Hiring A Disc Jockey – What to Consider

When anyone plans a party or celebration of any kind they strive to make sure that all the details are taken care of and they want everything to be great.  In reality, it isn’t the details that they are worried about, but the overall effect.  They just want their guests to have a great time and be glad that they attended.  But they have learned that it is the culmination of all of those details (such as the food, the venue, the entertainment, etc.) that will add up to that.  A person well known in our industry once said, “A bride planning a wedding doesn’t really care if she has a great disc jockey, she just wants a great reception.”  Unfortunately, some learn all too late that the second is extremely dependent upon the first.

It has been shown through numerous surveys that who you choose for the entertainment for your reception (be it a band or a disc jockey) will have a greater effect on the overall success of the event than any other single factor, such as food or location.  Particularly when choosing a disc jockey who will act as your master of ceremonies, since they will be acting as your visible representative, they are a direct reflection on you.  Here are some points to help you out as you start shopping for your entertainment.

Can you contact them? No business person can be at their telephone 24 -7.  They may be in meetings in or outside of their offices or may be tied up on another telephone call, but you should be able to expect your phone message or email to be answered within 24 hours or on the next business day if it is during a weekend. 

Are they willing to meet with you?  A professional entertainer should not only be willing, but eager to meet with you and discuss their services and your event.  If an entertainer is anxious to have you book them over the telephone, sight-unseen, perhaps they aren’t sure you’ll be impressed with them in person.  But at your event, they won’t be able to perform over the telephone.  Your guests WILL be seeing them in person.  Meeting them also gives you the chance to see if their materials are neat, organized and professional and whether or not they can be informative about your type of celebration.

Are they available? Perhaps the one question you should ask even before scheduling a meeting is about their availability.  There is no sense in meeting someone and getting excited about the wonderful services they could provide you if it turns out they are not available for the date of your event. 

What are their prices?  Ironically, the most important ingredient to a successful celebration is often the very last thing on a couple’s list, especially for weddings.  So that by the time they are interviewing disc jockeys most of their budget has already be spent on the venue, food, attire and such.  This doesn’t mean that you have to hire the most expensive entertainer in your area to have a successful event, but you should beware of those whose prices seem just too good to be true.  Professional entertainers have over-head:  Professional quality equipment, business license, operating expenses, insurance, back-up equipment and personnel.  If a DJ’s price is too low, it is probably because he isn’t incurring these expenses.  So how great is their price if their equipment breaks down and you have no music at all on the night of your event?  As when shopping for most things, you want to look at value as well as price.

Do you like the person you are dealing with and have confidence in them? It is difficult to do business with a person or company if you simply don’t like them or have a bad feeling about them.  Go with your gut.  The more confidence you have in all of the professionals that you hire for your event, the less you are going to worry about its success, because you will know that you are in good hands. 

How extensive is their music library?  In this day and age a disc jockey should have an extensive library, but also be willing to acquire whatever music you want for your event.  Amateurs, on the other hand, usually only add music to their library that is to their own personal tastes.

What type of equipment do they use? A professional disc jockey will be using professional sound equipment designed for mobile use.  Home stereo equipment is not designed to operate under the continuous stress and parameters demanded by professional use.  This increases the likelihood of it failing during your event.  A pro should be happy to provide you with photographs of their set up or give you a list of the equipment that they use.

Are they knowledgeable about the type of event for which you are hiring them?  I can’t tell you the number of clients who have told me about talking to other disc jockey companies who claimed to specialize in mitzvahs, but who had no idea what a Motzi or Kiddush was or even the difference between a bar and a bat mitzvah.  By the same token they have told me of companies specializing in weddings who seem oblivious to the traditional order of event, the historical origins of the wedding cake or the symbolism of the couple’s first dance.  There are many types of DJ’s:  Radio DJ’s, Club DJ’s, Rave DJ’s, and then those who specialize in private family oriented celebrations.  Ask questions and make certain that the person you are considering has a basic understanding of the type of event you are planning.

