How Much Should I Budget for a DJ?
Let’s face it, the worst part of a wedding is paying for it. The average wedding in 2015 cost roughly $28,000. Although the DJ is nowhere near the most expensive item on the list (save that for the venue and catering), budgeting for a DJ is no easy task. It’s hard to know if you’re scoring a deal, or spending way too much. Does paying more mean that your DJ will be better? Does paying less mean they will be much worse? What should be included in the price you pay and what shouldn’t? If you haven’t hired a DJ before, it is very hard to answer these questions. At Airwaves we’ve DJ’d well over 1000 weddings and have worked with DJs that range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand and have a few tips that could really help you out.
The 3 Types
There are essentially 3 types of DJs. Very cheap ($400-$1000), middle-of-the-road ($1000-$1800) and more expensive ($1800-$3000+).
In our experience the first option can actually work if you are on an extreme budget, however we have a few pointers. DJs charging this rate most likely are still building their reputation. Their equipment may be outdated or rented. Both of these things may be okay, but at the same time could cause a lot of problems. In this case, the DJ has budgeted for the time they will spend at your wedding, meaning they haven’t billed you for meetings, calls, emails or planning leading up to the wedding. This can work if you really trust the DJ and you are extremely organized. However, if you do not know the DJ, they may cancel before the wedding once they realize how much work it will be to collect your songs, timeline and information about your venue, start time, etc. Or, you could end up with additional bills leading up to the wedding for equipment or expenses the DJ is just starting to realize in the months, weeks and days leading up to your wedding. I wouldn’t recommend this option for my family or friends, but it has worked for some. Our advice? Be careful and only do this if you really know and trust the DJ.
We will admit, we are a little bit biased toward the second, middle of the road option because that is what we charge at Airwaves. We are usually right in the middle of this price range which on average is 5% of the total wedding budget. Given that the DJ is at your wedding longer than any vendor and is the one who’s job it is to ensure your wedding is fun for your guests, we feel 5% is a pretty fair percent, if not a little low. When you pay the middle-of-the-road, average price, you are making a decision to pay a bit more to get a more professional company. You should expect top of the line equipment, a DJ who has experience working at weddings and great customer service leading up to the event. At this rate, you can expect that all the time and equipment has been budgeted for in advance and you shouldn’t have to worry about paying additional fees for extra services. Generally speaking, this price range will be able to get you a 10/10 DJ that your friends will be talking about for a long time after the wedding gig. Even if you work with a company, like Airwaves (who earns a profit from taking a booking fee from the gig rate), the company will still be paying the DJ fairly and leveraging their relationship with the DJ to get a discount, then turning those savings into profit. That is why it is okay if you already have a great relationship with a DJ who is able to offer you a discount and has an extensive resume as a professional wedding DJ you may be able to get away with the cheaper option. Having said that, at our company we get to know DJs for months and months before hiring them and we follow up on a lot of their events before they even join our company. We offer an extra level of vetting that you couldn’t find anywhere else and that may be worth paying a couple of hundred dollars extra for. As well, a company will offer exceptional customer service which will make a huge difference. If everything is properly organized well in advance of the wedding, the chances of the gig going very well will be much, much higher.
Finally, there are DJs charging over $1800 for wedding gigs. In our opinion, you should only pay this rate in a very special circumstance. If you’ve seen this DJ personally at a family member or friend’s wedding and they really, really did an amazing job, then it may be worth paying a little bit extra. So much of the time though, we hear people say “he charged more so we thought he must be the best”. This is not the case. In fact, may times we have found the opposite to be true. Some DJ’s have a great reputation but don’t really enjoy DJing weddings anymore. To make it worth their while, they charge higher and higher fees each year to give them a reason to actually take on the gig. The end result isn’t a good one as the couple pays way more than they should and the DJ doesn’t really want to be there anyways. On the flip side of this, some DJs are just so busy and so popular that supply doesn’t match the demand for them and so they are able to command a very high fee. Is this DJ better than the lower priced DJ? Maybe. In most cases probably not. It is very difficult to tell. At Airwaves, we have a few DJs who have been with us for years and years, so they have built up a reputation within our company. These DJs have charged more in the past. They have always done a great job for us, so we’ve been happy to bill them out for more. We’ve also sent DJs to gigs where they charged $1300 instead of $2000 and we had results that were just as good or better many times. In our experience, price matters to an extent, but after a certain threshold, paying more doesn’t make a significant difference.
Paying more is important, to a point. If your DJ charges under $1000, I would be concerned they may not be a professional. Having said that, there are always exceptions and it may be the case that you really did find an amazing deal. If so, congratulations, that’s fantastic! Our only word of warning is that if you are going to go this route, really make sure you personally know the DJ and their gig history (experience) and talk to as many of their previous clients as possible. If you don’t know them, we’d highly advise going this route. As well, don’t hire someone because they are a friend. Hire them because you’ve personally seen them in action and know they can deliver, consistently. Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour.
For DJs in the $1000+ range (all the way up to $3000 or more), you won’t see much difference by paying more. Having said that, you may be buying piece of mind and when it comes to having a wedding, nobody can blame you for protecting your bases. The purpose of this article though was to really help you with our insider’s knowledge and we can tell you from our experience at over 1000 gigs that paying more doesn’t mean the DJ is better. Many times, paying more resulted in working with a DJ whom had a bigger ego or who didn’t really want to be there. If money is the main thing your DJ is talking about, then that is the main thing on their mind. Our main value at Airwaves is to give our couples Their Music, Their Way. We aren’t money focussed because we know if we do a great job, the money and the referrals will come as a natural bi-product of doing a great job.
Hopefully this article helped. If you have any questions or insight about hiring a DJ, please let us know!