Have you ever witnessed a really bad DJ? One with an empty dance floor. Each new song drawing another groan from the crowd? You begin to wonder if the DJ is paying any attention, or even cares whether you’re having any fun or not. Maybe he is hoping for an early night?
WHAT IS HE THINKING
Want to know what the DJ is thinking? He’s thinking that you must have poor taste in music, or you’re too nervous to dance. That it’s early and you don’t have enough drinks in you, or that it’s not dark enough in the room. Not his fault. He thinks he’s playing the right music for this crowd, but the crowd just doesn’t know it. In fact, he played the same set of songs at the last party, and it went extremely well, so it must be the crowd, not the DJ. I know this, because I was a bad DJ, just like every DJ when they first get started. They get in the mindset that it worked then so it has to work now.
Find a DJ with a personality that fits your event. DJ’ing a wedding is wildly different than DJ’ing at a nightclub. In fact, few DJs can (or even want to) do both. Make sure the DJ understands your expectations. Do you want a fun out going DJ who will teach dances to your crowd or a more laid back one who speaks only when necessary? Asking them a few tough questions on the phone, and waiting silently for a response, will help you know how they handle pressure. A great sign of a DJ who deals well with pressure, is someone who’s willing to admit they don’t know something quickly, instead of stammering away trying to come up with a response. Ask them about their worst event, or why they got into DJ’ing, or maybe who their favorite musician is and why.
DJs with a catalogue of stolen music run into many problems such as mislabeled songs, poor bit-rates (sound quality), and songs that cut off in the middle. Additionally, any computer hooked up to a peer-to-peer network downloading illegal files is susceptible to virus that can cause their computers to crash during an event. Ask the DJ if they purchased all the music they will be playing at your event. Do your best to discern fact from fiction in their voice, because there’s no way to prove it.
As far as music collections go, it’s the biggest expense for DJs (potentially second to marketing, depending on their business model). A DJ with years of experience with your type of event is likely going to have the music you need. I’ve received a few off-the-wall requests, which the crowd unanimously wanted to hear, which I was able to download on my iPhone, transfer into DJ software and play it within minutes. Music is very easy to access these days, and this is probably the least of your concerns, if the DJ has experience. Just make sure it’s legal.
The bravest of your group goes up to the DJ and makes a requests. He cringes upon hearing it. “Dancing Queen? Really?” he says. “I’ll see what I can do”. Nervously he plays the song. Typically if we don’t know how it will do we will announce “going out by request”! The dance floor fills up for 3 minutes and 51 seconds. I have been Dj’ing for almost ten years now to date. You learn fast and have to be able to improvise and change your music based on what is working for the crowd.
Make sure the DJ will consider requests. You should never demand that a DJ take every request, but he should at least be open to them if they’ll work for the general audience. There’s always that one guy at the event that wants to test your DJ and request a song he has no intention of dancing to. We get that some songs might have been funny in college, but it should be understood that an experienced DJ knows what will work. As long as the dance floor is packed, let him do what he’s good at.
This part is easy. Ask for a few references of past clients. Ask for email or phone, whichever you are more comfortable with. Ask the references what event the DJ performed at. Ask if they would use this DJ again. If they don’t have much to say, that’s usually not a good sign. The DJ is going to give you his best references, so they should be thrilled to endorse the DJ. See how many preferred vendors list they are on and that should give you a little hint of how good they actually are.
What happens if there’s an accident and the DJ is unable to perform? What is something goes wrong with their equipment? What’s plan B? Many DJ companies have other DJs where at least one in their network has a night off at any given time to cover the gig. We keep a box in our company vehicle that has everything we would ever need in order to fix a show. This is such a rare occurrence, but an important plan to have in place. Make sure your DJ has one. Smaller DJ companies may only have themselves and no one to back them up if something is to happen. What if they double book your date? What if the DJ has strep throat? Things to keep in mind if it’s a self-ran company.
Ask for insurance. Every DJ Company should have it. If they can’t justify the cost of insurance, something’s off. Most Upscale halls even require it and will not let them preform without it. Save yourself some stress and hassle by asking all the right questions in order to find your perfect DJ!
To sum it up… ask these questions to separate the beginners from the professionals:
• How many weddings have you done? How many weddings do you do in an average weekend?
• Do you perform at more than one event in a day?
• Is my wedding date available?
• Will you be the DJ?
• Have you done events at my wedding venue?
• What sets you apart from your competition?
• Are there any other services that you provide, such as lighting design or a photo booth?
• Can you provide me with recent couples that I can contact for references?
• How do you keep your music collection up-to-date?
• Are we guaranteed to have the performer(s) of our choice at our event?
• If the DJ scheduled for my event is unable to perform for some reason, do you have a backup replacement ready to go?
• Do you take any breaks? What music will be provided during the breaks?
• Are you insured?
• Do you take song request?
• What is included in the cost of my event?
• Does this include setup and breakdown between ceremony and reception locations?
• How much would you charge for overtime?
• Are there any additional fees that could accrue that I am not taking into account, like travel expenses or charges for special musical requests?
• How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due? Do you offer a payment plan?
• What is your refund/cancellation policy?
• How far in advance do I need to book you?
• What information do you need from me before the wedding day?
• Does any of your equipment require special electrical outlets that I need to inform my wedding site about?
• Do you bring backup equipment?
• What kind of space or stage do you require?
• Do you set up a sign or banner with your equipment?
• How much time will you need for setup, sound check and breakdown on the day of the event?
• What time will you arrive at the site?
• Will we meet again before the wedding?
• When do we need to submit our music requests and event details?
• What will you wear to our wedding?
• Do you require a meal?
• What is your policy on alcohol or smoking during the wedding?