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How Much Should Your Wedding DJ Cost?

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The following post is reproduced with kind permission from the author, Stacie Tamaki*. I came across this post on Stacie’s Blog, The Flirty Blog, and felt she gives a great insight into the things brides and grooms should be looking for when selecting DJ Entertainment for their wedding.

Please take the time to read this post as it gives much needed advice to brides and grooms and whilst Stacie is based in the United States, the points she makes are relevant and beneficial, not only to Australian brides and grooms, but to all couples planning a wedding no matter what part of the world they live in. Enjoy!

How Much Should Your Wedding DJ Cost?

Honestly? Probably more than you were planning to pay.

Why?

Because this isn’t easy to say, I don’t say it lightly: When it comes to Wedding DJ’s, Brides and Grooms can and should expect more professionalism than the status quo that has been perpetuated as “acceptable” for far too long.

And that’s not just my opinion. Over the years I’ve talked to brides, grooms, friends, other wedding professionals and even wedding DJ’s and everyone seems to agree that the bar for Wedding DJ professionalism has been set (but even more oddly, accepted) at an often shockingly low level of expectation. In many cases the quality of the service provided falls well beneath the level of mediocrity. In my opinion that’s not ok because the reputation of the entire DJ industry is damaged every time a DJ falls short. It’s created an atmosphere of apathy where people in need of a DJ often hope to pay very little for one simply because they expect so little in return.

This post isn’t about bashing what I consider to be average or stereotypical Wedding DJ’s. For the most part I don’t think there’s anything particularly deceptive about how most of them run or market their companies. It’s not a bait and switch scenario. Clients hire them with their eyes wide open, understanding the level of service they will receive. Some are willing to contract an average DJ because they think what they’re seeing is “as good as it gets.”

In some cases their expectations are so low they don’t even try to find a qualified DJ or MC because they don’t realise good DJ’s exist. Recently I stumbled upon a blog post on Vegan Bride titled “Phil Birdsell Saved the Day!” written by her real life groom. It’s a perfect example of what this article is all about. He and his bride weren’t going to hire a Professional DJ… Until they met Phil Birdsell who completely transformed their perception of what a wedding DJ can be and exceeded all of their expectations.

I know a common misconception is that all DJ’s are “cheesy” or as MC’s they are “obnoxious” on the microphone. So the logic is: Why pay a lot for someone who is most likely going to annoy or disappoint you? For some companies those may be accurate descriptions of the types of services they provide. But I want to share with you today that not all DJ companies are like that…

Some are good.

Some are really good.

A select few are truly great.

CONSIDERATIONS

In my opinion the major factors that really matter when it comes to price are:

Budget
If a particular DJ doesn’t fit your budget, keep looking for the most qualified one who does. You want to choose the right DJ to entrust your reception to: One who is going to try their hardest and do their best for you, not the first one you talk to or the most convenient one.

What is a DJ Worth?
The answer to this question varies based on your needs, expectations and priorities and the level of talent, skills and customer service a DJ is able to provide to you.
The funny thing (as in ironic not ha ha) is that I have worked in the wedding industry for 13 years and by far know more vendors who do not charge enough for their services than those who overcharge. So many people who work in the wedding industry do so because they love to make people happy, they’re really not in it for the money. Some barely charge enough to break even on the cost of their labour, supplies and equipment. (When I was a custom bridal accessory designer I spent a lot of energy talking brides out of things they didn’t need because in my opinion when it comes to wedding accessories, less is more. Less will always look classic and elegant while too much can look costumed or silly.)

Are DJ’s Who Charge More Worth More?
They can be but it may take research on your part to verify if a company is charging what they’re worth or if they are simply being opportunistic. The sad truth is that any company can “look” legitimate. All they have to do is build a nice looking website, print up some business cards and brochures and start advertising. They may even have some impressive credentials. But those things alone aren’t a guarantee of anyone’s current level of professionalism or your satisfaction as their client.
On the flip side of buyer beware is knowing that paying a premium price for something doesn’t always mean it’s overpriced. Whether or not something costs “too much” can be determined by the answer to this question: Is it worth what it costs? You can spend $5,000 dollars on something that’s worth $10,000 and get a great deal. Or you can spend the same $5000 on something that’s only worth $50 and be completely taken advantage of.

