What Questions Should I Ask A DJ?
Picking the right entertainment for your function, event or wedding can be difficult and no one wants to get it wrong and end up ruining that once in a lifetime party. It's a common concern, choosing the wrong DJ, and also not knowing where to start with how to choose the right one. So what I've put together here site is a guide to how you can choose the right DJ for your party, and not just "This guy is $10 cheaper than the other, lets choose him." Its your big party; you turn 21, or 30, 40 (or whatever your function is) only once, you get married once. If you are going to do it once, do it right.
“When you look back on your big birthday party or wedding reception in years to come, do you want to remember what a fantastic time everyone had? Or do you want to say, ‘Well, at least we saved some money on the DJ?’”
The questions below will help you choose the right DJ!
We probably want to start with this one, as the DJ is going to at your party for 5 (or perhaps more) hours ...
Will you play the music I want at my party?
Out of all the questions, this is THE killer question. The DJ MUST be willing to play the music YOU want at YOUR function. Sorry for the capitals in that last sentence, but this is really important.
When hiring the DJ you should make it clear what the event is, and also make clear to your DJ the style of music you would like, if you can. A good DJ will want to play the music you want to hear and be able to mix in music for all your guests to enjoy - hits, oldies, new, dance, RnB - what ever it is the client is after.
A good DJ should be asking you what sort of music you want at your event. Let him or her know what it is you are thinking of. A great idea is to provide the DJ with a list of bands, artists and songs you and your guests like. The list might be only 10, 15 or so choices, but it gives the DJ a good of idea of what to build around. On the other hand, it might be an extensive list that will be used right throughout the function. Even with an extensive list, though, a great DJ will spot a song that will work really well that may not be on the list - give him or her the freedom to slot it in. Trust me on this.
Throughout this page I am going to go on divergences, to tell you some true stories. Let me start now, here.
I was DJing a wedding where the bride had given me a full list, But it wasn't working. Don't get me wrong, it was great music but it just was not working with the guests at this wedding. This happens when you've got a specific list sometimes. I approached the bride and she agreed I could try a few other songs, which I did, and bingo - all good. The funny thing is, I could still slot some of the bride's song choices in to the overall mix without losing dancefloor momentum.
Another true story - this time a very young couple at their reception, and it was exactly the same thing, no dancing to their choices. Again - I approached, got permission to try other songs and again, bingo, the party got going properly! I remember this reception because of what the bride said to me "Wow, you've added in songs we would never have thought of playing and now it's a great party!"
Also ... If you are organising a wedding, where there will be a very wide range of age groups in attendance, then as well as playing a broad range of music you would want a DJ who knows about the etiquette and formalities of the reception; likely someone who excels on the microphone for important announcements and introductions.
Ask the DJ about experience and for testimonials
Good DJs are rightly proud of the work they do making events and functions a big success. A DJ will be at your party from before it starts (to set up) until after it finishes (to pack up). The DJ plays a huge role in making the party a success, a big part of the reward of DJing is knowing it was a job well done and you've made many people have a great night.
Professional DJs receive emails, texts, cards, letters and other messages of appreciation from satisfied customers and available for you to check out.
Ask if the DJ you are speaking with will be the DJ at your party
You are probably wondering what I am talking about here! But there are many DJ 'companies' out there that send out casual or contract labour to your party, and not an experienced DJ. Perhaps they'll send a good one, or perhaps the DJ they send has received an hour of 'training', if that. Do you really want an inexperienced and perhaps a little too 'casual' DJ being responsible for hosting your big function? That's not a risk to take.
Ask what time the DJ will arrive at your party
It does not take 15 minutes for a professional DJ to set up. He or she should arrive at least an hour beforehand (note, at least one hour beforehand, sometimes it will take longer - a professional DJ should be prepared for this). Sound systems need to be positioned correctly for the room or venue and wired up safely. Time for lighting angles, positioning and set-up needs also to be allowed for.
On this, let your DJ know in advance how many people will be at the party, and whether the DJ and dance area is indoors or outdoors. See next question for why this important ...
