Why Are DJs So Expensive?
There’s no such thing as the “best DJ in North Carolina” – only the one who’s right for your event. But if you’re deep enough into your plans to be comparing rates, you may be noticing broad differences in what DJs charge. Focus specifically on wedding DJ pricing, and the discrepancy looks even greater.
In this post we want to look at why, exactly, the best DJs are so expensive and explain it in a way that’s as transparent and honest as possible.
Here’s how ERG breaks down our wedding pricing. This is where your money actually goes.
We’ll list percentages in the breakdown below – then, at the end, I’ll give you some sample dollar amounts to make it even easier to understand. Just keep in mind that these are guidelines – every event, every month and every year the actual breakdown is a little different. That’s what makes operating a small business fun! But the numbers below are the estimates we actually use to operate that small business.
1. Entertainers: 40-50%
Not every company is like ERG, but we believe no one should have to work a wedding on their own. You’ll have a lead DJ and an assistant at your wedding, and a little less than half of what you pay goes to cover their wages, along with the tax and worker’s compensation insurance that every employer is required to cover.
Have you noticed yet that weddings cost more than other DJ events? It’s true, and employee salaries are one of the main reasons why. Most DJs can do a simple event alone, by just showing up and setting up. But a wedding is highly customized – it takes many hours of pre-production, including meetings with you to iron out the specifics, to get it right. You’re not just hiring an entertainer, you’re hiring a wedding professional who has many years of experience, having performed at literally hundreds of weddings.
2. Equipment: 5-10%
It costs us around $8000 to build a basic wedding DJ setup, and about half that for one of the smaller sound systems we’d use to play music and amplify your officiant at an outdoor wedding ceremony. (Since many weddings change locations throughout the night and require extra equipment to help with transitions, this is another reason they can cost a little more.). Also, we only use the top of the line professional grade equipment. Now, take that amount and double it. Why? Because we also keep standby systems in reserve so that there’s no chance of a mechanical failure affecting your event.
3. Music and Travel: 5-10%
After decades in the wedding business, one thing that amazes me is how we’re still purchasing new music for nearly every event. I guess everyone’s personal taste in music really is unique. ERG also absorbs travel costs within a 50 mile radius of our offices.
4. Marketing: 20%
It costs us a lot to help clients find us in the first place – especially in the crowded NC wedding scene. Marketing expenses cover more than just advertisements and paid listings on your favorite wedding websites.
Almost anything we do to improve the experience of our clients falls under the “marketing” label. That quirky postcard your Account Manager mailed you to brighten your day? The afternoon she spent visiting your wedding venue and getting to know your coordinator so that our plans would line up with theirs? The time it took me to write this post, and the questionable number of cups of coffee I drank while doing so? Those are all marketing expenses.
Most of the time, “marketing” is just a fancy word for “communication” – and it’s one of the things that separates ERG from the competition. Good communication, establishing relationships with venues and vendors, and thorough follow through all require a marketing budget .
5. Overhead: 25%
This is the biggest and most nebulous category in any business, but it means “all the other stuff you have to do so that the company can run.” At ERG that means paying wages to our full-time office staff, boring-but-essential costs like the software you’ll use to submit your music requests and the phone line you’ll call us on when you’re ready to put some specific plans together for the wedding day.
Hosting our websites, renewing domain names, our cloud based services like email and accounting software . . .a dollar here, a dollar there – it all adds up.
6. Profit: 0-10%
If there’s something left after the above expenses, we call it “profit.” That either gets reinvested in things that could make the business better next year, or it becomes cost of living raises for the people who’ve worked hardest to help the business be successful so far. After taxes, of course!
Our Operations Manager’s job is simple: Optimize the many factors listed above so that everybody gets treated right and there’s something left over. We have to do this ethically, honoring both our clients and our own team members along the way without taking anyone for granted.
If we succeed, we make a small profit and we get to try again next year.
I flunked percents in school. Show me the money!
An ERG wedding DJ package starts at $925. Now, deduct for performer wages, equipment costs, new music and travel expenses, marketing and communication, office staff and expenses, professional services like attorneys and accountants fees and basic overhead like utilities and insurance and we’re left with a modest $70 profit.
Of course, it’s never quite that simple. But if you’re wondering why the best NC DJs cost what they cost, that’s the most honest answer I can give.
So why do some DJs cost less?
If your DJ’s pricing is lower than ERG, he or she is spending less money on one of the categories above. That might be a deliberate choice, or it might just be out of ignorance and inexperience.
There’s a good chance Marketing Costs are lower if your DJ’s pricing is lower, too. You’ll need to find such a DJ by word of mouth since he won’t have a high profile in the local scene. And it will be much harder to evaluate whether or not he’s good at what he does based on reputation, since he won’t have as much of one – good or bad – as someone who spends more time and energy communicating.
If your DJ’s cost is really low, Overhead, Equipment and Music are probably areas of compromise as well. He works from home, on equipment he paid for with his day job, and plays tracks he “borrowed” from another DJ.
Good expensive vs. bad expensive
The bottom line here is that the money you spend for your DJ service is going somewhere. If your DJ company is well managed, then spending more probably translates into a better experience for you. If your DJ company is NOT well managed, then spending more may NOT translate into a better experience for you.
If that’s true then the first question you should ask is not, “is this an expensive DJ service?” The first question you should ask is, “is this a well-run DJ service?”
But isn’t that true for everywhere you spend your money?
Greedy folks don’t open businesses serving the wedding industry.
It’s important to point out that the vast majority of the wedding vendors I’ve met in my time in this business are NOT particularly wealthy – in fact, far too many aren’t even making a profit. We do this because we love the creative process of events and the special relationships we get to build with clients like you. Most wedding DJs – our team included – wish they were earning more.
But most of the money-focused entrepreneurs I know are building software firms, not wedding businesses. And anyone who gets into weddings strictly for the money doesn’t last. It simply takes too long to get started in this line of work. You have to love it.