The single most common question that DJs are asked in the first instance is “How much are you?” Now everyone loves value for money, but you haven’t even asked what service they provide yet! Despite the generic image of mobile DJs being all the same, we are very different in our approach to the work, and services can vary by some distance from DJ to DJ. If you are on a tight budget of say, £125, then your choice will be limited and you may end up with a novice or someone with borrowed and dusty equipment.
Always tempting too is letting a friend ‘have a go’… a recipe for an empty dance floor and a full bar! Cost-cutting is magnified two-fold when talking of a wedding reception. Not only the most important day of your lives, but a day where you’ve probably spent £500 on a cake, £2000 on dresses and suits and untold amounts on food and drink… seems like false economy to skimp on the biggest part of the whole day, the party.
In short, don’t just book your DJ on price!
A real professional or semi-professional DJ will have spent years acquiring their music, learning how to build a dance floor atmosphere, be fully conversant in wedding etiquette and have a kit to be proud of.
To give you some idea of values, to hire a very basic DJ set-up (2 speakers, amplifier, CD decks, mixer and 2 light effects) costs £100 per night from my local disco centre. Add to that someone’s working time (6 hours on average) and travel costs, etc, you start to realise just how valuable a pro DJ can be for your event…
For weddings, look to pay between £300 – £450 for a 7pm-12am service. Birthday parties, anniversaries, etc may be cheaper as they are less pressure and usually shorter hours.
The Style & Content
It sounds so obvious to say it but I’m going to anyway… try to see your DJ in action before you book them. If it’s not convenient, then take advice from friends who have witnessed the DJ’s talents before. After all, recommendation is still the best advert for any act.
It’s always a really good idea to chat at length with your prospective DJ about your own music tastes and what you expect from them on the night. Ask them searching questions about the type of stuff they play, whether they take requests, how they propose to start/finish the proceedings, that kind of thing. A DJ worth his salt will listen intently and take onboard all of your ideas, sometimes suggesting alternatives to things he believes may not work.
If you’re theming the evening’s entertainment, make sure your DJ knows in advance… that way he can be sure to carry the right music for the occasion, such as a 70’s & 80’s Party or a Soul Night. It also gives him a chance to pass the gig on if the genre you decide on is not his speciality. The more contemporary DJs are also inclined to avoid playing novelty records, such as the Birdie Song and Superman. If you want these included (and you want to sit on the floor and row an imaginary boat… ) it’s best to check first!
The DJ Gear
As all of my DJ colleagues know, this is my soapbox subject!
So many times I have witnessed DJs putting together some of the cheapest and scruffiest gear you can imagine… throwing it loosely on a folding table, wires trailing everywhere and speakers barely capable of audible sound… and yet still charging £300 a night! They should wear a mask! In this day and age, the range of equipment available to us is phenomenal, and at very reasonable prices for good quality; there are no excuses for a DJ’s equipment looking or sounding bad in the 21st Century.
Right, rant over… without going too technical, good things to look for are overhead lighting (nightclub-style moving lights), speakers on stands (raises the sound above the crowd to project it across the whole room) and a tidy stage area set-up. Cables should be tucked away wherever possible and the better pro DJs have a tasteful cover or starcloth to surround their stand. Once playing, the sound should be crystal clear on the dance floor, both with music and the DJ’s spoken voice.
In some instances the sound won’t travel well to the back of the room, but this can be due to the venue’s acoustics and not really a problem as guests will invariably want somewhere to chat. Most DJs have a sound system to cater for up to 150 people comfortably. If your DJ is not familiar with your proposed venue, request that he takes a look beforehand, especially if you have 200+ evening guests. Quite often I have seen small amplifiers pushed to their maximum trying to deliver to a big room… and it doesn’t sound pleasant!
Finally on the technical side, a large number of venues nowadays are insisting the DJs have both Public Liability Insurance and a certificate of safety (PAT) for their electrical equipment.
The Business End…
Once you’ve decided on your DJ for the night, ask them for a contract to sign and agree a deposit (if one is not already requested). Make sure you’ve listed all of your music requirements and arrival/ending times so that there is no confusion on the day. I would also suggest a courtesy call a week prior to the event if your DJ hasn’t called you, just to touch base and reaffirm details.
Mobile DJs have suffered a bad press over the years, when in reality it’s a very small minority of cowboys who let the side down. Most are hard-working, conscientious music-lovers who will give you a night to remember!