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If you have never hired a Mobile DJ before, information here is helpful. Mike is well-known, has over 30 years Mobile DJ experience, and has hired DJs.
How to Choose a Wedding DJ and DJs for Parties
How to Book a DJ Who Is Right For You
There are radio djs, mix masters, club djs, and mobile djs.
The Two Most Important Things You Need To Know
1) NEVER ASSUME what the DJ should already know. It's your event and you know what you want - the DJ can only guess. Give your DJ as much information as possible.
2) If YOU Are Paying The DJ - YOU ARE THE BOSS and THE DJ WORKS FOR YOU. Tell them in advance what is needed, required and expected. It's their job to bring DJ equipment, have and play music that you want, be dressed appropriately for your event, etc.
There are four sections on this page which was updated in April, 2013.
You probably hear and read a lot about
THERE ARE VERY FEW PEOPLE YOU CAN COUNT ON
It's just that simple. How many people in general can you count on to do things right? Getting what you pay for means choosing which five attributes you want your DJ to have:
In todays world, it is easy to find friends and neighbors with iPods, mp3 players and tablets willing to play their music through a boombox or house system at your event, cheap. But that doesn't make them DJs and not the reason you pay a DJ.
You pay a DJ for one basic reason: You Depend On Them To Show Up and do a good job. That includes being on time, properly attired, conducting themselves in a manner appropriate to your event, having the music YOU want and blending songs together with no pauses, providing a microphone (wireless if necessary) and be good at public speaking - making announcements or motivating a crowd, have a good sound system, have back-up dj equipment at your event, if needed have lights for dancing, the DJs ability to read a crowd and create a good atmosphere, and be responsible enough to sign a contract so YOU are protected.
That was the main reason but not the only reason. There's more to the basics. Consider...
DJs aren't getting hired for those moments in someone's life that don't matter but for the special moments that DO matter and accompanied by memories that will last a lifetime. From birthday parties to elegant weddings, a DJ can enhance or ruin a lifetime moment.
Very few people are capable of handling that presure and being responsible for the mood of a group of people, dealing with conflicting orders during an event, being dependable and contractually thorough, pleasant to deal with, adapting to changes or things that might go wrong at an event, actually own, supply or do what they claim [no misrepresentation], if alcohol is served then not getting drunk on the job... I think you get the idea by now.
Note: Speaking on behalf of all the Good DJs and DJ services, we realize it is a privilege to be included in your event and take personal pride in helping to enhance that moment. Most of us automatically do whatever is possible to make sure you are very satisfied with our service.
How To Choose and Get The DJ You Want
These Are The Specific Things You Need To Consider.
1) Make a list of exactly what you want your DJ to do and not do. Just play music and don't talk? Want the DJ to make announcements and maybe play the role of an MC? Do you want your DJ to be sophisticated at all times? Be interactive? Be a party animal? Give dance lessons or don't give dance lessons? Be a singer or don't sing? Also be a karaoke host or no karaoke? Be what is commonly referred to as a normal DJ?, etc.?
TIP Most DJs cannot handle all these different facets so you need to choose one that is capable of honoring your wishes. Some DJs prefer to be dance instructors, singers or karaoke hosts more than a DJ. Some won't be an MC. Some don't talk, others won't shut up. Some are strictly sophistcated, some insist on being the life of the party. Now that you know this important starting point, some will be perfect for your event.
TIP What is an MC? An MC (a.k.a. emcee, master of ceremonies, announcer) is someone designated to make announcements and/or motivate attendees during an event.
2) FIND OUT IF THE DJ HAS THE MUSIC THAT YOU WANT PLAYED. This is obviously very important. Make sure the DJ will have the music that you want at your event. Do you want a variety of music or perhaps just Club, Top-40, Oldies, Hip Hop, Country ...? Try to find a DJ that specializes in the music that you want.
TIP Variety music DJs are usually more expensive because they have to be knowledgeable about many different types of music and deal with the higher cost of buying many more songs than someone specializing in just one type. Most DJs will not have a printed list of the music they own especially if their music collection is huge and constantly updated. Also some like myself who bring our own personal wi-fi to events, we have on-the-job access to our accounts with AmazonMP3 and iTunes which have over 22 million songs, not possible to print that list! In any case, you need assurance that the music you want will actually be at your event.
