Hiring A DJ: Points To Consider
by Ken Heath and Marc Taylor
Your two best choices for entertainment today are Bands and Disc Jockeys, and while Bands do generate their own particular energy it is practically impossible for them to match the vast music library that a qualified DJ can provide.
The purpose of this article is to help you choose the best DJ for your Wedding Reception. Mobile Disc Jockeys are some of the most versatile music professionals available; they are your "one-stop shopping" resource for Ceremony and Reception entertainment, pro sound support, and event consultation and planning.
The Wedding Ceremony is for the Bride to be the center of attention, but the Reception is to thank your family and friends for witnessing your marriage vows, and as such, your focus should be on how to make the party enjoyable for the majority of those in attendance.
This is your first party hosted as husband and wife and every detail should reflect the joy and happiness you share to your guests. Expertly chosen music adds flavor beyond the best food and bouquet surpassing the most fragrant blossoms. Guests tend to remember the entertainment you provide above most other things, be it good or bad.
A professional DJ provides the positive catalyst for your party, skillfully selected and played music will add the important "feel good" element that helps everyone interact, rekindle relationships faded by time away and form new friendships. Music is relaxing, exciting, romantic, and inspirational. Dancing keeps everyone at your event longer and contributes greatly to your guest’s enjoyment.
Consider this when shopping for your DJ service:
Your choice of entertainer is an insurance policy against bad memories of a disappointing occasion. Unfortunately, the DJ is often the last service chosen, after much of the budget is spent on a venue, food and clothing. This “backwards planning” often forces Brides and Party Planners to shop for the cheapest possible price. Many people will pay far more for a cake, flowers, or a veggie platter than they will for the most crucial ingredient of a party – the music. The entertainer you select will be taking on the responsibility of over 80% of the success of your party and often gets paid less than 3% of the total budget, (based on the average $25,000.00 Wedding, 3% would equal $750.00), yet if the DJ is a poor performer or a no-show you just wasted your entire investment, not just that 3%.
You need to consider the entertainment as a commodity that you purchase to “feed” each of your guests… If you’re buffet costs $15.00 per person (with 250 people), you’ll pay $3750.00 plus tax ($253.15 in Utah), and rest assured, the Caterer will add their own minimum 15% gratuity, (sometimes 18%-25%, and you’ll never know who actually gets it), so add another $672.00 for a total of $4675.00! Let’s not forget the $2.00 per guest they’ll charge just for simply cutting your cake...another $500.00 in their pocket! At the last Wedding you attended, do you remember what was served? Most people don’t, and you’re spending nearly five grand on that! Have you ever seen someone pay overtime rates to stay later at the venue because everyone was still eating cake five hours later? No? Well, they do it all the time when the guests are still dancing and the party is still hopping!
Quality entertainment from Shellimark Entertainment breaks down to only a few dollars per person, my services last for hours and I would never have the effrontery to add in a mandatory gratuity!
Can I just have a friend use his stereo?
If you thought about renting or borrowing all the necessary components, or "doing it yourself", you would most likely end up spending a lot of money and be quite disappointed with the results. A “home stereo” and a multi-disc changer are no substitute for a professional entertainer crafting a show specially designed for you and your guests. You should be completely comfortable with your DJ, who you choose for your wedding reception or special event will have a greater effect than any other factor, even food or location.
Prompt return of your phone calls or Emails:
You should expect to get a call back or an Email back within 24 hours. Not all DJ’s are “full-time”, many are out working their “day jobs” and may not be able to return your call within an hour or two. You may want to ask them about their availability to you for answering questions and handling any problems that may arise, always confirm that there will be no conflict of interests on your chosen date. A “full-time” DJ Service won’t have last minute “day job” overtime keeping them from getting to your event on time.
Willingness to meet with you and present their service:
Will the DJ meet with you to help plan your dream day, or are they just trying to book the date sight unseen? Is their material neat and professional looking, and is their presentation organized and informative?
Some DJs invite clients to see them at other receptions. However, most DJs refuse to do this. Two problems with "visiting" is the fact that the reception you see is crafted for an entirely different group than you and your guests, and it is a gross imposition to invite strangers to your party.
Some DJ’s use videotapes for their presentation. Videos show the DJ in action. They usually show the DJ, his setup, and how the guests react to his performance. Videos are convenient, but because they are edited for use, they may not always provide an accurate indicator of a DJ's typical performance.
The best way to judge a prospective DJ is an in-person meeting; this will help you to determine if you will be comfortable with them. A face-to-face meeting, maybe over lunch or dinner, allows you to judge his/her appearance, posture, manners, speaking ability, and knowledge of receptions and music. A professional DJ should be friendly, personable, and easy to talk with. He should actively listen to your concerns and address them in a positive manner. He also should be able to explain the basic order of events, and what his strategy is for making your reception unique and special. A true professional is flexible and will always have more than one way to accomplish a goal.