My point of view is: “Value is not relative to price but to the quality of the product or service you receive in return for your investment.”

DJ as MC
And what about their Master of Ceremonies skills? Especially if you haven’t ever seen them perform before I urge you not to just send out an email or chat on the phone before hiring a DJ because they will almost always be acting as your MC. You need to meet them in person. During your face to face consultation you can see their personality and even ask them to stand and do an introduction for you. When they do, watch for the following elements to see if they have mastered the MC skills needed to do a great job at your wedding:

  • Facial expression and demeanour: Do they smile and look happy to be there?
  • Body language: Do they slouch, rock or shift about nervously once they begin speaking? Or do they stand straight and tall with confidence?
  • What are their speaking skills like? Do they talk so fast you can barely understand them? Or are they so timid you can’t imagine them getting everyone out on the dance floor?
  • Do they sound engaged, interested and excited to be there or is their voice flat as if they are reading a nutrition label on a box of breakfast cereal?
  • What does their voice sound like? Do they speak with sincerity in their own voice or turn on a different affected performance voice once they’re speaking into a microphone? (Or spoon or ballpoint pen, whatever is handy during your consultation.)

After taking Mark Ferrell’s MC workshop it is now much more apparent to me how undervalued and overlooked MC skills have been in both the past and present. It’s all the more shocking because everything the MC does is an integral part of your wedding reception and should be considered when you are choosing your Wedding DJ.

WHO DO YOU HIRE?
The first and most important question would be: Were you referred to a particular DJ by someone you know and trust, who hired them for an event and were thrilled by their service? Or were you impressed when you saw them successfully performing at another event? If your answer to either question is yes, that may be all you need to know when it comes to selecting who to hire.

If you’re starting from scratch, here are some tips that may help you decide if a company is going to delight or disappoint you. If you can answer “yes” to all or most of the questions below you’re definitely on the right track to finding a DJ of quality.

Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

  • Have a Business License?
  • Use a Written Contract? Do they guarantee the date, their arrival and departure time and the rate they are charging you?
  • Have Quality Equipment?
  • Are They Insured?
  • Own a Vehicle Large Enough to Transport all of the Needed Equipment? Or will they forgo the correct equipment because they don’t have the space to transport it?
  • Come Prepared with Back Up Equipment?
  • Dress Appropriately?
  • Not Use Inappropriate Language?
  • Not Drink Alcohol on the Job?
  • Bring an Assistant When Necessary? i.e. not enough time allowed for set up before guests arrive or lots of stairs that their equipment must be carried up and down.
  • Are they a member of an organisation that has real standards for business practices and ethics? A group where not just anyone can pay to be a member.

But here are the intangibles:
These are the things that you can’t always discern from a website. These are the things a trusted testimonial from someone you know or an eyewitness account can confirm. Does the DJ you are considering hiring:

  • Rely on Expertise not Ego?
  • Deserve your trust?
  • Have Solid MC Skills?
  • Know how to Use Their Equipment Properly?
  • Understand the Pacing and Timing of the Reception?
  • Have a personality that reflects your own and/or the type of event you would like to host for your guests?
  • Care About Your Wedding? Are they honoured to be a part of your special day or is it just a job to earn money?

There is a Big Difference Between how “Professional” and “Stereotypical” DJ’s View Weddings
To me there are no exceptions, every DJ is one or the other. It comes down to integrity and the choice they make when it comes to how do they approach your wedding day? You will find both types of DJ’s within owner operated and multi-op companies. Professionalism is defined as competence and skill. The Professional understands and cares that your wedding is special and will use their competence and skills to help make it enjoyable and memorable. For the Stereotypical DJ’s, the common perception is that they treat weddings as just another “gig” on their calendar.

