The entertainment you select for your big day is easily one of the most crucial decisions. According to this article which polled over two hundred brides and grooms, entertainment is the number one area couples wish they spent more time (and money) getting right. Music typically accounts for only about five percent of the total wedding budget but ends up being one of the only things people remember! Couples should put great care into who they choose to trust with their big day’s entertainment.
Depending on where you live, there can be hundreds to thousands of musical entertainment providers within travel distance of your wedding venue. Today’s article will focus primarily on DJs for simplicity. How can you tell the Pro DJs from the Oh No DJs? One of the most critical clues you should look for is DJ type.
About this list:
We’ve grouped DJs into five archetypes. Each type will include a description, strengths, weaknesses, appropriate price ranges, and what kind of events help each DJ type shine. These types apply to any event, not just weddings.
This list is not exhaustive, and no archetype perfectly explains every DJ. You might see some characteristics of each archetype in the same DJ. We’ve generalized for simplicity, so please keep that in mind, as the real world is far more nuanced.
Finally, we will reference the types of playlists described in our “Should You Give Your DJ A Playlist?” article. It may be helpful to skim through that article to understand better the types of playlists we recommend utilizing for each DJ type.
The New DJ, aka “The Living Room Warrior”
Strengths: Typically young with flexible schedules, good with younger crowds, up to date on current music
Weaknesses: Communication, lack of experience, poor problem-solving, usually using budget equipment
Price Range: $50-$75/hr or $250 for a 3-hour event
Best Event Types: House parties, birthday parties, school dances, and other low-pressure events
Description: Every DJ has been here. The New DJ is your cousin’s nephew’s neighbor your mom hired to save money. They don’t have much experience, and unless their parents are wealthy, their equipment probably isn’t the best either. We call them the Living Room Warriors because that’s where most of their performances occur.
New DJs are typically young, often starting between thirteen and nineteen years old. One significant benefit to this youth is exposure to current musical trends. Many contemporary artists create music with this age group in mind. If you are throwing an event for younger people, consider saving some money with a New DJ. Everyone needs their chance!
That said, if your event is more complicated, has many moving parts, or comes with a lot of pressure, the New DJ may not have the tools to perform at the level necessary. Their underdeveloped communication skills and general inexperience will likely leave them overwhelmed. We do not recommend the New DJ for weddings, corporate events, parades, or extravagant birthday parties like sweet 16s or quinceañeras.
There is a 50/50 chance the New DJ will take offense to you giving them a playlist. Still, if they have enough self-awareness to admit they don’t know what they’re doing, the list could provide them with much-needed guidance and hopefully nudge them toward an outstanding performance. Consider a strict playlist or an extensive vibe check for this DJ.
The Venue DJ, aka “DJ Side Hustle”
Strengths: Hopefully, very good at one or two types of music
Weaknesses: Can be on the less creative side, not very motivated, not always the most current
Price Range: Free or very inexpensive
Best Event Types: Family reunions, high school reunions, anniversaries, low-maintenance corporate events
Description: Mr. Side hustle is the DJ included with your venue. They are a friend of the owner (or maybe the previous owner) who has been doing the same song list three times each weekend every week for the last 15 years. And if that person doesn’t show up, it might just be one of the servers playing music from iTunes or YouTube. We call them DJ Side Hustle because that’s precisely what their DJ career is to them—a side hustle.
Some Venue DJs are veterans who no longer wish to haul heavy equipment. They’re okay with taking a pay cut for the convenience and stability of a venue residency. Older Venue DJs may be similar to the Old School DJs described later in this article.
Another common scenario is that a Venue DJ maybe someone similar to the New DJ who takes on their residency to build their experience. Venue work is a great way to stay busy in the DJ space and grow as an entertainer.
The most significant benefit of the Venue DJ is that they typically come included in the cost of the venue, also known as free. This factor can be an enticing temptation for a couple on a strict budget. Like the New DJ, this risk may be worth taking for low-pressure event types. But when it comes to weddings, the bottom line is this: most Venue DJs are not worth the money you will spend on them, even if they are free.
We are not suggesting that there are zero excellent Venue DJs worldwide, but they are usually not equipped for a modern wedding. Before you proceed with a Venue DJ, ensure you can interview them like you would any other DJ candidate. Finally, push back if your venue tries to strong-arm you into using their house DJ. It’s your wedding, and you’re in the driver’s seat.
Mr. Side Hustle may oppose a playlist because it puts him out of his comfort zone, so you should give him one. Your wedding celebration does not belong in the Venue DJ’s comfort zone. Unless DJ Side hustle is very proactive in their communication and you feel in good hands, slap the leash on them and hope for the best.
