Everything you need to know to find a GREAT DJ

A few interesting facts about weddings*:                    Check to see if we're available!

*Modern Bride, The Knot.com, Creative Answers

In fact, most wedding professionals agree that good entertainment is the key to a successful wedding reception.  Having a DJ at your wedding is no longer a choice just to save money.  DJ’s can offer a wider variety of music selections and styles that a live band sometimes cannot accommodate.  A DJ can play continuously (no breaks!).  He or she also can control the volume more easily, and will typically take up less physical space than a band.   

Service vs. Product  Quick thing to keep in mind:  A Wedding Disc Jockey provides a SERVICE!  If you hold up two identical toasters from different stores, and one's 25 bucks less, which one are you going to buy?  No brainer.  Unfortunately, all DJ's are not equal!  A common mistake brides and grooms make is treating the DJ as a product, not a service.  Here's a simple illustration of that point.  When you go to get your hair done, are you going with the $12 Supercutter just out of beauty school, or are you willing to pay more for an experienced stylist with the reputation that backs it?  There's a difference between the food the cook prepares (product), and how friendly, fast and efficient your waiter or waitress is (service).  The speakers, amps, discs are a product, but DJ's are service providers.  Don't do yourself the disservice of just picking any DJ with a box of compact discs and a couple of speakers.  Much more than just the hours spent at your event, transportation to and from, set up and tear down of equipment, unseen accounting, marketing, etc., you might be thinking...

What SERVICES does a wedding DJ provide?  

Most people will only hire a Disc Jockey once in their life, usually to perform at their wedding reception.  Because of this, you may not know the right questions to ask to determine if the DJ you’re interviewing is the right person to handle one of the most important events of your life, so we’ve compiled some good questions to ask a prospective DJ to help you make a more informed decision.  Many find with minimal tweaking, the following questions can be used when interviewing not only a DJ, but also a caterer, photographer, florist, etc. 

Have you seen them in action?  Even before you make contact, one of the best ways you can ensure hiring a great DJ is to pick one that you have seen and heard before, and liked, or perhaps one recommended by other wedding vendors (photographers, florists, cake bakers, certainly coordinators) who have had a chance to see your prospective DJ in action on more than one occasion!  Consistency counts!  Even "sub par" entertainers are occasionally blessed with luck!  Some "advice" articles we've read recommend you "audition a DJ," maybe ask to watch them at another wedding.  In our professional opinion - terrible idea.  Not only is auditioning a DJ at a stranger’s wedding not practical, but remember, a Killer Whale Audio wedding is an individually customized event.  We would be providing activities and music specifically requested by that bride and groom, and this may not be of the style or type that you enjoy.  Also, most brides we ask agree it’s very “tacky” to solicit new business in this way.  We wouldn’t want it happening at our wedding.  How about you?

Once you have a prospective DJ to call, ask the most important question of all - Are they available for your selected date and time?  Nothing else matters if they’re already booked up solid on your date.   

Pay attention to their professionalism on the phone.  Ask for their website, (or literature, if they don’t have one) and references.  

Ask about the DJ’s presentation!  All DJs are the same, right?  They just play music.  Common misconception!  Especially with wedding DJs, there is quite a bit or work going on behind the scenes.  Killer Whale Audio works closely with the catering staff, photographer, and other event personnel to coordinate events.  During the dancing portion, we are expert at “reading the crowd” and choosing the right music based on audience response and experience.  Additionally, some DJs are very "outgoing," and will dress up in costumes, be loud on the microphone, use props, and play games.  While Killer Whale Audio can be as active, or as passive on the microphone as you want, we strongly believe your reception should be elegant, and enjoyable for all, not a circus-like atmosphere.  We strive to be energetic, but not overwhelming.  Killer Whale Audio believes the bride and groom should always be the center of attention, NOT the DJ.  So, ask!  You want to be comfortable with the DJ’s style and personality.

Does the company provide a written contract?  The contract is not just to protect the DJ, but to also protect you!  Long gone are the days when you just shook somebody's hand, and they said, "I'll see you there."  A professional will provide you with a written contract that spells out the details of your agreement.  And, not just DJ's - we’d hesitate to use any vendor that did not contract the day with us.  

Do they use Commercial "Pro-Grade" equipment?  A professional DJ will have professional sound equipment, not "home consumer" gear.  Be sure that the DJ’s speakers, and sound system will accommodate your reception location.  Killer Whale Audio uses professional-grade equipment featuring commercial brand names such as:  Nexo and EAW (Eastern Acoustic Works) speakers, Crown Macrotech amplifiers, Shure handheld UHF wireless microphones, etc.  We bring enough gear to be loud enough, but NOT overpowering!

Photo by Cascade Photography

Will they meet with you to help plan your event?  Most professional DJ's are more than happy to meet with you and help you with planning, not only to ensure you’re comfortable with the plans, and your reception is the way you want, but it's reassuring for us both to know we’re all on the same page.  A good question - Are you required to book with them first, before they will meet with you?  Whenever possible, Killer Whale Audio will meet, and does NOT charge to consult, but some do, so that’s another one to ask.  Should you happen to reside from outside the area, know that Killer Whale Audio expertly works "long distance" with Brides and Grooms that simply aren't able to physically meet with ease.  Here's but one note from our references page:

