It is a question that i get asked about quite frequently. “Why are your rates so high?” or the exclusive “Whoa that is not in my budget!”. This is a common theme because the value most people put on a DJ is that they “Only play music”. I am going to explain why a professional wedding DJ/MC charges the rates they do and give you some idea of where the money is going. I will start with equipment then get to the time involved with the event in all aspects and also expenses for the business (because it is a business after all and they have to pay their expenses).
So to start off i want to go over equipment. For these numbers i will be going over just a reception without the ceremony setup to make things a little easier. A decent DJ sound system consists of quite a few items. First we have PA Speakers. These for a decent reliable speaker you are looking at $399 + (Mine were $449 at current pricing) per speaker. So for the event a professional DJ will bring 4 of these 2 for the event and 2 for backup in case one or both of the mains they have fail. The total for this is $1596. You will want at least one wireless microphone for the toasts and speeches. This will be $300. Then a controller or mixer and turntables, For a reliable entry level controller for DJing you are looking at around $499 +. Then you will need all the wiring to run them up that will cost around $150. Then what about lighting you will want some dance floor lighting. Just for the bare bones lighting a couple of effects lights and a couple of par cans you are looking at $200 +. This totals around $2745. How i factor this cost into my rate is i look at what the current rental rates are in my area from a professional equipment rental company. Usually these rates are 10-15% of MSRP (Not the sale price) so using the total above you will see if you were just to rent the bare minimum equipment to dj an event it would cost $274.50. I round this up to $300 to make it easier to calculate my rates. This $300 goes into all my contracts as the cost to pay for my equipment. After my equipment is paid for i still have to maintain it and upgrade or replace it every so often so it will stay in there regardless (DISCLAIMER My equipment is not being used here i used generic numbers based on pricing for reliable equipment on the market.
Next we have other business expenses. Lets start with Phone. Most people are required to have a phone to do business. so how i calculate it is i take my monthly cost for phone service and divide it by 4.33 and i get what my weekly cost for my phone for my business is. My phone for my business costs me $100 per month which comes out to $23 per week for the service most djs will only have 1 wedding per weekend so that will be added to the top of it. Next we have internet. All businesses are required to have internet so i do the same calculation. My internet costs me $80 per month so it comes out to around $19 per week for internet service that is added to the rate calculation. Next we have music, now i don’t charge my clients for my back catalog but what i do is charge them for the current week of new music. DJs cannot get music like the rest of the world. DJ Music has to be licensed for public performance. DJs (professional ones anyway) get their music from a Music Pool subscription which is where Record companies distribute music to DJs and Radio stations to get the new music out there. The cost for me on this is $100 per month so $23 per week. After music we have office space. I have a home office so my office cost is lower than alot of peoples BUT i factor it like i factor it in my taxes. My home office is 500 Sq Ft. I would get charged $300 a month for that same size in a office complex. So my weekly cost for my office is $70. Next we have transportation costs. DJs have to travel to ALL their events. Which puts alot of wear and tear on the vehicle they use for business and not to mention the vehicle insurance. My monthly service cost for my vehicle plus my insurance cost is $250. This comes out to $58 per week. Then we have fuel for the vehicle. My monthly fuel cost is around $467 and it comes out to around $104 per week.
So just with equipment and basic business expenses we have $597. to make it easier lets round it up to $600.
Now we get to time. Most people think when a DJ says they will do 5 hours at your event that is how much they are working but this is far from the case. Personally i put in 30+ hours into each wedding i do just in prep, client meetings, travel time to and from meetings and the events, and music research for the event. The event itself is usually 7-10 hours with setup and teardown included. So you are looking at right around 40 hours for every event that most professional DJs put into it. Now this is my numbers and i do not do cookie cutter weddings. All my weddings are unique to my clients and their guests. I think we all believe our time is valuable. At first i wanted to calculate this at minimum wage but we all know you cannot live off of minimum wage. So i thought about how much per hour if i worked a 40 hr per week job i would need to just get by with the bare necessities. That number is $12 per hour. So that comes out to $480.
After you add the $600 to the $480 it comes out to $1080. While not all DJs are full time djs and work other careers and jobs to make ends meet and charge a lower rate they cannot physically give you the same amount of attention a full time DJ will. I have worked a full time job on top of DJing and while i still gave my clients as much attention as i could i did not give them the amount they deserved plus i had to put time with my family to the side in order to take care of the clients. Another thing to factor is while most people are celebrating at a wedding or family event on a Saturday or Sunday your DJ had to miss his/her nephew’s birthday party, A family Christmas function, One or both of the days their kids are out of school they could spend time with them. This is all important to consider. Your DJ is responsible for 90% of the success of the event. They are the most visible person there and they ensure all the timeline events run smoothly and efficiently while keeping the crowd engaged and entertained. After looking at all this you can see that $1000, $1500, or $2000 is really not all that much for a DJ for the most important day of your adult life! Remember alot of DJs are trying to run a business. And in order to run a business effectively you must always calculate costs into the rates charged to generate income.
Also this does not include other expenses like business education which includes workshops on microphone speaking skills, ettiquette, and how to improve all their abilitys. A professional DJ will be one that always trys to learn more about his craft and profession and will constantly be looking for ways to give their clients a better experience. You only get one shot at your wedding day. As i said in my previous blog post you get no mulligans, re-dos, or second chances when it comes to your wedding day. Once it is ruined it is ruined. I am going to close with at video from Brian S Redd going over this subject.
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