Why Does a DJ Cost So Much?
We all want the best deal on a wedding DJ. What does the best “deal” actually mean? Is is the cheapest we can find, or is quality and reliability important? This article will help straighten a few things out and go over why we charge what we charge.
My Wedding DJ Knowledge
I am Zach Thomas the owner of Apogee Events. I started our company 8 years ago in 2006 and by the 2015 I will have averaged about one wedding a week that I personally DJ-ed, and a handful of other corporate and private events. I have been meaning to write a blog for some time now about wedding DJ pricing and why different DJ’s charge differently. I am fortunate enough to be a very busy wedding DJ and I wanted to share why we charge what we do, and why we are priced where we are. I am not the most expensive DJ out there by any means, but I am also not the cheapest either. According to The Cost of Wedding Report you should expect to pay $1110-$1480 for a professional wedding DJ, however the average cost is about $750. Our rates are right in line with most other DJ companies, and I am happy to send you a detailed pricing sheet anytime! Don’t worry, I am not going to get into what pricing SHOULD be, try to talk you into spending more money, or why some guys charge $400 or why you should pay $4000 for the best wedding DJ in the country, but I will be explaining why WE charge the rates that we do for our DJ pricing.
What It Costs To DJ
Let’s say you are getting married and you plan to have your ceremony outside. After the ceremony you want to move inside out of the sun (or rain since we live in Oregon) to an inside reception. Inside you would like some dance floor lighting, elegant up-lighting, great dance music, a DJ to MC and keep your guests engaged, help with your timeline. I would quote our “Ultimate Wedding DJ” package for $1399. This might sound like a lot up front, but when broken down with the quality equipment I bring, the unique DJ experience I have, and the related costs of doing business this might help it make more sense!
My ceremony sound system will generally look like this:
2 wireless Shure lapel microphones $1300
2 wireless Shure handheld microphones $800
Table and table cloth $70
QSC K12 Speaker $850
Sony audio recorder $300
Speaker stand $45
12 channel sound mixer $320
For the reception I will have:
2 QSC K12 main speakers $1700
1 QSC KW181 sub-woofer $1400
Table and white scrims $450
14 Up lights: $2800
Dance floor lighting: $900
Shure wireless microphone $500
DJ controller $550
Overall Equipment Expense at Wedding: $15,110
4 Bridal shows $4000
Online advertising: $4800
Music purchases: $1000
Printed marketing materials: $500
Equipment Replacement & Upgrades $5000
Most of my equipment will be on a 2 or 3 year replacement plan. That means on average I will be spending about $5000 on basic up keep and upgrades to older DJ equipment as it gets used and worn out. Overall, I will spend about $16,500 annually just to be in business before taxes, and haul an addition $15,00 to the wedding itself.
Keep in mind, if you were to want to rent this equipment for you own wedding you would be paying 10% of retail cost. This is the industry standard and this would cost you $1500 just to rent the equipment that I would be bringing. Then consider setup, tear down, talent of being a DJ, coordination, and having your wedding flow well with great results. Slowly the price becomes more clear.
DJ Cost VS Value
DJ shopping is much like buying a car, which means the cheapest option is rarely the best option. However for most people that Mercedes is probably out of the question. Fortunately, there are many options and types to choose from. If you do a lot of commuting, you might want a Prius, but if you do a lot of off road-ing you might like a Jeep with the extra 4×4 capabilities. No matter what, reliability and safety should be your main concern, and whether or not you get everything loaded with leather, heated seats, and touch screen navigation etc. is your personal preference, if it fits your budget. Likewise, you want DJ that suits the style and needs of your wedding. Choosing the right DJ is something to carefully consider and pay attention to the pricing that might be a red flag.
We have to charge a certain amount to provide a quality and professional wedding experience for our couples. If we did not I could not afford to invest in our company equipment wise or time wise to make sure that we are staying on top of everything. If I were at $500 wedding DJ and book 50 weddings a year (which is a lot) I would barely make $200 a week and my family would starve. In fact I would make 50% more working at a minimum wage job. I spend on average about 25 hours on each wedding I book. That entails two meetings with my couples, phone calls, emails, texts, preparing my playlists, loading and unloading my trailer, drive time to the venue, setup, performing the wedding, tearing down, driving back home, and unloading. We start our pricing at $999, include a lot for that price, but in many ways we are even still under priced for all that we offer. I have the experience and understanding of how a wedding works, what is supposed to happen and when, what to say and when to say it on the microphone and the value of what we offer at not even a high price (we are average) I believe to be VERY reasonable.
Unfortunately we get many calls every year from a couple who hired a DJ because they were cheap and they bailed on them the last minute. If you didn’t make minimum wage, would you be interested in your work? Probably not. It becomes WAY too much work for the benefit! If you do decide to go with a cheap DJ there is nothing wrong with that! You should understand though that there will be some things that will be sacrificed at a lower price point. Those things will be quality and the reliability of the equipment and DJ themselves, time spent by the DJ to prepare, no insurance, and you probably will not be able to find any verifiable references. While the cost of this DJ is low, the value is also low, and cheaper is not always better.
We focus on quality service, not quantity service. Yes, I want our business to be the best and busiest it can possibly be for my family, and we could do more events at a lower rate, but something would have to give. That something would be quality of service. Think of the last time you went out to eat at a fast food restaurant. Their business model is setup to get as many people in and out as quickly as possible. You give your order, and by the time you are done filling your soda they have called out your number and you go get your food. You don’t get to choose how you like your burger cooked, it looks nothing like the picture in the menu, and nobody comes by and asks if everything is OK.
Now, think about the level of service you get from a fancy restaurant. You have someone there who is very attentive, keeps your beverage full, and brings you everything you need and your food tastes much better! You are happy to pay much more for a fancy meal than a 99¢ cheese burger, which comes without any level of service or expectation. DJ’s are the same way. Some a great, some are not so great and it’s important how to understand the difference.
No matter who you pick to be your DJ on your once in a life time event ALWAYS check online reviews. Doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook, Yelp, or Wedding Wire, make sure you can see examples of work that your DJ has done. Entertainment is the biggest thing people will remember at your wedding, and what sets the mood and atmosphere but is also ironically one of the first things cut from the budget. My suggestion is to reallocate your budget by choosing the pulled pork over the lobster, and don’t leave your once in a life time day to chance, but in the hands of a real wedding professional.
Make sure your DJ has the ability to perform the quality wedding you want. Not all DJ’s and DJ companies are created equal, and will bring something different to the table. Understand what your DJ will bring, and how your DJ will control the flow of your wedding.
It is important to note that people regret purchases they make that were “cheap” rather if it’s a laptop, car, TV, or thin pair of socks. But those who focus on value and willing to spend just a tiny bit more get something that lasts for a lifetime are quite happy with their purchases. Your wedding DJ WILL leave a memory that lasts for a lifetime. Make it a good memory!
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Happy wedding planning!!