Recently I was asked to answer a few questions for a friend doing research on Phoenix DJs. This was the list he presented me.
- How far in advance should a couple book their DJ?
- Are all DJs required to have insurance? What type of insurance should couples check to make sure their DJs have?
- How far in advance of the event should the DJ arrive at the event?
- Are there any setup or breakdown fees that the couple is required to pay?
- Can couples typically request specific songs they’d like the DJ to play?
- If the answer to this is yes, how and when should these requests be made by the couple?
- Do Disc Jockeys usually play requests made by the guests? If yes, how is this typically done?
- Can couples request specific songs that they don’t want played at their wedding? If yes, how is this handled?
- What are some extra services that a couple can add on to their wedding packages?
- How can a couple see a DJ “in action” at an event, prior to deciding whether or not to hire them?
- What if the DJ’s equipment breaks during the wedding?
- How does it work with deposits? Specifically, how much should a couple place down for a deposit and when is the balance due?
- If the event needs to be cancelled or re-scheduled, when is the latest that the couple should notify the DJ?
- What should a couple pay attention to when interviewing DJs for their big day?
- Is it extra for the DJ to also act as the MC/Master of Ceremonies?
- How does a couple let the “Master of Ceremonies” know what needs to be said at their wedding?
1. How far in advance should a couple book their DJ?
This can change depending on where you live. When I was in Los Angeles I usually booked events 9-12 months ahead of time, but in Phoenix that’s seems to be cut in half. Ultimately it depends on how important it is to get a specific DJ. If you are getting referrals from friends and you know that the DJ is good, then book them as soon as you know the date of your wedding. If you wait too long and they aren’t available then you have to start all over again. When planning a wedding you don’t want to add extra work to you already full plate.
2. Are all DJs required to have insurance? What type of insurance should couples check to make sure their DJs have?
DJs are not required to have insurance. However, professional djs that earn their living as entertainers will always have insurance. If you interview a DJ and he/she doesn’t have insurance specifically designed for DJs then keep shopping. Typical insurance policies for DJs are $1m to $2m of liability coverage. Most venues also need DJs to add the venue to the policy for the night of your event, so confirm that the DJ can do this.
The fact is the unexpected can happen. Your guests may trip over a speaker stand, equipment can short out and cause fires, or something else you can’t anticipate. When your DJs livelihood is dependent on being a DJ then not only will they protect themself with insurance, but they will also work harder to exceed your expectations. We are a referral business so use clues like having insurance to determine how badly your DJ needs you to refer them
3. How far in advance of the event should the DJ arrive at the event?
This is going to be different for each DJ you talk to. It will also vary for the package that you get. If you are having a huge lighting package with club level dance floor effects, then expect your DJ to show up 2 or 3 hours ahead of time. Most DJs don’t charge for setup time, but be prepared to pay more if they need extra people to help with setup. Or if you need them setup and out of the way an hour or so before the contracted start time.
4. Are there any setup or breakdown fees that the couple is required to pay?
As stated above “most” DJs don’t charge for setup and tare down. There are some that do and special circumstantial that come up that extra cost will be involved. Make sure you have all of that information before booking your DJ. I think all pricing should be upfront and easy to understand. If you don’t get that feeling from your DJ then start asking the questions like; What is the total I will have to pay?
5. 6. Can couples typically request specific songs they’d like the DJ to play? If so, then how and when should these requests be made by the couple?
The bride and groom’s song selections are key to any wedding. Not only can they use this time to personalize the feel of the night, but it also gives the DJ a push in the right direction on programming the rest of the night. In addition to the main dances (first dance, father daughter, etc…) I always ask for a few favorite bands and songs from the couple weeks before the wedding. I also take request the day of. That’s the beauty of playing music from my laptop; I have a lot of music to pull from.
All of the requests before the wedding are done through a wedding questionnaire that I give to the couple at the time they book my services. If there are requests the day of, it will come down to availability of the song. My collection is huge, but I can’t bring every song.
7. Do Disc Jockeys usually play requests made by the guests? If yes, how is this typically done?
I don’t know many wedding DJs that won’t take requests. You may get a club DJ or two that only plays pre-worked out mixes, but wedding DJs have to program the night on the fly. Requests are a great way to help feel out the crowd quickly, and I even bring “most requested” song lists to help with requests.
A typical wedding crowd is very diverse, so DJs are constantly feeling out the crowd and adjusting our song selection. When the crowd give us a few selections it gives us a starting point to work from. That in mind, I don’t play every song requested. Some people request music they like but not necessarily music you can dance to. This is always a judgement call, and part of where the experience of the DJ comes in.