"To All Prospective Clients of Killer Whale Audio:  Successful wedding planning demands more than just time and persistence, especially when the event transpires far from your known and immediate environment.  Professionalism, reputation, and a high degree of organization in one's chosen vendors are mandatory for success.  Ed Whale of Killer Whale Audio embodies all of these qualities and personifies his reputation with exemplar flair.  Selecting Ed solely on the basis of his reputation required a tremendous investment of faith given the magnitude of the event and it proved to be one of great return.  Our entire interaction with Ed, from the initial phone call through the reception, was handled with the utmost sincerity and interest in ensuring our complete satisfaction and a top quality experience.  If you are planning an event that requires professional DJ services, it is without reservation that we highly recommend Ed Whale and Killer Whale Audio."  - Peter & Sandy LaRowe

Who will perform at my wedding?  Make sure you ask who will be performing at your wedding.  In other words, do they over-book themselves, or hire sub-contractors?  Will the person you speak with, and develop a "working" relationship, be the DJ at your event?  Though it's not always physically possible, we recommend you meet with your DJ ahead of time.  Most Brides and Grooms we survey say they would NOT want a complete stranger, or, no offense, "a kid" showing up to perform their reception.  Killer Whale Audio is always completely upfront regarding who will be performing your event, and our reputation speaks for itself...we only agree to perform, when we can give our complete attention.  Again, your satisfaction is our number one priority.

Sure…you should ask about song selections.  Most any reputable DJ will provide you with a wedding planner, or informational planning sheet.  Killer Whale Audio's wedding planner form is very thorough, handling the many details of not only how you want your reception organized, the names of key players, but of course, lines us up on the music you want, and almost more importantly, the music you don’t want!  You want to choose and play songs to satisfy all ages and tastes of your guests, and certainly there are types of music that are just not appropriate to play at a reception, but a professional should abide by your wishes when it comes to what you want, and don’t want played. 

Photo by Kubota Photo-DesignShould you ask what the DJ will wear?  Though rare, occasionally some brides and grooms may opt for a themed wedding where a white shirt, tie, slacks and jacket would really be out of place, for instance, if you were thinking of a "Hawaiian" theme where everyone was in shorts and "flowered" shirts.  Killer Whale Audio always asks, then dresses appropriately, but some DJ’s just don’t get it…so don’t count on it, ask! To the right is an example of Killer Whale Audio's attire during an actual performance.

Do you feed the DJ?  Most experts agree, while a courtesy, it is your responsibility to provide them with a meal, if they want one!  The DJ is usually there a long time, same with the photographer.  Professionals don’t want to appear like they’re “begging,” and although always appreciated, Killer Whale Audio would never ask.

Ask if the DJ will take breaks.  Be aware that some DJ's do take breaks.  Ask how long, and how many the DJ will take during the reception, and will there be music played during these breaks.  Killer Whale Audio does NOT take breaks, but it’s another good question to ask.  

Ask if they need a tablecloth, or linens for their table.  Why take all the time to decorate your reception location, and have the DJ's table stand out because it doesn't match.

Are there any “hidden” charges?  In addition to the base price, is there a set-up fee?  Are there charges for additional meetings?  Some DJs charge fees for encountering stairs, or traveling outside a certain radius.  A professional will not “hide,” but explain any extra fees in your consultation, and in the contract.

10 things that separate “Professional DJ’s” from “wanna-be’s”:

  1. Pro DJ’s will use professional equipment, not a home stereo.
  2. Pro DJ’s will meet with you, and help you plan your reception.
  3. Pro DJ’s will have references available for you to read, or contact.
  4. Pro DJ’s will use contracts.  

  5. Pro DJ’s will not subcontract out your event, UNLESS they tell you at the time of contract signing.

  6. Pro DJ’s will be set up on time, and ready by the time your first guest arrives.

  7. Pro DJ’s will abide by your wishes, and not just play what “they” like to hear.
  8. Pro DJ’s will not try to be the life of the party.  The Bride and Groom should never be “upstaged!”  
  9. Pro DJ’s will not invite potential clients to watch them perform at your event.  A DJ cannot give you 100 percent attention if they’re trying to sell to others.  
  10. Pro DJ’s will not drink alcoholic beverages on the job.

This is not an all-inclusive list of questions to ask, but should provide you with enough information to certainly be a "more informed shopper" of entertainment services.  Choosing a professional mobile entertainer for your event should be similar to hiring a new employee.  Any potential employees must sell themselves, and so should a quality professional entertainer.  You should receive candid answers to your questions, and feel comfortable with your decision.  We did not include anything about price in these questions.  Price will be based on many variables - length of time you want them, amount of equipment needed and/or wanted, and certainly a DJ’s experience.  In most instances, you do really get what you pay for!  Brides and Grooms willingly spend thousands of dollars on food, drink and the banquet hall, and not all face budgets, but some will try to trim somewhere.  Based on the importance placed on entertainment, Killer Whale Audio sincerely believes if there is one area of your reception where you shouldn’t try to cut corners, it’s your entertainment.  Notice, we didn’t say DJ, but entertainment.  The same would hold true for a band, a harpist, or pianist if you decided to hire their particular service.  No one ever remembers if the London Broil was over-cooked, or how nice the hall was decorated, but you get stuck with sub-par entertainment for four plus hours – and most will surely remember that!  Regarding price, be prepared to pay for quality, just like any other goods and services.  Of course, we're not saying that the higher the price a DJ charges, the more professional they are!  But, if the average price for a DJ in your market is $1000, and a DJ will undercut, or quote you $600 for the job, you must ask yourself, why is he or she willing to charge so much less?  All DJ's are not created equal!  Find a professional DJ you’re comfortable with, based on the answers to the questions posed above, one that makes you feel confident, and odds are that you will have the time of your life!  


Because you know how important the music is.

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