the bottom line
by Gregg MacDonald
Since you made it here... let's talk on the level. I created this page so I can speak my mind and be even more frank about the DJ business as a whole. Some of the points made here are strictly my opinion, some are cold hard facts. I went into great detail to give the prospective client, the bottom line. As you can see, I offer a lot more content than your average DJ website, but I think it’s a good read that’s both informative and entertaining.
Since you decided to read on, you’re somewhat interested in what I have to offer. I have over 1,000 weddings behind me and had the pleasure of meeting some very nice couples over the years. When we start talking, I always ask what they're looking for in a DJ and the majority say “I just want everyone to have a good time”. That should be the overall goal of both client and vendor. Since researching wedding DJs is more difficult and challenging than looking at photographer portfolios, there’s a common fear and strong possibility the DJ you're about to book isn't going to live up to your expectations. Rest assured, I know what I'm doing and I built my reputation on professional, conservative behavior and I always accept that my position in weddings is a supporting role. I’m one of the few DJs who don't want to be the center of attention. This is your wedding, not mine. I’ve been a DJ for a long time and I've seen the wedding/DJ trends come and go. These days, it’s the inexperienced, flashy kids with their fake orange tans, bad suits and blow-out hair trying to turn your wedding into a club or the old timer mailing in another wedding because he just doesn’t care anymore. Since my first wedding in 1994, I still believe in the same approach. More music, less mic. If you're looking for a talker, I’m not the DJ for you. Ask around. No one appreciates a DJ who likes to hear himself talk. When I was starting out, I met plenty of prop/entertainer DJs who tried to take me under their wing and they told me that I needed to conform to their style of entertainment (props, guest interaction and routines) if I was going to last in the business. I did my thing and they kept doing their tired routines. They're out of the business and I'm still standing.
Why do I shoot straight with prospective clients? Because I don't need to deceive anyone to generate business. Go research the websites. It's amateur hour out there. You'll find most websites offer the absolute bare minimum in content and more or less an online business card. When I created this website, I went a step further because I want to educate you so you have a general understanding of how a reputable DJ conducts business. I have a very detailed FAQ page because I have nothing to hide. I'm an honest, hard-working DJ and I'm good at what I do. You hire my services, I get it done. I'm not a sales guy, so I'm not going to hound you with phone calls, texts or emails about making a decision. That's not my thing. I book more weddings from word-of-mouth referrals than Google searches. That's a pure indication there's a demand and an appreciation for what I do.
OK, if you're not convinced I'm the DJ for you, very well, but before I let you leave, I feel an obligation to educate you on what to look for and what to avoid as you continue your search for your DJ.
"The Wannabes" : There are hundreds of hacks in Massachusetts who claim to be professional DJs "specializing in weddings". Keep in mind that there's no certification or required training. Anyone can buy an illegal hard drive online, load up a laptop with music, buy some beat-up used gear, order business cards and another wedding DJs is born. Not so fast. Having a great set of tools doesn't make you a mechanic and skill and experience is something you cannot buy or download. It’s something you acquire from performing actual weddings. It's 2021 and every professional DJ should have an informative, fully-functional, updated website (not a Facebook page). It should provide a broad overview of their performance style, music listing, sound system, offer online planning tools, FAQ and general information about the DJ/DJs. A reputable DJ company will respond to all email, text and telephone inquiries in a prompt and professional manner within 24 hours.
Bargain Hunting : Before you hire a random DJ off social media pages like Bark, Thumbtack or Facebook, do not bargain shop when you choose your DJ. I cannot emphasize this enough. I'm not suggesting paying top dollar, but you cannot trust a hack to deliver the quality service a reputable, experienced DJ can. There's a reason budget DJs use unconventional methods of advertising to attract clients. There's no demand for their services. They resort to low prices (well below market rate) to get whatever work they can because they know a skilled professional DJ will not work a five hour wedding reception for short money. If you hire a DJ just because they're cheap, don't expect much. DJs who quote low prices to attract clients offer little in return and keep prices very low to compensate for their lack of ability. If you hire a bargain DJ, you'll save a few bucks, but your reception will probably bomb.
The Multi-Op/DJ Agency : Before I touch on this subject, I want to make it clear that I do not believe all entertainment agencies are shady. That would be unfair. There are a couple of multi-system DJ companies and agencies based in Massachusetts who will allow you to select one of their DJs and will enter the DJ's name on the contract of services and are upfront about subcontracting bookings to other DJs. That's running an honest business. However, there are many wannabe agencies who are slick and all they want to is book your wedding, take your money and put your wedding behind them and this is how they operate.
