Tips On How to Hire a DJ
by Mike Seek
The public in general is at a loss when it comes to hiring a DJ or entertainer for weddings, graduation parties, birthday parties, etc. Whether this is your first time or you've experienced this process before, we will attempt to help educate you in a very easy, logical manner. The first thing you need to do is decide what your expectations are of your planned event. The date, times, location and your budget will be factors that you need to have ready when you make your first contact with a DJ company.
Price. "The Price" is usually what everyone asks first but please remember, like most things in life, "you get what you pay for." Depending on your event, a DJ will play an extremely large role in the success or failure of your event. Keep this in mind when you're shopping by price because cheapest is not always better -- but then again neither is the most expensive. If the DJ company uses professional equipment, is a member of professional associations, and is current on their song lists and carries liability insurance, you will be hiring a professional and not a hobbyist. When you get several bids for your event and get an extremely low bid, you need to ask yourself what you are really going to get for your money.
Common mistakes. One common mistake is to ask a DJ where you can view them in action or to see their equipment. Remember that unless the DJ is in a club environment, most mobile entertainers are performing at private functions. It would be unprofessional and unethical for a DJ to invite you to a wedding or party where they're performing. Unless somehow you are able to see them long before the event starts and guests arrive. Viewing their equipment will only show you how much money they spend on equipment (maybe) and that would only be true if you knew what you were looking at! If you are hiring a professional DJ service, you can be sure they will have the necessary equipment to perform their craft. Ask the DJ if they have a video of their work that you could view. You should ask them for references and then go do your homework and see what the general views have been. Ask about back-up equipment and even more important, a back-up DJ. If he's sick or in an accident, what are his options for performing at your event. How does the DJ find your event's location? Is there any guarantee?
Music selection. Yes, you will want to be able to select some music that is meaningful to you at your event! But keep in mind that most professional DJ's evaluate how they're doing by how many people are out on the dance floor. You may think you have great taste in music but don't underestimate the pro. A professional disc jockey will customize music for your event to make it successful. This is part of why you hired a professional. Ask them what type of music they play and if they take requests. Ask them if they will play some music that you have provided and what type of formats they use. DJ's usually play the following type of formats: vinyl records on turntables (this system is now fairly antiquated and not your best choice -- although some pros are still doing a good job with this format), cassette tapes, CD's, computers with (mp3 files) and mini-disk. Ask if they have a song list or a music database to give you an idea of what type of music library they own. Again, don't feel like you have to select every song at your event -- pick out a good amount but trust the professional you are about to hire. An experienced DJ will start "reading" your guests' taste as soon as they start to arrive.
Best time to reserve your DJ. Although it is never too early to reserve a DJ for your party, there are busy seasons as with any business that you should keep in mind. For example, most holiday parties are booked sometimes 12 months in advance, so if you're thinking about hiring a DJ for a December date, don't procrastinate! Spring and summer are also a very busy times as well.
Experience. No matter how great your quote might be, nothing can replace an experienced professional DJ. Don't risk the failure of your event just to save a few dollars. Ask good questions and make sure your DJ knows what they are talking about.
- Mike Seek is with Premiere Entertainment in New York, NY, and has been a WedPlan Member since Feb 2007.