A POST ABOUT DJ RATES. PART 1
Hey Mr. DJ.,
My fiancé and I are in the process of planning our wedding. We’re shopping vendors, and we’re noticing that DJs are the one vendor that doesn’t have a standard price range. We’ve found them from $300 to $3000, and they all look good. It’s hard to tell the difference. How much should we expect to pay, and how do we distinguish the good from the bad?
Thanks in advance for your help.
This is a good question, and one that I’m sure many people seek the answer to, but are not even sure who to ask. It’s unfortunately true, that you can find part-time, amateur DJs for as little as nothing these days, and some that will charge what seems like an unreasonable amount of money for essentially just “playing some music”. I wish I could sum it up by saying you get what you pay for, but that’s not always true either. Some wedding DJs who charge the highest rates do so only because they’ve been DJing weddings since the golden era, but are not current in their style of DJing or their music. The short answer is, for a good DJ to do the job right, you should pay somewhere in the mid-hi area of the $300-$3000 range you’ve mentioned, or $300-$400/performance hour (as of 2014). This is assuming that your DJ is providing your sound system as well, and your guest count is no higher than 200. Here’s the long answer…
There are a handful of key factors that should be taken into consideration when a DJ is deciding their rates, so let’s go over those;
How long have they been in business? Not how long have they been DJing in their bedroom, how long have they been making money from DJing events, and how often do they have gigs? The more time they’ve spent DJing gigs, the more chances they’ve had to do things wrong, and make sure they’ll never make those mistakes again. Most DJs will spend their first few years DJing with an experienced crew, kind of like an internship, to learn the ropes and cut their teeth. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give a newbie a chance, but newbies should have newbie rates. And if it’s your wedding day, you may want to consider someone with more experience.
What type of experience do they have? They may be the baddest club DJ on the planet, but that doesn’t mean they know how to handle the prep work that goes into a wedding. It also doesn’t mean they’ll have the level of professionalism required when dealing with wedding clients, or guests making requests. And sure your younger guests are going to love that nightclub style of mixing and music, but are Mom and Dad going to like it? It’s an important day for them as well, so you want to make sure they have a good time too. Your DJ should be versatile with their styles, and should know which style to play, and when. It’s certainly a bonus if they do currently play at any public venue on a regular basis. This will keep their music selection and their performance caliber up to date, as well as offer some relevance in the DJ world, so you know they’re not just a bedroom DJ who’s charging a lot simply because they know they can.
Do they have a professional website? If this is what they do for a living, there’s no reason not to have one these days. Their website should have pictures of them in action, a description of who they are and what they do, and should definitely offer some music samples. I often hear about “wedding DJs” that don’t have sample mixes, and their excuse is “every couple is different, so it’s impossible to make a sample mix, as every couple will require a different mix”. Not true. It’s possible to make a mix that shows a sample of a DJs range and ability to mix and transition between songs, regardless of the songs in the mix. A DJ’s demo mix is their resume, and to not have one is the equivalent of walking into any business with no credentials and asking for a job based on trust.
Do they have a Yelp page, or another place you can read reviews from past clients? If not you can ask for references, but most career DJs theses days will have some online reviews you can read.
What equipment will they be using? If you saw them at a club and they were using turntables, you may have that vision in your head, and that vision may be shattered if they show up to your wedding without turntables. FYI, most DJs are capable of rocking a wedding just as well without turntables, so don’t feel like they have to have them to do a good job, but I find that most of my clients prefer them aesthetically. Will they have a subwoofer? Is their equipment up to date and in excellent shape? For weddings, it must be. Will they have a reliable, wireless microphone for toasts and announcements? If they’re handling the sound for the ceremony, do they have a specific sound system dedicated to this? If they just plan to plug a lapel mic into the same system they’re going to be DJing on, there’s a good chance that will not go well. What kind of car do they have? It should be a spacious vehicle that can obviously carry the amount of equipment needed to DJ a wedding, and then some. And it should be reliable. If it’s a ’95 Ford focus, I would consider this an issue.