How to hire a DJ - How to hire a wedding DJ

Written by Brian Harrell (DJ since 8th grade!) 2007-2015 Brian Harrell
This will weed out the amateur DJ's within minutes!
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How to hire a DJ for your event - Hiring a quality wedding DJ
Use this to find the best DJ quickly!

#1. How do I know what a quality DJ is?
If you are truly looking for a top professional, you need to take time to investigate a company and their DJ's. Some companies allow you to pick the exact DJ and some pick the DJ based on your needs and type of event. If you pick your exact DJ and have seen their performance, you can be pretty sure of the quality you will get. If you allow a company to pick the DJ for you, then you need to be very careful to check into the experience of the person that is choosing the DJ for you.  What is that person's qualifications?  Are they a DJ?  How long have they been a DJ?  What makes them an expert on choosing the DJ for your event?  
One way to determine if one company is better than another is to ask for a list of their DJ's and how much experience they have, and how long have they been with that company.  If you find a company that does not know how many DJ's they have, how long they have worked for them or their experience levels individually (not company-wide), then stay far away from those companies as they don't even know what they have "in stock". Those type of companies also will not match up the proper DJ to your event with a very high success rate.  The better companies should ask you what type of DJ you want, music styles, interaction and then they should within seconds know which of their DJ's by name to start telling you about.   You'll know a better company when just after you explain what you want, they can then tell you right then which DJ's match your event.

#2. Always see a Performance. It is best to see a performance of the DJ service to get a feel for the quality of the DJ's at that company.  Many have video demos and on-line video demos to preview the quality. If previewing by video remember to watch how the DJ interacts and not just that a group of people are dancing. See how clear the DJ talks and does what they say enhance the experience?). It is very easy to get into the DJ business so you have to look at the proof a company offers.  Most do not allow live previews at an event as it is not nice to send clients to interrupt another private event. With the Internet it is very easy to see a preview of the DJ in online video.  Ever been to a dance with a DJ and it was really bad where the DJ was not doing a very good job?  It is usually avoided if the client had seen the DJ on video BEFORE they hired them or it could be that the company showed a very good DJ on video but did not guarantee that specific DJ on their event.  These are very critical things to watch out for.   Even if you can't see a DJ performance before you book them, at least meet with them (preferred) or at the very, very least talk to the exact DJ that you are looking to hire for your event.   If budget is an issue and you need to hire someone at the lowest price, the company will probably not be able to give you an idea who the DJ will be, or the quality. 
Always guarantee who will be your DJ in the contract and see a performance of them (or at least talk to or meet them) before hiring that specific DJ.

#3. References: Even if your friend says the DJ he or she saw was great, it may not be the type of DJ that fits what you like. Check at least 5-10 references on the DJ or service you are looking to hire (either names and numbers or written comment letters). Remember that DJ’s can give you a really good sales pitch, you need to check references to assure that what they are saying is true.   Any reputable DJ service will have plenty of reference letters on hand to show you the quality of work they have done.  No references? Don't book them. 
Here is the key to getting good, accurate references: Ask the company for references on the exact DJ that you are looking to hire through their company and make sure you ask for references on the most recent 6 events they have done (best if you get referrals to customers who have hired them over the last 3 months).  This way they can not hide behind the "top 10" reference letters of the last 10 years.

#4. What training does the DJ have?  Ask how many shows the DJ will have that will do your event?   A DJ will have a basic idea of what to do at a wedding after  25 shows with a very good trainer and about 100 shows without any training.  Still, the more shows over 200 you have done will give you a much better DJ as they will know how to read a crowd and know exactly what song to play next based on the crowd reaction to the current song.    Find out exactly what experience in the type of event you are having that your specific DJ has.

How many songs do you bring to your shows? A top professional should show you a sizeable song list (at least 50,000 songs from oldies to new music for weddings). The DJ should have the styles of music you want at the event.  If a DJ says they don't have a song list, they probably don't have what you need or are hiding something. 

*** BE CAREFUL *** of the DJs that charge very little ($200-500 for a wedding) as usually they have sub-standard equipment and copied all the music off the Internet (free) or bought illegal hard drives of music.  They are regularly being shut down in court due to copying music.   You would not want to hire one and then they don't show up due to violations like this.

#6. Sound and Lighting Systems: Minimum for a 175 person event would be 200 watts per channel sound system (stereo), Colored lights (4 or 8) that chase to pre-set patterns or to the beat, and maybe a few more special effects lights, laptop and DJ software, mixer, microphone. Most DJ's should have at least a 15" bass speaker and horn per side (channel) for groups under 175 guests. If you are having a lot of top-40 or dance music you will need much more bass such as another (2) 15" bass speakers or a 18" subwoofer for better sound. Some DJ services go really crazy on huge sound & lighting systems. (BIG TIP:) REMEMBER, it is the DJ and not the sound/lighting system that makes or breaks a show unless your event needs both. Get a good DJ first, and then if you like a lot of lights and fancy equipment, spend more for those items. 

#7. Does the company really take time to find out your needs?  A good DJ company will start the conversation by asking you what your type of event is, # guests, location and type of DJ you want.  They should ask you how much interaction you want from the DJ, sound and lighting,  and at least what kinds of music you want played.  If they start the conversation by spewing out all the types of shows they offer, they are clearly not listening to the client and usually do not have the client in mind at the event either.  They should ask what your needs are and then tell you which packages they offer can supply those exact needs.   If they do not ask questions about the type of show and DJ style, they they do not have your needs in mind.

#8. I could hire my friend and save some money or just go with the cheapest DJ (they are all the same, right?)
Yes, you can. Unless your friend is a professional DJ, it will be a disaster the same as if you did your own dental work.   A DJ is a professional that knows through experience which songs to play when, and how to professionally interact with the crowd to keep the music and dance floor full with all guests having a great time.  This only comes from training and experience with being in front of people and an extensive knowledge of music and equipment to make a successful event.   There are thousands of people who thought they could just hire a friend to play music at their wedding or special event, and they wish they could go back in time and do it right.

#9. The Contract. Does the contract guarantee my exact DJ (best option) but for a slight discount you can have the company assign someone who matches your audience and music styles.  A better contract also lists the equipment in general, sound system, lighting, types of music at the show, DJ Name performing the show OR style of DJ wanted including description of the interaction level you want,  Cancellation Policy,  What if a DJ is sick policy, Statement that they are insured (if they are), and other special details discussed between the client and DJ.  You, as the client, can ask for anything you talk about to be put into that contract to guarantee that is the way you want it.   If they won't put it in writing, then they probably won't do it at your event.   If you are spending over $800 for a DJ then you need to know who the DJ is before you book with that company and make sure it is in writing in the contract.

Article written by Brian Harrell

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