How do we go about finding and working with a DJ? At weddings we’ve been to recently the music just didn’t seem right for us, and anyway, we wouldn’t want to have the same DJ for basically the same group of friends. Please advise us about how to find, hire, and work with a DJ. Like how much do we need to budget in for a DJ for our wedding this summer.
–Avery & George, Newport, RI
Hi Avery and George, your wedding coordinator could be your best bet on this. He or she knows your budget and your style. But still this is what you should know:
- Look for an online wedding forum in the zip code where the wedding is taking place, but don’t give out info about the date or location of the wedding, or you could get crashers. You’re looking for information: DJs to interview, or not interview.
- Get started now, because the best DJs may not be available if you procrastinate.
- Don’t go with a referral until you’ve actually talked to the references on the phone about what the wedding couple liked and didn’t like about the DJ.
- Make a short-list of DJ names and interview them. If you’re lucky they’ll tell you where they are working on a certain night and you can go to the bar or club and listen without getting personal.
- When you narrow down your list of possibilities ask:
- How many weddings has the DJ done in how many years? 100 in three years? 300 in five years?
- How many songs does the DJ have in their repertoire 10,000 songs? 100,000 songs?
- The venue where the wedding is taking place will have a list of contacts for DJs they’ve worked with in the past that they recommend. They may even have a short list of DJs they would NOT recommend.
- Make a list of the requirements that you’re going to insist on in your contract with the DJ.
- The exact amount of time you want music being played–even when it’s softly in the background during diner–to ensure that there are no long deadly silences where guests start asking each other, What happened to the music?
- Look for a contract that states hours that don’t include set up and breakdown. For instance anywhere from $500 to $1,000 an hour for the DJ’s performance. The lower hourly prices may not include equipment setup time or rentals. Is there an added fee for rental equipment or a sound man?
- How many songs do they play in three hours? About 200 during the dancing hours, meaning one song per minute?
- Make it clear if the DJ is also performing the duties of the Master of Ceremonies, because some DJs are not comfortable taking on the role of an MC. You might rather have the best man, maid of honor, a sibling or other friend take on the role of Master of Ceremonies, especially if the DJ is not good at pronouncing names he or she doesn’t know.
- Find out how amenable the DJ is to suggestions. The DJ may not respond well to a list you’ve printed off of Google, as they like to read the crowd.
- The best DJs study the guests looking for clues: What kind of music makes them suddenly get up and dance? What songs do they sing along with? What songs do they raise their arms and move their hands and shoulders to?
- If you don’t want the DJ playing cheesy disco, make that clear: Be emphatic: No “Y.M.C.A.” or “Macarema.” If you don’t want hip-hop during dinner, make that clear. The First Hour the DJ should play a little bit of everything; a variety, to find out what kinds of music people are gravitating towards that makes them swing their bodies, and then go stronger with that sound in the last hour.
- Have a romantic playlist of memorable songs that are standards at weddings. Maybe include Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” You get the picture.
The most important job of the D.J. is his or her talent in reading the room full of guests: Pick up on energy cues, go high, go low, go with the flow.
Happy to answer further questions here
or by text at #917-816-0800.
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