Arming yourself with a few strobe lights and an iPod jam packed with tunes from all eras and genres does magically turn you into a DJ.
When it comes to DJs, engaging an audience is an art that invovles MCing skills, the ability to read a crowd and, of course, choose music that will appeal to as many people in the crowd as possible. Most importantly you want them to be able to get your guests up on the dancefloor – or at the very least tapping their feet and humming along!
“Couples often feel overwhelmed when it comes to picking a DJ,” says David, a former actor and professional MC.
“They’ve been bombarded with information and when it comes time to sit down and chat with a prospective DJ, a look of absolute puzzlement and bewilderment tends to cross their faces, so it’s a great idea to go armed with a few prepared questions.”
“It’s better to feel 100 per cent confident and go ahead, than to feel 99 per cent confident and regret it, so know what you need to ask – and know what the answers should be, too.”
Komodo Music, which services Perth and other parts of Western Australia, as well as Bali, now employs 10 DJs.
David’s top 10 questions to ask a DJ before signing on the dotted line are:
1 – How long have you (or your DJs) been performing at weddings?
The aim of this question is to figure out, 1) if they’ve had any wedding experience, which is vital since DJing at a wedding is vastly different from DJing, say, at a 21st; and 2) you need to know if your DJ is a hobbyist or a professional who does this full time. This question will determine whether your potential DJ has only ever worked at mates’ birthdays or if they’ve actually performed live at a wedding. Always ask for testimonials. The best DJs will happily provide them as they won’t have anything to hide.
2- What kind of equipment do you use/provide?
While many of today’s DJs have gone digital and will often use a laptop with a digital music collection as their primary tool, be sure to ask what other equipment they will be bringing. Branded gear isn’t always the best indicator of a DJ’s skill set, but if they’re using equipment by trusted brands, you know they’ve made a serious investment in their equipment – and careers. The same goes for lighting. Be sure to ask what lighting (if any) they provide. DJs who use LED lighting equipment are generally at the top end of the scale, but that’s not always true as some DJs do not provide lighting equipment, while others like to focus purely on the music, not lighting.
3- What plans do you have in place if something goes wrong on the night?
Hopefully, you’ll never have to find out, but ask the DJ what would happen if, say, they were unable to make your event due to illness or an accident, or if a speaker were to blow up? Do they have back-up DJs and equipment that can be called in a the last minute?
4- Exactly what does your price cover?
Ask about deposits and whether meetings, equipment, lighting, MC duties, music and GST are all inclusive? Find out exactly what you are paying for and what is included, but also what isn’t included in your final price. A truly professional DJ will be crystal clear about what is on offer and he/she will not be hesitant to put it in writing.
5- Will you sign a contract?
The DJ industry is made up of such a variety of people that this answer will vary markedly, Some prospective DJs will be happy to sign one, others will flat out refuse. While you can’t necessarily judge a DJ’s skill or experience by the fact they are or they are not willing to sign a contract, the fact is the ones who are willing to sign a contract offer more peace of mind. A contract, which will generally be provided by the DJ, in a legally-binding document that not only ensure the DJ will turn up on the day, but that you will pay them for their services. The contract should also clearly lists any exclusions, terms and conditions and cancellation policies. And remember to read it before you sign. Even a contract that hasn’t been read is enforcible once it is signed.
6- Who will be my DJ on the day and can I meet them?
Regardless of whether you hire an individual or a DJ Company, always insist on meeting the DJ who will be performing at your event. This is, after all, the person who will be responsible for ensuring you and your guest have a great time and if, for whatever reason, you don’t “fit” with them, it is vital to learn this BEFORE your big day. If choosing a DJ company, a meeting two or three months prior to the event is enough time to meet them. If you meet them any earlier, the DJ may not be able to commit so far in advance, but opting to meet any later could leave it too late to change DJs if you are unhappy, especially during the peak summer months.
7- What if we do or do not want certain songs played?
When it comes to the choice of music, you are the boss, so whatever you want played – or not played – your DJ should agree to. However, while you know your tastes and, hopefully, those of your guests, keep in mind that professional DJs do this sort of thing week in and week out, and probably know a whole lot more about firing up a wedding crowd than you do.
You definitely have the final say, but be smart and at least heed your DJ’s advice.
8 – Can guests make a request?
Allowing guests to make requests always makes for a bit of fun, and most DJs will be happy to oblige, however leave it to their discretion. The last thing you want is to have a pumping dance number slowed down by a soppy love song that only they like, or, worse still, something with offensive lyrics that may annoy or shock other guests. “There is nothing worse than watching a dance floor empty because one couple or one person wants to hear their favourite song,” says David “and most of the time, they don’t even get up and dance to it!”
Requests are generally fine, but leave it in the DJ’s discretion.
9 – Will you MC the night as well?
Experienced DJs will have no trouble MCing your night, however be sure to check that your DJ on the night is willing – and capable – of doing so. MCing involves the ability to fire up, inspire and instruct the crowd, and if your DJ doesn’t have the right personality for the task, you’ll need to discover that well before signing on the dotted line. Don’t forget to ask how many weddings they have been an MC for. After all, you don’t want your wedding to be their first!
A truly experienced DJ will go through lots of seemingly little details, but they will make a huge difference on the day. They should ask about details such as name pronunciations and running times, and familiarise themselves with your story etc.
Even if you have an MC and, particularly, if they’re a guest, let the DJ take over after the formalities are done. That way your guest also gets to have some fun on the night!
David says that while some DJs will charge extra for DJing, most, including his own DJs do not.
10 – How quickly is your response time to phone calls and emails?
Again this will determine whether or not you are dealing with someone who takes their DJing serious or a weekend hobbyist.
Are they contactable during business hours?; How do they answer the phone?; Do they respond to emails and phone calls within 24 hours?
A good DJ, as with any good wedding supplier, will not want to add to the stress of a wedding and should be a dream to deal with!