Hi all, I've heard a lot of stories about tin pot mobile discos over the years. I've heard it from the guy who repairs my equipment. I've heard it from customers and I've heard it from other DJ's.
I've had the phone calls that go something like.....Hi, we've been let down by our DJ (Great! Opportunity for me) and can you fill in this Saturday/some Saturday etc.
I check the diary and I can do it. "Oh great! How ,much do you charge?" Me: "XYZ..." Them: "Oh that's a little bit more than we were hoping to pay" or: "OK, I'll call you back" - Meaning that I'm never going to hear from them before Earth freezes over... Sometimes if I'm awake enough or get the chance, I ask what price they were quoted from the guy who let them down or what they were hoping to pay. It's usually somewhere in the region of £100.00 to £150.00 for a five hour gig. Well, let's see about this. Let's break it down:
You may think that is a fair price for a DJ. I mean, he only plays a few records/songs for christ's sake. How hard can it be?
Of course what you don't see is the time and years spent getting together those tracks. Processing them so that they sound even and don't jump in volume like your own MP3's do on your ipod for example. Every track I upload has to be:
2. analysed for BPM (beats per minute).
3. Analysed for key (Ab, C minor etc.)
4. converted to one other file format as well as MP3 as one of my systems uses it's own format which has a little extra information added.
5. Renamed from "track 5 (on album) and song title" to "Artist and Title".
6. Loaded onto 4 seperate hard drives - Two for the road and two for back up back at the "lab".
When a customer want's their own song list, this can involve hours of unpaid work and music costs, none of which we usually charge for.
Equipment costs have come down in recent years, but a decent show with yes (i'm always asked whether I bring this) decent lighting will still not leave you much change out of around ten grand. And that's not counting the back up equipment back at the yard that you collect over the years, which is needed more often than you'd think. For example, you can't do a massive marquee gig with the standard village hall/hotel set up. You have to load up with those mostly decommissioned extra bass cabs and maybe extra top speakers too.
We all start out with very basic show set ups until we get an idea of what is required. The difference between a professional and a cheap amateur is: Do you build it up as fast as you can or do you continue with what you've got whilst undercutting everyone else until you can't afford to maintain what little you have? I've heard stories of "DJ's" turning up with a laptop and one or two Maplins speakers with maybe 50 MP3's. Well it hardly makes for what I'd call a "show" does it?
Then there is the guy who maybe has a little more beaten up old equipment (like the guy who did my cousin's wedding and convinced me that I could easily do better) and who will drop you like a stone at the last-minute if he get's a more lucrative offer. - No ethics at all.
Talking of ethics, all equipment must be tested every year by a qualified technician. Some DJ's make this up. I don't.
Setting up time.
I'm constantly asked if I charge for the whole time I'm at the venue, ie: Setting up time as well as playing time. Well guess what? I don't charge for that either and neither do most other pros.
So what SHOULD I expect to pay?
What you should expect to pay is what you'd expect to pay any other professional tradesman like a plumber - At this time of writing, around £50-£60 per hour is a good bench mark, I resist the urge to mention garage mechanic, as they can be up to £90.00 per hour. But to be fair to them, they have one hell of a lot of equipment to buy and maintain.
The gist of this blog is that we are no different to any other service in that you really do get what you pay for. The only difference with us is that we are artists and there is an unmeasurable quality to how we feel what we do. How we have to have heightened perception of reading the crowd's mood at any given time of the night and what track will drop in at just the right time. How to address the crowd with confidence, clarity and engaging friendliness. This requires knowledge, taste and experience, but you have to love it to succeed in the long run. Particularly when you are humping heavy gear upstairs or hundreds of yards in the rain from/to the van from/to a venue with terrible access!
I hope you found this helpful. I will now meta tag it up so anyone asking "How much to pay for a DJ in the UK" will find it.