Simply put: Pricing for DJs varies based on their quality and experience. If you look hard enough, you can probably “hire” a DJ for free or pay $5000 or more! The pricing for DJs seems to range more than other services. Let’s take a look at the different levels of DJs and what they should cost.
Why Do Prices For DJs Vary So Much?
We have to lay some groundwork before we talk numbers. Similar to photographers, it’s relatively easy to “become a DJ”, but it takes years of experience, training, mistakes, and successes (just to name a few) to become a professional. It doesn’t take more than a phone, Spotify, and some speakers to become a DJ. Most businesses have expenses that need to be met in order to stay in business. However, most DJs are part-time DJs, meaning they have another job that either supports their hobby as a DJ, or doesn’t require them to make a certain amount to stay in business or support themselves (or their family). This means they can charge whatever they want and still “stay in business”. Pricing often comes down to a balance of how much a client is willing to pay and if it’s worth the DJs time. I’m not knocking part-time DJs in the least, but it’s important to understand the aspects that go into a DJ finding their price.
If a DJ invests significant money into equipment, training, advertising, music, etc, they usually start charging more. They typically care more about the quality of their equipment and performance.
One other note about pricing before we dive in. Experienced DJs often break their price down into 2 parts: equipment & talent. They charge as if they are renting the equipment to their clients, and charge for their time (or talent) to run it. So their equipment rental might total to $400, and their talent might total $300. The time/talent portion is much harder for a DJ to determine and takes a lot of experience to find.
Basic & Beginner DJs
Beginners typically earn between $0 and $300 per event.
Everyone starts somewhere. Some events are lower risk where it’s completely acceptable for a newbie to give it a shot. They probably don’t have their own equipment, and if they do, it’s old or not meant for DJing. Their music selection is limited. Even if they have Spotify or Apple Music, they are limited to having a wifi or cell signal, and the music won’t be edited (watch out for those bombs dropping!). If they don’t pay for those services, be ready for advertisements before the youtube video they are streaming. After a few awkward moments with guests staring at them as ads play they won’t want to keep playing that way and will charge at their next event so they can afford to buy some music.
Side-note: if you’re starting out as a DJ, I suggest you get in touch with a local professional DJ and ask to tag along in exchange for helping them set up their equipment. It’s the best way to get experience without putting someone’s event at risk.
These DJs earn between $300 and $500.
They have some experience, some equipment, some music, and recognize the value of their time. They understand the basics of different genres of music and what their clients might like. They usually don’t have backup equipment, so if something breaks, you’re out of luck.
Good DJs earn between $500 & $800
When a DJ gets to this level they start to understand how to really read a crowd. They understand what audiences might like and can control the room with music. They can make announcements confidently. They probably understand how to “hype” a crowd without being annoying. They have quality equipment and they sometimes have backups. They own their music (instead of streaming it) and know how to mix. They often use contracts.
Professional “Event” DJs
Professional DJs usually earn $600 to $2000
They just sound good! They can expertly react to a crowd musically and on the microphone. Their announcements are timely and appropriate to the audience. Their music choices are SPOT ON. They have professional equipment AND backup equipment ready to go if something breaks down. They use contracts to protect their clients and themselves. They use edited music and (depending on the type of event) will mix the music together seamlessly. They often offer some type of light show (this is a whole different article waiting to be written). They arrive early with plenty of time to set up. They meet with their clients beforehand and plan, usually in person, but at least on the phone a few times to ensure they know exactly what their clients want.
These DJs spend a significant amount of time in training. They analyze their performance and are constantly finding ways to improve so they can provide the best possible service to their clients. The improvements they make are subtle but powerful. They do things you haven’t seen other DJs do. They MAKE the night. They make it memorable.
Wedding DJs get their own category because it requires a completely different skill set. A wedding is (usually) a once-in-a-lifetime event. You only get to walk down the aisle once. You only get one first dance. A DJ can make those moments memorable, for good or bad. I’ll go into further detail about why wedding DJs are so different in another post. Suffice it to say that wedding DJs pricing should be different than a High School Dance DJ. Here’s the breakdown:
- Acceptable wedding DJs should be asking for $500 – $700 per event.
- Good wedding DJs should be asking for $700 – $1000 per event.
- Professional/Great wedding DJs will ask for $1500 or more, depending on the requirements of the wedding.
If you’re paying less than $500 for a wedding DJ, you’re asking for trouble. It’s like being offered a $2 cheeseburger at a steakhouse: something has to be wrong with it and you should probably avoid it. One exception to this rule: if your wedding is open house style, you might be okay going down to $300, but at that point (don’t tell other DJs I said this, they would kill me) you should probably skip the DJ, put together a Spotify or Apple Music playlist and put that money towards something else that’s more important to you.
You might find some variance in these prices based on location. Larger cities tend to vary more, and quality entertainers may charge more.
Make sure to do your research on your DJs before you hire them. Read reviews. Talk to friends (not just a post in a facebook group). Ask them questions about their process, background, experience, and approach to your event. Unlike a photographer, caterer, florist, etc, you usually can’t sample a DJs work before they show up at your event, so research and questions are essential.
If you have any questions about pricing that isn’t listed here, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always more than happy to give free advice about how much you should be paying for a DJ for your event. I often say to potential clients, “I want you to have a great event even if I can’t be there,” and I mean it!