TIP #2 Just because DJs have the music, it doesn't mean they will bring it to your event. Some use cds or vinyl and can't bring their whole collection to an event. Ask how much music they take with them to events like yours. If it's not much, beware. Though some events might need just a small amount of music, many require a very large amount. Those using the digital format (mp3, wav, etc.) have no excuse for not having a lot of music with them.
If playing specific music is important enough, have it written in the contract that it be there. Example: I use two laptops and have my own personal portable wi-fi so I can download from AmazonMP3 and iTunes while playing other songs on-the-job. As stated before, that's over 22 million available songs. And in my contracts, it is clearly stated the type music I must be prepared to play and must already have important songs BEFORE the event.
3) Do you want a DJ with a set music program or be flexible? Take requests or not? Play your requests on demand or when they feel it can be fit in without altering the dance floor or mood? As always, this is completely up to you. I can't stress this strongly enough - get the DJ that will do it your way. Another article, under the heading "How Much Music Do I Need to Select?", illustrates this point.
4) Make sure the DJ has the right equipment for your event. Be sure to state the approximate number of people who will be attending (some DJs don't have equipment for large events). State whether event is indoors or outdoors or both. Will equipment have to be moved from one place to another during the event? If some specific equipment will be required such as a wireless microphone, tape or CD players, make sure the DJ service has this since not all do. Lights, fog, bubbles, novelties like inflatable instruments or theme? Want them or don't want them – tell the DJ before getting a price quote.
5) Ask how much experience they have working events similar to yours. If it doesn't make a difference, that's OK. But if something absolutely has to go right it would be to your advantage to have someone with experience who can deal with unexpected last second changes, twists, curves and turns that always seem to come up. A good DJ can help smooth over potential awkward moments.
6) Match the DJ to place of event. If a DJ is using turntables (playing records/vinyl) or not using anti-skip cd players, the area used by the DJ must have a rock solid foundation or music will skip or stop. If there is a stage, it too has to be solid.
7) Due to direct sunlight on equipment (a bad situation) or threat of rain, not all DJs will work outdoors using their own equipment.
8) Digital [MP3] versus CD, Vinyl and other formats. Which is best?
TIP In the case of MP3s/music files, ask if there is some type of emergency instant music playing back-up capability in case of a hard drive going bad or a corrupted program. You don't want to suffer through a "dead air" period of rebooting time! DJs using CDs should be using anti-skip cd players and three cd players should be available in case one quits working.
TIP Here is a general guideline for digital music: 256 MP3 is good. 320 is best, lower than 256 is poorer quality. Listening in most headphones it makes little difference, but through a P.A. (DJ sound system with commercial speakers) it could be a big difference unless the P.A. is equiped with extra sound enhancement such as equalizers and sonic maximizers. It's OK to ask Digital DJs what MP3 quality they use.
9) After signing a contract, do you want an additional meeting (or meetings) in person before your event to go over details? Not all DJs can do this - especially part-time DJs who make their living from a different line of work. Find out before hiring a DJ.
10) Checking a DJ service with many DJs or going through a Booking/Talent Agency? For what you need to know and ask, click here. When you are done reading the info, just click your Back button to return to this exact spot.
DJs For Weddings, Banquets and Formal Events: questions to ask
1) Do they know how to work with event planning services, photographers, videographers and caterers? Don't take this for granted. It is imperative that they work together and coordinate their actions so important moments are done on time and aren't missed by photographers and videographers. And on the other side, DJs can make sure that photographers don't kill a mood or delay dinners and formalities by taking too long doing pictures. And DJs should coordinate timing with caterers.
2) Will they set-up their equipment before your guests arrive? Will that cost extra?
3) If you don't have an event coordinator (someone to oversee formalities and other details), can the DJ help you with this? The good DJs can.
4) Do they own or rent formal attire? If they rent, will you get charged extra?
How To Book Your DJ
DJ Contracts - What You Should Know BEFORE signing a Contract
• The obvious should be on all contracts: Name of the DJ or DJ Service with contact info - phone number & address (your name and contact info should also be on the contract). There should be a place for both signatures - yours AND the person responsible for your DJ. Place of event, date and type of event, start & stop times should be on the contract. The total cost and any conditional or potential additional charges should be clearly stated. Deposit and any payments should be noted. Get a copy of the contract.
• Discuss the venue (place of event) and any pertinent info such as address, phone number, if there are stairs and no elevator, indoor/outdoor, smoking/non-smoking, if the venue has specific load in/out times ... DJs might charge more for labor intensive venues (long distance to set-up area, flight of stairs, etc.) or venues that require an extra long time to load in/out (major convetion centers, etc.).