Some agencies create a corporate image and with their "staff" of 5-10 DJs, deep advertising and presence at every bridal show, it makes them seem like a safe choice. Truth be told, many multi-op/agencies will not allow you to select a particular DJ before you sign a contract because they cannot guarantee the DJ you want will be affiliated with their agency when your wedding day arrives. They claim to retain the area's most requested DJs on staff and it gives the prospective client a good feeling that they are working with a well-oiled machine. Let me expose this myth. Aside from the owners (top DJs of the agency), the most requested DJs are not staff. These DJs are a pool of independent contractor DJs who accept bookings from the agency because they do not have the established reputation to draw regular bookings on their own. They ride the coattails of the reputation the owners have built. Go to a DJ agency website and look at the DJ staff profiles and Google some of the DJ's names. You will find that many of them are associated with more than one agency and many have their own companies. These DJs will accept work through the agency for dates that the most requested DJs have already booked or the price you are willing to pay is deemed too low for the top DJs to commit to that date. If you pay $1500 for services and the owners are unavailable, the agency subcontracts your date to a DJ, pays them a few hundred dollars and skims the top. Agencies can profit $500-$1,000 per wedding. The subcontracted DJ makes a day's pay with no risk, the agency makes a nice chunk of change accepting liability and brokering the deal and there's a good chance you will get a DJ who cannot deliver the quality service you're paying for.
So who's getting the deal here? Certainly not you. It's win-win for the agency. While this sales tactic is shady, it's perfectly legal. The agency's loophole is, you signed a contract with their agency, not your DJ. Believe it or not, it can get worse. Some agencies overbook the availability of their own DJs and outsource bookings. Do you want to do sign a contract with an agency who cold-calls local DJs hoping they're available to help them out when they're in a pinch? Be careful and don't get lost in the shuffle of "big business."
Market Value vs. Highway Robbery : If you've been contacting DJs for availability and pricing, you've most likely received price quotes ranging between $600-$2500 and you're probably confused. You ask yourself, "Why do some DJs charge so little and others charge so much?" The lowest priced DJs are usually rookies who are building their experience or hacks who hope a very low price is exactly what you're looking for. So now you're wondering, "What does a $2500 DJ do that a $1500 DJ doesn't?" In my opinion, not much. Most brides book their DJ at least a year in advance, some even earlier. It's 2021 and let's say you're interested in a Saturday in October 2022. Saturdays in the fall are the most requested dates for DJs. For DJs in demand, these dates always book, so some DJs will quote you an inflated price in hopes you will book the date now. If you don't book, they still have a whole year to lure in someone else.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks : Thinking about hiring that DJ everyone raved about at your cousin's wedding years ago? Are you a little skeptical because he's older now and seems a little out of touch with today's music and wedding trends? You should be. In the past 25 years, the role of the wedding DJ and bride and groom have completely changed. Wedding DJs used props and played songs strictly of their choice (mainly Motown, Oldies and Classic Rock) and were constantly interacting with guests with rehearsed routines. The bride and groom pretty much went with the flow of what the DJ wanted to do and they had very little say regarding music selection and reception events. Meeting with a DJ for a consultation was unheard of. Times have changed. Today's bride and groom are much more involved in the planning process and the "showtime" style of DJ entertainment is considered tacky and cheesy by today's standards.
Why did I just quickly recap the history of the wedding DJ? Because some of these DJs are still in business and believe the same old mix, high levels of interaction and props are what makes a successful reception. I don't care if a DJ claims to have performed at more than 15,000 events since 1975, you're only as good as your last wedding. Some DJs hang around the business too long and don't know when to call it quits. They just go through the motions, delivering one lackluster performance after another because they just can't keep up with new music, technology and the constant change in wedding trends.
When you book a DJ, aside from being flexible and playing your requests, your DJ has to have the ability to pull off a 2-3 hour mix of various genres on their own… without you holding their hand. It’s not your job to guide your DJ through your reception. That’s why you book an experienced DJ to begin with and many older DJs just can’t pull it off because the game has passed them by. They will welcome any and all requests because they don't know what to play or what works. They play the same mix with no variety because they don't care or know any better. Let's face it. It doesn't take a musical genius to play the same handful of overplayed wedding songs from the late 70's. These songs may have worked in the past, but what about now? Some guests cringe after hearing the first three seconds of these songs and leave the dance floor. These songs peaked over 30 years ago and people expect a balance of old and new. Music has evolved since the 1980's. Top 40, 80's, Hip Hop, Modern Rock, Techno and Country has crossed over to Pop/Top 40. Granted, some of these genres of music may not reflect your musical tastes, but shouldn't your DJ carry should carry the current Top 40, Modern Rock and Hip Hop hits should your guests want something new, something different? My point is, older wedding DJs don't listen to Justin Bieber, The Weeknd or Dua Lipa in their spare time, but if they're still performing weddings, they better have their hits. The Golden Oldies DJ just opens his CD case or laptop and says "what you see is what you get." This is unacceptable and all too common. Not just in the DJ business, but in any business. If business practices change, you either step up and roll with the changes or become a second rate hack.
