Wedding DJ Prices. It’s an enigma.
When searching for a wedding DJ you are almost certainly going to run into a wide range of prices. Sometimes from as little at $150 upwards to the tens-of-thousands. So why do wedding DJ prices vary so much?
Now let’s get an industry secret out here in the open. All of this pricing that is all over the place because of a combination of a few factors and much of it is self-inflicted. Many quality DJs do not price their services according to the value they offer. Some are afraid of charging too much and pricing themselves out of their perceived market. While in many cases chair covers or flowers well exceed the cost of the DJ. This despite the fact that interviewed couples overwhelmingly say that the DJ proved to be the most important factor of their wedding.
Why Are They All Over The Place?
When you are hiring a wedding DJ you will see estimates from some places like Thumbtack that publishes what I can only call an absurd number. People should know that sites like Thumbtack represent almost exclusively the lower-end “cheap DJ” market. They do not account for more realistic pricing. Most quality Wedding DJs will not use the service as it represents a “race to the bottom”. You may also see other national averages published out there. But be aware that regional factors can change those numbers significantly.
There are also some DJ companies that are honestly properly priced in that lower tier of the spectrum. They may be new in the business, they may not have a lot of experience as a wedding DJ, they may have not put adequate investment into their business or even more likely they are running their operations as a hobby and not a business.
Some couples may see a quality wedding DJ prices as a bit of sticker shock. Make no mistake, when you see higher wedding DJ prices, you likely found a DJ who is offering exceptional service. This is the type of DJ you should be seeking out.
There is also a lot of misinformation out there that is pushed out. Sources like wedding magazines and even day news broadcast diminishing the value that a wedding DJ. Regulating this part of your wedding as “just playing music” which for a quality DJ is furthest from the truth. Check out my What Does A Wedding DJ Do article for a deeper dive into that subject.
There are many issues that the industry has to learn to contend with. I would like to arm you with information to help in your research and gain some perspective. There are real reasons why wedding DJ prices vary so much, and why looking for the cheapest DJs would be in err.
Searching For “The Best Deal”
As a customer, you want to find the best deal you can. It’s instinct. It’s bred into our DNA to bargain to save money. For instance, if you were shopping around for an HDTV, you would research around for bargains, naturally applying some basic criteria, but in the end trying to find “the best deal.”
A lot of wedding couples can fall into this same cycle when searching for their wedding DJ. Some treat it as simply looking for the best price, sometimes they’ll see an article or two on the amazing bargain someone found. But when you peel back the layers and see what the end result is with these choices, they seldom pan out into a quality experience. The bargains they thought they had found translated into a stressful evening, worrying about the DJ they picked instead of simply enjoying their very special day.
The quality wedding DJ, along with other services, is not a commodity. They put forth years of knowledge and dedication to their craft. Their job is to create an awesome environment of great music and confidence that they can handle any situation that they face. Thee most important thing to ask at this moment is “Will this DJ make my night truly remarkable one?”
The Misconception Of “Hours”
There is some confusion when it comes to wedding DJ prices because many couples think about hours. And this is not an uncommon metric to think about. But the question is a bit misplaced.
But, just like a wedding planner who pours incredible time and resources into planning your day, the quality wedding DJ pours considerable hours into planning your entertainment using tools like cue.So when you are thinking of hours, those are the hours of performance. This does not fully encapsulate what a quality wedding DJ will provide for you.
The quality wedding DJ will consult with you from day one and throughout the time until your special day, sometimes spending 15, 30, or even more hours on your event alone. I have a pretty interesting breakdown of it all on my article What Does A DJ Actually Do At A Wedding. Rest assured there is more than the 4, 5, 6 or more hours you have booked.
Equipment & Investment
Now some people will read this section and say “well who cares what a DJ spends on their business” and they are right… to a point. You typically don’t ask a deli or a grocery store what their overhead costs are. But given the discrepancies between the “Cheap DJ” and quality wedding DJs, I felt it as part of my duty to inform the public on some of the basics. A wedding DJ needs to invest in maintaining a high-quality level of service. This affects overall wedding DJ prices for quality services.
