How to hire a DJ

March 29th, 2015   Help & Advice   ,

If you are looking to hire a DJ for your wedding or your corporate party what should you look for? What questions should you ask? Here are the top three factors we look at when we are adding new DJs to our roster here at Yes Entertainment that we think will help you hire a DJ for yourself.

1. Professionalism

This is the first thing we look for and recommend that you do the same. A DJ can have the best equipment in the world, they can have the most amazing level of skill and ability to “read the room” (more on that later) but if they turn up two hours late and are a bit lack lustre because they aren’t really into it on your night, then everything else is irrelevant. No you need a DJ who you are 100% sure is going to deliver on your night and get your guests dancing (in our case we need DJs who we are 100% sure will deliver night after night after night, sometimes up to 15 gigs back to back. No pressure there then!).

You can start your assessment of their professionalism by how they present themselves on their website. Are the pages well laid out? Is there obvious pride taken? Are there spelling mistakes everywhere? That will give you some idea but remember a lot of DJs are out spending most of their time…um…DJing, so therefore if their website looks a bit tired it doesn’t mean they don’t care necessarily it may mean they are just too busy. Have a look at their social media pages too as these are easier to update from a phone and are likely to contain a bit more material.

Then call them. How do they answer? How quickly do they return your call if you leave a message? Are they easy to speak to and do they ask you sensible questions?

2. DJ skill

DJ skill comes next assuming they have passed the professionalism test as this means that more than likely their equipment is at least half decent.

A DJ is not just somebody who turns up smartly dressed with great equipment and plays music all night. No, as far as we are concerned a DJ is a professional musician. As such their job is to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of what music to play, when, how to change their set live in an instant to suit the crowd on the night. They need to keep up to date with the latest music and trends and have an enormous back catalogue of every kind of music you could possibly imagine.

A professional DJ will read the room. Play a couple of tracks, gauge the reaction, adjust if necessary, play a couple more, adjust and so on. Steering their playlist live on the night through a combination of their knowledge of music and the crowd’s reaction to what they are playing. Yes they will have the standards they know work with the majority of crowds but the rest of the night should be an individual piece of work, a performance tailored song by song riding the energy of the guests.

That is what Yes DJs do.

3. Equipment

DJs come with a wide array of equipment. We could write several articles on DJ gear so we’ll keep it as brief as possible but hopefully still give you enough information to make a more informed choice. Let’s divide the equipment up into five categories to make life easy:

a. Speakers, Amps & Mics – what speakers you need will be determined by two main factors; how big your venue is and how many people are coming. Most mobile DJs will travel to the majority of their gigs with just two good quality top speakers e.g. Mackie SRM 450s, these will be sufficient for up to around 100 – 150 guests or so and is a practical solution for venues where loading is an issue.

If you have a larger party then you are probably going to need some dedicated bass speakers and possibly a separate amplifier too (the Mackie speakers above have their own built in amplification) so talk to your DJ (or friendly Yes Entertainment representative!) and they will ask you some questions to build up a picture of what sound equipment they will need.

b. Decks & laptop – the days of DJs loading in boxes and boxes of vinyl into a venue aren’t quite over (certainly the purists will still do it, although we suspect that they aren’t gigging three times a week loading in to difficult central London venues!) but they nearly are. As are DJs mixing from CDs using CDJs.

No, modern DJs will almost all use DJ software on a laptop or Mac and either have a separate controller deck (a set of decks that links to the software and allows them to mix), or they will mix directly on their computer. Either way the advantage of this is that they will have access to an enormous database of music, more on that later.

One question to ask of your DJ though is what they have done in the past if their laptop or Mac has had a problem during a gig? We certainly like our DJs to have the back up of an additional laptop or CD collection for emergencies.

c. Lighting

Another huge topic here that you could write several books on! Don’t worry we’re not going to. We’re just going to give  you a bit of background knowledge so you have some understanding of disco lighting… well at least a bit.

There are lots of different categories of disco lights depending on who you talk to but a few of the more popular types of lights are listed below.

Strobes – most people are familiar with strobe lights. They can be white or coloured and flash to different speeds as required.

Lasers – lasers can create a really amazing show, particularly if the use of dry ice or a haze machine is permitted by your venue. Lasers can either be beams of light or reflected off mirrors to make shapes.

Floods & Spots – flashing and changing colours these lights are almost always LED now and can be used in a variety of ways including as uplighters for mood lighting as well as to light the floor. Moving head spot lights are very effective particularly when well synched with the music.

Projectors – generally any light that uses mirrors to project the beams to create moving shapes and patterns.

Mirror balls – the classic mirror ball will never die! I think this requires no explanation.

d. Booth

All our DJs at Yes either travel with a booth or starcloth for their DJ table. The DJ booths are generally either a simple frame that you stretch a star cloth around, or a Perspex screen that you can shine lights behind (this type of booth is becoming more popular). Either look great but equally if your DJ has a good light show (which all Yes DJs do!) they can work just as well behind a table making them even more accessible to your guests.

e. Music!

Last but certainly not least we come to the most important thing in a DJ’s equipment list. Their music.

Most DJs now will use DJ software like Virtual DJ or Serato and store their tracks they have purchased in their database. All our DJs come armed with 10s of thousands of tracks plus the ability to download on the night (provided a suitably fast wifi connection exists) so that they can handle even the most obscure requests.

When you are booking a DJ ask them what they like to play. How they respond to that question is very telling because a good DJ will tell you that they like certain types of music or tracks yes, but they will also tell you that the music they like to play best is the music that gets the most people dancing on the night.