1. How much does it cost for a wedding DJ?
You can pay anywhere between $300 to $2500 (and beyond) for a wedding DJ in Edmonton, Alberta. There is a HUGE variety in quality and price. On average, most professionals are charging in the neighbourhood of $900 to $1500 for a wedding reception. During the low season, usually the winter months (besides the holiday season) and early spring, you will likely get better pricing as service providers will be hungry for work. You can also save money on a DJ by having your event on a weekday, as the vast majority of mobile DJ events fall on Saturday nights. You should also expect to get a reduced price if your event is on a Sunday.
If you’re expecting 100 guests, a small PA system will do fine. If you’re expecting 200-300 people, you’ll likely be paying a little more for a more extensive setup. If they give you some technical mumbo-jumbo, look for a system of at least 1000 watts for a small wedding and 2000 or more for a large wedding. A more powerful system will take longer to set up and is a more significant investment for the company, which will be reflected in the price.
Beware of working with a cheap DJ! If they’re charging less than the competition, that’s probably for a reason. For your wedding day, it’s likely worth it to you to spend a little more to ensure you have someone you can trust with the entertainment. Like just about everything in life, you get what you pay for.
2. Is this a full-time business or just a hobby?
There are a lot of “weekend warriors” in the DJ industry, that is, people who DJ a handful of events in a given year, but are still working a day job to make ends meet. Some great DJs do this, but it is a minefield out there. You’ve likely heard horror stories of DJs who are rude, annoying, scoff at requests, think the party is about them, or worse yet, don’t show up. The benefit of going with a hobbyist is they’ll probably charge less money. The risk is, you don’t know what you’re getting until the night of.
Established DJ companies can be very hit and miss too but in different ways. In general, they are more likely to be a part of a DJ association in which you have to sign on to an oath of conduct. That means they’ll have proper licensing, high-quality equipment, legal music, backup systems, and more experience. If you book with an established company, it’s doubtful you’ll have a no-show at your wedding. However, not all companies are the same. Ask them if they’ll let you meet your DJ in advance. If they don’t, that is a bad sign. Many larger companies are sending out inexperienced and underpaid DJs to events, that’s a recipe for disaster if your party depends on a lively dance floor!
3. Who are they playing for?
Make sure your DJ is comfortable playing the music you want to hear! It seems obvious but far too many events have ended in disappointment because they booked the wrong DJ. Do you want them to play to the crowd? Or would you rather they play the music they like personally enjoy? Most of the time, you’ll want to book with a DJ who will design the playlist around what you and your guests want. Look for them to show that they’re interested in what YOU want to hear and not just in it for themselves. Stay away from primadonnas! There are many in the industry. Your event will likely have a huge variety of guests which means a DJ who isn’t open to different styles of music could ruin the party. If you’re looking for a specific genre of music, a specialist in a particular style may make sense for you, but it’s best to consider what your guests would like if you want your event to be a success.
4. How do they handle requests?
A surprising number of DJs do not play requests. This is understandable if you view DJing as your artistic expression and have planned out your entire nights worth of music. However, that is not the job of a wedding DJ! A wedding DJ needs to balance YOUR expectations (which you’ve hopefully discussed in advance) along with your guests on the dance floor! Your DJ should be open to requests. This doesn’t mean they should necessarily play every one of them (often that’s not even possible) but they should take each recommendation seriously. These are your guests; their input gives good insight into what will bring energy to your dance floor. Someone who isn’t willing to take requests is likely looking to DJ your wedding for the wrong reasons. They are looking for a crowd to perform in front of, whereas a good wedding DJ will put the focus on you and your guests having a good time.
5. Are they licensed?
In Canada, DJs are required to have a CONNECT music license which allows you to use digital music for commercial purposes. This license allows you to perform with music copied on a hard drive. Your venue is responsible for SOCAN and Re:Sound licensing which covers performance royalties for songwriters and publishers. Having a CONNECT license means you're likely dealing with an established company rather than someone's side project.
6. How interactive do you want them to be?
A lot of DJs like to talk on the mic, sometimes this is done very well, but more often than not it’s annoying and interrupts the flow of the evening. The best interactive DJs are usually reputable enough that they work for themselves. Be aware of booking interactive DJ packages, especially from larger companies. An interactive DJ who is subcontracted for $20/hour is very different than an established entertainer. Your DJ should be willing to make announcements when required. If the company quotes a higher fee for an "interactive DJ" you're likely just paying a bunch of extra money for a service other companies would include for free.
7. Can they mix? (Otherwise known as beatmatching)
When it comes to mixing, the difference between a mediocre and great DJ is drastic. By “mix” we mean transitioning from one song to the next. Is the volume the same? Do you hear a long pause between tracks? Do they overlap awkwardly or do they blend together smoothly? A great DJ will transition from song to song seamlessly which will keep the energy level high on the dance floor, they’ll bring in elements of the new song as the last track draws to a close, and when the time is right, they’ll drop the next hit. When done well, a good DJ mix will ignite your dance party, when done wrong, it can be jarring and destroy the vibe on a dance floor.
This skill is important if you want a lot of Top 40, hip-hop, or dance music. If you want country, rock and oldies all night, your DJ doesn’t need to be a master at this. No matter what, you want a DJ who can transition between one song and the next without awkwardness or long delay.
By Greg Goa
Greg Goa is the owner of Market Sound Entertainment, a DJ company based in Edmonton, Alberta. Together with his team they have built one of the most reputable DJ companies in Alberta.