Do you remember in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding” when Julia Robert’s self centred, no frills character makes the analogy that she is “Jell-O” and in the same breath labelled Cameron Diaz’s sincere character as being “Creme Brulee?”

Professional DJ’s are the Creme Brulee
They are honest, have integrity and treat being a DJ as an occupation, not a hobby. Professionals know that their business requires commitment, effort and integrity to be successful. They treat their clients with appreciation and respect because they care about the fact that weddings are special events.

I’ve noticed over the years that because they get to know their clients so well, many owner operated “Professional” vendors in all categories, often create friendships with their clients that may last for years or decades. That’s a great thing!

A Professional DJ will incur many overhead expenses to maintain their company and the high level of service they provide to their clients. These costs have to be factored into the price they charge for their services to create a profit margin. The expenses may include but are not limited to:

  • An annual business license
  • Registering their business name (DBA) with the city
  • Business Insurance
  • Association Fees
  • Computer and needed software
  • Collateral/Printshop: Brochures, business cards, letterhead, etc.
  • Website which includes: Design, development, monthly hosting fees, annual renewal for their domain name, periodic updates to their webmaster, etc.
  • Continuing Education: Attending educational industry events, workshops, seminars and conferences
  • Graphic Designer: Logo design & collateral development
  • Equipment: Initial purchase, maintenance and repair
  • Company Vehicle: A DJ has to own a vehicle large enough to transport their equipment to and from your event. Some own a dedicated vehicle and others purchase a larger personal vehicle than they actually need on a day to day basis simply to be able to transport their equipment on the weekends.
  • Gas and mileage: Some events and consultations may entail a 4+ hour round trip to reach the wedding venue
  • Vehicle maintenance and repair
  • Paying assistants when required to do their job properly
  • Advertising: Bridal shows, magazines, etc.
  • Hiring a book keeper or accountant

Stereotypical DJ’s are like Jell-O
Sometimes Jell-O does hit the spot, it can have its moment. But as Julia said in the movie: “Jell-O can NEVER be creme brulee!” The Stereotypical DJ’s have made being average an accepted standard. Many often treat being a DJ like a hobby. Their most common offences, many of which you may have witnessed in person or have seen portrayed in movies or on TV that have helped to perpetuate the stereotype are: Being late, incorrectly pronouncing the bride or groom’s name during the introductions, not knowing how to properly use their own equipment, not following the time-line for announcements, dressing or acting inappropriately; hitting on guests, drinking on the job, using inappropriate language or using inappropriate humour.
I know. I get and empathise that these are the reasons that some of you are considering making your own mixed music CD or play list and may forgo hiring a DJ. You just don’t want to risk “that guy” showing up and ruining your wedding reception. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you didn’t before I hope you now realise that there are highly skilled, experienced, talented, caring Professional DJ’s out there. They do exist!

So, How Much Should your Wedding DJ Cost?
Because different areas of the country have different price ranges, and different couples have different needs and budgets, it isn’t possible for me to give you a definitive amount.
The best guidance I can offer is directly related to the following factors:

  • Do you want your guests to be able to hear the ceremony and vows by using an additional sound system not provided by your venue?
  • How important is the success of your reception to you and your fiancé? Do you want classy intros, someone who entertains (as opposed to interrupts) your guests, unobtrusive sound systems that won’t look tacky in photos and great music & dancing for your reception? How things sound and how successful the dancing goes is especially important if you’ve hired a wedding videographer.
  • If you haven’t hired a professional wedding coordinator, do you need the DJ to help you create and execute your wedding day timeline to make sure all of the introductions and announcements are made at the appropriate times? Are you going to count on them to ensure that the photographer and videographer are in place for elements like the toasts, cake cutting and first dance?
  • Do you want a DJ you can trust? That knowing they are there will give you peace of mind that everything is going to go smoothly and that their presence will positively impact the success of your wedding and reception?
  • Have you ever hired the wrong person to do an important job? You didn’t realise until things went wrong how important it was to you. Or maybe you were just too busy to be overly concerned and thought you could get by. Whatever the reason, regret basically sucks when you know you could have had a better outcome if you had done things differently.