The Old School DJ, aka “MC Vinyl”
Strengths: Highly experienced, good but possibly dated equipment
Weaknesses: Dated musical taste, may be less skilled at managing crowds
Price Range: $75-$300/hr
Best Event Types: Family reunions, high school reunions, anniversaries, low-maintenance corporate events, appropriate weddings
Description: MC Vinyl has a lot in common with DJ Side Hustle. The most significant difference is that most Old School DJs have been in the game for a long time, whereas some Venue DJs may be more on the new side.
The Old School DJ has been there, and yes, they have done that. These DJs have been around since back when DJs had to use vinyl, cassette tapes, or even eight tracks. These are the veterans of the DJ world, complete with a career worth of experience.
Many Old School DJs have kept up with current musical trends and know what music younger crowds want to hear. And then there’s the rest of them. If you’ve known your Old School DJ for a long time, you know what side of this spectrum they fall on.
The most significant upside to MC Vinyl is their extensive experience. They have seen most issues that could arise on the day of your event and usually have a plan just in case. The biggest possible downside is their preference for older music.
Should you hire an Old School DJ, consider a strict playlist or an extensive vibe check to keep them on track. If you’re familiar with their work, you can be more relaxed. However, act accordingly if they give you vibes that indicate they’re opposed to playing newer music.
The Club DJ, aka “Shots On Me”
Strengths: Usually very technical, in touch with current trends
Weaknesses: May be unorganized, may only specialize in a few genres of music
Price Range: $200-$400/hr
Best Event Types: Clubs, corporate events with a specific focus, grand openings, public events
Description: The Club DJ is the guy or girl who has a residency at a local club. Some of these DJs have a big name for themselves, which could be what drew you to them in the first place. Others may have been a DJ at a club you visited, and they caught your eye that way. Prices and experience levels vary wildly.
Regarding their strengths, Club DJs are usually very good at one thing: keeping the dance floor packed and the crowd pumped all night long with loud blaring music. If that’s the vibe you are looking for, they may be worth the price! This mindset does come with some drawbacks, though.
Since they thrive in typically chaotic and unstructured club environments, many Club DJs are less experienced in following a schedule, managing announcements, and slowing things down. They also may specialize in a musical niche outside your needs.
An Electro House DJ may be uncomfortable playing a Top 40 setlist. The typical New Orleans Bounce DJ may not have the tools for a down-south country Wedding. A K-Pop specialist may not have the musical vocabulary to crush that oldies section for your grandparents.
Your DJ should match your wedding, not the other way around.
We are not saying that a Club DJ can’t do an excellent job, but DJs are like doctors. You’d never go to a heart doctor for a kidney issue. Club DJs specialize in club vibes, which many couples don’t want at weddings.
Finally, many Club DJs may not be as experienced in setting up and tearing down equipment. Most clubs provide some or all of the equipment for their entertainment. Having it easy this way could mean that a Club DJ is less exposed to common issues and how to fix them.
If you hire a Club DJ for your event, consider sending an extended vibe check. Most DJs of this type should be receptive to a playlist, doubly if they specialize in a genre outside your preference.
The Pro DJ, aka “Mr. Right”
Strengths: Experienced, professional, quality equipment, flexible musical library
Weaknesses: Possibly more expensive
Price Range: $150-$500/hr
Best Event Types: Weddings, corporate, grand openings, birthdays, holidays
Description: Welcome to the creme of the crop. Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right, however they may identify) is the seasoned pro who has seen and done it all. They’ve logged hundreds, if not thousands, of event hours. Their systems of communication are airtight. Not only do they know how to move a crowd, they know how to manage an evening.
A professional DJ has the expertise and experience to create the perfect atmosphere for your wedding. They know how to read the crowd and adjust the music to keep guests dancing and having a good time. They also have a more comprehensive selection of music and the technical skills to mix and blend songs seamlessly, ensuring a smooth and continuous music flow throughout the event.
A professional DJ has professional-grade equipment and backup equipment. If any technical issues arise, your pro will quickly resolve them without interrupting the night’s flow. A more casual DJ may not have the same level of equipment or backup options, potentially leading to problems that could negatively impact your night.
Furthermore, a professional DJ offers peace of mind to the couple and their guests. They are a reliable and accountable vendor who will arrive on time, dress appropriately, and conduct themselves professionally throughout the event.
Experienced, high-caliber DJs understand the value of a client-generated playlist. They know that the night isn’t about us; it’s about you. They know how to prioritize the success of an event over their ego. Any list you wish to provide, be it a strict list or a short list of must-plays, will be happily considered while planning your night.
When selecting a DJ for your event, you have many factors to consider. Each type of DJ brings unique skills, experience, and style. Ultimately, the kind of DJ you choose will depend on your preferences, budget, and the vibe you want to create.
Take special care while considering your event’s entertainment. In most cases, you only get one shot at choosing well. If you take this article’s advice to heart, we are confident you will make an excellent choice for your big day.
Talk to your fiancé about what type of DJ you’d like for your wedding today!