Take your upcoming function to the next level with the party elevating skills of an event DJ. DJs show up with everything needed to set the mood for a successful affair. Whether you want classy, somber, soulful, celebratory or some combination thereof, a DJ plays the tunes and helps keep your guests entertained and engaged. "DJ" stands for disc jockey and comes from the rise of radio, when DJs would spin vinyl records. Today's DJs play their music from a digital format via a computer, though some local DJs still spin vinyl records on turntables for parties, or mix up formats to combine digital media with scratching vinyl. If you have a preference, always let your DJ know ahead of time to make sure you work with someone who is the right fit for you.
Most people hire a DJ to provide a mobile sound system and play music as entertainment during an event, such as a wedding or birthday party. But you can hire a local DJ for any type of event, including corporate events, junior high or high school dances, graduation parties, family reunions, class reunions, anniversary parties, engagement parties, wedding receptions, or any other type of party where tunes are needed. You can even hire a DJ to provide appropriate musical backing at a celebration of life for a loved one. You don't need to have a major event to hire a DJ; a summer barbecue is occasion enough to hire a pro to set the right mood. Depending on the type of event you are hosting, you may want to request a musical theme such as pop/rock, hip-hop/rap, country, Top 40, Latin, electronic dance music, oldies, Indian/Bollywood or more. With millions of songs available electronically these days, DJs can work with your theme and create playlists tailor-made for your event.
Included in the cost of most DJ services is the creation of custom playlists. When you hire a DJ, explain clearly the styles of music you love, specific songs you're dying to hear, songs you absolutely do not want to hear, and the musical pacing of the event. Often, DJs can start an event with mellower music that welcomes people in and gets them comfortable, then gradually bring up the tempo and energy to get people mingling and moving around. Depending on the type of event you're hosting, you may want to have time specifically for dancing, and once the party is nearing an end, the DJs can play music that helps everyone wind down. Many DJs offer playlist planning portals on their website. This means that in the days leading up to the event you can add songs when you think of them — even if it's 3 a.m. You can also add songs you don't want to hear to a "no playlist." Many DJs will put their on creative spin on the music selection and mixing, unless you specify during hiring that you have pre-selected playlists.
The cost to hire a party DJ can vary based on the length of your event, the number of guests, the amount of sound equipment the DJ will need to bring, how interactive you want the DJ to be throughout the event, the number of DJs required, and any extras such as lighting, a dance floor or a fog machine. The type of event you are hosting can also affect cost. Bar mitzvahs and Sweet 16s, where a big part of the DJ's job is to get the kids excited and dancing, often have higher prices for DJ services than a holiday party or a 40th birthday celebration. If you're looking to hire a talented local DJ, here are the cost factors to consider.
Type of event
One of the biggest factors in your DJ costs will be the type of party you are hosting. As you might expect, wedding DJs cost more than a DJ for a graduation party or anniversary. But did you know that DJs for coming-of-age parties often cost more than wedding DJs? Thumbtack research, culled from tens of thousands of Thumbtack quotes, has shown that bar and bat mitzvah DJ services can cost more than wedding DJ services. In fact, in 2015, bar mitzvah DJs were 32 percent more expensive than wedding DJs and 93 percent more expensive than the average birthday party. This is because the DJs are working double-time, simultaneously serving as MC, DJ, crowd control, joke master, and dance instructor all rolled into one. If you've ever tried entertaining a banquet hall full of tweens, you will understand.
Length of event
DJing may seem like the dream job, but it's also a lot of work. DJs are on their feet, keeping their eye on the crowd and managing the overall mood of the party, staying one step ahead of events and working closely with the party host or event coordinator to keep the event on schedule. That's why the number of hours a DJ is hired to spin music will affect the cost of services. Many DJs offer packages that include a set number of hours, with flexible pricing to accommodate additional hours.
DJs may charge an hourly rate that fluctuates depending on the type of event you are hosting. For example, a DJ may charge $75 per hour for corporate parties and $100 per hour for weddings. Other DJs may have hourly rates that decrease the longer you book them for. The initial rate takes into account their operating costs and the time and effort required of them to prepare for your event, drive to your location and set up. If you book them for more hours, many DJs are able to offer lower hourly rates since they are already on-site with their equipment and ready to party. Here are some examples of how party length can change average service rates from DJ Memo Entertainment in Modesto, California:
- 2-hour prom/high school dance: $350
- 3-hour prom/high school dance: $450
- 4-hour prom/high school dance: $500
- 5- or 6-hour prom/high school dance: $600
Wedding DJs can make or break a wedding reception. The personality of your wedding DJ can set the mood for the entire affair, especially if you are having them provide MC services in addition to playing music. DJ RB of Alexander Sound Entertainment in Austin, Texas, recommends that you should find a wedding DJ you would be proud to introduce to your whole family. If you are hiring a DJ for your wedding, be sure they meet any requirements of your venue, including liability insurance.
DJ services typically cost more for a wedding than for a regular birthday party or gathering of friends. Henry Richard of A Touch of Class DJ Service in Chicago explains that the higher pricing reflects the fact that weddings require more work for a DJ than many other functions. DJs average 15-20 hours of effort, including pre-wedding consultations, working with the timeline and creating special playlists to ensure the perfect wedding day, says Richard. In the Chicago area, wedding DJ costs often range between $1,000 and $2,500, according to A Touch of Class DJ Service. Higher prices in the range can include premium DJ services with add-on services such as a full lighting package, a subwoofer sound package, a digital video wall, custom monogram lighting or other features.