Can they provide you with references?  An entertainment company is only as good as its references.  A video can be professionally staged or may show personnel and equipment that will not be available for your event.  But checking a performer’s references can tell you just how successful they have been at meeting the widely varied needs or their individual clients.  Their references should be extensive (not just a list of friends and relatives) and should go back at least a couple of years  They should be people that you can actually call and talk to and should include at least some persons who are in related businesses such as caterers, photographers, banquet managers, etc.

Will they assist you during the planning of your event? A professional wedding disc jockey is also your entertainment director and master of ceremonies, so they should be eager to assist you during the planning of your event to see to it that they know what your vision is so that they can try to achieve it.  Their function here is to advise you as to what is plausible and to the pros and cons of doing things certain ways based upon their experience.  However, this is your event.  The final decisions should always rest with you. 

Do they utilize a written contract?  You are arranging services for, arguably, the most important element of easily one of the most significant days in your life.  Therefore, you have the right to expect that the terms of your agreement are expressed in written form.  Frankly, anyone in the wedding industry providing any type of service who refuses to sign a contract should be viewed with suspicion. 

Do they subcontract out work? There is nothing wrong with dealing with a booking agency, as long as the client is made aware.  If you are dealing with a DJ service or single unit operator, you have the right to expect assurances that only they or their employees will be performing at your event.  A & A considers it unethical to accept a contract and then sell it to another service for a profit and such practices are forbidden by most professional associations.  However, this practice is not unlawful, so make sure you ask the right questions.

Do they belong to any professional associations? A dedicated professional is constantly trying to improve their skills and the services that they offer their clients.  They will subscribe to professional publications such as Mobile Beat and DJ Times.  They will be active members of their local bridal associations and the American Disc Jockey Association.  They will attend regional and national conventions to learn about new developments in their industry.  You can contact both local and national associations to get a list of members in your area to be certain that you are dealing with someone who takes their profession seriously.

Do they stand behind their advertising?  If a company displays equipment at a trade show, with that or comparable equipment be at your event, or is it just for show?  If they use a video for advertising, are the local DJ’s that will be doing your event featured in the video, or is it a staged production produced elsewhere with very different personnel and equipment than you will see at your event? 

Do they have a valid business license?  Legitimate businesses are required by law to be licensed to operate in the cities in which they are located.  Feel free to ask to see any company’s license. 

What will they wear at your event?  A professional will recognize the formal nature of events such as weddings and, at the very least, offer you the option of having them come in formal attire.  For the top companies, formal attire will be their standard uniform.

What questions do they ask?  Keep in mind that while the questions you ask a perspective entertainer for your event are important, even more important are the questions that they do or do not ask you, both during your initial consultation and during your planning process.  If they show little interest in getting detailed information from you about what YOU do and do not want at your event, then they are likely to give you a “canned” or “stock” performance.  The best performers want to get as clear a picture as possible of exactly what you want your event to be like so that they can do their best to make it unique and special for you. 

What makes a great DJ worth the money? A great DJ will be wearing many hats on the night of your event.  Here are just a few: Music Mixer, event planner and organizer, master of ceremonies, sound technician, lighting technician, interactive entertainer, just to name a few.  Also, many people think that they are hiring their entertainer to work for 4 hours, the length of their event.  For many lesser or amateur performers, this may be true.  A real professional will invest a minimum of 12 – 14 hours in planning, rehearsing and preparing for an average 4 hour reception so that they are not “winging it” the night of your event.  That is the difference between a reception that flows seamlessly and seems to have a natural beginning, middle and end, as opposed to a disorganized jumble of activities that are rushed through to get to the end of the event.  Trust me.  Your guests really can tell the difference.

If you would like any other information to help you in your search, please feel free to contact me, whether you are using our services or not.  We will be happy to refer you to qualified professionals in whom we have faith and confidence. 

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