Your Smart Guide to DJ Shopping

How to Hire a Wedding Disc Jockey

by Bob Moffett

Wedding disc jockeys are often both technician and host, and many are entertainers as well. The challenge is to find the right fit for you and your guests.  There are often special moments during your reception that require good timing and well received music, and amid all the charged emotion, your DJ will be responsible for making it all tasteful, engaging, memorable, and entertaining.

Great DJs actually serve as a catalyst to help your guests entertain themselves. They connect with your guests by watching for details both on and off the dance floor, plan effectively and personally with you, and most of all listen to your ideas, preferences, questions, and concerns. Start by developing a clear idea for what it is you want a DJ to accomplish for you. Disc jockeys vary significantly in their styles. Some are focused solely on the music and others are flamboyant entertainers - in between is a wide range of possibilities. Once you've set your goals, expectations, or constraints, you can match the right person to the job.

Choosing Your Disc Jockey
The best way to choose a disc-jockey is through referral from a person you trust. In any case check professional and previous client references from each prospective DJ. This will give you an opportunity to talk to other couples who hired the same DJ. Ask if them if DJ lived up to their expectations and the agreement. You can also inquire what if anything they would do differently - an important question that will help you benefit from other people’s previous experience. Pass those ideas on to your own disc jockey.

Remember that you while you are looking for a wedding DJ, someone with a wide palette of other successful event experience will also bring a palette of fresh ideas and new experiences. A too young DJ might lack the confidence or maturity to deal effectively with an adult crowd and wedding formalities, while a self proclaimed "wedding specialist" may be disconnected and stuck in a rehearsed routine. Always look past the labels to find out what kind of DJ a given performer really is, and what diversity there is in their experience. Your DJ needs both a wide range of music and the knowledge to use it correctly. Inexperienced or poor quality DJs won’t run out of music but, they may run out of ideas - and that is when things fall flat. Match your DJ to what you know about the people on your guest list and your personal taste for best results.

When you call, ask if the date of your event is available, and get a general idea of the cost involved. Promptly make an appointment to meet any disc-jockey that is of interest. Use this interview to evaluate the DJ and how they present. This is the same manner or ability they will possess when behind a microphone. Are they approachable, polite, knowledgeable, and experienced with wedding events? Are they local to you or the event site? Is there a replacement should they be unable to perform?

Gauging Experience
Select a DJ who is mature, articulate, accommodating, and well educated in reception protocol. Check that the years of experience are consistent with the DJ's age. More importantly, you should know how many wedding receptions the DJ has performed at to be sure that their experience is relevant to what you are planning. Pay attention to their ability to pick up on your ideas and offer interesting and insightful approaches.

Reviewing the Music
When a DJ refers to his music collection be sure you understand what selections will physically be on hand at your reception, rather than an implied access to unlimited Internet sources or streaming media. The library should cover a wide range of styles and years with thousands of titles to choose from. Check to see that requests will be honored, and that the pledge is sincere. Decide on how the DJ will play selections you want that he does not currently own and who will be responsible for acquiring them.

Digital music files are the current professional standard and offer good sound quality with the greatest creative flexibility. Compact Discs are also great and provide a secure backup. A backup system and plan is essential to this work so don’t hesitate to inquire.

One consequence of the computer revolution is the need to discern the professional DJ from the computer music/enthusiast exercising a hobby. Ultimately you are seeking entertainment not IT support.  Technical knowledge is important but, it is experience in entertainment venues and event planning that defines the better DJ.

Planning is the key
The disc jockey needs a good grasp of the decision and planning process related to your event and should supply you with an appropriate procedure for documenting your preferences. This includes introductions, formal dances, and many other aspects of your reception. Before the event, hold a planning session with your DJ to discuss all of these arrangements in detail. Be certain that you plan directly with the DJ who will be responsible for your event. Check that there will be an alternate should this person for any reason be unable to perform. Determine what procedure is in place to insure that you have suitable entertainment for your event should the selected DJ be unable to perform. Discuss when and how you would be notified of a problem, and who will have final approval over any substitutions made. Seal this business relationship with an appropriate business contract. Review it carefully and ask for help if you do not fully understand what responsibilities are yours, and what will be provided by the DJ.

Sound Systems
All equipment has one thing in common - it can fail or be damaged unexpectedly. Spare equipment on site should be a non-negotiable. Guarantees and refunds will be little consolation should an equipment failure bring your reception to a sudden silent stop. Even the highest quality components are not fault proof, so true professionals will be adequately prepared with some form of redundancy. Insist that your DJ provide spare equipment to your event for all major parts of his system, especially amplifiers and speakers. Computer based DJs will also need an entire second source for music and player if their primary PC fails.

The Right Price
Services are available in a wide range of highly subjective prices which can often be ill-representative of the DJs ability. It can not be emphasized enough that you must look beyond the sales pitch and the price. You can find excellent choices at nearly every price level, and can be equally disappointed. I can not stress enough the need to do your homework. Avoid being scared into paying more than you have too, but don't pay less than you yourself feel would be appropriate to get the job done right. Saving money is no reward if the DJ is too inexperienced and ill equipped to handle your event. Likewise, spending an unnecessary premium for your DJ does not guarantee better results.

Consider the price quoted in light of the information provided, as well as your own personal sense of the DJs ability to meet your expectations. References should be plentiful; specific to the type of event you are planning; and recent. Remember - you are dealing with relatively small companies and individuals providing personal services. Hire the DJ you trust to look after your best interest and deliver the result you want.

Greater Boston & New England

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