The Professional DJ vs. The Weekend Warrior

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Guest Blog Post by Renee McIntyre

I am excited to finally be writing a guest blog for Cutting Edge Entertainment.  The idea has been on my mind for some time, however I wanted to wait until I thought of an interesting and relevant topic that I could relate to my life and experiences personally.

Many of you reading this blog post know me as Renee McIntyre of All About Events.  Although I consider myself an event coordinator first and foremost, I dabble in other arts of the industry to supplement my income.  I spend time working as the exclusive planner for MAINLINE & BUCKS Life Magazine, and I also bartend part time.  I began working in events for other companies in 2000, and started bartending in 2001.  On occasion, I get to see elements of these two worlds cross.  One of these elements is the DJ, which is what has inspired this post.

Considering I am only 27, I have seen  A LOT in this industry, due to my widespread experience.  One point that I consistently stress to my event planning clients, my bartending clientele, and the bar management where I am employed, is that the Bar/Club DJ is a completely different entity then the Event DJ.  Each has it’s own set of skills and qualifications.  Let me preface the following discussion by stating that I am by no means saying that one can not do the job of the other.  I know DJs that work for companies who provide event entertainment services, who on their Tuesday and Wednesday nights off will DJ at a club in center city and have the floor packed all night.  I also know a club DJ or two that is able to provide a wedding client with the most professional wedding entertainment they could have imagined.  I will however say that these entertainers are the exception.

My job as a bartender is to interact with the customers, learn about them, entertain them, and make sure they come back again to spend their hard earned dollars with us.  It is frequent that in this conversation I will discover they or a friend are getting married, their niece is having a graduation party soon, or their company is working on hosting a gala.  Likewise many of them know I am an event planner and will ask me for some suggestions.  Although there is a DJ playing 20 feet from where I am standing, that is not who I am going to refer them to.

This customer is asking me my opinion, because they see me as an expert in the event planning field.  Although the DJ I am working with may be a great friend of mine, I take my success as an event planner seriously.  I would be doing my company and the event industry an injustice if I didn’t refer them to a professional DJ company over a weekend warrior.

A DJ from a club or local bar may seem enticing to hire, because their price will most likely be much lower then that of a professional DJ company.  There are several reasons for this.  Primarily, this is probably not their full time job.  Many bar/club DJs, unless they are a big name making big bucks (in which case it is doubtful they would ever be interested in doing events), have a full time job Monday through Friday, and work as a DJ on the weekend for extra cash.  These independent DJs also do not have the overhead that a professional DJ service has.

A professional DJ service has administrative costs, marketing costs, the expense of the upkeep on multiple sets of equipment, possibly rent and utilities, and some even have the expense of insurance for their employees.

Another factor in choosing an event DJ service vs. a bar/club DJ is the professional image and atmosphere you want to have at your event, especially if it is a wedding.  Although a bar/club DJ may do a fabulous job of keeping a venue full of club goers entertained while scratching and mixing, they may not be familiar with the formalities of a wedding, and unless you know in what order your bridal party should be announced, or when the best time is for the cake to be cut, they better.  You will want your MC/DJ to be able to follow a timeline, make announcements clearly in a professional tone, know when to let the focus be on you as a couple, and when to open up the dance floor and get the party started.

Again, I am not saying that a bar/club DJ can not do this, but it can be rare.  Here are some tips and questions from a planners perspective that you can use to determine if you have found a suitable DJ for your event.

1 – Are you insured?

This is EXTREMELY important.  A Disc Jockey should hold liability insurance to protect themselves as well as you and your guests.  Many venues are also making this a requirement for them to even be on the premises.  Your DJ should be able to provide you with proof of liability insurance upon request.  Please take this seriously; you don’t want to find out a week prior to your event that your DJ was giving you the run around because they really didn’t have it in the first place.

2- What is your process for working with your wedding clients?

Your DJ should be willing to meet with you in person to discuss their abilities as a DJ, pricing, additional options, and to see if you are a good fit.  They should also explain the process of planning your entertainment over the months leading up to your event.  There should be at least one meeting six weeks to a month prior to your event to thoroughly go through your musical preferences, the timeline, formalities, and songs you may or may not want played.

3 – What is the back up plan if their equipment should fail?

This is an important answer to have in advance.  If the DJ’s equipment has a problem, will there be another set to use?  An independent DJ may only have one set of equipment available to them on the day of your event, whereas it is likely a DJ company will have alternate equipment.

4 – Do you provide a written contract?

If the DJ does not use a contract, just walk away!  You must have a legally binding document that states the time, date, location, and specifics of your agreement.  If you are hoping to get a certain entertainer, be sure that is in writing as well.

5 – What will you be wearing?

Again, this is something that is important to have discussed at your first meeting.  If you are expecting your DJ to wear a hula skirt and a coconut bra for your luau themed party, make sure you find out if this is reasonable at your consultation.  At the other extreme, if you are expecting your DJ to wear a tuxedo for your wedding, make sure this is specified or discussed.  Don’t just assume that they will.

Some other ways to tell if they are of the caliber you are looking for can be to ask to see letters from previous customers, ask if they are involved with any professional organizations, inquire about how they get their music, and find out how long their DJs have been working with them.

For most events, a DJ will be one of the smaller portions of your budget.  With this in mind, why take the chance on such an important factor in the success of your event?  Keep your mind at ease, and use a professional!

Renee McIntyre
Event Coordinator

Renee McIntyre, a graduate of Temple University right here in Philadelphia where she received her BS in tourism and hospitality management, is an event planner/coordinator who we at Cutting Edge have had the pleasure of working with several times. She definitely knows her stuff, and it doesn’t hurt that Renee is planning her own wedding in early 2011.  Renee is an active participant in the Philadelphia and Bucks County event industry, and brings great new ideas and fresh perspectives to every event she helps to plan.


Photo courtesy of Kevin York –

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