When I’m meeting with prospective clients, I pride myself on being completely candid when answering their questions. They can ask me anything, and I’m happy to give some feedback based on my experiences in this business. I’ve entertained at more than 1500 events over the course of my DJ career, and I’ve shared some incredible moments with my clients. I’ve also seen a handful of minor mishaps. For the most part, I’ve seen everything, but I’ve yet to be part of a wedding reception where everything went wrong.
In the three years that my company has been offering Photobooth Rentals, we’ve had a great opportunity to see what happens at events with other DJs at the helm. The results? Well, I’m not here to rave about what I do (my clients rave about what I do on WeddingWire, and also on The Knot). I’m also not going to single out other DJ companies in this blog post; doing so won’t be beneficial to anyone. But often, the prospective clients that I meet with arrive armed with a printout of questions that’s been floating around the interwebs for years. The questions are basic and the answers may be helpful to some people, but if you’re looking for a DJ today, there are five new questions that you should be asking:
1. Do you sit behind your table?
Most venues provide DJs with a table, and sometimes a chair. As entertainers, we want your guests on the dancefloor… and on their feet. I can’t figure out how some DJs expect guests to get on their feet when they themselves are just three feet from the dancefloor, sitting behind their table, staring into their laptop screen while the music plays on. Music makes me want to dance, not sit. A sitting DJ can’t possibly bring an acceptable level of energy to your event, regardless of the occasion. Their answer to this question should be a firm “no”.
2. Will you need internet access to play your music?
I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on records, tapes, CDs and mp3 files over the course of my DJ career. I’m not bitter about that; it’s an investment that’s paid for itself many times over. Now that music is hyper-accessible and dirt cheap, I can easily maintain my music library and get the week’s newest tracks with just a few clicks from a legal DJ music-subscription service; it’s part of the preparation that I do in advance of my upcoming events. I wish I could tell you that all DJs are doing this, but I’ve heard the stories from many of my venue manager friends about the DJs who arrived and became irate when they found that the venue did not have internet access available . A professional DJ should own their music files, not play them off of YouTube, access them from the cloud, or have a reliance on WiFi to rock your party.
3. You play the clean versions, right?
There’s a time and place for every song. And when the time is one you’ve been looking forward to for months (and possibly years) and the place is a beautifully-decorated ballroom filled with your family members and closest friends, that’s probably not the best time for your DJ to drop the F-bombs. Radio-friendly versions are readily available to DJs from a number of sources, but many DJs just don’t care about what comes out of their speakers and have no clue that their music selections matter to how they’re perceived. As an entertainer, I want the events where I DJ to be memorable for the best reasons. And to the best of my knowledge, no mobile DJ has ever been booed for playing the clean version of a song.
4. Can I see a picture of your setup?
It’s a super-basic question, but so so so so SO important. An established DJ will not only have a photo of his or her setup for you to see, it’ll likely be a photo taken at the same venue you’ve booked for your event. Even a novice DJ will have a photo to show you, so the next questions are what you should ask yourself while you’re looking at their photos:
- Is this setup presentable? A DJ who cares about appearance will make sure that wires are hidden, tables are skirted and that their area is tidy and organized.
- Is this equipment going to be suitable for my party? You don’t have to be tech expert or music aficionado to answer this one, but you should at least take note of whether or not the speakers in the photo are a matching pair, if there’s even a pair of speakers at all (one speaker is generally not enough), if they’re from a home-theater system purchased at Walmart, or if they’re modern-looking and fairly unobtrusive.
- Does this DJ have a banner or signage? Your event should not be a giant advertisement for the guy with the microphone. Ix-nay the ign-say.
5. What are you listening to right now?
Most people can’t tell me what the number-one song in America is this week. Even fewer would be able name three songs in the Top 10. A good DJ – one who knows all the classics backwards and forwards but continually works to improve his or her craft – should be able to name a few songs or artists they’re currently into. Note that if you’re planning a 50th-year class reunion and their answer is that most new music is garbage, you’ve probably found the right DJ for your party.
Brendan Lafferty is a full-time mobile DJ and the owner of B-Sharp Entertainment. He’s been featured in numerous DJ industry-related publications, including DJ Times and Mobile Beat magazines, and entertains at weddings, parties and events throughout New England.