There's a reason you don't want your niece to DJ your 30th birthday party. Even if she has fabulous taste in music, unless she has professional sound equipment, your big party will sound like it's being played on a home stereo. The money that professional DJs invest in their equipment is part of the reason they charge the rates they do. The more high-tech the sound system, the larger investment on the part of the DJ. A Touch of Class DJ Service says that DJs might bring anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 worth of music and sound equipment to an event. If you want an upgraded package that includes lighting and other special effects, that requires even more valuable equipment. This is also why it's important to hire a DJ who has the appropriate insurance coverage.
When you hire a DJ, they expect you to have requests and preferences about the music you want played. Their fees account not just for the time they spend spinning songs at your party, but also for the time they spend preparing by making playlists and organizing music for your event. Requests for obscure music can increase costs — especially if it's something the DJ does not already own, requiring him or her to download the music or find it elsewhere. Don't be shy about communicating freely with your DJ about must-hear songs and the overall mood you want.
The total cost of DJ services may increase if the DJ is asked to emcee the event as well as provide music. Acting as the MC can include announcing activities, keeping the event on schedule and more. Some DJs automatically include MC services in the cost of their package, so be sure to ask if this is the case. Be sure to let the DJ know if you don't want them to provide any MC services. Some DJs like to urge people to get on the dance floor or talk to the crowd over the mic unprompted. If you prefer the DJ to keep their service to the tunes, just communicate that clearly with them during the hiring process.
Some DJs offer flat rates for their services, without any time limits. This means that if you hire them for two hours or seven hours, the price will be the same. For example, Price Entertainment in Edmonds, Oklahoma, charges a flat fee of $650 for weddings and events within an hour's drive. If you hire them for a wedding, that price includes rehearsal walk-throughs, ceremony, reception, setup and tear-down. It also includes wireless microphones for toasts and officiant, dance floor lights, uplighting and music downloads. Price Entertainment does have a travel fee which can affect their flat rate. If the destination is within a two-hour drive, the flat rate is $775, and if the destination is within a three-hour drive or further, the rate is $900.
Size of event
Large weddings and parties can increase the DJ bill if additional speakers, microphones or upgraded sound equipment is required to properly serve the crowd.
Number of DJs
For longer events, more than one DJ may be needed to keep the music going and guests engaged. More people on the job will likely increase the cost of services. Twin Spin Entertainment in Dublin, California explains that for large events that need to be executed with precision, the DJ will hire assistants to help with setup and breakdown. These extra hands will be reflected in the rates for the event.
A well-known or highly sought-after DJ will often cost more than a DJ who is just starting out or is not as well-known. If you want to book a world-famous DJ like Calvin Harris for your big summer blowout, you can expect to easily pay $100,000 or more. Local DJs with regional celebrity won't cost in the hundreds of thousands, but you may expect to pay more than the average $500 DJ party cost.
Just how fabulous do you want your party to be? A professional DJ service can transform your affair from conference-room drab to spectacular nightclub vibe with their cool props and toys. In addition to spinning music, many full-service DJ companies offer a range of add-ons. For indoor and outdoor events, you can often choose from a selection of lighting packages. Lighting can include uplighting for the dance floor or a full-scale disco-spotlight and strobe-light extravaganza. Many pro DJs have packages that include temporary dance floors for indoor or outdoor events. Some even have mirrored dance floors.
Other fun DJ add-ons include smoke machines, bubble machines, staging, microphones and more. Of course, all of these services add to the overall cost. For example, a Pennsylvania-based company charges $400 for playing at a 4-hour event with their standard DJ services ($100 for each additional hour). This price includes music, sound, event coordination beforehand, announcements during the event, and a simple lighting setup. To upgrade to a midrange package that includes a subwoofer sound system, a rotating light system and two laser lights, the cost increases to $650 for up to 4 hours ($150 for each additional hour). To upgrade from the midrange package to a premium package to include a UV cannon light and LED UV par can lights, the cost increases to $800 for up to 4 hours of service ($200 for each additional hour).
Depending on where your party is located, you may have to pay more. Travel to and from the event site can result in travel fees, increasing the total cost of services. DJ travel fees account for the added time it takes to get to you. Travel fees can vary depending on how the account for mileage, time spent in traffic, toll bridges, and parking fees. DJs may have a standard service area, outside of which you pay an additional cost per mile. For example, everything within a 25-mile radius is free of charge, and anything beyond that is an extra 50 cents per mile.
How to hire a DJ
Hiring a DJ is all about preparing to have fun. Start by reading customer reviews to get an idea of how long they have been in business and whether their other clients are satisfied. Look for someone who is professional and puts on a great show. Verify that the pro has the appropriate business licensing and that they hold liability insurance. Discuss pricing with the pro and be sure to get everything in writing. Have a contract that outlines date and exact hours of service, including what time they will arrive for setup and when they will be ready to perform. Clarify what will happen in case of emergency if the DJ gets sick or if they have an equipment failure. A little bit of planning makes for a smooth party.
Putting on an event is not only a lot of work, it can be kind of expensive. Fortunately there are ways to get professional DJ services without blowing your budget. Ask if the DJ you want to hire has reduced rates for off-season or slower days of the week. Friday and Saturday nights are usually the hottest nights to hire a DJ and require the highest rates; if you can host a party on a Thursday or a Sunday, you may be able to negotiate lower costs. Vendor services are also in high demand on holidays, so if you're hosting a holiday party, consider hosting it a week before or after the official day. Also, you should ask about military discounts, says Richard of Touch of Class DJ Service. He says many companies, his included, provide deals for service members. Many vendors, including DJs, also offer discounted rates to seniors.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right DJ for your party. For more, check out these tips for smart hiring.