Things to Think About Before You Hire a DJ

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So many times, the first question a client in search of a DJ asks is, “How much do you charge?” Yet, price alone is probably the worst way to choose a DJ.  Clearly, some DJs are more expensive than others. The price of a four hour event can range from three hundred to three thousand dollars (or more).  It would be very tempting to choose the cheapest option, and if that is all you can afford, then you have no choice.

Now consider the law of supply and demand.  There is a reason that some DJs charge more than others, and the higher price is often justified.  More expensive DJs tend to be more experienced and have good reputations.  Generally, the DJs on the lower end of the price scale are trying to become established in the business.  If your party is on the informal side, they might do a great job and be worth a shot.  But, there is often more risk associated with a less experienced person.

What is the success of your party worth?  Imagine you are planning a very budget-oriented party.  You intend to invite one-hundred guests.  At an estimated cost of merely thirty dollars per head, you have already invested three thousand dollars in your affair.  Add five hundred dollars for the wedding dress, another one hundred for the tux, one thousand for decorations, fifty for the clergyman, three hundred or so on gifts for the wedding party and various tips, two hundred for a limo, and twenty five hundred for the honeymoon. Now you plan to spend a little over seventy-five hundred dollars!

The professional DJ you spoke with said, “We charge one thousand dollars for a show of your time frame.”  That is less than fifteen percent of your current expenses.  Is it worth spending extra on a disc jockey to make sure that you have a reputable and professional entertainer who has experience making fun happen at your type of affair? Or, is it better to save five to six hundred dollars and use Uncle Harold’s friend who has an iPod and a limited (amateur) personal music collection?  And here you thought you didn’t need to meet him before the wedding. After all he is Uncle Harold’s best friend.


First, you need to determine what you are looking for from a DJ.  If you want someone to sit behind the booth, say nothing, and read a magazine, then maybe the high school kid down the street will be just fine.  But, if you are looking for more, start by building a relationship.  Jump on the internet, find listings for disc jockeys, and start calling.  Let the DJ you talk with know about how you envision your event and ask what he or she can do to help you plan your day.  Find out if he or she will get involved with your crowd, make necessary announcements, and work with your caterer and photographer, and if they have experience doing so.

The most important thing to ask about is his or her experience with your type of event.  If you are planning an event like a wedding, school dance, or company party, it is normal to expect a professional DJ to have performed at about twenty similar events and a well established DJ to have performed at perhaps even hundreds. During your phone call, you should be able to quickly tell if the person you are talking with will be willing to work for you. In other words, once you hire him or her, he or she will give you one hundred percent of himself or herself to meet your needs.  He or she will make things happen and assist you to make decisions to ensure that your event is memorable, not just another meal and dance.

When you find someone who you quickly feel comfortable speaking with and who you believe will meet your needs, you have probably found a good candidate to meet with in person. This face to face meeting will likely be the absolute best way to determine whether or not this particular DJ is worth hiring.


What are you getting for your money?  If you choose to allow Uncle Harold’s best friend to DJ, there’s a good chance you’ll get what you paid for: a home stereo caliber sound system, a limited selection of music you may actually want played as well as a lack of experience as of when to play it… essentially, little more than a manned jukebox.  With a band, you are likely to hear many songs you request, provided the band is familiar with the music and lyrics. A band also helps to create a great ambiance. However, impressive as they may be, bands will need to take a set break every forty-five minutes. It is also likely that their variety of music will be more limited to what they have in their repertoire, whereas a professional and experienced DJ should have no such limitation.

Before the party, your DJ should make time to help you with song selections, plan any introductions or announcements that are expected to be made, and work with you on creating a timeline for your event or reception. Expect a professional DJ to play light dinner music during your cocktail hour and meal, introduce guests of honor and facilitate any formalities, help your caterer and photographer stay on track, and have thousands of  great songs to choose from for play during the open dancing time.

The best DJs will take requests from the audience and work them into their routine.  However, do not expect the DJ to play every request.  Many requests are simply inappropriate for the mood of the event, while others may be on the client’s pre-determined “do not play” list.  A good DJ is not a jukebox. Instead, he or she will blend requests with songs he or she believes will effectively motivate the crowd.  The art of being a DJ is timing, and this takes experience.  Forcing a DJ to ignore his or her instincts by making him or her play every request will result in your music pace seeming uneven and your party less fun. On the other hand, a DJ should try to play as many of your audience requests as possible. Ask about his or her policy on requests during your initial consultation. Once you have hired a DJ, it is appropriate to give him or her a short list of songs you “must have”, as well as an even more important list of “do not play under any circumstances” songs.  Very much like a chef is made aware of a food allergy to avoid an adverse reaction, the Disc Jockey must have an understanding of what songs or music genres will align with the preferred flavor of the guests, and more importantly, the client.

