Wedding DJ Prices. Why Are They All Over The Place?
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 is 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.
You will also see estimates from some places like Thumbtack that publishes what I can only call an absurd number. People should know that sites like Thumbtack represents almost exclusively the lower-end “cheap DJ” market and does not account for more realistic pricing because 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 DJs 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.
Because of the wide range of pricing options out there some couples may see a quality wedding DJ’s price as a bit of sticker shock. But make no mistake, when you see higher prices you likely found a DJ who is offering an exceptional service and frankly a bargain in the grand scheme of things.
There is also a lot of misinformation out there that is pushed out by sources like wedding magazines and even day news broadcasts diminishing the value that a wedding DJ offers, 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.
But while there are some issues that the industry has to learn to contend with I would like to arm you with some good information to help in your research and selection and gain some perspective on why 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. 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. So instead of defaulting to the question of price, the most important thing to ask at this moment is “Will this DJ make my my night truly remarkable one?”
The Misconception Of “Hours”
Now there is some confusion when it comes to choosing a wedding DJ because many brides and grooms think of the hours that they will need the DJ for that day.
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. So when you are thinking of hours, and also see hours listed on a pricing page (including myself) 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 but rest assured there is more than the 4, 5, 6 or more hours you have booked specifically for your wedding day.
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 (although those are fascinating questions to ponder). But given the great 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 very basics of what a wedding DJ needs to invest in to maintain a high-quality level of service for their customers and how that affects overall wedding DJ prices. This is really a key to determine the type of wedding DJ you should hire is the amount of time and effort that they will invest in your event and their own business. 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
The Professional Investment
- Two Top End Laptops: $6000
- Quality Speakers: $6900
- Mixer, Decks, & Backups: $6000
- Wireless Mics and Transmitters: $7400
- Cases, Cables, Etc. $2000
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, not even including lighting or all the other backup and other equipment left back at the shop that I have invested into the business. Others can bring more including expensive uplighting, rigging, monitors, and the like that just ups the ante. So it’s not out of the ordinary that a professional DJ can spend 17x, 25x or even more than the “Cheap DJ” for equipment used at a single event.
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. They 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. They 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.
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 averages 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 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 brides and grooms 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.
Choose value over price. Choose experience over the bottom line.
This article was originally published in 2015. This latest version was updated on 07/23/2019 to include a video on the subject.
Biography: Lou Paris has been DJing since 1988 and has a deep passion for music of all styles and genres and became a wedding DJ in 2012. Coincidentally, Lou is also a successful 20+ year IT professional and has merged many technology concepts to ensure a successful night of entertainment. Click here to learn more about Lou's background and if you find this content interesting contribute to my Patreon.