This is a break down of what Professional Music Services should cost when matched against the rest of the Production and Audio Visual Industry. DJ’s are only a small part of that industry and are also the least qualified when you look at the training and skills needed across the entire industry. This is a bit of a longer read and I will try to keep it simple.
What is the rest of the industry I talk about?
Ever been to a concert? The equipment and production required to do that is not that much different from what a DJ does.Ever been to a conference or seminar? Same type of equipment and production, the only difference is the scale of the production and the needs of the client.
Equipment is the foundation of the Audio/Visual Industry. With out it there wouldn’t be much use for a DJ. Be hard to play a CD just spinning it on your finger. So when we look at price we need to start with the foundation. You can test this out on your own too.
Let’s start with a average sized conference for about 300 people.This would be equivalent to a Wedding or Corporate Party for 150 people. The rooms are about the same size, only one is all chairs with no tables and the other has tables. You would need speakers, Sub, Microphone, cords, stands, mixer and maybe some lights to illuminate the lectern where the speaker is, which could also be your dance floor lighting. Add a Laptop for some back ground music and motivational tunes which is your cocktail music and Dance music. You would also need it set up and taken down.
Why the comparison? Because I want to illustrate the costs clearly.
How are the rental costs calculated? The standard rental prices are based on the retail purchase price and charged 5%-10% of their costs. This is based on the over all maintenance required over it’s expected lifetime in operation, storing the equipment for rental and so on.
Here are the costs (average): For just the Audio
2 Speaker stands
Subtotal: $446 +GST
Lighting, if you wanted some:
4 LED Pars (Uplights)
1 Lighting Stand
2 Motion LED Dance Lights
1 Lighting Controller
Subtotal: $122 +GST
Audio/Lighting Total: $568 +GST
This is what you would pay if you rented the gear, picked it up, set it up and returned it the next day.
Labor costs are between $65-$95 depending on who you talk to. Labor is just setting up the gear and taking it away. But for this example let’s be fair and say the DJ charges the minimum for their set up labor and the maximum for their performance time. Every one I called billed 4 hours for set up and take down to a local venue. Travel time would be extra. This would be about equivalent to the Sound engineer or lighting tech at a concert or the guy monitoring the audio at a conference.
I will also add in 4 hours of office work which also includes meeting with the client before their event. This would be a bare minimum. I personally will spend on average 12 hours on just meetings/communication and making sure all that info is recorded and prepared for their event. I’ve spent upwards of 20 hours with some clients. It’s very common that I will spend over 36 hours on one event.
How does the labor break down?
Set up/Take Down
Labor Subtotal: $1280 +GST
Already, based on the industry standards, the total for a DJ, if billed competitively with the rest of the industry would be: $1840 +GST and we have not accounted for any licensing, insurance or other costs. But let’s say the labor included all those costs. The only thing missing is MUSIC!
Music is a hard one to account for since it is illegal to rent it out. Just as it is against certain copyright laws to play it with out proper licensing. Using the above example of % based on retail costs, let’s try and figure out the music.
First let’s work out how much music is NEEDED for an event. For dancing you will hear between 65-75 songs if they are played end to end in their entirety. This rarely happens. There are a number of reasons why a song may be ended early, from mixing into something else, to avoid a long into or ending or a request that just has to be played right that instant because it’s the brides favorite and everyone will dance to it… Which not everyone ever dances to it… There are some DJ styles where they only play half a song out of principal to keep everything going.
So to be safe, lets double the “Dance Music” to 150 songs. Cocktails and Dinner will be another 30 songs and we don’t play much over the toasts and other formals. Let’s be safe and say 200 songs MINIMUM are needed just to fill the time with out any repeats. That also means no requests which is a party bummer. You need a good variety of songs from your grandparents era to today. Does 1000 songs sound fair? I personally have about 25,000 songs collected over 20+ years. There are a ton I have never played more than once or twice, but I’m a saint if I have them when requested.
1000 songs is about $1200 on iTunes between the 99 cents and $1.29 songs. 5% = $60, 10% = $120 if you could rent 1000 songs and That’s pretty fair. I wont play the same songs at every event. There are the standards that you are likely to hear because they are popular, but beyond those 10-15 songs I try to be as original at every event as I can with my music selections.
Adding the minimum $60 for the music, that’s an even $2000 for the very basics of a DJ if you were to pay the industry standard prices charged by all the professional production and Audio Visual companies.
So why do DJs charge less you might be thinking. Better question is, who is charging a livable wage and will do the best job for you with trusted quality service? Who wont cut corners, take shortcuts and be least likely to be a scam or no show. Who has proper licensing and insurance?
Do you want just a DJ or do you want more? There is a reason why I charge more. Call me to book a meeting and find out why. This IS what I do. My Career, my profession.