Dear DJ AJ9: How Much Does A Wedding DJ Cost? (And Other Musings)

This question comes in many forms: How much is a Wedding DJ?  Can you send pricing for a DJ for four hours?  What’s the cost of your 5 hour package for a DJ?  And — of course: Do you know of another company that does exactly what you do… only for less?

I realized, this week, that I’ve never written publicly about this subject, and wanted to remedy that oversight.  Perhaps it is the almost sordid nature of this subject of coin changing hands in exchange for my talents.  Nevertheless, I am asked this question almost daily about both my own company as well as the general market.  You deserve an answer, and I’m ready to go “on record.”

Here’s your answer: in the greater Northeast Ohio area (I figure that’s Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown, and the surrounding areas), Wedding Disc Jockey packages may range in price from $0.00 to well over $25,000.00.

That’s not a very helpful answer, though — is it?  Fellow nerds may be reminded of a scenario from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  Upon learning that the answer to “the Great Question, the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything” is “forty-two.”

“I think the problem, to be quite honest with you,” says Deep Thought, “is that you’ve never actually known what the question is…”

“So once you do know what the question actually is, you’ll know what the answer means.”

DJ AJ9 at Samantha and Ben's Entertainment Planning Meeting.  Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

DJ AJ9 at Samantha and Ben’s Entertainment Planning Meeting. Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

“Shopping” for a wedding entertainer can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a bride or groom’s wedding planning process, simply because “buying” a DJ is so very different from buying a toaster.  What we “sell” is this amorphous idea that you can’t see or taste or touch.  As soon as we give it to you, it’s instantly gone (though a really talented wedding entertainer can create something that is breathtakingly captured in nearly every moment archived by your wedding photographer).  What you’re looking for is an experience, and it’s frustrating that it often starts out wrought with stress through the hiring process.

Add to the philosophical bridal obstacle course the fact that (likely) the couple has never hired an entertainer, before, or planned a party this large, before, or — let’s just say it out loud — spent this much money on a single day in their entire lives.  They may never do any of these things, again, either.  And this person — this “DJ” — may represent a fairly minor part of your total wedding budget (many couples invest between 8% and 10% of their total wedding budget), but this critical hiring decision will ultimately be responsible for over 80% of your event’s perceived “success.”

So — it’s important information we need, here, but It’s hard to get a good answer without a good question.  What’s a better question?  The real question is something more like

“How Much Do Wedding Entertainers Who Are Well-Suited for *My* Wedding Cost?”

Now.  That is a question we can definitely find an answer for!

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It all depends on what you’re looking for, but we’ll start by thinning the herd a little; some of those options in the $0.00 to $25,000.00 range probably just aren’t a reasonable match for your needs, at all.  I’m going to take the liberty of making a few assumptions to help you do exactly that, below:

First, we’ll eliminate the $0.00 option — your friend, who will operate an iPod or laptop computer “for free.”  I figure — you’re on a wedding entertainment company’s website, right now, which means there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve eliminated this option, for yourself, already, so I won’t waste your time listing the myriad of ways that this arrangement can end in heartache for everyone involved.  Scratched off the list.  One down, 25,000 to go.

Next, I’m going to eliminate the $10,000.00 to “well over” $25,000.00 option — a celebrity DJ like DJ Cassidy.  Yes, he’s a very talented musician, and yes, he played Beyonce’s wedding, but since you’re probably not famous and because he’s currently on tour, I’m thinking that he might not be available for the gig, especially not at his 2010 minimum rate of a measly $25,000.00.  😉  I might also be so bold as to note that the show-stealing notoriety of a celebrity DJ might not be *exactly* what you’re seeking for your big day, anyway.

What about the under $500.00 range of options?  According to simple mathematics, it isn’t reasonable to expect to earn a living wage doing business at this rate, so this range must represent “hobbyists.”  If you know a hobbyist and find that level of performance and service to be acceptable — again — you would have already hired that person and probably would not be on my blog.

We’ve now narrowed our range of prices to between $500.00 and $10,000.00 — still pretty broad, but it’s a start.  Each couple is different, so I may not be able to walk you through the rest of the steps by making these assumptions.  Here’s how to continue thinning the herd on your own, according to your preferences:

According to Cost of Wedding, in order to retain a “Well-experienced Professional” entertainer (noted: this is without any “Unique or Custom Products and Services), you should expect to pay between $1,043.00 and $1,390.00.  In exchange, you should expect to receive a written agreement for service, an average sound system, and a competent operator of average ability who has worked at more than one wedding and who will make average announcements.  You should be offered the opportunity to choose songs for special events over the course of the evening and to be involved in the planning of your timeline (as much as you can be through 4 or 5 of pages of forms, anyway).  You may also be allowed to make music requests for background or dancing music, too.  Sometimes, you get more… or less.  Like the statistic, this is only an average expectation.