• Some DJs allow strangers, called "observers" - people you don't know, the DJs don't know, were not invited by you, but invited by the DJs to watch them work at private events such as weddings. In effect, these DJs want to use your private event as a public audition. Ask if a DJ service invites observers/watchers/strangers to private events. Some do, some don't. If you don't want observers but want a DJ service that invites them, ask the DJ service to put in the contract "NO DJ INVITED OBSERVERS" or "NO DJ INVITED WATCHERS" or something similar. Some will do it, some won't.
"observers" LEGAL TIP If a DJ service brings observers to your private event, do you want to be legally and monetarily responsible for the observers' behavior? Probably not. You better have it written into the contract that the DJ service will be legally responsible for ALL behavior of their observers or you could be on the hook for ANYTHING those strangers might do. When you sign a contract, get it in writing that the DJ will supply to you - before your event - the names of observers whom THEY invited to YOUR private event that you are paying for.
"observers" BIG TIP #2 If you permit the DJ service to invite observers, would you prefer to limit the number of observers to about a dozen? More than a dozen? Maybe just one couple? Do you want observers eating & drinking things meant exclusively for YOUR guests? Yes? No? Do you want to restrict access by observers to a time frame (i.e. 7-9pm, only before 7, only after 9, etc.)? To protect yourself, EVERYTHING related to observers/watchers invited by your DJ should be clearly stated in the contract or your private event could turn into a public show.
• Get a copy of the contract at the moment you sign it. Example - I use a contract with the customer copy attached so the copy is immediately handed to the customer. This means nothing can be changed behind anyone's back. This protects you and the DJ service. Contracts can always be amended (changed) later. If this happens, make sure you both add signatures to changes and you receive an amended copy.
• Does the place of your event (the venue) require the DJ to have liability insurance? If yes, then it is necessary to hire a DJ service with liability insurance. Ask if the DJ service will make a copy of their insurance policy available to the venue if the venue requests it.
• Total Price: Make sure agreed amount is phrased "Total Cost", "Total Charge", "Total Price", "Final Cost", etc. "Total" or "Final" are the key words that you want in writing.
• As with any event, circumstances could create a "maybe" or "what if ..." situation. Be sure any additional or conditional charges are clearly defined in the contract. Too many misunderstandings occur when people just assume ...
• When signing a contract, keep in mind that whoever signs the contract as a customer/client is legally responsible for paying the DJ service. Example: if you sign a contract but someone pays on your behalf and the check bounces, YOU are legally responsible for the contracted rate, additional bank charges, plus any other additional incurred fees and charges - not the person who bounced the check.
• Most DJs have their own contracts and usually require a deposit. Some have non-refundable deposits, some refund deposits up to a certain time or if they can re-book that date. Ask!
• DJ start and stop times - BE SPECIFIC - and here's why: though some DJ services charge a flat rate (a set price regardless of the amount of time), some charge by the hour, many charge by the half hour after a basic time (usually about four hours).
TIP State for how long you need the DJ service by total hours AND start & finish times to avoid any misunderstandings. Just because most DJs know that when you say total hours or start & stop that means being prepared to make announcements and play music during all that time, don't assume anything. Ask if set-up/tear-down is part of "Time On The Job". Sounds silly, but a rare few use showing up as their start time (when they pull onto a venue property, still in their vehicle, not set up, not ready to perform). Ask! And beware: at least one DJ charges extra just to bring the equipment in and out.
TIP #2 Make sure start and stop times are coordinated with the venue especially if the DJ service charges by the hour. Example: Laurel Manor in Livonia, Michigan, charges an additional fee of $100 to whomever rented a banquet room if the DJ is not completely set up one hour prior to the beginning of a function! Do per-hour DJs charge extra for this type of "waiting around - not on the job" hour? Other venues only allow a half hour tear-down/load-out time and some DJs require more load-out time than that. Before signing a contract, the DJ needs to know these type of details so start/stop times are agreeable to all parties directly involved and you get to prevent unpleasant surprises.
• Necessary equipment: Is a wireless microphone required? Tape player? CD player? Ability to connect a laptop to their P.A. for sound if someone brings in a video presentation? Not all DJs provide these services. Some DJs only use computers (MP3 style) and don't have anything else, some only use CDs, some a combination, so if you want the DJ to play something that will be, for example, brought on a cassette, CD or laptop by someone other than the DJ, then the contract should state that the DJ will be able to accommodate you. For a large group, a powerful P.A. (amps & speakers) is required.
