I couldn’t agree more with that statement. And I AM a wedding DJ. Whenever I’m talking with someone and the conversation gets around to what I do for a living their reaction to my informing them that I own a wedding DJ company is often something along the lines of, “Wedding DJs are so cheesy aren't they?” After I thank them for their unsolicited opinion I usually do something they don’t quite expect. I agree with them.
After all, that person is correct. Most wedding DJs ARE cheesy. Or corny. Or boring. Or wacky. Or inappropriate. Or… Well… Just not good. At. All.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the vast majority of wedding DJs fall into one of those categories. Or multiple categories for those overachievers of "suckyness." Of course this is just my unscientific opinion and I have not one shred of data to back it up. But what I do know for a fact is, after being in the DJ business for over 20 years that I’ve spoken to many couples who have been unhappy with their wedding DJ and the above terms were the most often used.
If you do a simple Google or YouTube search of the terms “Bad Wedding DJ” you’ll find some amusing stuff. You’ll find everything from DJs just simply being under dressed and unprofessional to DJs playing the wrong song for a first dance to an incredibly inappropriate display of a “DJ” playing percussion on a certain part of who I can only assume is his wife’s anatomy. Classy dude. And while it’s definitely good for a laugh to you and me, take a moment and think about this; was this what the bride and groom had in mind for their wedding day?
I’m sure none of these couples had requested a bad DJ. There must have been some sort of discussion prior to their wedding that gave them the peace of mind that this is the right DJ for them on their most important day. So how does this happen?
I’ll tell you exactly how it happens. Most wedding DJs are simply not good at being a wedding DJ. If that sounds too simplistic, I assure you it’s really not more complicated than that. So how come those bad DJs get hired? Because wedding couples are fooled into thinking that because someone calls themselves a wedding DJ, then they must know what they’re doing. Right?
Wrong. So wrong. Unlike many other services or industries, the DJ industry is no industry at all. By that I mean there are no regulations, licenses, training, certifications or anything else that someone must follow, complete or graduate from in order to be able to call themselves a DJ. All anyone, literally anyone, has to do to be a DJ is head down to their nearest music store and invest a few dollars in some basic gear, download a bunch of mp3’s off of the internet and…Nope that’s pretty much it…They can now call themselves a DJ.
And with the cost of building a website so low, or even free, it’s pretty easy for a person who started DJing last week to create an online presence that looks like they’re a veteran in the industry (Stock photos are awesome aren’t they?). Add some “testimonials” from satisfied clients (Mom, Dad, Bro, Sis? Can you write some stuff about me being a good DJ?) and you’ve got instant credibility. So that’s how couples get fooled as they begin the process of finding a wedding DJ but that still doesn’t answer the question of why those “DJs” get hired year after year.
Here’s why. Those veteran “DJs” exist on one simple premise, “Charge a low enough amount and someone will always hire me once.” Why? Two reasons;
1) They don’t care if they never hear from you again or if you never refer them. They aren’t in the business for referrals because, as I said, someone will always hire them for their low price. Once. And once is all they’re looking for.
2) And this is the biggest reason: This IS NOT their full time career.
Being a DJ is a hobby to them, a side job. A way to make a few extra dollars on the weekend at your expense. Your satisfaction with their service is not their highest priority. They simply don’t have the time during the week to spend prepping for a wedding and it often translates to a sloppy or unprofessional presentation that looks more like the YouTube videos you watched. A full time DJ service on the other hand is a true small business and lives and dies by word of mouth and referrals in exactly the same way a person who opens a small retail store or restaurant in your neighborhood does. They want your referrals. They need your referrals. It’s simply bad business to not take care of each and every client to the fullest extent possible.
That’s not to say that ALL part time DJs are bad. There are some capable and wonderful part timers out there. I know. I used to be one of them. Everyone has to start somewhere right? But it will fall upon you, the wedding couple to do a little extra research to find a quality wedding DJ so how do you go about doing that? How do you not get fooled into hiring a DJ that stinks?
First and foremost you have to set aside a realistic budget for your DJ. While a high price is no guarantee of a high quality DJ a low price almost certainly guarantees a low quality DJ. That price can vary based on where you are geographically. Generally speaking, a Los Angeles based DJ will charge more than an Indiana based DJ for the same services. Even within California, prices can range significantly. Here in So. Cal. the average wedding cost is over $35,000. Remember, that’s an average and your budget may be significantly different but what percentage of that budget should be for your DJ? Two percent? Five percent? Ten percent or more? Of course that’s for you to decide based on how much of a priority DJ service is to you. If it helps, think of your DJ budget in terms of a per person cost, like your food, drinks or cake. How important is your wedding day music compared to these services? Is it more important than cake? I hope it’s more important than cake but then again, you may really love cake.
Next, really check out any of the DJ services you’re considering beyond just their price. How long have they been in business? What about their online reviews? Yelp? The Knot? Google? WeddingWire? Sites like these are objective and can't be manipulated by the DJ company to remove any negative reviews. What do others say about their services? Are they full time? If part time, don't be afraid to ask them why and if their goal is to become full time. Check their references. Can you contact previous and recent couples? Try and get some independent info on the DJ. Are any of the popular local wedding venue’s familiar with them? Do they have a business license and insurance? I know I mentioned earlier that DJs don’t need a license but I’m speaking here of just a simple city assigned business license and general liability insurance that all legitimate businesses must have to be a, well, a business. Don't just take their word, on these documents. Ask to see them.
Finally, once you’ve narrowed your choices down to your top two or three DJ services simply meet them face to face (If you haven’t already) and see which one you connect with personally. Usually one will stand out in some way over the others but in the rare case that you still can’t decide then let the price be the deciding factor. And after you’ve signed your agreement and booked your DJ, congratulate yourself because you’ve practically guaranteed that you found a DJ who doesn’t stink.
Roger Langdon is the owner of So Cal based Faultline Music Service
and is a veteran of more than 20 years in the wedding DJ industry.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.