Good Work Ain't Cheap, and Cheap Work Ain't Good.
We have all heard the horror stories... The DJ showed up and was not dressed properly for the event. The DJ was drinking, swearing, slurring on the mic, and spent most of the night flirting, or on their phone. The DJ played nothing but 'techno' and wouldn't take requests. I have heard them all, and I continue to hear them. I had a client tell me once that her friend's DJ started off the dance with 10 slow songs! In a row! I could write a book with all the cringey stories and details I have seen and been told over the years so let's look at just a few examples and why they happened.
1. You Sometimes Really Do Get What You Pay For
I saw a post on FaceBook few months back from a guy who had his DJ bail on him last minute. He was looking for another DJ only hours before his event, so I called him. I gave him my quote for services and he said I was too much. Since I wanted to help the guy out I asked him how much he was figuring on spending. He figured since he already paid $300, and his budget was $600, he wanted services for $300. Unfortunately neither him or I had the time to go over why this wasn't in either of our best interest. I kindly declined, and wished him the best of luck.
In this instance I am unsure what exactly took place with the DJ. Something obviously happened and there was no backup plan. For all I know this could have very well been the DJ looking to see if anyone would take the gig for the remaining $300. It struck me as very odd this client only wanted to pay the remaining balance and not whatever it took to get someone reliable there ASAP. No matter the circumstances, this happens far too often.
2. The Newbee
I was setting up a photo booth at a wedding a few years back. During setup (about an hour before start time) I noticed the DJ was on and off his phone with someone and having a very hard time with his setup. Right before I figured he was going to snap and just walk out I went over to see if he would like some help. After a quick look over his setup we figured out that he had run his XLR cords from the speakers to the mixer backwards. This is a fairly common mistake when first starting out, so I asked him how many shows this was for him. He told me that he was just hired that week, and that because the company was short staffed they needed him to do this show. They told him not to worry, if there were any complaints they would take care of it, he just had to get through the show, and under no circumstances was he to tell the bride and groom that it was his first show or that he was new. I felt bad for him because it was blindingly obvious that he was in over his head and he knew it. Unfortunately I had another event to be at and was just dropping off the booth for someone else to look after. Before I left I spent some time looking over his contract, helping him make some notes, and giving him as many pointers as I could. I called up the person looking after the booth that night and asked about the DJ, all she said was that it was "brutal".
This happens more often than you would think especially with larger companies. Basically a company has a staffing shortage on a busier than normal weekend, so they now need to rely on a new hire, or an outside DJ to fill a show. This is an unfortunate reality with larger companies because they require a larger workforce. With our busiest time of the year being summer, and the only time we have decent weather in Canada, you have to expect a lot of weekends to be taken off by staff. This means overstaffing to compensate, which means less work for everyone, which means DJs leave (sometimes unexpectedly), thus creating a revolving door of staff and these shortage situations. While large companies pride themselves on their volume, and DJ rosters, they also rely heavily on refunds too. I was surprised to find it is actually part of their business model. This particular show happened to be billed out for just under $1400. I didn't ask the DJ what he was being paid, but from what he told me, it didn't seem like they were too worried about having to refund some money.
3. Best Funeral Ever!
More recently, about a year back, I picked up a quick turnover booking where the DJ had bailed due to his father dying. Or so he said. There was less than 2 weeks to the event when I got the call. During the event the bride came up to me and showed me a picture of that DJ working another wedding. Apparently he had forgotten that he friended her on FaceBook.
This one is a no brainer. He undersold his services, got an offer that was willing to pay more, made an excuse, refunded the deposit, and left his original client with less than 2 weeks to find a replacement. Not to mention a ton of stress, and a larger expense than she had accounted for, all right before her wedding. This seems to mostly happen with 'hobby' DJs. Hobby DJs typically have a weekday job and DJ on the side for a bit of extra money. They are attractive to clients because of the low price as they have little to no business expenses like taxes and insurance. I never asked how much he charged them, but I do know that my price was only "a bit" higher. This leads me to believe that this particular individual may have been a single operator DJ rather than a hobbyist who simply made the mistake of charging less than what he was worth. Perhaps he needed a quick booking or felt the need to drop his price to make the sale. Whatever the reason, this choice came down to his ethics and principles. Next time he should just charge what he is comfortable making in the first place so he can avoid placing stress on those weak foundations. Sad part is... there will be a next time for him.
The moral of this particular series of blogs is to remind everyone that these things are happening every weekend, and have been happening for as long as I can remember. Do your homework and due diligence in selecting your services, or your story may one day end up as a Tale from the DJ Crypt!
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