7 Wedding DJ Red Flags You NEED to Avoid
Planning a wedding is a stressful job. Everyone is looking to get all the details just right and, when it comes to choosing vendors, you don't want to hire anyone who will make the day anything less than unforgettable.
Now more than ever, technology has made entering into the DJ business easier than ever before. For only a fraction of what it used to cost, music enthusiasts and hobbyists alike are able to scrounge up the gear they need, put together an online presence and get behind the decks in front of a dance floor full of people. However, that doesn't mean that all DJs are created equal.
The thing that has really amazed me over the years is that, still, the assumption among the majority of consumers is that all DJs basically look and sound the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, experience, know-how and the ability to tailor their services to create a unique experience for each of their clients separate the great DJs from the average or mediocre ones. At the end of the day, you always get what you pay for.
How do you know which is which? If you're on the lookout for a wedding DJ, how can you determine if you're making the right choice? Fortunately, mobile DJ red flags are actually pretty easy to spot. Here are some you NEED to watch out for:
Pre-Prepared Song Lists
You've heard of Spotify. You may have also heard how Spotify is replacing DJs for big events like weddings because it's by far the cheaper option. While many couples do come around and spend the money on a living, breathing human being who can do things a machine can't, like read a crowd and cater to their specific tastes, hiring a DJ who uses pre-prepared lists of songs is a mistake.
At that point, why wouldn't you use Spotify instead? A DJ who cannot deviate from the musical version of a prepared text isn't worth your time. Sure, some of his or her act will be similar to weddings they've worked in the past, but the entire performance shouldn't be a note-for-note carbon copy of the one they did last week or last month (or last year).
When meeting your DJ face-to-face (and before signing anywhere on the dotted line), ask them if they use pre-determined lists of music or construct their sets on the fly. The latter will lend itself to a much more engaging, fulfilling experience on your big day.
Inability to Take Requests
This one's tangentially related to my previous point, with one big difference - even a DJ who doesn't use pre-prepared music playlists as a crutch may still be a relatively inflexible entertainer. To put it simply, if the man or woman behind the decks can't accommodate the various song requests of your invitees the night of the wedding, what is supposed to be an exciting, bubbly atmosphere could be laced with no small amount of tension.
Here's the truth: Taking requests (or not) is a polarizing topic of discussion in the DJ community. Some DJs love getting input from the crowd, while others despise being pushed outside of their own musical comfort zone. That said, even if your tastes are pretty broad and aligned with the preferences of the attendees, I still that refusing requests from wedding guests is a big no-no.
Really, it's a question of strong customer service. Are you going to make another person's marriage all about what YOU want to play and not care about what those at the event want to hear? If you're getting that vibe from your potential wedding DJ, it's probably a good idea to steer clear.
Lack of Organization
I've always believed that at least 80 percent of a successful wedding DJ gig is done before anyone even sets foot in the venue. From a client perspective, choosing someone who's organized - on both the music and the business side of things - over someone who seems a little more aimless could make a huge difference when everyone's ready to party at your wedding reception.
It's usually pretty easy to pick out a wedding DJ who's organized too. Right from that first in-person consultation, they should be punctual, prepared, insightful and, above all else, have the answers to all your questions. Even if you don't have all the details for your wedding confirmed when you first speak to a prospective DJ, he or she should still be able to get a feel for what kind of audiovisual setup you'll need, what kind of musical vibe to bring to the event and give you advice on constructing an itinerary for the evening.
A wedding night without an organized personality at the helm can go off the rails quickly and have a lot of trouble recovering. Whether they work with a separate emcee or make announcements on the mic themselves, the person in charge of your wedding entertainment should be confident and in control from start to finish. That way, you and your partner can enjoy your first few hours of newlyweds without wondering if your party is running smoothly.
Lots of Hidden or Additional Fees
This is true of other industries outside of the wedding and DJ spheres, so you probably know where this one is headed already. That said, I cannot figure out why some DJs are still charging couples for little micro-expenses that should either be absorbed by their mobile DJ business or, at the very least, built into their sound and lighting packages already.
Typically, there are two main ways that you'll see DJ fees written out - in one lump sum, sometimes asking for a percentage of that total as a deposit, or as a standard hourly billing scale. The former is more popular than the latter, but both share one commonality: those tend to be the only things you have to pay the DJ for.
Reasonable travel expenses aside, I've heard of some professionals charging for things like the set-up and teardown of their equipment, hefty transportation costs and even for online services (often associated with photobooth or hashtag-based picture streaming) that couples can sign up for and execute on the night of their wedding for free.
Bottom line? Lots of additional or hidden fees in a DJ contract should make you question what other surprises he or she might spring you with as you get closer to the big day.
Assembly Line Approach
Before beginning the wedding planning process, you and your future spouse will more than likely have sat through a couple yourselves. More than that, you'll probably have a pretty good idea of what you'll want to see, hear and feel on that special day, including your wedding DJ. One thing you won't want? To have your entertainment sound just like everyone else's.
With that in mind, DJs who cannot provide a couple and their wedding guests with a soundtrack and overall experience that is unique to the needs and wants of the soon-to-be-newlyweds will make your big day feel pretty ordinary. Sure, popular songs and party classics are played at nearly every wedding on Earth; however, that doesn't excuse an assembly line approach to any wedding or mobile DJ event.
If there's no excitement or enthusiasm from your potential DJ about how they'll make your wedding day memorable and unique to your tastes, your reception will lack the spark that can turn the pedestrian into the unforgettable.
Lots of Venue Requirements
You've heard of big-ticket performer riders for bands, comedians and other performers, but what you might not know is that plenty of local wedding DJs like to pile on the requests for special treatment. This is especially true of wedding reception venues and couples who may be left trying to accommodate some over-the-top asks.
Whether it's unnecessary food or drink requirements, external audiovisual rentals that the couple must take care of themselves or other instances of diva behavior, hiring a low-maintenance wedding DJ personality is often just as important as considering someone's technical skills behind the decks or on the mic. At the end of the day, who wants to babysit one of their service providers during their wedding celebration?
Lack of Interpersonal Skills
Finally, we have a major red flag that is often overlooked: whether or not your DJ is a people person.
Being a wedding DJ is all about serving people and making anyone's wedding an amazing event. Part of succeeding on that level is being able to deal with different personalities, especially when certain character traits could be amplified by alcohol consumption. An outgoing demeanor helps but being able to navigate the emotionally-heightened atmosphere of someone's nuptials is one of the keys to a great wedding DJ.
If anyone on your list of prospective DJs is a wallflower who is unwilling to interact with you, your spouse or any of your guest will bring the energy in the room down and, even worse, give the night a standoffish, anti-social tint to it.
What do you think? Are there any wedding DJ red flags that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!