If the answer to any or all of these questions is yes, you will want to hire the best, most Professional DJ you can afford. What do good DJ’s charge? I will say while there is always the possibility you can find a better than average DJ at any price point, if you want a really good or great one they will probably charge at least twice as much as the average estimates you’ll receive.
I hope this post has explained why and that I’ve made the process of locating, recognising and qualifying a good DJ easier for you.

* Stacie Tamaki is a much sought after multi-talented individual from California in the United States. In addition to publishing The Flirty Blog (from which the above post originates) and The Flirty Guide, Stacie is also an internet go-to-gal, social media mentor, creative marketing consultant and branding re-developer. Her perspective helps guide fledgling entrepreneurs from making rookie mistakes while at the same time she can revitalise seasoned pros who may be a little or a lot behind the technology curve or are simply stuck in a rut. What is truly inspiring about Stacie is that despite the fact that she has had no formal training in business, fashion design, web design or web development she was able to create her very own flirty empire of things she loves to do!

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Wedding Enquiries And Does Your DJ Really Care About You and Your Vision?

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Most days of the week I receive at least one email enquiry that reads something like the following;

Hi, I am looking for a quote for DJ services for our wedding. Look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, Just after a rough price for a wedding DJ for ‘specified month’- reception goes for 5 hours. Thanks.

Hi there, was wondering if you could send me your wedding packages.

Or

Hello, I was hoping to obtain a quote for a MC/DJ for a wedding on ‘specific date’.

It would appear, that the main criteria for these couple’s in making their wedding entertainment decision is price – no real issue with this as I fully appreciate individual circumstances may restrict the satisfaction of wants and desires. However I am a loss to understand why there is a general reluctance to wanting to speak with wedding entertainment providers. It is my belief that the best way of assessing the suitability of any wedding provider is to meet with them. Should this not be possible, an in-depth telephone conversation is recommended. Ideally, you would have both – an initial telephone conversation, followed up with a face to face meeting.

With limited information and not having at least spoken to the bride and/or groom, it is extremely difficult to provide a quotation let alone ascertain that I am able to meet the couple’s basic requirements and how this fits in with their wedding day vision. Accordingly, a polite response is sent requesting a contact telephone number and an appropriate time to call or giving them the option of calling me direct. In this way I am able to have a nice chat with them and determine exactly what is desired. Once I have established that I am able to meet (or exceed) all their needs and wants, I happily provide a quotation. Yet I am certain that these couples will receive quotations from other DJs without these DJs having any specific information about the wedding or understanding what their vision for the wedding is.

Of course, in many instances following my reply, I never hear back from the couple, having been discounted from further consideration because I have not provided a price and requesting the opportunity to speak with them to ascertain if I am the best match for their vision of the wedding. I have no issue with this whatsoever, but sometimes I wonder whether they got exactly what they actually needed and/or really wanted for their wedding.

It is unfortunate that the majority of replies received by these couples with a price will be from DJs that provide a very basic ‘cookie cutter’ type service. They simply turn up and push play, have had/will have very little communication with the couple, have not taken the time to find out exactly what is desired, nor are they prepared to put in the effort that is required to ensure their vision becomes a reality. Simply, price on its own will not convey if needs and wants can be met, nor will it provide details of inclusions. Of course no price (high, low or average) is a good price if the quality service needed is not received.

This leads to the question; Do they care enough about your wedding to put in the effort required to fulfill your vision?