Let your DJ know how many people will be at the event, and if it is outdoors - ask the DJ what difference that makes to the equipment required
A professional DJ will be honest with you about what sort of audio equipment will be needed, and the extra costs involved if more or higher power equipment is needed.
An inside function for 80-150 people will be well served by the sort of equipment that will not adequately cope with the same size of event outdoors, or a bigger event indoors.
If the event is outdoors, or the room a function is held in is for 200, 300 or 400 people (or more) a DJ will need to know this so he or she can bring more appropriate, and extra, sound reinforcement equipment, and the set-up of the equipment will take extra time and need to be adjusted just right to get the best out of it for a big event.
A bigger event needs more higher output audio, there is no way around this and an experienced, legitimate, honest DJ will tell you this upfront. If your DJ says he will come to your 200+ people event with just a pair of speakers, then he or she probably has no idea. You, and he, are in for a very disappointing night indeed.
How loud will be the music be?
The correct answer to this is as loud or subdued as needs to be, varying for the time during the party (quieter at the beginning when guests are arriving, mingling and chatting, and gaining as the dancefloor gets active).
If the music is too loud, people will shy away from the dance floor. If its too quiet, guests may sit glued to their seats and chat.
Don't be afraid of letting the DJ know if the music is too loud, or not loud enough, throughout the evening. A DJ respectful of his clients wishes will respond accordingly. Don't be afraid also when booking the DJ to let him or her know if you have special volume requirements.
The client should check with the venue and let the DJ know if the venue has a 'sound meter/ sound limiter'.
(OK, you likely don't know what this is, right? A sound meter is often found in venues in built up, residential areas. What the sound meter does is it sits on a wall and lights up red when the volume is too high due to restrictions on the venue. If the meter stays in the red for a few seconds (usually around 5 seconds) the power (i.e. electricity supply) will be automatically be cut off to the sound equipment for a period of about 20 seconds. These limiters can be frustrating for a DJ, especially if the dance floor is begging for louder music, but there isn't anything a DJ can do about it, except keep the volume below the red. Check with your venue before booking if there are sound restrictions in place, if this is a concern).
Can I take a moment for a diversion here, a true story about a venue with a sound limiter? This particular venue opens out onto the water in Melbourne, surrounded by high-rise apartment blocks. Uh-oh, right? It has a sound limiter.
I had a packed dancefloor, and I was keeping one eye on the sound meter and managing to keep the volume within limits. The trouble was that pretty much every time I started into a new song the crowd on the floor would roar and shout in approval (I have a good handle on what people like ;-) ) which would trigger the sound limiter and cut my electricity! Grrr.... I tried explaining to the dancers, but they were having a such a good time nothing was going to quieten them down. So, we partied on!
Got time for another diversion, and another true story related to volume?
A woman called me after I was recommended to her. I got all the details on the nature of the event, noting carefully that I was to be in a marquee in her back garden, with the dancefloor just outside the marquee. So, I'm thinking to myself, I'll be outside & I'll therefore need to bring along more powerful audio equipment. As I'm thinking this the woman says to me, quite specifically, that she wants the volume to be really loud, they really want to party hard.
Excellent, 'cause now I knew her expectations!
So, I brought along the right extra equipment to do the job. As the party reached its finish time, they were having such a good time that she extended the party. The party went off, big time and she was so happy. I've done further parties for her friends on her recommendation (and, as of writing, they've booked me for another one).
As an aside, not all DJs use good quality audio equipment that is capable of providing clear and distortion-free music to your party. This a basic requirement that not all DJs meet!
Back to the questions...
Do you provide party lights?
Most DJs will supply some sort of party lights. Ask your DJ about the lights to be supplied at your party - they should be professional lights, and enough of them to provide variance to the light show.
Ask also about where the lights will be. A good DJ will have lights mounted up high, on a dedicated stand, so the light projects down onto, across and even above the dancefloor. This is a sign of a DJ that takes quality seriously. Other DJs just position lights in front of them on their table, these shine onto the first row of dancers and do little to enhance the atmosphere on the dancefloor; doing this is often a sign of short cuts taken elsewhere with quality and less commitment to making your party a success.
