You’re throwing a party! Whether it’s a wedding reception, a Sweet 16, or a birthday party, there’s one thing you’re definitely going to need and that’s good music. When you go about hiring a DJ, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask, just so you make sure you’re getting someone who understands what you want and doesn’t end up playing The Macarena. Unless, of course, The Macarena is something you want, in which case we feel obligated to tell you it’s actually about a girl named Macarena who cheats on her boyfriend while he’s being drafted into the army with not one, but two of his friends.
And on that note, here are the nine questions you should ask any DJ before signing a contract:
How many years have you been in the business – and how often do you DJ?
Jeff Haber of StarPower DJs realizes not everyone can have 25 years of experience like he does, but he says you want to make sure you find someone who’s been doing it a while. Asking if the person has done any corporate work is also a good idea as he points out, “If the NBA trusts them enough to hire them, you can too.” DJ Lon Lee says you can also always ask if they have a mix you can listen to or any videos on YouTube you can check out in order to get a feel for their style.
Can I give you a playlist?
Most DJs want a playlist. In fact, Jeff Haber says “the more songs they provide me the better as it gives me a better idea of what they actually want.” That being said, he also emphasizes that clients need to feel comfortable that the DJ knows what he’s doing. He will honor any requests the person who hire him has, but says it’s important to know that if you want people to dance, “You can’t play what YOU like; you have to play what everyone likes.” Lon Lee reiterates that it’s the DJs job to read the crowd and get them out of their chairs. “If no one’s dancing,” he says, “I just mix the next song in” that way there aren’t any awkward lulls that last too long. He also says he finds it really helpful when the people who hire him give him a list of songs they absolutely don’t want to hear.
Do you MC?
Jeff Haber says mic presence is a huge selling point for him. “I have to be a comedian, an entertainer, and make announcements,” he says. Lon Lee takes a different route and hires someone to be an MC so that he can focus solely on the music. Both are acceptable options; it’s just important to know what you want when you’re looking to hire.
Do you have backup equipment?
The last thing you want is for the DJ’s computer to die during the first dance of the night. Make sure the DJ has backup equipment just in case a speaker, mixer, or microphone goes out.
Do you provide lighting?
Different DJs offer different experiences, but if your event is in a non-traditional space, you may want to check out how the lighting will work and if your DJ will bring any since lighting is an easy way to affect the mood of the room.
Do you have clean edits?
If it’s a Sweet 16 or if there’s going to be an older crowd, you want to make sure your DJ is going to have radio edits of all of the songs people might want to hear. No one needs Grandma Mabel going on and on about her sensitive ears and the kids these days with their rock n’ roll music.
Do you have a backup DJ in case of emergency?
Is your DJ going to get sick? Probably not. Could your DJ get sick? Absolutely. You just want to make sure there’s a plan in place for the worst case scenario.
Will you take requests?
This is your call, but it’s something you should definitely discuss ahead of time. Jeff Haber says there’s a certain tact DJs learn to use when someone comes up drunkenly begging for a song the host has specifically vetoed. Lon Lee says he always discusses if maybe the rules loosen up a little at the end when the party may be winding down.
How hands on are you?
Jeff Haber says that many times at off-site events, he’s more than just a DJ; he’s a coordinator. After all, decisions like when the food is served have a direct impact on the music being played and if there’s not an official wedding coordinator, that often falls on him. “One time,” he says, “I even went so far as to help cut the cake to be served to the guests. There just wasn’t anyone else to do it.”
Need a DJ in a different area? Here’s how to find one near you.