A more important decision than you may think!

One of the biggest parts of your event is the music. Today it has become common place to use a Disc Jockey (DJ) to not only provide music, but to also emcee your event and enhance the party with the use of lights, videos and special effects.  With hundreds of DJs in many metropolitan areas to choose from, researching DJs can be a time consuming and overwhelming task.  These tips will help you be better prepared to ask the important questions and get the answers you need to thoroughly evaluate DJs and hire the right one for your event.

The Cost of DJ Services
Often the first question a planner asks a potential DJ is “how much will this cost?” While this is an important question, especially when many planners are adhering to strict budgets, hiring a DJ on price alone often results in the planner not receiving the level of service they anticipated.  Prices for DJs, which usually include travel, set-up and four hours of service, can range from $500 to $4,000 with the average price in most markets being $1,200.  

When looking for a DJ, you’ll want to understand their experience with events similar to yours.  For example, a DJ experienced in weddings will be familiar with the reception activities, understand common traditions and offer emcee skills to keep the reception flowing and the guests happy and on the dance floor.  In the unfortunate event of any mishaps, such as a delay in food service, there is no one who can save your event better than an experienced DJ.  In most cases, the guests will never realize there was even a problem because the DJ kept them entertained.

Personality is also a significant consideration.  The DJ you select should fit in with you and your guests and be able to develop a rapport. They should also be someone you trust will go extra lengths to be courteous and friendly to your guests.

What to Ask and Expect from Your DJ
Frequently I meet with potential clients who have never hired a DJ before and do not know the questions to ask.  Asking a few important questions when interviewing DJs will not only help you make a well-informed decision, but manage your expectations and avoid any surprises on the day of the event.  

  • Do you own your equipment or do you rent or borrow equipment for events?  It is important to ask about the quality and condition of the DJ’s equipment to ensure it is a professional quality like Pioneer, Numark, Denon, Mackie, JBL or Berringer.  Ask how the DJ will handle technical and equipment problems that may come up during the event.  For example, if the DJ is using a laptop, does he have a back-up external drive or a traditional DJ system in case of technical difficulties?
  • Can you provide an example of how you would introduce the guests of honor, gain the guests attention or make a special announcement?  Pronunciation and stage presence, if not handled professionally, could put a damper on the evening and be uncomfortable for you and your guests.  Listen carefully to how the DJ presents himself during your initial conversations – the confidence in his voice and the overall tone of the conversation. 
  • How do you work with clients to select the appropriate music for the event?  A DJ with a well-organized and extensive music library can really make your event a hit because he is able to quickly and easily handle almost any song request.  If you have particular songs you know you want played, go over them in advance so the DJ has them prior to your event. Remember, it is not your responsibility to supply music to the DJ.  In today’s digital world, DJs have numerous opportunities to access music beyond the local music store.  Keep in mind though that you do not want to treat your DJ like a jukebox operator.  Creating a playlist with a specified order in which to play the songs can often spell disaster for even the most experienced DJ.  Instead provide the DJ with the styles and era of music and work with him to make your music selections.  A professional DJ will know what songs to play and when, and will have mastered the ability to feel out the crowd and keep your event flowing and the guests entertained. 
  • What sets you apart from other DJs in the area?  Try to never hire a DJ sight unseen or based only on a video clip on a web site. The first step is to pre-interview all potential DJs over the phone.  Spend ten minutes learning about their experience and background and then provide them with a detailed overview of your event and your expectations.  From this interaction an experienced DJ will often share some valuable insight to help develop a “WOW Factor” for your event and become an invaluable resource as you seek out other vendors.  Once you have narrowed your selection, schedule an in person meeting to make sure they really are the right DJ for you.
  • What additional information can I provide to you so that I can obtain a quote for your services? 95% of the initial inquiries a DJ receives ask about price. The appropriate time to ask the price question is once you have a good comprehension of what the prospective DJ can provide, including the type of equipment, the extent of their music library and their experience in the industry.  Combining all these factors will give you a clear understanding of the wide range of costs for DJ services and how to appropriately set your event budget for entertainment.

Getting References
One of the best sources for finding recommendations for DJs is to ask a caterer, banquet manager, corporate event planner, florist, photographer or other event vendor.  Often they experience a variety of DJs over time and get to know the best ones.  When asking for references from past clients, ask for only those that have engaged the DJ’s services in the last year.  Today most DJ services provide testimonials on their web sites and this provides a good measure of the character and professionalism of the DJ.  

Signing the Contract
You should always get a signed contract and this applies to all your event vendors. A professional DJ will insist on providing a written quote detailing the services for your event followed up with a formalized contract.  Some things to keep in mind before you sign the contract:

  • The contract must have the specific name of the DJ you are hiring and the agreed upon time for set-up, performance and breakdown.
  • Clearly spell out all charges and fees, including any extra equipment, a second DJ or technical assistance, special effects, lighting or other services that you asked for. These charges should be itemized as part of the contract.  Additional performance hours that may be added at a later date, such as providing music for an outdoor wedding ceremony or cocktail hour, should also be clearly defined.  
  • Specify the attire to be worn by the DJ during the event.  Tuxedo is the norm for the DJ to wear, however you may be having a less formal event or a specific theme that you want the DJ to represent.  
  • Confirm the method and timing of payments, including terms and conditions for refundable and non-refundable deposits and final payments.
  • For extended events that are longer than four hours, find out if your DJ requires a break or meal and include that in the contract.  Some DJs will want to be provided with a meal while others will not want to eat while they are working.

Now that you have selected the DJ, you will probably spend a minimum of four to six hours talking to your DJ before the event and consulting on the specifics. If you choose the right DJ with the level of experience you expect, they will be able to guide you through the whole process and you and your guests will have a memorable experience.

Jerry Bazata known throughout the Northeast as Maine’s DJ Jaz has over 25 years experience as a Professional DJ performing hundreds of weddings, high profile events and nightclub appearances.  His firm, J & J Marketing and Entertainment, is a leading consultant to the event planning and music industry.  Jerry is a published author and recognized nationally as a respected authority to the Professional and Mobile DJ Entertainment Business.  To learn more about Jerry’s background visit his web site at www.mainediscjockey.com or email an inquiry to jerry@mainediscjockey.com