It's usually the first question I'm asked... probably because I’m often told by customers that they didn’t have a clue how much they would have to pay for a DJ. Well, if you’re looking for someone for a one-off function, the chances are you don’t book entertainment regularly... and you might get quotations ranging from £100 to £1000+! So how much should a DJ cost?
The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. There is more demand for DJs on some nights of the week than others, and on certain nights of the year. The venue may be easy or difficult to get into, and the required hours can vary dramatically, too. Although I would always recommend booking your chosen DJ as early as you can to secure them, booking well in advance commits the DJ to working that night well in advance - so they will be likely to quote you more for booking them next year than next month.
So prices can vary for lots of reasons, but clearly some people charge more than others. Let’s start at the bottom end with Sixty Quid Sid - although he's more likely to be Hundred Quid Harry these days, due to inflation! Generally, I would be very cautious about recommending Sid, or Harry. Someone who is willing to spend their evening working for considerably less than the going rate is usually doing so for a reason. They’re obviously not getting much repeat business, or work from recommendations. Do they have the skills to choose the right music / say the right things / have enough equipment, of the right quality / turn up appropriately dressed? Do they understand the feel of an occasion and have the ability to help to move it along in the right direction? Do they carry spares of as much equipment as possible in case of emergency?
I would also be nervous if your prospective DJ says that they are only cheap because they are just starting out. We all had to start somewhere, but I think most DJs learn something every time they play – I certainly do! – and so I think experience gained over years of regular work has got to improve a DJ's performance at your occasion.
The cost of a DJ is a pretty small part of the overall outlay for a birthday party, say, or for a wedding reception - and yet they have a pivotal role in the success of the evening. A professional DJ will have public liability insurance, their equipment will be portable appliance (PAT) tested, they may be DBS (formerly CRB) checked for their suitability to work around young people, and possibly have other licences appropriate to the venue, the occasion and/or their equipment. Many function venues nowadays will insist on everything being in order here, and will demand to see certificates as proof before your DJ is allowed to start setting up. If he or she is sent packing, it’s going to be a much quieter evening...!
It’s a natural assumption that you get what you pay for. But before you ring the bank to apply for a second mortgage, I'd argue that the most expensive options aren't necessarily the best ones for everyone.
For example, there is a big difference in the amount of equipment required for different-sized venues. If your occasion is in an average-sized function room and your DJ is entertaining a hundred or so of your friends and family, that generally requires a different set-up of sound and lighting equipment than a huge hall that holds five hundred or more. But the DJ with more equipment has to pay for it, and probably pay for a large van to carry it around as well; this will be reflected in their quote, even if three-quarters of their kit sits outside in the van during your party. If I need more equipment for a very large venue, I can hire it just for that night - so not everyone I work for is paying for it.
DJs who charge the highest rates may consider that they're worth it. But you must beware of manipulators who quote for their services based on what they think you'll be prepared to pay. They only get away with it because (a) people may not know the going rate locally, and (b) for a big occasion, there is a tendency for customers to think “I’m only doing this once” and turn a blind eye to the cost.
My charges for 2017 bookings start from £160, but depend on the type of occasion, the day of the week, the approximate hours, the travelling and loading-in time and distance, and the amount of preparation work involved. Please contact me and tell me what you're looking for, and I'll give you a fixed price before you agree to anything.
How do you choose someone? Well, recommendations from previous clients are always useful (mine are on my Testimonials page). Think about what sort of music you want at your occasion - who's going to be there? - what would you all enjoy? Tell your potential DJ what you want, and you should get a clear impression of whether they can deliver for you. Personally, I’m honest about my strengths, and I've no hesitation in suggesting to people that they should try someone else if I don’t think I’m the right person for the job.