It is a sad reality, that there are DJs in the profession simply because it is an easy way to make some quick money. Many see it as good money for little effort or the wedding as ‘just another gig’ and it is treated accordingly. Others truly appreciate and acknowledge the significance of the occasion, have a great passion for weddings, absolutely love what they do and will dedicate all the time and effort necessary to ensure that the wedding is nothing short of perfect.

So how can a couple discern between the two types of wedding DJs?, Well the initial thing to look for is their interest. When you first speak with DJs, pay close attention to the first few subjects that are raised. If money is one of them, it is possible that you may be speaking to a DJ that doesn’t really care about you or your wedding and may just want to know what you can afford. If a DJ claims to be one of the cheapest, or offers to match/better any other quote you receive, you’re almost certainly dealing with a DJ that is not concerned with anything but securing the booking. These DJs will need to cut corners and the resultant quality and service delivery will be negatively impacted.

What you want is for the DJ to ask about you and your wedding. Maybe he/she will offer congratulations on your engagement. They will certainly ask things like where you are getting married, how long you’ve known each other, how your envisioning your wedding and maybe how you and your fiancé met. If this happens, it may be time to finally let that smile emerge, because you may have just found yourself the right DJ!

The right DJ will also ask about your musical tastes, which is very important to know if they are going to perform successfully, yes? They may also offer some suggestions to assist in avoiding pitfalls as you go about organising your special day. Any experienced DJ that really is passionate about weddings will have more than a few bits of advice and tips to dispense to eager knowledge-seeking brides and grooms. And what’s more, good DJs really like to share this knowledge without any guarantee that you’ll hire them. This is a good thing; it shows that they genuinely care about you having the best wedding possible.

Now how would anybody be able to gauge any of these things if no conversation took place. Conversation will give you an initial feeling as to whether the DJ cares enough about your wedding to dedicate all the time and effort necessary to ensure that the wedding is nothing short of perfect. Follow this up with a face to face meeting to re-confirm your feelings and then decide. Entertainment is responsible for a large percentage of the overall success of a wedding day; those that do not wish to speak with or can’t be bothered speaking with their wedding entertainment are often left disappointed and usually end up with someone who also…can’t be bothered.

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Negotiating With Wedding Professionals

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Recent economic conditions has caused wedding budgets to be tightened like never before and as a result, some couples seem to think that wedding professionals should also reduce their prices accordingly. After all, any money saved is money that remains in your pocket, yes? Many couples therefor believe that wedding professionals should accept a booking at a lower rate rather than them losing that business altogether. Well this thinking is not quite right – just think about how you would feel if your employer came up and said, “Sorry, but things are a little tight at the moment, so I will need to reduce your pay by 25% for the next few weeks, but you will still have to come in and do the same amount of work.”

What couples need to appreciate is that wedding professionals are in a service industry. Negotiating the price when buying a new car, for example, is an entirely different scenario. In this instance, you are simply asking the car dealer to lower their profit margin. They pay a certain amount for the vehicle, factor in any overheads and sell it for a higher price. The higher the price, the more money they make, and so the listed prices are typically inflated to leave room for negotiation. A wedding professional, however, is essentially selling themselves. They provide a service and base their pricing on the time, effort, and resources required to provide that service. By asking them to lower their price just because you are unable to afford it, you are in essence devaluing them, requesting them to provide a level of service and quality that is compromised. Most wedding professionals certainly do not appreciate this.

Another issue is that more often than not, couples have absolutely no idea the amount of work individual wedding professionals put into their wedding. All that is seen is the finished product. For example take a Floral Designer, couples don’t see the hours spent searching for component products to use, or the time spent designing, planning and calculating their customised wedding. They have no idea that it takes at least three-four hours, or more, just to unpack their flowers, cut them, and prepare them for working with them. They can’t comprehend the number of actual hours it requires to make all of those boutonnieres, corsages, bouquets, centrepieces or displays, and to add detail to them. Add all of those glass, cylinder vases and candle holders that have to be washed, boxed, loaded, unloaded, and unpacked on-site. All that is seen is the beautiful bouquet or wonderfully decorated room.

