Interviewing potential vendors is like going on an awkward first date — you both hope there's chemistry, but it can be confusing to know exactly what to say (even for an experienced wedding DJ like myself!). In our new "10 Questions to Ask..." blog series, we plan to break these issues down for you step-by-step. This week, we show you how to scout one of the most critical vendors of your big day - the DJ.
1. Is this your full-time business? Are weddings your primary focus? What clubs, lounges, and corporate clients have you performed for in addition to weddings?
Determine whether they are a well-rounded, successful entertainer who can bring a level of expertise and versatility to your event. You want to ensure that your DJ isn't a one-dimensional part-timer, but a true performer who has varied and extensive experience performing in front of different (and often difficult) audiences. It's fine if your prospective DJ focuses on more than just weddings. In fact, your ideal DJ will be one who focuses on many different types of parties and events, be they corporate, school dances, private parties or large outdoor event series. A wide portfolio translates to extensive experience in dealing with virtually every type of guest, venue, event team and client, and therefore every type of problem that could arise—along with the best ways to avoid the potential for those problems to happen again on your big day.
Side note: Beware if a potential DJ bad-mouths former clients (whether they're corporations or individual brides) or their competitors. I've personally witnessed a DJ telling his prospective clients about an event that "wasn't his best work" because the client was a huge bridezilla! Red flag alert!
2. How do you customize the music experience for each couple? Can you help with song lists and providing suggestions?
Find a DJ who will create a soundtrack for your wedding that is based on your style, taste, and vision for that day. One size does not fit all—if your desire is to have a mosh pit at your wedding, then you will need to communicate that vision, and anything else you want for that matter, to your DJ.
A skilled DJ will gladly accept your desires and preferences, and immediately begin thinking of the best ways to effectively implement them on your big day. He or she will also accept your must-play and do-not-play lists, no matter how short or long. Its your day, so you are in control of the music that will be played and your DJ should happily allocate time to work with you to ensure smooth timing and transitions.
Everything mentioned above can only be achieved with an entertainer who is flexible and willing to listen. It's easy to come up with lists of songs to play—determining the placement of the music (i.e. cake-cutting and bouquet toss) and how it fits into unique themes is the real challenge.
3. How do you get the crowd pumped?
There are all kinds of incentives that DJs use to encourage guests to storm the dance floor, whether it's asking couples to join the newlyweds for a good-luck dance or playing a meaningful throwback song from the bridesmaids' college days. Ask them how they'll get the crowd pumped, but, more importantly, listen to their music demos or watch wedding performances to get a sense of how they will interact with your guests in person.
Interviewing prospective DJs is certainly helpful, but hearing them in action will really seal the deal. You want to make sure your DJ understands how to read a crowd, build up the energy and then keep it up. There should never be a lull—your DJ needs to have the ability to blend all sorts of genres to accomodate everyone and keep them on the dance floor.
4. How do you handle song requests?
There could be instances where the client's directives are diametrically opposed to a guest's request. How a DJ strikes a balance to deliver on the couple's desires—while still satisfying the guests' requests—determines the skill and experience of the DJ.
Some DJs (with the permission of the newlyweds) may tell partygoers that they need to stick to their playlist, but they'll do their best to fit in their song, while others will appoint a bridesmaid or relative to screen particular requests (so that the DJ doesn't need to interrupt the new Mr. and Mrs. mid-dance).
Read more about song requests here!
5. Can I hear some examples of mixing and blending different tracks?
When mixing is done correctly, you probably aren't even aware of it. The DJ should be able to blend between songs seamlessly; you don't want guests to become bored by a ten-minute long Queen rendition! However, when this technique is performed incorrectly, you'll be able to discern it instantly. When there is no mixing or blending, there is awkward silence between songs (think about when you're listening to a playlist on your iPod). This can easily ruin the vibe of any party, but luckily, it's easily avoidable with a skilled and seasoned DJ.
6. What sound equipment do you utilize? Do you have back-up equipment?
DJ equipment at a party is just as important as musical instruments in an orchestra. Regularly serviced, state-of-the-art equipment allows your DJ to have dependable, hands-on control of the music and the ability to manipulate it instantly and effectively.
Ask if your DJ is certified and knows all of the ins and outs of connecting a system. We allow our equipment to operate without overdriving it, which is generally when guests start to complain about it being too loud (sometimes referred to as 'muffled' sound). When I play at a wedding, you will hear every word, nice and crisp, at a moderate level. I guarantee guests will still be able to talk at their tables while others are showing off their latest moves on the dance floor, and that's important.
Backup equipment is also essential: DJs should always have the equivalent of a "flat spare" on hand, whether it be a microphone, computer, mixer, speaker set, etc. Don't forget to ask how soon before the reception they plan to arrive and how long it will take for them to set up.
You can check out a complete and regularly updated list of the equipment we use here.
7. Have you played at our chosen wedding venue before? If not, can you make a site visit beforehand?
The sound can vary drastically depending on the room in which your party or reception will be held. Don't underestimate the importance of a site visit. DJs who don't know how to work the room's acoustics can create a wedding day disaster!
We recommend that brides ask prospective DJs if they can set up appointments to visit such locations. This also allows us to become acquainted with staff members, learn their rules for vendors, and plan accordingly for providing the correct equipment for acoustics and lighting design. At the same time, we offer to provide these establishments with company information and anything else they might be interested in knowing about our services.
8. Do we have our choice of DJs to select from, or is one automatically assigned to us depending on date availability? What happens in case of an emergency?
We believe choice is important: No two weddings are alike! If you are booking with an agency with multiple entertainers, you should have a choice of top DJs that fit your style and personality, and have the proper experience and skill for your wedding. With Panico Entertainment Boston, you'll be in constant communication with your DJ from your first consultation to the last song played.
I personally spend quite some time with my clients to answer their concerns in detail and make suggestions when called upon. In turn, they learn more about my experience and everything I bring to the table. Now, imagine investing all of this time and not being their DJ/emcee on their wedding day! It happens more often than you'd think: In some companies, a sales rep will try to get you to sign a contract before you even meet with your prospective DJ! That's just not how we roll.
9. What other services do you offer (e.g. lighting, HD video screens)?
Some DJ packages come with extra services such as intelligent party lighting and/or video screens. Another common structure is offering these options as their own add-on packages. Next to lighting, video/picture/message screens are our most requested option. I like to explain it as personalizing your day: Imagine watching memories roll by on the screens while you're sharing that first dance. Then, you can add a few photos to enhance the parent dances as well!
Side note: Remember to get any and all details clearly outlined in your contract. Also, don't feel pressured into signing up for extra amenities if you don't need them.
10. Why should I choose you as my wedding DJ?
It's always fun (and informative!) to throw in a curveball and see what they consider to be their best attribute: Is it their amazing sound or lighting equipment? Their can-do-anything personality? Or is it their professionalism and dedication towards making your wedding a success? Hopefully, all of the above!
Panico Entertainment Boston
Panico Entertainment Boston is a mobile entertainment company providing DJ, emcee, lighting and event planning solutions for weddings, corporate, school dances, private parties and any other event requiring professional entertainment services.