Growing up in a musical family, DJing came naturally to Martin Pilon. Having DJed during his school years, he took a break during college, but then started again when friends began to get married and asked him to perform at their weddings. As one booking led to another, Martin soon established MP Entertainment which is now a leading supplier of DJ services in Eastern Ontario, Canada.
Martin was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, a small city located almost exactly equidistant to Ottawa and Montreal, right across the US border from New York State. Part of a French-Canadian family, he grew up bilingual, which went on to prove extremely useful in his future career. As a child, he was also surrounded by music, which likewise had a significant impact on his later life. His father played guitar in a wedding band and one of young Martin’s favorite things to do as a child was to listen to the band rehearse in the family’s basement.
Not only was he exposed to music through listening, Martin was also encouraged to play himself. He took piano and guitar lessons from a young age and continues to play guitar to this day. The family was also heavily involved with the Children’s Choir at their local church; Martin and his sister sang, while their father played guitar. “We spent many Saturday mornings rehearsing,” Martin told us, “then on Sundays we performed at church. But my favorite part was our summer camps when we would go to the Laurentian Mountains for a week and really get to bond with our friends. Many of these friendships are still intact after 25+ years!”
It was in 5th grade that he first tried his hand at DJing. When the class teacher announced they would be having a dance to close out the school year, Martin and a friend were quick to volunteer to play the music. Practicing in the basement using his dad’s PA, the pair figured out that they could hook up their two Sony Walkman tape players and switch between them to keep the music playing continually.
This was the start of a DJing partnership that lasted throughout the pair’s school days. “We continued doing our dances through elementary school”, Martin explained, “and then, when we got to high school, we both got voted onto the student council where we had the opportunity to organize bigger dances. We would often get our parents to travel an hour out of town to rent sound and lighting gear to make the magic happen... by that time we had also upgraded our tape decks to CDs. Fun times!”
Following high school, Martin attended St Lawrence College where he obtained a diploma in Network Engineering. As well as DJing, throughout his high school career he played in bands, and it was this aspect of musical performance that Martin chose to pursue throughout his college years. He played and sang in a band right through college and didn’t return to DJing until after graduation, when a couple of friends who were getting married asked if he would be interested in DJing for their special day.
“I rented a PA, showed up with my desktop computer and gave it my all!” Martin remembers. “Then, a few months later, another couple asked me to do their wedding. I obliged and, as they say, that's how the ball got rolling again. I remembered that thrill you feel when you pack a dancefloor and the nerves that keep you on edge when you're not 100% sure if your next track selection will cut it or not. I enjoyed making people dance and this re-ignited a passion that had been put aside for a while.”
“The advice I wish I would have had when I first started is ‘don't assume you have it figured out’. Seek out a reputable DJ, or DJ company, and see if you can shadow them to learn the trade. There is so much DJs need to know how to do... there's the easy stuff like setting up gear... but you also have to be awesome at programming music and creating an overall vibe for the event you are doing." - Martin Pilon
Since then, Martin has developed his DJing skills and built up his own mobile entertainment business, MP Entertainment. He focuses on weddings, private parties, and corporate functions, offering DJ, MC, lighting, and photo booth services. This keeps him very busy, alongside his weekday career as a Systems Administrator for the local Public Health Unit.
Based in an area where 36% of the population are French-speaking, Martin is well-placed to offer a unique MC service. “Most of these francophones are bilingual,” he explained, “but are extremely proud of their French heritage. I am hired by many of them, not because of the French music I might play, but because I can MC in French. This is very important to them and I am equally proud to be able to provide this service.”
In terms of music, Martin enjoys playing for diverse audiences so that he can cover multiple genres and create a rotation on the dancefloor. When we asked his personal favorite musical style, he struggled to choose just one, but did reveal a penchant for classics from his formative years. “I love playing throwbacks!”, he told us. “80s and 90s music is really hot in my market at the moment, and I'm loving every minute of it! The best is when the guests jump on my train of thought and start requesting awesome tunes from the same era. What a high!”
Located between two large markets – Ottawa and Montreal – Martin is fortunate to have access to a large pool of potential events. Now, having become well-established, he is able to focus on finding the ‘right’ work. “I look for clients who want to work with me as opposed to having me work for them,” he explained. “I offer my clients a personalized entertainment service. When I am hired, I insist that I be involved in the event planning process so that I can offer my input on different aspects of their event and, ultimately, share my experience with them to help them decide on the direction they want to go. My goal is to help them determine an expected outcome and then to create a purpose behind the activities performed during an event. My events are well thought out, intimate and personal... I work very hard at creating memorable moments throughout the celebration.”
As he continues to hone his craft, Martin has built up a network of fellow DJs – both locally and further afield – through social media and attending DJ conventions. After attending the Las Vegas DJ Show in 2013, he made the commitment to attend a conference every year and is looking forward to traveling to Las Vegas again for Mobile Beat in March 2017. Through idea sharing with like-minded DJs, and learning from industry leaders, Martin is constantly pushing himself to improve his performances and the service he offers to his clients.
This is demonstrated by Martin’s answer, when we asked for his most memorable DJing experience so far. “That would be the first time I pushed myself to really come out of my shell, to break the mold of the ‘typical wedding reception format’ you see in my neck of the woods. I liked the idea of ‘going for it early’ from Mike Walter's ‘Keys’ DVD. So, we opened the dancefloor immediately following the Grand Entrance. Dancing continued during dinner and the energy remained high. After dinner, the dancefloor filled up effortlessly and the guests danced the night away. I got many compliments that night regarding the flow of the evening and how much fun the guests were having. I've since continued planning my weddings using this concept and have had tremendous success... not to mention more referrals!”
Outside of work, Martin spends as much time as he can with his wife and two children. If he’s not watching his daughter play hockey, he’s in the family basement jamming with his son who is a keen drummer. He also finds time to play the game music for the local Junior A Hockey team, the Cornwall Colts. On Sundays, Martin still regularly sings and plays guitar at church, while in the summer months he can be found grilling up a feast in his backyard!
With plenty of experience, many happy past clients, and a successful business, Martin is well-placed to offer advice for up-and-coming DJs. “The advice I wish I would have had when I first started is ‘don't assume you have it figured out’. Seek out a reputable DJ, or DJ company, and see if you can shadow them to learn the trade. There is so much DJs need to know how to do... there's the easy stuff like setting up gear... but you also have to be awesome at programming music and creating an overall vibe for the event you are doing... you have to know how to sell and, more importantly, you have to know what it is that you are selling. By aligning yourself with a seasoned professional, you will start building your network of resources and gain the knowledge and experience necessary to operate a successful mobile DJ service.”
This knowledge and experience is clearly something that Martin himself possesses in abundance, not to mention an open and humble attitude to learning and idea sharing. Most of all he has an unmistakable passion for both music and entertaining which has led to his current success and, we are sure, will ensure that his business continues to go from strength to strength.
For more information on Martin Pilon and MP Entertainment, or to connect with him on social media, follow the links below.