a wedding or school dance, and also incorporate Text-To-Screen or Slideshows which I think adds another level of excitement, interaction and attention.”
Lighting also plays a big role in Lake Erie Events’ bookings. The company offers up-lighting, monogram projection and moving head lightshows.
As with most mobile DJs, Josh loves all kinds of music. So when we asked him which is his favorite genre to play he found it difficult to answer...
“Oh boy, this is tough! Growing up under my grandparents’ care, I was influenced by country. Country music defines me, my heart, and my standards as a person. But, as a DJ, I enjoy the creativity behind mixing pop with electronic, hip hop, and R&B the most. I also love 90s and 00s throwbacks. Every DJ is playing the same stuff, so my advice is to find the time to play something that will get everyone singing and saying ‘holy cow this guy knows his stuff’! I try to break the habit of playing the same 30 songs every weekend, it's tough but your crowd is different every week, so I play off that.”
Despite still being relatively young himself, having started so early in life, Josh already has a huge amount of knowledge and experience to draw from and is happy to offer advice to new and aspiring DJs.
“Stay hungry! That’s the most important thing, you can absolutely be whatever you want to be in life, and there is a career in DJing for anyone who loves the culture – from music itself, to gear, to performing – and is willing to learn and stay humble. I've learned there are a lot of people in this field who will knock you down, but just as many who will help you become whoever you want to be. Networking built my career. Learn and listen, and you will grow!”
Although he doesn’t post as many videos as he once did, Josh is still part of the global YouTube DJ community and shares videos when he can. There’s no doubt that what he learned from other, more experienced, DJs online – both by watching their videos and through their critique of his Gig Logs – has had a huge impact on his career. However, having captured his DJ journey from the very beginning, and having made it public, more recently Josh has had to give serious thought to how much of this history he wants to keep available online.
“Looking back now, I've hidden/removed most of my start-up videos because… well... that's just not the DJ I am today, and I fear those videos may not be good for my business now. I don’t want a client to see a pre-teen talking about his home stereo setup and mall-bought lightshow when they look me up online! There's still a lot of my videos up on YouTube, starting from around five years ago. But stuff from before that is locked away in a place I'll share when I die! I don’t regret posting them at the time, though. YouTube has had a massive impact on my growth as a DJ and through it I've gained hundreds of friendships at a personal level.”
His YouTube videos also helped Josh to make many industry connections which led to him working for DJ companies at trade shows across the country.
“I've had the opportunity to travel to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Newark and Chicago with DJ companies. Those were always fun and it was CRAZY to me that people knew who I was from YouTube. It really is amazing to go to a trade show and have people coming up to me saying ‘Josh, you're the reason I started DJing’ or mentioning something that happened in an old video that I barely remember myself!”
As a text book example of a DJ born in the digital age, Josh’s story is different from many of the older DJs who are now his peers. He has used the opportunity for learning and networking offered to him by social media – which simply didn’t exist for DJs who started out just a decade earlier – to really fast-track his career. Now, with a large expanse of knowledge, a big pool of industry contacts and vast amount of experience, the future really does look bright both for Josh and Lake Erie Events.