Do you LIKE the person that shows up?
There is NOTHING worse in the world than having to worry about things you shouldn’t have to, you are hiring a professional and your worries should end right there. Choosing the person who “feels” right is the most important factor in picking the right entertainer for your party or reception. The DJ you choose should be very open about what he/she can do for you and should volunteer information and “show” you that knowledge base. Is the person knowledgeable about your type of event? There are all kinds of DJ’s. Club DJ’s, Wedding DJ’s, Rave DJ’s, Radio DJ’s…the list is long and varied! Can the DJ you interview handle your type of event? Ask the DJ how many events of your type that he/she has done. Get references AND CALL THEM!
What sort of documents does the DJ use to procure your business?
In a good interview, the DJ should show you several documents. First and foremost is a planner. This planner should impress you to the point where you begin to understand that the DJ you are hiring is a professional, and is capable of handling your event. A sample copy of the CONTRACT to be used should be available as well as a schedule of pricing information. A good DJ should have at least a handful of current references. You should be able to call these previous clients and ask them what they liked/disliked about their DJ. Be sure to call several to get a more "balanced" criteria of his/her better receptions.
Does the DJ have a way to show you what sort of music he or she has available?
Many DJ’s do not use music play-lists, others do. In some fashion you need to be assured that the DJ you hire not only has a sizeable library, but has a wide variety of music especially selected for wedding receptions, where many different styles of music and guests will be in the same room together.
Will the DJ offer to meet with you BEFORE & AFTER signing the contract to plan your event?
A professional DJ is ALWAYS willing to discuss your event at any time before the event starts, and should display the flexibility to accommodate changes and help you solve problems. Planner meetings with your DJ are of paramount importance to a successful event.
Is the person that you signed to contract with the person that will perform at your event?
This is THE most common complaint about the DJ industry today. The person you meet turns out NOT to be the performer that actually does your show. Often, you are not aware of this. Ask the DJ you interview if they will be the actual person performing, or is the event to be handed off to someone else. You need to know this UP FRONT before you sign a contract.
Are You the DJ’s only responsibility that day?
Is your DJ a single operator or a “multi-op” with more than one system and more than one entertainer? Full-Time or Part-Time? This can be an important consideration. You need to be certain that you are going to be the priority on your special day, whichever service you choose.
A Professional Demeanor
Simply put, a professional DJ should dress appropriately to your event (formal wear for a wedding, etc.); be set up and ready before your guests arrive; use a setup procedure that is unobtrusive, safe and orderly; and treat you, your guests and other vendors with respect. He/she should be polite and able to handle adversity in a calm, unobtrusive manner.
Your DJ should be able to speak in a clear, concise, easy to understand manner. He/she must be able to introduce you and your guests and make announcements that are easy to understand in a noisy room. He/she should be able to grab the attention of your guests, and enunciate and project his/her message with a positive attitude.
Quality Equipment and Music
Your DJ should use professional-grade equipment. This refers to heavy-duty speakers, amplifiers, mixers, etc., just like a band or a broadcast studio would use. Most home stereo equipment will not reliably perform to the quality standards necessary to ensure the success of your event.
The Desire to Please the Client
There are two basic approaches to DJ’ing. The first is to develop a show that seems to work for the majority of parties and stick to that formula. This is often referred to as "cookie cutter" DJ’ing. It is most often seen executed by less experienced entertainers who are still finding themselves.
The other approach is to use a well organized “flexible planning” format with a variety of options. In this approach, the Client decides what special events they do or do not want. They also choose a limited number of songs (usually 10-20) that they feel would be appreciated by their guests. The DJ can always play other requests, using discretion as to what is appropriate to the spirit of the event. The key to this approach is to balance the preferences of the Client with those of their guests. This is most often utilized by the more experienced entertainers.
There are both good and bad DJs that use each approach. A good "cookie cutter" DJ takes care of all the details. If you don't like filling out questionnaires and making a lot of decisions, you might enjoy a "canned" show better. If you wish to have substantial input into your event, the "flexible planning" DJ should be your choice.
An Agreement In Writing
Professional DJs should always provide written agreements for their services. It provides legal protection for both parties and gives your DJ the information he/she needs to entertain your guests properly. The contract/agreement should include the following:
The name of the DJ (Vendor) and the name of the person responsible for payment (Client).
The venue name, address, contact person, date and time of the reception, including starting and ending time
The details of services provided by the Vendor
The details of services provided by the Client
The total price to be paid for the DJ's services
When payment of the balance is due
Overtime authorization details
Cancellation requirements of both the Client and Vendor
Signature of DJ and client (dated)
Usually a retainer and a signed agreement are required to "block out" your date. The agreement should note your retainer payment (amount and check #) and the balance due. Read your agreement carefully before signing.
However you choose your DJ, the final goal is to please you and your guests, remember...
Quality isn’t expensive,