Dave Squires has surrounded himself with sound.
For the past 18 years, the entrepreneur has taken his love for music and expanded it into various products and services in order to create a sustainable livelihood from entertainment in Barbados.
Dave explained on a busy Saturday afternoon that D.A.P.S. (an acronym for Definitely A Perfect Sound) is primarily a sound system rentals company, which also offers deejaying, professional audio services such as sound installations, maintenance and retail. Additionally, D.A.P.S. is the only company in Barbados offering foam machine rentals.
However, the Ellerton, St George-based company began as a deejaying enterprise; the skill that allowed Dave’s love for music to explore and grow.
“I started deejaying when I was around 14,” the Roebuck Secondary alumnus recalls. “… When I was 16, I won a deejay contest at the then Warehouse. At that time Rupee was a deejay too and was in the same competition. I still have that newspaper clipping up in my office.”
Dave has also worked at the now defunct Sam Lord’s Castle as the resident deejay, and for the last 16 years has been playing at Island Inn hotel’s cocktail party on Wednesday evenings.
“I realised that most of my friends who were deejays rented equipment like speakers and sound systems and I saw a niche there,” Dave says of diversifying his company.
He learnt how to set up sound equipment through trial and error and being around people who were established in the field. Dave’s study of electrical installation at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic also provided technical know-how which serves him well in this aspect of his career. Through hard work and persistence, Dave has powered the sound of calypso tents, large Kadooment bands, concerts, corporate events and weddings.
But the work is often thankless and arduous.
“Some days you leave home at 6 or 7 a.m., and you are not getting back home until the next day. [With the sound system] you have to run the equipment, do a sound check – and sometimes people may be late for a sound check – go home, shower and come back to the venue to run the show. Then when everyone is leaving you are still there so you pack up and load. Obviously some jobs will be shorter, but there are times like Crop Over and Christmas when there are various things to do and it gets pretty hectic.”
While Dave is reaping the rewards of his long, erratic and often unpredictable hours, he also acknowledges adaptability is key to sustaining a career in entertainment, especially in a small market like Barbados.
He says of deejaying: “with the introduction of computers and programmes, anyone can become a deejay now. There is no more intrigue and practice in it. Before with records and turntables, you had to practice . . . I used to practice sometimes from the time I get up to the time I go to bed – even when my parents used to complain. When we were playing, we had to buy records, categorise them either by artist or genre or even by the year and you had to know where was what – you had to be organized. Now you only have to press a button.”
Because of the relative ease in startup costs, the deejay market was becoming increasingly saturated and some were trying to attract clients with very low rates.
“The deejay is just as important as the food and the people who are renting you the chairs. Try having a party without music; what are you having? A lime? You must have the main ingredient. But also you must have respect for yourself to get respect. . . I know what I can give and I base my rates around that.”
However, Dave also admits there has always been a struggle between deejays and promoters with how these types of entertainers should be paid.
“When there were fete houses, people would ask you to work for the door. So if you didn’t have clout or a following you wouldn’t make any money,” he says.
“There is still some of that going on but it is less so because a lot of the venues have closed down. But the understanding of how and what [promoters] charged has always been a struggle for the industry because we don’t really have an industry, we have an entity.”
For Dave, “an industry involves all the different legs of entertainment. Everyone has a different role to play and there is a union to make sure that [people are taken care of]. In an entity however, you have to be chief cook and bottle washer. Therefore if I am running sound I have to touch base with the clients, invoice them, make sure I am being paid and I have to be there from start to finish.”
Despite these challenges, he is still doing his part to build a network of industry professionals that he can rely on.
“[With a] network, you can find what you don’t have while cutting down on overheads and business costs. Therefore, if you need staging and [another company] offers that then I can arrange it for you. It makes you a one-stop shop and clients really like that,” Dave adds.