8. Can couples request specific songs that they don’t want played at their wedding? If yes, how is this handled?
Many couples are starting to get away from the “corny” wedding songs. They no longer want to hear “YMCA” or “Shout”. Some just have a few songs or genres that they absolutely hate. I want to know that a head of time. Most DJs feel the same way. On the flip side, if you limit too many songs some DJs will use that as a suggested do not play. We want you and your guests to have an amazing time, and tying our hands by having a huge list of “do not play”s can make that hard. Limit the do not play list to 10 songs at the most, but more realistically 5.
9. What are some extra services that a couple can add on to their wedding packages?
Your DJ may not have everything you see here, or they may have additional add-ons. The best idea is to ask full a list of the services your DJ offers.
Some of the typical options are dance floor lights, up lighting, spot lights, larger sound system, second system setup for ceremony, dancers (to get the crowd on their feet), custom lighted monogram on walls and dance floor, recorded vows played over first dance song, fog machine (or hazer), bubble machine, karaoke, ceiling lighting effects, and wedding games.
Some of these may come standard or part of a package, so talk with your wedding professionals to find out what’s right for your wedding.
10. How can a couple see a DJ “in action” at an event, prior to deciding whether or not to hire them?
Some DJs let you crash one of their events. I don’t. I don’t feel any bride should have to worry about unknown people walking in to see the DJ. I think DJs that allow their attention to be taken away from the current job to book another are doing a disservice to brides. When I DJ I want 100% of my attention to be on the event I’m at. True professionals are always keeping an eye on every aspect of a wedding and distractions can lead to mistakes.
There is an exception to this. If the bride okays the potential client intrusion. If this is the case, then DJs should have an assistant that can mix music for dancing or walk the potential client around the room. Also you should always ask the potential client to look presentable. I’m not saying they need to come in a cocktail dress or suit, but slacks can go a long way to not standing out.
Ultimately you need to understand that if your DJ let you crash someones party, then chances are that someone will be crashing yours.
DJs don’t need to bring you to an event. They can film events and show you the quality of their service that way.
11. What if the DJ’s equipment breaks during the wedding?
This is a fear for all DJs. I always bring back a back up amp and mixer. Equipment is my responsibility so I do what is needed to make sure it works. On the rare occasion that it doesn’t, it’s up to me to have a plan B.
12. How does it work with deposits? Specifically, how much should a couple place down for a deposit and when is the balance due?
This is different for each DJ. Over the years, I’ve always taken half now and the remainder when I arrive on location. Some DJs want the whole payment at least two weeks before the event and some take only $100 to save the date. Regardless of what the policy of deposits may be, it has never seamed to affect whether someone books with me or not.
13. If the event needs to be cancelled or re-scheduled, when is the latest that the couple should notify the DJ?
My contract states no return of the deposit, but I feel if I haven’t turned down another event then I will give the deposit back. I’ve only had two events in over 10 years need to cancel and one asked for the deposit back. I did return it no questions asked. If there is a possibility that you will need to cancel or change your date then negotiate the deposit amount and understand that many DJs will not refund the deposit. Read the contract or ask for their policy on returns before signing anything.
14. What should a couple pay attention to when interviewing DJs for their big day?
I’ve answered this in another blog post some time back so I’ll put the link below.
How to Interview a Wedding DJ
Essentially booking a DJ comes down to three things; 1) Do you like their personality? 2) Do they have experience in your type of event? 3) Can you afford their rate?
There are many other factors that should be considered but start with the above so you can narrow down how many DJs you interview. Once you’re comfortable with the above questions then start delving into insurance, equipment, referrals, etc…
15. Is it extra for the DJ to also act as the MC/Master of Ceremonies?
Again every DJ is different on how they price their services and you will need to ask each of them for an accurate quote. If I’m quoting a wedding then I assume that I’ll be acting as an MC. I also sit down with the Bride and Groom to confirm that they are looking for an MC and DJ not just music. Typically a wedding will cost more than a party for a couple of reasons and being an MC is one of them. it takes a lot more time and effort to prepare for a wedding and training to be an MC is an expensive and time consuming endevour. If your DJ doesn’t value his skills as an MC then you should wonder why. Great MCs will always charge more.
16. How does a couple let the “Master of Ceremonies” know what needs to be said at their wedding?
I have put together a wedding questionnaire over the years. It goes over those details. My job is to not only preform as your MC and DJ but also to understand what you expect and need at your wedding. Part of that is making announcements and guiding the events of the evening. I do everything I can to be prepared for your wedding and in turn this allows you to relax and enjoy the night. Why should you have to work when you are there to celebrate.
I hope this has been helpful and if you are interested in a Phoenix DJ for your wedding then consider Black Tie DJ Phx.