Tips to Book a Prom DJ

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The Prom’s Entertainment Subcommittee gets together every year to make some important decisions. The entertainment, in my humble DJ opinion, is the most critical decision to be made. The success or failure of Prom depends on the entertainment. From the worst-case scenario of a no-show Prom DJ, to equipment failure (followed by angry high school booing), to the out-of-touch DJ who played whatever they played at his own Prom 20 years ago. If you’re looking for the cheapest DJ you can find, you’re doing it wrong.

Price In Perspective

Let’s put the Prom DJ in the right perspective first. The average Houston family sending a teen to prom in 2012 spent an average of $1,203. Most venues suitable for a prom cost anywhere from $6,000 – $18,000 for the night. This is why I’m shocked when the first question I receive from so many prospects is how much I charge. It’s a great question, but when it’s the first question I get from a prospect, I usually end up referring the prospect out to another DJ company. If this sounds like you, please take a moment to understand why the DJ is the best investment of the night.

Benefits Of A Professional (Not Cheap) Prom DJ

  • Music is very personal to teenagers. Having a DJ who knows how to identify what’s not only popular, but ‘works’ is crucial.
  • Only clean songs should be played at Prom. “Clean” doesn’t just mean curse words, but also violent attitudes and explicit content.
  • Professionals know how to read a crowd. If song “A” worked, they know that song “B” and “C” will also work. Live testing of genres to dial in on what makes the most sense for your Prom is something that only comes with experience.
  • Slow songs, but not too many slow songs. Nobody wants to sweat in their tuxes and dresses. Knowing how to rotate through levels of energy, and knowing when to end a peak in energy, prevents this.
  • Students pretend not to be nervous, but they are SO nervous. Do you remember High School? A professional can quickly break the ice and get them on the dance floor without “trying”. If the DJ has to try too hard, he’s failing.
  • DJ lighting. Few people are comfortable being the center of attention. With house lights on, people are more reluctant to dance. DJ lighting allows enough light for safety, but not so much that dancers feel like they’re in the spotlight.
  • Professional DJs have back-up equipment. This prevents all your hard work coming to a screeching halt when a teeny tiny wire goes bad, or a speaker blows.
  • Cheap DJs are more likely to steal their music from peer-to-peer sharing sites. Music mislabeled as ‘clean’ and songs that cut off in the middle are often mistakenly played by cheap DJs. Viruses are also more likely, risking a computer crash mid-dance.
  • Cheap DJs are less likely to consider their vehicle as important as their DJ equipment. If a vehicle crashes on the way to the gig, they are at best going to be very late.
  • A professional Prom DJ is comfortable on the microphone. He also knows how not to overdo it. They students don’t want to listen to the DJ, they want to dance with their friends. Making the important announcements with confidence, and backing off, is the way to go.

I’m not saying you want the most expensive DJ you can find, but if your Prom DJ is asking for anything under $1,000 for Prom, I recommend you keep looking. Would you eat a $3 steak? Why not? Cause something *has* to be wrong with it! Nobody can put the time, effort, equipment, music research, and practice into a career paying any less. Exceptions to this being either a DJ who isn’t charging enough to stay in the business very long, or someone who’s using your event as practice to get a few Proms under his belt.

Keeping Them At The Prom

Besides all the fun you want the DJ to bring to the party, it’s very important to consider the safety of keeping the students at Prom. Students who leave Prom may no longer be supervised, and all of their parents assume they are at Prom. A poorly performing DJ will send students home hours early, which is bad for so many reasons.

Do your homework

A pretty looking DJ website with lots of great pictures doesn’t mean much. Anyone can purchase pictures of DJ equipment, crowds, or even take them straight from a competitor’s site. For an event as important as Prom, you should meet with the DJ in person, interview them. They are applying for a job, and you should treat it that way. Come prepared with questions about challenges they’ve overcome, or ask them about the best/worst event they ever performed at. A professional has a ton of stories off the top of their head they can share, an amateur won’t. A professional also won’t mind telling you about the mistakes he learned from along the years. If you are hiring a DJ from a large company with multiple DJs, demand that you speak with the actual DJ who will attend your event, not a representative. You want to look this person in the eyes.

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