• Lights or even a different amount/type of lighting might cost extra. Fog or bubbles may cost extra. Inflatable instruments, novelties and props may cost extra. If you want them or don't want them, decide ahead of time then state it (with any costs) in the contract.
• Take requests? No requests? Any specific music that you don't want played? Any specific music that has to be there? If it's important enough, get it in writing.
• Do you want the DJ to play your requests WHEN you want them played regardless of the effect on the dance floor or will dancing and the mood be most important? If it makes a difference, get it in writing.
• At for-profit events, you or the DJ might prefer monetary compensation be based upon tickets sold or number of attendees instead of a pre-determined rate. Ask.
• Attire: such as a tux, suit, casual, theme ..., don't assume anything. From elegant wedding to beach party, if it makes a difference, tell the DJ and GET IT IN WRITING.
• Will it cost extra if you supply a list of specific songs to be played at your event?
• At your event, who does the DJ answer to? Too many people attempt to tell the DJ what and when things are to be played. Be clear about this before event.
• If outdoors, who is responsible for power (electricity) and shelter for the electronic DJ equipment? You? The DJ Service? Banquet facility? State it in the contract.
• Bottom Line: Whatever you want the DJ to do or don't do, get it in writing. Never, but never assume! When in doubt or something is very important - GET IT IN WRITING.
General Advice For Hiring/Booking DJs
Question: What should you expect from DJs?
Question: What do DJs expect from you?
Protect Yourself: Make sure the DJ service will sign a contract. Do not accept someone's word that they will show up.
Booking a DJ means the same thing as Hiring a DJ. No difference.
DJ Prices – A Price Guideline is Impossible.
Generally speaking, the better the DJ the higher the cost. Not always, just usually.
TIP Years ago when researching the internet to see existing tips and advice on choosing a dj, I read an article from a prominent trademark name that stated a "guideline" basic 4 to 6 hour rate for DJs would be $200 to $500. What planet are they living on and how dare they mislead you like that? They never explained what "basic" is, and insinuated this "guideline" applied to all types of events in all parts of the country every day of the week.
Example: A quality DJ for a saturday wedding reception in the Metro Detroit area (southeast Michigan, USA) usually STARTS around $600 with many charging well over $1,000. New Year's Eve = $$$$ (usually the highest rate of the year). On the other side of the coin, I know of mobile DJs working in some bars, Eagles and Moose clubs, charging around $150 for a friday or saturday night. But like I said, don't trust my figures - contact a few services and compare prices for your event in your area with the type of DJ you want with answers derived from Contracts and How To Choose sections. DJ services have a very wide range of prices.
Still curious about rates (prices)? click → Check Average Wedding Cost in Your City
Try to hire someone using commercial equipment (also called professional equipment) and not home equipment for reasons too numerous to mention here. This is the first step in avoiding horror stories. If the DJ you're talking to doesn't know the difference or is unsure, they're using home equipment.
• Mobile DJs should have a minimum of the following for most events: lots of music, music player(s), amplifier, speakers, microphone, mixing board or mixing program, and at least one extra grounded heavy duty extension cord. They should also be able to offer lights or lighting effects, wireless microphone and cord attached microphone, some on-site back-up equipment (extra amp, CD players or music files Hard Drive, microphone, batteries, etc.), event work sheets, paper and pen.
• Using vinyl records or using a supplied banquet table is not a sign of a lesser quality DJ. Some egotists would like you to pay a lot extra simply because they paid more for their set-up or because at your event they will have their DJ companies names prominently displayed for advertising purposes. An ego set-up is worth the extra money only if the quality or capability is better than most AND the DJ operating it is better than most.
• DJ with Karaoke – Though a rare few do, most DJs do not offer CD+G/MP3+G/MP4 karaoke including monitors, karaoke song lists, extra microphones ... (+G means "plus graphics". on a monitor, you can see the words to songs you are singing). Some karaoke hosts offer to act as a DJ, but this is usually unwise unless you have budget constraints and no other choice - only exception is if karaoke company is also supplying full DJ capability including no pauses between songs and lots of DJ music – NOT just karaoke versions of real music. Unless a service can simultaneously supply full karaoke & a complete DJ service [meaning the DJ part has a large amount of music and can blend songs together without a pause in-between every song], hire one of each and have them work together.
