How to hire the "Right" DJ for you...
(This article, written by Da Spin Doctor has been edited
and published internationally in"The Gathering Guide.")
The last time we checked, there were more than 30 DJs on Oahu, charging from $200 to $4800 for a four hour event. Mostly, they all play the same music. How do you make this critical selection, and more importantly - not pick the WRONG DJ? Obviously, with this huge price range, hiring a DJ by price comparison or web sites is simply impossible and insane!
It's actually quite simple. Call to find out if the DJ is available on your date. If so, agree to or ask for a meeting.
If they are unavailable, you are wasting time and there is no need to go any further. The best DJs are usually booked well in advance, so you may end up with who is available, rather than the 'right' person for your event. (We are booking now for events in 2013.) Book as early as possible to avoid disappointment, and being stuck with a 'leftover.' How do you know a restaurant is good? By how difficult it is to get a reservation, or the line waiting to get in, of course. How do you know a restaurant is lousy? It's available and empty most of the time.
At the meeting, you can evaluate the DJ - not the skills of their marketing person. Your prospective DJ should have with them a sample professional contract, their insurance certificate, fee schedule, and some marketing materials, organized neatly and professionally presented.
But, the real agenda on your part should be a conversation to determine
- are they are really listening to your needs?
- how flexible are they?
- how professional are they?
- were they on time?
- do they strike you as mature, experienced, and reliable?
- how are they dressed?
- can they speak clearly and be understood?
- most important - do you feel their personality matches your needs and expectations? Are they 'simpatico' with you?
Request a lunch, coffee, or dinner meeting. That will allow you check manners, posture, charisma, alcohol consumption, and allow enough time to chit chat to test musical knowledge. As any personnel pro will tell you - you can tell a lot about a person by the way they eat and drink. Is the DJ personable, mature, and friendly? Is the conversation forced and uncomfortable, or does it come easy between you and the DJ? Go by your gut feelings or that little voice in your head, and you will usually be right.
Forget the glossy brochures, fancy web pages, slick business cards, photos, edited videos of strangers dancing around, "discounts," and lists of past 'satisfied' clients. Everybody who has been in the DJ business for more than six months has all this, and it is all too similar to be of any real help in your decision-making. None of this 'cool stuff' will guarantee a good show - only that the DJ has purchased good marketing tools. Odds are that impressive web site was designed by great web master, not the DJ. (But not Da Spin Doctor. As you have probably guessed, we created our own site to reflect our unique personality.) So, what does that fancy site actually tell you about the DJ as a reliable performer, a professional individual, a personality, and how well or poorly he or she will perform for YOU?
At the meeting, here are a few critical things to discuss:
Are you the DJ who will actually be performing at our event?
Believe it or not, DJ & MC substitutions of someone you have never met is one of the major complaints about DJ services. This is sometimes a problem for large DJ companies that have "multiple units." Da Spin Doctor never does this.
May we make requests?
You should be able to request six to twelve songs that have special meaning for you. But if you go beyond this you will be removing the DJs ability to react minute-by-minute to the group - and that's a very bad thing. Rather than be too specific with dozens of song or artist requests, it is far wiser to request a genre' of music like disco, rock 'n roll, country & western, line dancing, etc.
Have you personally ever performed in our venue?
If not, then the DJ should immediately volunteer to meet with venue managers and /or event planners to measure electrical runs, room shape, configurations, lighting, layout, and a thousand other details that you should not have to worry about. If this level of care and planning is not volunteered by the DJ, or doesn't happen well in advance of your event - BIG RED flag!
How much do you charge?
This should be the LAST question you should ask. Why waste your time asking this question before you even know who your DJ is likely to be, or what services (like lighting, M.C. duties, etc.,) are available?
SURPRISE ! - If it appears to the DJ that you are merely shopping around for the lowest price available, some truly 'in-demand' best DJs who compete on value and quality (and do not have to compete on price) will find a reason or excuse to refer you to someone else or drop you - not the other way around!
Quality costs more - it always does. That's just common sense. $15,000 Rolex or $50 Timex? They both do precisely the same thing, so why would anyone ever buy a Rolex? The answer is VALUE based on a reputation for quality. The most common ways to cut DJ rates is to use old, substandard, cheap, non-professional, or used equipment, or to hire inexperienced high school or college students as minimum wage DJs. Some 'budget' $200 DJs have no insurance, unreliable transportation, no backup equipment, or illegal music copies. Our LEGAL licensed music is updated every month by Prime Cuts, a professional DJ music service.
Be reasonable setting your DJ budget. As with virtually anything you purchase, you will usually get what you paid for. If you are spending more on your wedding cake than you have budgeted for a Pro DJ, then you are way too low. Here is a reasonable starting point: Your DJ budget should be $1200 average for four hours of DJ & MC services and basic lighting from an experienced in-demand Pro for approximately 150 guests. Your DJ budget should be at least 10% to 15% of your total event budget. (That's less than the mandatory 18% - 20% group 'service charge' tip, so even the best DJs are a REAL bargain!)
If you need dance floor lighting, smoke machines, video support, wireless mics, movie screens, or dozens of other services that are usually available from the Pros, be prepared to pay additional fees for 'ala carte' items.
Currently, clients are requesting these popular add-ons from DJs :
- LED & laser dance floor lighting
- Photo booths
- Up lighting
- Computer interactive games
- Dance lessons or demonstrations
- Karaoke (less popular now than a few years ago)
Each of these additions can run from $300 - $1000 or more. The good news is that some good DJs are willing to discount these add-ons, once you have indicated that you will meet with them.
Please call us
for your appointment
with the Doctor today!