Something New Entertainment's Custom Entertainment Planning Guide.  Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

Something New Entertainment’s Custom Entertainment Planning Guide — Facilitated by Ben and Samantha’s Personal Entertainment Concierge: DJ AJ9. Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

Why, then, are averages listed for expenditures only $521.00-$869.00?  Well — not all of the options available to brides and grooms are what would be classified as “Well-experienced Professionals,” and — just like in any other market where many consumers may not understand the difference between the experience that results from hiring a “cut-rate” service versus an “exceptional” service — it’s all-too-easy to find a person who will agree to take the “gig” for a sub-standard rate.  Though most brides and grooms would say that having good entertainment is important to them, if asked directly, the reality of the planning shuffle and budget-prioritization often pushes entertainment to the “back burner,” partially because the hiring process is so intimidating (PS — it doesn’t have to be that way).  As a consumer, how do you weed out the “duds?”

“How Do I Find the Best Value?”

That’s an even better question.  You know well enough, by now, that there’s ALWAYS a cheaper option.  You could have purchased a cheaper gown… it might not be THE gown, but there were almost certainly less costly options out there.  Same goes for everything else — your fiance probably could have bought a cheaper engagement ring.  Heck — you could elope.  It would definitely be cheaper than hosting a wedding reception.

Cheaper isn’t often better, though.  Most of us know a great VALUE, when we see it, though, and — for many of us — hosting a formal wedding and reception has a very high value, indeed.  It may not be the cheapest option, but if you spot a good-quality and practical-to-your needs item that will save you time and stress, give you a great experience, and that you LOVE, it’s often “worth it” to invest.

As the resource mentions, you may not be offered the opportunity to take advantage of any “Unique” or “Custom” services from entertainers in the aforementioned pricing brackets.  What’s the difference?  Take the Something New Challenge and find out!

PropagandaChalkboardPostcardWebHere’s a tiny taste:

First [spoiler alert]: ALL “DJs” will play music.  All of them.  MOST “DJs” will honor your specific requests, too.  If not, I’m sort of questioning whether it’s likely that this would be disclosed upfront… seems like a particularly un-strategic move.  The point is: if you’re going to get the most out of your interview time, you’re going to have to “dig deeper” than just the music questions.  I challenge you to set the bar higher.  Don’t let someone “pull one over” on you.  Arm yourself with information, and make the most of your chance to vet your entertainment company.

Next, consider what factors may affect pricing and what you are willing to invest in.  You know some of them, already: the specific services retained (DJ?  MC?  Wireless mic?  Uplighting?  Photobooth?  Something else?) as well as the duration of the entertainment engagement (4 hours?  5 hours?  Three days with travel?). Those two factors alone may not allow you to make a truly “apples-to-apples” comparison between prospective companies, though, especially since some companies don’t charge according to the same time structures and may include certain “extras” at no additional cost.

Here are some less-obvious components that may affect pricing: the amount of time the company has been in business, their staff structure, the quality of their sound equipment — of course — the company owner’s own personal estimate of the “worth” of their “product.”  What may be very much related to that last point, (one which I very rarely hear mentioned, perhaps because the Something New Entertainment approach is so unusual — many clients tell us that they didn’t even know that what we do existed) is the talent of the individual performer(s), the training they have undertaken within their specialty area, the amount of “man-hours” devoted to planning each event with each couple, and whether or not they are willing to promise the services of a particular entertainer or subject brides and grooms to a sort of DJ assignment lottery.

They say “you get what you pay for,” and — for the most part — you will notice a trend that the “bottom line” investment figure is directly proportional to the amount of time a company has to spend on each event.  Not always, though; remember that the amount you pay filters down through the company’s business structure to the event staff — your actual “DJ” — through the company’s business structure in the form of costs and profits to the company as well as staff compensation.  A college student working part-time and earning a $125.00 cut of the total fee paid to the company per “gig” may not have as much talent, experience, specialized training, or time to devote to each event.

DJ AJ9 at Samantha and Ben's Entertainment Planning Meeting.  Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

DJ AJ9 at Samantha and Ben’s Entertainment Planning Meeting. Photo by Ben and Jodi Photography.

If customized services or face-to-face time with your actual entertainer are important to you — you’ll likely pay more for those “Unique or Custom” services — personalized Grand Entrance Scripts, Love Stories, Audio Edits or Custom Music Mixing — these all take time and expertise to produce.  Some of that time may be spent face-to-face with you (a huge advantage and comfort for bridal clients hoping to produce a memorable and unique event).  However, considering that 80% success statistic (?!?!?) I will be so bold as to say that the very best entertainment services you can find will be a wise investment, indeed.

There, now!  You know the averages, you know the reasons why price varies, and you know a little bit of what to look for in an interview.  Want to learn more?  Take the Something New Challenge.  Contact us to inquire about your date and to schedule a consultation, today.

1 Comment

  1. Liz Daley

    Great Article, my friend!

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