• Match the DJ to place of event. If a DJ will be using vinyl (using record players, turntables) or not using anti-skip CD players, MAKE SURE THE FLOOR AND STAGE ARE SOLID: when people jump up and down during songs and the DJ set-up is not on a solid foundation, songs will skip or be stopped entirely. Most people don't think of this ahead of time. DJs using music files or anti-skip CD players can play almost anywhere.
For DJ Services with Multiple DJs / Viewing Promotional Videos
Be sure to ask questions when viewing a promo video or looking at promotional material such as glossy brochures featuring fancy pictures but little information. Changes could occur such as different DJs, equipment, looks, style ...1. How much do they charge? Different packages and rates? Get a quote in writing?
2. Can you choose your DJ or will they pick one for you?
3. Does it cost more to choose your own DJ?
4. Are their DJs technically employees or "subcontractors"?
5. Does their DJ Liability insurance cover the DJ who will be working at your event?
6. Are the DJs they show you still the DJs? Do they still look the same as shown?
6a. Do they have additional DJs whom they don't show or profile? If yes, why don't they show them and do they cost the same as the profiled ones?
7. How current is the promotional material?
8. Was the type of DJ set-up and presentation the same as what you require?
9. Was the type of DJ set-up and presentation the same as what you'll get? Are there any options and different prices?
10. Can you choose specific music and songs that you want to hear and dance to?
11. How much music will they actually have at your event? With some services featuring multiple DJs, the music is pooled and there might be gaps in what they'll show up with. Some services have their whole collection available to every DJ for every event. Some services have each of their DJs (subcontractors) supply their own music. Ask.
TIP About two weeks before your event, contact the actual DJ scheduled to work for you and go over all the details. This way you will be assured that your DJ with your information will be at your event. If something is not right, there would be enough time to correct it. Nothing like peace of mind! This is good advice for any entertainment that you've hired.
Entertainment Companies - Booking Agencies - Talent Agencies
So many advantages and disadvantages. Just be very specific about what you require. Agencies Big Advantage: they are licensed and bonded. Big Disadvantage: the entertainers get only part of the money that you're paying out - you will not know how much the DJ is actually getting paid. Get all agreements and promises in writing to protect yourself. You'll be happy to know the better entertainment companies and agencies automatically do this. If one won't, don't give it your business. The same advice for DJ services with multiple DJs or promotional videos also applies here.
The Individual DJ
Ask if they own or borrow/rent their equipment and music (owning is better). Do they own or borrow/rent transportation for their DJ equipment? (owning is better). Do they have back-up equipment and a back-up DJ? (except when getting a low priced DJ is the most important thing, yes is better). If required by the venue - the place where your event will be held, does the DJ have DJ Liability insurance? (an answer of yes would be necessary). How much experience do they have for your type of event?
A Few Final Notes
For the record, the best DJs, DJ services and agencies will make all this easy for you. Most everything above is just to protect yourself from the "every little detail costs more" group, some bad ones and those not qualified to work at your event.
Some DJs use each event as a blatant "audition" for future work and prefer to always look good in the hopes of getting more jobs. These types of DJs will first try to impress potential future customers (your guests). Others will try to satisfy and impress you first. The reason I mention this is that many times, people who are paying for the DJ service will request music that is non-danceable or a mood killer which then reflects negatively on the DJ. Some DJs will take that chance, some won't. I will now remind you that each DJ service IS a business and that nobody wants to look bad.
You've heard this before and it's always true - whenever possible, first see a DJ in action or get a recommendation from someone whose opinion you trust and whose taste is similar to yours. It's OK to ask for references from DJs and anyone else you might hire.
Mike realizes that this is a lot to remember for people not in the entertainment business. Therefore, he grants permission to individuals to print this page for their personal use.
“For personal use only, everyone has my permission to print this page and share its information. Everyone is granted permission to link to this page. HOWEVER, without receiving prior written permission from me, it is NOT legal to copy and publish the content that I have supplied here.” – Music Slavin Mike
Related Articles from other websites & DJ Services• Secrets to Hiring a Wedding Reception Disc Jockey
• Questions To Ask when Interviewing a Mobile DJ
• How to Choose A Wedding DJ
“This page was originally written and published by me, Music Slavin Mike (also known as Madman Mike Your Musical Slave) in January 2002 (Updated in 2013) in response to so many inadequate attempts seen on the internet. This page contains the most complete information because it explains things in detail. Plus, it suggests similar articles that contain additional information or a different emphasis which therefore enhances overall information.”
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