Often, a DJ will boast about the number of songs they have.  While variety is great, the fact is that they will only be able to play sixty to seventy songs throughout a four-hour show, that number being based on the average length in time of popular songs.  It is far more important that the DJ you hire has and knows the right sixty songs instead of twenty thousand songs that you and your crowd do not want to hear. Feel free to ask a DJ what type of music he or she recommends for your event, while making certain that they are attentive to your personal requests.  You should feel comfortable that they understand what your music tastes are and that they have the experience to choose the selections that will result in the desired and optimal outcome.

Reliability & Professionalism

There will be no second chance for your reception or event to take place. This means that when the high school kid down the street is offered the opportunity to go to a concert, you better hope that he is extremely responsible and committed to his job.  But, you cannot only be concerned with the DJ himself or herself.  Make sure that your Disc Jockey owns his or her equipment and that the equipment is of professional quality. Also, you should never be charged extra for having the DJ bring his or her equipment.

Choosing a professional Disc Jockey company with many DJ teams can provide a sense of security to clients. However, be sure to ask if you will be able to plan your day with the specific DJ who will be at your event. This will ensure that your show will not be cast off to the highest bidder when something better comes along. Furthermore, ask about the unexpected, because the unexpected can happen to anyone. It is very important you understand how a company handles these situations.  If your main Disc Jockey gets sick or is unable to attend your event, is there a secondary who can take over?  What happens in the case of an equipment failure?  Professional equipment is built to last, but ask about if  the company regularly services and maintains their gear.  Does the group have backup equipment or an agreement for loaner equipment?    Ask your Disc Jockey what he or she will do if found in an unexpected situation.

Lastly, you should insist on a written contract clearly stating services provided, times, locations, costs and other logistics.  Experienced professional Disc Jockeys will be able to provide you with a copy of their standard contract.

Spend time checking your potential DJs references and reviews, as well as checking references of other DJs who work for the same company. This is perhaps the only way you will be able to verify that your DJ will follow through on his or her promises and that he or she is a part of a reputable company. Remember, videos can easily be edited to cast a DJ in an extremely positive light. Do not expect to have the opportunity to see a potential DJ at an upcoming reception. Many professional Disc Jockeys have leaned the hard way that future business is no reason to have strangers crashing someone else’s party. After all, would you want your DJ to stop concentrating on your affair to advertise himself or herself to a potential client?

Look carefully at the literature the DJ or company distributes. What image does the DJ or company present in print, on the web, and in person?  Does this image fit with what you are looking for in an entertainer, or does it remind you of a Simpson’s episode run amok?


A professional DJ does not mean a boring DJ.  In fact, the most professional entertainers are the most fun and are the best at motivating a crowd.  Just as you would not hire a Disc Jockey that sits behind the booth texting on their smart phone, you would not hire a Disc Jockey who cannot entertain.  Your DJ should be part announcer, music mixer, request taker, comedian, dancer, and actor.  He or she should be someone who will get out on the floor with your guests and teach them how to do the hottest new line dance if need be, rather than just watching them muddle through it.  You need someone who will help break the ice with your guests if it does not occur organically.

Make sure your DJ exercises common sense.  Halfway through your elegant banquet, you probably do not want your entertainer to break out the over-sized plastic sunglasses and blow-up guitars, recreating a scene from “Risky Business” on the dance floor.  However, depending on your event, you may very well be looking for just that type of activity.  Let your Disc Jockey know your expectations, including what you do not want to happen at your affair.

It is also important to remember that some parties just happen.  The day is great, the music sets the tone and your guests are ready to have a ball.  Some parties, on the other hand, need more help.  Make sure that your DJ will be willing and able to kick start your party if necessary.

So That’s It…

In the end, it comes back to this “golden rule”; expect to pay for the level of entertainment described. And remember, the only difference between a tightly budgeted wedding that feels like it’s tightly budgeted and a tightly budgeted reception that does not is the professionalism of the DJ and the amount of involvement he or she takes in your day.  Call the shots with your entertainer and make sure that your DJ is willing to turn your dreams into a reality.  Spend some time getting to know your Disc Jockey, and remember, you’ll pay a little extra for the experienced professionals. If you do all of this long before your big day, you’ll be sure to have a worry-free event.
Finally, here are some other tips to keep in mind. Team Disc Jockey services are usually slightly more expensive than a solo DJ since you are getting two people to make sure your party is a success, a Master of Ceremonies, and a Disc Jockey assistant or junior event coordinator.  You may pay a little more if your entertainment will be traveling over an hour to get to your party. Also “in demand” dates such as over Memorial Day weekend or during the second week in June may cost more. Then again, some services charge a flat rate regardless of date or location.

Cutting Edge EntertainmentWedding, Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah,
Sweet 16 and Event DJ Company

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