We didn't hire a DJ for our wedding. We sort of recruited the best man (bad idea) to help with the music, but he was too busy doing best man things (I.E. having fun at the damn wedding) to pay much attention to the music.
Was the party still amazing?
Do I wish I hadn't spent 45 minutes fucking with the iTunes playlist in the middle of the reception?
If I had it to do over again, would I scrape up the money to hire a REAL DJ?
Yeah, I might.
Here's Jesse from Dart DJ to tell you why the good ones cost so f*@%ing much:
My partner Michael and I started Dart with the goal of shaking up the typically safe (read: boring) world of wedding DJ's with our unique sound and style. We believe that creativity is essential, from the custom gear we use to the personal mixes, edits and playlists we make for our couples.
Much like our friend Beth at Whoa Nelly Catering, as DJ’s we are often asked, "Why the f* does it cost so much?"
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of why hiring a DJ—and specifically a good DJ—is expensive, we should start by saying that talent and reputation will always be the main factor when it comes to DJ pricing. You pay for what you get and if it's important to you that your wedding DJ is talented, engaging and professional, the price point will always be higher. While Dart itself is a relatively new company, both Michael and I have been making people dance for years at events, clubs and festivals around the world. We are always digging through vinyl looking for those timeless tracks that avoid cliche but are universal in their appeal. This process is something we love to do and a key part of what separates us from a DJ who downloads top 40 playlists and rehashes what Ryan Seacrest is playing on KIIS FM that morning.
With that said, spend five minutes on Craigslist and you will find DJ’s who are way cheaper than us (charging anywhere from $400-$800). AVOID THESE DJ’s. After you see the amount of gear, time and energy that goes into each event we do, I hope you will see why these price points put you at risk of hiring someone flaky and unreliable for your wedding.
As I noted above, no amount of gear, cabling or time will ever perfectly explain the cost of a DJ (don’t hate us for it). The reality is that music is a crucial part of your wedding and to keep people dancing and keep their interest, we need to always be reading the crowd and making adjustments. People who are charging $400 are simply not doing this for a living. They may be selling life insurance during the week and trying to make a few extra bucks on the weekend—which is totally cool—but when it comes to really knowing your library of music and being able to make quick adjustments in a tasteful and stylish way, we feel that this is where devoting your full time and energy to the craft pays off. A few months ago, I came in contact with a wedding DJ to remain nameless. He told me he plays more or less the same songs at every wedding, explaining that these songs “work” and why mess with a good thing. Maybe you're cool settling for "good" (really, "OK" is probably more accurate), but Michael and I simply don't believe in that kind of platitude. You don't have to trade taste for dancing - you just have to work a little harder to find well produced songs that connect with people in a universal way. And that's what we're all about.
(Note: This gets really boring really fast, so feel free to skim!) Owning and maintaining top quality gear is not a cheap endeavor. Michael and I obsess over the gear and aesthetics of our company and we think that pays off both musically and visually on your wedding day. Our custom wood console, 900 mixer, technics turntables, mics, subs and brand new JBLs are expensive and would probably be in the $500-$750 range just for you to rent from a rental company on your wedding day. With that said, the truly hidden cost for DJs and gear is the cabling. Reliable cables are REALLY expensive and we need a lot of them! In addition, we need back ups of everything so that if something shorts out on the day we can quickly and seamlessly swap it out. We've thought through little details like that precisely so you never notice them and keep having a great day instead.
Time and Prep
While rates are often negotiated based on how many hours you need us to actually DJ, the reality is that any wedding is going to take up our entire day and night. A short day will be around 10-12 hours while others, particularly with travel, can stretch to 19 hours (We actually did a 19-hour day last weekend!). While some of that has to do with our attention to detail (we typically set up 2-3 hrs before anyone arrives to make sure everything works perfectly), the reality is that DJing a wedding is much more involved than DJing a club. You can't just plug in your computer, play for two hours, and then leave. Then again, most people are assholes in clubs, slip you $20s to play shit songs you hate and/or spill their Red Bull vodkas on your backpack in the process. So ultimately you can see why we're much more interested in the more exacting, but more rewarding business of making you, your friends and family boogie down.
DJs are often stereotyped as being lazy, apathetic, overpaid stoner kids. After DJing all over the world and for a long time in Los Angeles, I can tell you that this is pretty true! It’s true because switching between two songs is super easy if that is the height of your ambition for an event. The exceptions to this rule are the DJs who are talented mixers, that love what they do, and who want to push an event to engaging and exciting levels. Inevitably these are the people you want at your event and the ones who will command higher prices.
A final tip for couples who are on a very tight budget: ask a friend (not a close friend) with solid DJ experience to DJ your wedding either as a favor or at a friend rate. That way you have at least seen the person spin and have an idea of what they will bring to the event. If you do not have a friend or a friend of a friend who is a good DJ, you may have to step up your budget and give us a call! We're pretty nice.