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Choosing a DJ

Choosing a DJ


They are out there. Poorly trained, under-qualified DJs who are having a negative effect on the whole profession. Some are simply hacks who take jobs for rates far below what most professional services could even consider. Others work for large DJ companies with slick marketing who promise the client the highest quality, but deliver a disaster. They are the bottom feeders and con-artists of the DJ profession. Rather than swim along with the stream of DJs who take pride in their service and compete for a professional rate, they simply take whatever falls through the cracks. Often, their rates are 50, 60, and even 75 percent less than the reputable services.

But this is not about unfair price competition. What’s really at stake is the credibility of the DJ
profession overall. For the most part, these bottom feeders lack any significant level of training or
experience, as well as the proper equipment to do a competent job. The one thing they have in their favor is price. They have learned that there is a segment of the population that will pay them to perform…at least once.
While they may never be hired back, many of these DJs can get through a high school dance,
class reunion, or summer picnic without causing serious long-term damage. The area they are sparking the greatest concern is the wedding market, where there is plenty of opportunity for the cut-rate, inexperienced DJ to really wreak some havoc.

Too often, prospective clients forget the old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The fact of the matter is, no DJ or KJ with properly maintained, professional gear, a legal music library, and proper training would want to work a four- or five-hour wedding for a hundred bucks. Most weddings take place on weekends and, while larger DJ companies may be able to handle multiple events simultaneously, the single operator is limited to a maximum of four events on a weekend (assuming a Friday night job, a back-to-back Saturday, and possibly a light Sunday afternoon gig). Regardless of how much a DJ enjoys the work or how big a rush they get out of performing, any DJ who would work four gigs for a total of $400 (or less) is extremely challenged in term of their business sense. As a result, DJs who rely primarily on price to attract clients usually offer little or no customer service. In addition, they use substandard gear, carry a meager music library, an leave much to be desired as far as their personal interaction skills or the type of impression they make. In other words, they aren’t doing it just for the money. Some see it as a way to break into the business, For others, it’s an ego thing.

Most people who hire DJs, especially for weddings, are first timers. They don’t know what questions to ask and they certainly don’t know what the answers should be. In many ways they are more in the dark shopping for a DJ then they are shopping for a used car. If they call five different DJs and get prices ranging from $75 or less to $425 or more, it’s bound to be confusing.
Not surprising, most cut-rate DJs get their bookings through non-traditional channels. For
example, it would be very unlikely to find one of these jocks with a display at a mall bridal show, or even with an ad in the yellow pages. Instead, their jobs come through inter-office or inter-family referrals. For example, Jane works with Mary and Mary’s cousin Fred is a DJ. Mary refers Fred. Jane, not knowing any better, makes him her first call. Fred, who had plenty of white space on his booking calendar, quotes a price too good to refuse. At no time does the conversation enter into the DJ’s experience or abilities. For Fred it’s a booking. For Jane, it’s one less thing to worry about and, backed by Mary’s recommendation, she feels she has made a good choice.

Ever had a prospect comment something like, “My sister had a DJ at her wedding and he was terrible. His sound system was horrible. He played heavy metal during dinner, didn’t have the right song for the bridal dance, screwed up the names of everyone in the bridal party, and wouldn’t play any of the songs my sister requested.”
Most likely, the sister hired her DJ based only on price, without properly checking credentials,
background or experience. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of a disastrous wedding, that fact is forgotten. Her DJ was bad, and now you have to reestablish this prospect’s confidence in DJs.
On the up side, Mark Ashe, of Agawam, Mass., says that while cut-rate DJs may hurt the
professional services in the short run, it is helping to educate consumers. Ashe says, “Once someone is burned by a poor DJ, they immediately start sharing the experience with family and friends. Word-of-mouth advertising is a two-way street and when it’s based on a negative experience it travels twice as fast.” In the meantime, Ashe suggests using cut-rate DJs as a point of comparison, adding “Most of them offer so little in terms of experience, customer service, or performance, they make those of us with serious operations look that much better.”
The second effect that rate cutters have on the market in a specific area is that they reduce the
perceived value of a DJ. If one or two DJs start cutting rates just to fill their calendars, and others follow suit, before long every one has a packed calendar and no one is s making a decent wage.
The solution, of course, would be for everyone to stick to their established rates. According to
Jim Baxter of Colorado Sound ‘N Light in Denver, Colo., “Most people’s buying decisions are based on fear. They buy a car when they fear the old one will break down and leave them stranded. They stock up on food when they hear there’s a storm on the way. It’s human nature. Now apply that to DJs. Let’s say a client calls five DJs in a market. Four are relatively close in price but the fifth is way low. In most cases, the client is going to realize that there must be a reason why that DJ’s price is so low. If they are really concerned about value and the quality of the performance they are going to get, they’ll choose one of the other four even if they charge more. Every market needs at least one cost-cutter so the rest of us have a point of reference.”
Of course, there are also those prospects whose biggest fear is being overcharged and that makes
them tasty prey for the rate cutters and bottom feeders. If they happen to call two or three discount DJs before you, they may not get to you at all.
Baxter says it all comes down to the need for DJs to understand their market and carefully tune
their selling skills. “I learned early on that there are five types of customers. That’s why Ford and Chevy offer more than one model and why there is K-Mart, Sears and Nieman-Marcus. If all a client wants is low price, I won’t pursue it but I know plenty of DJs who will, especially if all that client wants is someone to play music. Some consumers want steak, others are happy with hamburger. I just wish more DJs would make up their minds as to which segment of the market they want to go for and just do it. As for those clients who choose a DJ just because he was the cheapest in town…they won’t make that mistake again!”

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