Hiring a DJ: Ask These 3 Questions
By JT James March 8, 2018
Chances are if you are reading this you have been tasked with hiring DJ entertainment for a corporate event, club night or wedding. Music is such an important component of almost any type of event, so it has to be done right. Whether you are looking for an all-out dance party or something more ambient to convey a certain vibe for your event, choosing the right DJ or company is vital.
Through my 15 or so years as a full-time DJ, I have worked with some amazing performers, DJ Companies, and Production Houses. From Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members and World DMC Champions like Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys) and DJ Craze, to local legends like Hedspin, Joe Pound and DJ Kemo. Every event or club night working alone or with a partner, you learn a thing or two. Do that about 2000 times and you get a real feel for the industry and art form.
So, here are 3 questions that you should ask before signing that contract and hiring some talent that will go a long way to ensuring that all the hard work and planning for your event doesn’t get thrown off course by an inexperienced entertainer or one that isn’t a good fit for your party.
- How long have you been a DJ and where have you played?
Unless you are throwing a party for toddlers, you need someone who has not only an encyclopedia-like knowledge of music, but experience playing to crowds of various sizes. A good DJ should be able to read a crowd and cater their sets for maximum impact: they need great instincts. These instincts are not something you are born with, but a talent developed from working in the trenches for crowds of various sizes, ages and tastes in tonnes of different venues and locales. I wouldn’t hire a DJ with less than 5 years of experience, unless it was a smaller event. In fact, 10 years is probably a better number to ensure that your entertainer has the adequate experience level.
A great plus is if the DJ you are looking to hire has a weekly or monthly residency. DJs that play both club nights and special events on a consistent basis tend to be well suited for the job. They know how to read a crowd and cater to people of varying interests or ages. A good DJ can pace a night and keep everybody happy by living in both of these worlds. Have an older crowd that just wants to get down to some Motown, Disco? No problem. Younger peeps that are looking for some Hip Hop, Reggaeton or Deep House. You got it. Ask if they have any residencies, and then you have the ability of checking them out before moving forward.
2. What is your rate for this particular date?
This is an important question due to simple supply and demand economics. Booking a DJ on a Long Weekend in July or August on a Saturday will cost more than hiring the same service on a Tuesday in February. Christmas parties, corporate events and weddings tend to favor Saturdays. Saturdays will always be the busiest days to book and the price will reflect that. July to September is crazy for wedding events and festivals and the first two weeks of December are extremely busy for DJ companies. New Year’s Eve you should expect to pay double the price and you better book it before Halloween if you want to lock in some quality talent. This holds true for most vendors, not just DJ companies, so if you’re looking to save money on your event overall, then planning something in the off-season may be something worth considering.
Now, when it comes to price, just as most things in life, you get what you pay for. To ensure you can be confident you are hiring a reliable company with great equipment, back-up systems, and a decent roster of talent, you should be prepared to pay between $1000-$2000. DJs that have been doing special events and rocking clubs can command even more ($2000-$5000+ range), and are often worth the extra performance value if you have the budget.
Yes, you could hire a company for $500 or find a young freelancer who is willing to do it for a couple hundred, but you are really rolling the dice. In my experience, you can encounter equipment issues, unreliability and sub-par talent when you try to cut corners on this part of your event. Seriously. Music is such an important aspect of your celebration, it’s not worth pinching pennies.
- What is your refund / cancellation policy?
Things happen, and should your event need to be cancelled or postponed, it is nice to know ahead of time what your recourse is. Due to the popularity of certain dates, the time period allowed for a refund on your deposit can vary, but usually is between 30-60 days before the event. It really depends on your particular contract, so read the fine print. Deposits are necessary part of the business, so if you have to cancel within 30 days, be prepared to cut your losses.
Of course, there are plenty of other questions you could ask, but this is a good place to start. I will serve up a few more in the future, so stay tuned. If have you any questions regarding this or anything else you’ve read here on djworld.ca, feel free to hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’d be happy to help. Whether you need a DJ for your event, sound, lighting systems, or beats for your next house or hip hop project, check out essentialent.ca or give us a ring at 778.888.WORD (9673). Cheers!
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- What kind of power requirements do you need and how much space is required for setup? Do we need to provide anything?
At most events, the venue or organizer is responsible for providing a table or equivalent
for DJs to set up their rig, be it turntables, CD-J’s, a controller, and a mixer. Some production companies can provide a scaffold like set-up, and Red Bull has popularized a recent incarnation that folds into a flight case and is pretty cool. Depends on your situation, but often times a standard 6-8 foot banquet table will suffice. Make sure you cross this one off on your event checklist.
- What is your refund / cancellation policy?
Things happen, and should your event need to be cancelled or postponed, it is nice to
know ahead of time what your recourse is. Due to the popularity of certain dates, the time period allowed for a full refund can vary, but usually is between 30-60 days before the event. It really depends on your particular contract, so read the fine print.