You really need to think of negotiation as a compromise: this is where both parties agree to give something up in order to get something in return. For example, should a certain photographer be out of your budget, you could ask for a reduced rate in exchange for less hours of coverage at the wedding, or fewer included photographic prints, or a smaller album. This way, you pay less and the photographer spends less time and/or resources on your event, and the quality of the service does not need to be compromised. Everybody wins – this is a partnership, and both the wedding professional and client need to feel that they are winners! This is important to keep in mind when negotiating with a wedding professional.

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Price of a Disc Jockey – Understanding The Relationship Between Price, Quality and Service

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Unfortunately most couples when searching for a DJ/MC to provide the entertainment at their wedding, don’t know anything about what they should look for when hiring one! From experience, in nearly every case, the very first thing they ask when the DJ picks up the phone is, “How much do you charge?”. Most have not even considered that the concept of price is only one of three factors that dictates the economic standards of competitive enterprise. These three components are PRICE, QUALITY and SERVICE.

Many couples want a cheap price, but the highest quality and best service for their wedding celebration. More often than not, for a cheap price the couple ends up with a cheap celebration and cheap quality which relates directly to the minimal fee paid for their chosen DJ. It is important to understand that when one of these three components is compromised, it inadvertently impacts one or both of the other two components in a negative way. Higher prices are almost always associated with quality – in the case of a DJ Entertainer this translates to extremely professional, polished performances, strong customer service efforts and great attention to detail. A DJ service that charges a higher fee for their talent and skills, usually has earned this right due to great public and industry respect gained over a long period, by continuously meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Not surprisingly, most professional, reputable DJs will charge a higher fee for their services than a hobby or part-time DJ who is only looking to make a few extra dollars on the side. For the reasons explained above, you should fully question a DJ service that is low in cost…as most likely, quality and service will also be low. Accordingly, there is a very good chance you will be putting the success of your wedding celebration at risk in order to save a few dollars. Also, bear in mind all the time and money you have already invested in your wedding day and the impact the DJ/MC has on it’s success. If the venue was just average, the food was only ordinary, the speeches were far too long, but the entertainment was exceptional, your guests will still always remember your wedding as one of the best they have ever attended.

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What Do Wedding Clients Really Need From Their Wedding Entertainment?

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If you take some time to peruse the myriad of wedding DJ web sites, you may quickly draw the conclusion that what is needed for a great wedding reception is speakers and lighting equipment – as this is what is predominately promoted. Speakers and lights are really only tools which will assist the entertainer deliver their performance, not unlike a photographer in that a camera helps them capture the moment, however how it is captured has little to do with the camera itself and a lot to do with the photographer’s artistic flair, creativity and talent.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience, that this leads most couples to think that music is all that is required for an enjoyable reception, if this were the case everybody would use some form of recorded music playback system. I have always believed that there is much more to wedding entertainment than just music – as music on its own cannot produce a memorable and fun wedding, yet there are many wedding entertainers which promote this misleading notion. Music is a very powerful tool, there is no denying this fact, used properly it can evoke feelings and stir emotions to create some wonderful memories, but this takes skill and talent to know what to play and precisely when to play it.

I feel that Brides & Grooms really need more than music from their Wedding Entertainment, here is a list of what I believe they really need:

1. someone who can deliver the kind of wedding reception they want,
2. ideas and advice for their planning process,
3. a team player who is comfortable taking charge,
4. a confident and eloquent spokesperson,
5. unique skills and talent to make the celebration happen,
6. a reliable professional business person with the right attitude, and lastly
7. great sounding music from professional grade equipment.

Look for these characteristics when researching your wedding entertainment – I guarantee that if you find a Wedding DJ who can provide these, your wedding will be transformed from just ordinary to absolutely extra-ordinary!

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