Something extra to consider is 'uplighting' - particularly if its a wedding reception you are planning. Uplighting is a more passive, subtle form of lighting that can transform a venue. If this is of interest for you, check if your DJ can include it in his lighting plan.
Do you supply a smoke machine?
A smoke/fog machine is one of those effects that greatly enhances the light show and atmosphere of a party.
Check with your venue that they permit the use of a smoke machine. Unfortunately many don't (they can set off commercial smoke alarms and result in a visit from the fire department) - but check with your function venue.
Make sure your DJ is using a high quality machine & smoke/fog that does not irritate or leave residue on your guests!
What makes you different to other DJs?
This is a bit of a curve ball question, and I don't know what sort of answers you'll get - but listen to the DJ's response and you should get an idea of her or his personality and if it will fit what you have in mind for your party.
Can you MC my wedding?
Not all DJs can do a great job hosting an event (for most people this will be specifically important for a wedding). You'll want someone who is not only confident (and competent) on a microphone but who has a bit of personality and can convey that in a respectful, professional manner at your reception.
What will you wear?
If it's a wedding a client should expect the (male) DJ in a shirt and tie, dress pants and shoes. I am going to have to pass on what to expect a female DJ to wear, not my area of expertise I am afraid, but something suitable for the big event should be expected. At a party, maybe a birthday party for example, the attire might be a little less formal, depending on what you require.
What are your rates, is there a minimum charge?
A good DJ will often charge for a minimum of 5 hours, be sure to agree a rate and also ask about the extra charges should the time get extended on the evening. Be careful of 'added extras' that some DJs try to sneak in. Get the full price sorted out in advance, in writing.
How does your set up look, is it plastered with advertisements for your DJ business?
It is not a good look to have your DJ plastering signs all over their gear advertising themselves. You have put a lot of effort in the design of the look and theme of your wedding or party and it may (let's face it, will) clash with your hard work. A good DJ is respectful of this, its your event! A discreet placement of a business card might be acceptable, but not big ads.
What sort of information should I have for the DJ and what should I expect him or her to ask me?
If you are thinking 'all DJs are the same', a great idea is to find someone who has had a bad DJ at their party. This, unfortunately, should not be difficult to find. All DJs are not alike.
When you contact a DJ you should expect her or him to ask:
- The date and start time of the function
- The address
- Can the DJ get access to set up at least an hour prior
- What the function is ...
For example, is it an 18th, a 40th, an engagement, a wedding etc. ? Some DJs are better at some events than others, and the honest ones will tell you so. You may be speaking to a fantastic teen DJ who can beatmix with the best of them and who knows his current EDM, but he will be truly fantastic if he honestly tells you he is not the right DJ for your retro-music themed 60th! (And vice-versa of course!)
- How many will be at the function, is it indoors or outdoors (I referred to these questions above)
- If outdoors, expect the DJ to specify that electricity must be available safely and her or his equipment needs to be protected from the elements, not just to avoid damaging the equipment, but for the safety of everyone at the party
- The finish time for the function, and also for the DJ to specify the charges for extra time if the client wishes to extend the party for longer
- Your contact details: phone number, and email at least
- Also, let the DJ know if there are any specific requirements to be aware of (see my note above for the client that wanted it loud!). Also, another example would be if the event is a surprise party - make sure the DJ knows and is aware of how to contact you (and not the surpisee) by mistake
If you've read this far, I hope its been helpful. As you would have gathered I am a DJ, with more than 500 DJ functions experience. If you'd like to talk to me about DJing your function that would be great. I am in Melbourne and I happily service there and surrounds, down to the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. But, I travel more widely too.
Mobile for me is 0434-191-068
email is email@example.com
Website is http://www.djmusicmelbourne.com/
I hope you find this page of assistance and you have a fantastic andmemorable party!