Take into consideration the high cost of purchasing professional DJ equipment, music acquisition, playback, lighting, redundancy; together they can all cost tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Below is an example of what a typical “Cheap DJs” investment would look like versus what I, as a single-person-operation, personally brings to a standard 150 guest Ceremony & Reception service and this only covers providing an audio setup. This does not include your typical yearly recurring costs like music purchases and subscription services, insurance, and other operating expenses for the day.
The “Cheap DJ” Setup:
- Inexpensive Laptop: $200
- Inexpensive Speakers: $300
- DJ Controller: $125
- Wireless Microphone: $100
- Cables: $50
- TOTAL INVESTMENT: $775
My Professional Investment
- Two Top End Laptops: $6000
- Quality Speakers: $6900
- Mixer, Decks, & Backups: $6000
- Wireless Mics and Transmitters: $7400
- Cases, Cables, Etc. $2000
- TOTAL INVESTMENT: $28,300
A “Cheap DJ” may not take into account any of these things. At a very low cost, along with potentially pirated music, potentially no insurance, just the absolute basics, they can go and “be a DJ” in the very loosely defined term. A professional DJ takes the time and effort to invest in their clients and their business to produce repeatable quality services and have a very successful wedding night that is free of issues and interruptions.
And yes those figures are not a joke or some pie in the sky numbers. That is my personal investment in just the equipment I bring to a typical event. That does not even include lighting or all the other backup and other equipment left-back at the shop. Others can bring more including expensive uplighting, rigging, monitors, and the like that just ups the ante. It’s not out of the ordinary that a professional DJ can spend 17x, 25x or more than the “Cheap DJ”.
One big complaint you will hear about cheap DJ services is unreliability. The DJ showed up late (or not at all), the DJ did not come prepared for the event, the DJ did not act in a professional manner, the DJ had a technical problem they could not overcome, the sound was just terrible. This can ruin an event and over time these “cheap DJs” can tarnish the industry as a whole. A professional wedding DJ will give you all the assurances necessary, a contract to protect you, impeccable references, and a professional and friendly attitude from start to finish. You will never have to worry about reliability if you hire the right DJ.
Wedding DJ Prices vs. Wedding DJ Value
This is the big one, the largest factor you should consider in choosing your wedding DJ. VALUE. And I can’t emphasize value enough. If that DJ cannot offer real value for your wedding then you should look elsewhere. Seriously, consider what they are providing. A great wedding DJ goes well beyond just playing music. They are in charge of the ebb and flow of the entire wedding. A quality edding DJ will know what you want to hear and not want to hear from the planning meetings leading up to your wedding.
They will know the names of your most important guests, they will establish relationships with the vendors and venue. Someone with experience will know what to do when something goes not as planned and carry out a plan B, or plan C, anything to ensure your wedding is as stress-free as it possibly can be. They will become your confidant, ensuring that they are looking after your very best interests.
This is what sets apart the quality wedding DJ over the rest. This is their value proposition… well, at least it’s my value proposition.
Wedding DJ Prices… The Bottom Line
So how much should you spend? Well of course only you can set your budget and expectations. For instance here in the Hudson Valley, at the time of this publication, wedding DJ prices for a quality DJ average around $2100. and in general, that is a good starting point to consider quality entertainment. When you see someone advertising services well below that number they may be lacking in one or more areas that could spell trouble. Consider everything the DJ offers, how they click with your personality, and when you find the right one to sign them. Many DJs like myself tend to book 9-18 months out. and in some cases, two years out, so do not delay in finding your DJ (or other vendors for that matter).
Many couples interviewed after a wedding feel that the DJ was the most important element of the entire wedding. The DJ is in control of the tempo of the wedding and manages the evening with the venue and other vendors if a wedding coordinator hasn’t been hired. You can read more about what I typically do as a wedding DJ here to gain even more insight into your special day. But remember, you only get one chance to walk down the aisle, one chance at introductions, one chance to have a great night of entertainment for your wedding.