Don't believe the hype : The majority of wedding research is done online and message boards are a great resource for brides to network ideas and help each other plan their weddings. I've been told by prospective brides that my name has been mentioned on a few message boards and while I'm very flattered that some brides have said some very nice things about me, don't believe everything you read. If a bride raves on a message board about a florist and you buy into it and this florist delivers ugly, half-dead flowers to your church, what's your recourse? Take everything with a grain of salt and remember that everyone's taste is different. While message boards are very helpful, there's also a downside. There are plenty of shady wedding vendors lurking, posing as brides and name-drop their business in hopes of luring in unsuspecting brides to use "their" DJ, florist, limo or photographer. It's very important you draw your own conclusions from your research... not because a bride (or vendor) you never met raved on a message board.
While on the subject of deception, you've probably noticed disc jockey companies who proudly proclaim being named the winner of the prestigious, 2020-2021 “Best of” online awards and having received many 5 star reviews from some of the popular wedding networks. While I applaud these DJs for their so-called accomplishments, but maybe I’m one of the few people left on the planet that doesn’t believe everything written on the Internet is true. These meaningless awards and stellar reviews are often bogus and nothing more than a means to give you, the prospective client, a false sense of security and book them based on a figment of their vivid imagination and embellished reputation. Honestly, I don’t have time to create hundreds of phony email addresses and vote for myself in online contests that don’t matter. I have a business to run.
Do your research and be patient : I know the time and effort that goes into planning a wedding. It's no picnic. The research process is time-consuming and can be frustrating. Reviewing vendor websites, sending emails, making initial and follow-up phone calls, scheduling and traveling to meet with vendors for appointments, it's a long process. This is when people make careless decisions because they just want the planning done, one less thing about the wedding to worry about. People roll the dice and hope for the best. Sometimes the gamble pays off, many times it doesn't. You can't gamble on the entertainment on one of the most important days of your life. Music is too big a risk to take. Take the time to do your research and book your vendors based on their professionalism, style and people skills, not because you're tired of planning and they have your date available.
Unsure about a vendor? Ask for references. Ask to meet them in person. You can save yourself one or two year's worth of worrying with a 30 minute, informal meeting. Most people can tell immediately whether or not they would seriously consider hiring a DJ simply by their character. People skills are very important in this industry and this short process could save you from making a huge mistake as vendor websites can be very deceiving and the actual vendors themselves even worse. The vendors you hire are a reflection on you and I've met plenty of vendors who do not dress properly, spend a lot of time outside smoking cigarettes, can't put their phones down and some are more concerned about when the vendor meals will be served than doing their job. I've worked with some unprofessional, creepy people over the years and your vendors will be with you, your family and your closest friends for several hours on one of the most important days of your life. You should be 100% comfortable and confident the vendors you have chosen will conduct and carry themselves as professionals.
DJ Understanding and Compliance : You and your DJ should always be on the same page. What you want and what your DJ might do or what music he might play could be quite different. Have you ever been to a wedding and the DJ takes it upon himself to start a "Dollar Dance" and you see the horrified look on the unsuspecting bride's face? Have you been to a wedding when the DJ asks a guest from each table to take out a dollar and everyone lets out a collective groan because the cheesy "Pass The Dollar" game is about to begin to see who wins the centerpieces? These so-called wedding traditions are outdated and it's in your best interests to give your DJ detailed instructions of what music and reception events to showcase and even more importantly, what music and events to avoid. Aside from reception events, you need to ask and consider how often your DJ uses the microphone and what special effects/lighting they intend to use. Some DJs are very vocal and will segue into every song like they're a radio DJ and it's very annoying. If you're having a simple, conservative wedding of less than 100 people in an antique or rustic venue, do you want to run the risk of an obnoxious DJ who won't shut up, playing bad music with blinding, flashing lights running the show? If you don't make yourself perfectly clear, your DJ could ruin your wedding.
Well, that's it. I think I covered everything. If you thoroughly reviewed my website, you should have a very good impression of the type of DJ I am. You've seen my music lists, sound system and my wedding page and if you read my FAQ page, you'll agree that I know this business. Add that with my experience, professional approach and extensive knowledge of music, you will soon realize you made a wise decision choosing me as your DJ for your wedding.
Thank you for considering my disc jockey services.
South Shore DJs