Updated: Dec 21, 2017
Having been in the DJ business for well over a decade, I often think I've seen or heard it all, until I'm told about another DJ fail that makes a bride's big day memorable for the wrong reasons. Here are five things to avoid when selecting a DJ for your wedding or for any important event.
1. Bargain basement price -
I know I know, you've heard it before many times, but more often than not, the "You get what you pay for" slogan turns out to be true. Sure, there are things in our lives that we can just make do with, but a DJ probably shouldn't be one of them and this is all the more true for special occasions. [citation]
If you've never been present for a setup or tear down, you might not realize how much time and effort go into most DJ setups. It's actually a lot of work and don't forget that the setup and teardown on site is only half the job. All of that gear had to be carried from where it's stored, then loaded into a vehicle and driven to the location before setup could even begin and it all has to be done in reverse when the show's over and the crowd is headed home. DJ's usually find themselves unloading their vehicles late at night, after being on their feet for many hours and driving long distances. There's also the high cost of professional DJ and sound reinforcement equipment, the wear and tear on it from transport and use and the risk of damage or even theft. On top of that, there are also investments in transportation and advertising that all have to be taken into account when a DJ decides how much he/she is going to charge for their services.
If the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. A good DJ will know his value and charge accordingly. It's certainly OK not to gouge your customers on price, but most people aren't willing to invest a great deal of time, effort and expense for little return. If you find a DJ that is, you've almost certainly found a DJ that lacks something important that could end up having a devastating impact on your event. Most likely you're looking at a DJ with very little experience, who's only way to compete against competent and experienced DJ's is to drastically undercut what would be considered by anyone in the business to be a reasonable minimum price. These DJ's will almost always come with incredibly cheap, unreliable gear that will probably sound terrible even if an experienced DJ is using it.
2. DJ Sits-A-Lot -
This one might be tough to avoid, but if you get a chance to see your prospective DJ perform before you make a decision, avoid any DJ that sits while they perform. Any DJ that sits while they work shouldn't even be a DJ in the first place. One of our most important jobs as a DJ is to keep people standing up and dancing. If the DJ would rather sit through his own performance, how can he expect others to want to stand up, let alone get out on his dance floor to dance. These DJ's are cringeworthy and should be avoided at any cost.
3. Laptop only DJ -
Most of the best DJ's out there have been using laptops to DJ for over a decade now, but there are actually two ways to go about it. Although I hesitate to call them DJ's (I guess I'll have to for the purposes of this blog), there are many "DJ's" that plug straight out from a laptop, without using a DJ mixer with at least two separate channels and a cross fader. Doing it this way prohibits the "DJ" from even hearing the next song before it plays so as to, at the very least, cue up the song at its starting point to eliminate dead air between tracks. It also precludes controlled fading and any chance a DJ would ever have of beat-matching and mixing two songs while crossfading, which leads me to number 4.
4. DJ Push-Play -
"DJ Push-Play" sadly refers to probably about 90-95% of the DJ's out there. This term is used to describe a DJ who either wasn't able to, or didn't bother to learn the art of beat-matching and mixing. What do I mean by "Beat-Matching" and "Mixing"? It's the act of adjusting the tempo of two different songs so that they are beating at the same speed, then mixing the last eight measures (bars) of the song that the audience is currently hearing with the first eight measures of the new song that's being brought in by the DJ, so that the two songs seamlessly "mix" from one into the other, with the kick (bass) drums of both songs in perfect sync with eah other, eliminating what is known to DJ's as a "Train Wreck" or a "Shoe in the Dryer." [citation]
5. DJ Pigpen and the Shameless Self Promoter -
DJ Pigpen is the DJ who shows up to your meeting with unkempt hair wearing a threadbare, wrinkled t-shirt with mustard stains left over from last year's State Fair. If he cares this little about himself and his appearance, imagine how little he'll care about his equipment and your wedding or event. Also watch out for DJ's who care more about promoting their product than their actual product. These DJ's may talk a good game, but their heavy reliance on pushy sales tactics and expensive marketing campaigns usually indicates that they can't rely much on word-of-mouth advertising and referrals and therefore need to have a constant stream of new contacts to keep their calendar full. There are only so many Saturdays during the Northwest's short summer wedding season after all. These DJ's will often use your wedding or event to do a lot of their self promotion, calling out their business information over the microphone to your guests incesently, taking the focus away from you and your event and putting it onto the DJ and his agenda.
I hope this has given you some insight into the DJ world and how to go about finding the best DJ for your event. One last thing you might want to consider avoiding are many, if not most of the DJ services who subcontract other DJ's. There are a few good ones out there, but with most, you don't even get to actually choose your DJ. If you do get to choose, in most cases they still reserve the right to change DJ's should a scheduling conflict arise. Take a look in your local help-wanted ads and you may find as I did, ads seeking "DJ's with No Experience" to work for some of these local DJ companies. This means that if you decide to go this rout, you could be getting a DJ from one of these companies who's never even DJ'd in front of a crowd before, let alone under the high pressures of a wedding! This is a recipe for a disaster of the highest magnitude!