For any aspiring DJ's out there, here are several tips for running a solid DJ business.
1. Know what’s at stake
Every gig is a big gig. It’s easy to slip into the mistake of perceiving a gig in light of its paycheck, but it is utterly critical to remember that every single gig is an audition for those attending. No matter how small a gig seems it's impossible to know how much value the gig can create for you later; so make sure to go into every gig with your best self. Your customer service skills and personality make a big difference in how you are perceived as a DJ and MC so always prepare yourself for a healthy level of expectation.
2. Have the full itinerary in mind
Show up with a very clear view in your head of the entire event. This approach allows for maximum flexibility and maneuverability because you already know the entire night’s plan and can restructure on the fly. Take the time to thoroughly discuss all the details with the clients one or two weeks before the event date and look at it several times before going. The event should be covered with sound 100% of the time. Never, ever let there be long awkward silences between songs or speeches. It's the DJ's job to keep the sound and music going every moment possible.
3. Arrive early and add time for the unknown
Never plan to arrive at an event with just enough time unless it is completely out of your control, instead you should factor in time for road closures, missed turns, equipment failures, locking your equipment in the car, and anything else that can go wrong in a night. A bit of time wasted is one thing, but arriving late or having a missing piece of equipment is tragic so add some extra time to your transit. Have a back-up person in place who can assist you in a pinch. This sort of forward thinking and planning is what differentiates any ol’ DJ from a Homerun DJ.
4. Do a venue walk through
The first thing any DJ should do as soon as they arrive at a venue, before even pulling out any equipment, is do a thorough walkthrough of the available space and the floorplan. Take note of where the outlets are, how it's easiest to move through the room, the path the wedding party will take during the grand entrance, etc. You might discover that some tables need moved, or that there is a closer entry door for all your equipment than you expected. Even better, meet the venue manager or owner, and it might take your professionalism even higher to be in touch with the venue weeks before the event date.
5. Dress to impress, but not to stand out
This is a hard mark to hit, but it’s a very important step of learning how to take your spot in a night’s events. The way you dress is a reflection of your self confidence, and to your clients, a reflection of your skill and professionalism; so you should absolutely be dressed well, remember overdressing is better than underdressing but it is also just as easy to make the mistake of being out of place. The clothes you wear need to match the style and level of dress of the event that you are attending. A suit may be perfect for a wedding but for a party in a barn it's not just overdressed, it is being dressed wrong. So when in doubt move a level up but make sure it still fits the event, and you’re able to take off a coat or tie later.
6. Make sure the client is paid up before the event starts
One of the hardest hits to any DJ, big or small, is the first time they do an event before the client has paid, based on trust, then end up getting stiffed after. This was my experience at my second wedding, after being hired last minute because another DJ “backed out” (probably for not getting paid anything yet). So take it from those who know better; be careful about doing an event just on trust of being paid at or after the event. At the minimum, require payment in full before you set up equipment (if they do not have electronic payment capabilities).
7. Inform the wedding party and vendors
You may think that the wedding party, photographer, caterer, and venue manager will know just as much as you, but that is often not the case. It’s better to be ready to share with VIPs or vendors a solid run through of the night’s events and make sure you know exactly when the bride wants different portions of the night to be announced. Have extra copies of the event plan. This is how you can actually be a great wedding MC and event planner, not just a DJ.
8. Get Good Gear
Plenty of guys want to be DJs and start out with small or cheap gear. But the equipment sets the tone for your longevity. Literally. If the speakers cannot push clean and clear sound at a loud level to fill all kinds of room sizes, you’re going to have a problem convincing anyone to say positive things about your DJ business for long. You don’t need the top brands, but you definitely don’t want the cheapest things you can find either. It will come back to haunt you. This goes for a good wireless mic too. It needs to project speeches perfectly or else it looks bad on you - no one else. Dance lighting also needs to adequately fill a dance floor, if not the entire room, when the lights are low, without being annoying. A professional DJ knows how to create the perfect party that sounds, looks and feels great. When combined with good catering, people are sure to walk away happy!
9. Play to the crowd
A big part of working as a DJ is having an eagle's eye for body language and facial changes. If a song is playing and you notice people looking tired and their dancing changing that might key you in that the song has been going just a bit too long. So it may be time to fade into a new song. Remember you are here for them not for you. Receive all requests with respect, and let them know what you can do. Sometimes, the client has a “do not play” list. Especially at weddings, the audience wants to hear familiar tunes. Slick mixing, editing and effects are not as important as playing the right kind of music that your crowd already enjoys.
10. Know your music
It almost goes without saying that knowing music is key - lots of genres and top tracks in lots of decades. It could take years to know thousands of songs by memory and know how to use them effectively. Songs have a certain beat and vibes to them and it’s critical to shift those vibes somewhat gradually rather than all at once, because when those changes are too fast it really creates a disconnect in the party between what was happening and what is happening. Instead, you want those two moments to flow together perfectly and really make the whole night flow like a river. So take the time to listen to all the music you plan to play, know the names, artist, and even album cover art and be able to put them together in your head without needing to sample them.
11. Have fun
It feels like a silly thing to remind people of, but it's so true! The event is not for you but it would be a mistake not to enjoy your time there. Remember, being a DJ should not just be a job like working at a store but a passion. Your hype and mood creates energy in the room too. So remember to have fun, dance a little behind the booth, laugh, take some pics or videos, and show what an amazing a job you are capable of through your own body language. People will pick up on that energy you are putting out and feel themselves drawn into the music you are playing, making the night all the more memorable.
These are 11 ways you can ensure to hit a grand slam just like the Atlanta Braves did in their championship baseball season that just ended a few nights ago. I hope you enjoyed the read!
Founder, Nate Stults