Your Questions: How Do Promoters Deal With DJ No-Shows?

Flights, illness, heavy gig the night before... DJs cite many reasons for no-shows, but how do you cope with it if you organise a party and the DJ cancels?

Flights, illness, heavy gig the night before... DJs cite many reasons for no-shows, but how do you cope with it if you organise a party and the DJ cancels?

Digital DJ Tips reader Salp writes: "I have been reading up on your articles on how to book a DJ and have found them very helpful, I just have one question if you are able to answer it. If you can go about by booking these DJs without the need for contracts, then what is to stop them from just not turning up or cancelling last minute? Is this a common occurrence, and what do you do in such a situation?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

True, we recommend it's sometimes worth booking DJs "by the back door" if you can in the articles, even though that may seem less secure than using a contract - and in some ways, it is. But the truth is, nothing stops guest DJs turning up or canceling last minute even when they have got a contract - something that happened to me several times as a promoter. DJs aren't always the most reliable of people, and of course delayed flights and "nervous exhaustion" (right!) also can lead to guest DJ no-shows.

In such a situation, you put a big notice on the door of the venue informing your punters, and hope they'll still come in to hear your resident DJs! If you find out early enough, of course you can also inform people via the most usual channels - email, Facebook etc. We even got local radio to read out cancellations a couple of times when I promoted a club night regularly.

We were lucky in that we had strong residents (I DJed every week at my club) who could hold the night with or without guest DJs, so we just ploughed on and hoped for the best. It's one reason why, if you want to start your own small club night (still one of the best ways of learning your trade as a resident DJ, in my opinion) you really do need to get the balance right between resident and guest DJs.

Have you ever turned up to hear a DJ who no-showed? Have you ever organised a night and had a DJ not turn up? Have you ever not turned up?!? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Just wondering, did you pay the residents who had to jump in at the last moment a bonus?

    If I take a job as a mobile DJ, I offer the customer a guarantee that if I can't make it (only reason I wouldn't make it would be severe illness or death in the family, car crash or the likes) there will be another DJ to fill in for me. As these are often milestone events (weddings, anniversaries, 50 yr birthday, etx.), not having your DJ show up is pretty disastrous as you can imagine.

    I do charge for the guarantee (50,00) but that money goes straight to my stand-by DJ to guarantee his/her availability. Since my stand-ins also don't do this for a living anymore, they don't usually have to worry about the money they lose on a night they are stand by for me. So they make 50,00 just sitting on the couch watching TV.

    Customers seem content with paying the bonus to get such a guarantee.

    If my stand-ins has to show up, they obviously receive normal pay for playing the gig.

    I could not live with myself if I did not show for a gig, but that is just me.


  2. Hey Phil,

    Besides the obvious reasons why a DJ may not show up for a gig (death of family, accident), what are some of the more the hilarious reasons why DJ don't show up?

    • It's never hilarious when you're on the receiving end! It's generally more prosaic - missed flight, "ill" - but we had one big name get his gig at our venue announced on the radio, let us know he was in the car on the way here... then never showing. We never spoke to him again (but he went on to be very famous indeed).

  3. If the DJ doesn't turn up, I generally get a frantic call asking if I will get out of bed and play.

  4. DJ Forced Hand says:

    Last minute cancellations are a real nightmare. Most people will blame a venue for baiting and switching when indeed, most of the time the failure is on the part of the artist. Every contract should have a restitution phase for those "just in case" moments. This is why you need them and any contract that doesn't have a "what if" section, only serves to protect the artist.

    Certainly, you should always plan to have a stand-by DJ, Certainly you should do your best to inform the public, but what you should be doing is getting another date out of someone famous at your convenience for a reduced cost and probably some recouped costs for damage done to the venue's credibility.

    It should probably be understood that any future agreements with the artist will have a stiffer restitution clause and probably some other assurances that the artist will perform or have someone (equally famous) to replace them as part of the agreement. This is why agencies are the best people to deal with for contracts like this because they typically have other talent they deal with as well.

  5. PapaLinz says:

    What about the punters though often these events tickets are sold in advance usually by somone who specifically wanted to see that DJ who never showed, does the promoter or ticket agency have an obligation to reimburse the ticket holder?

    • That depends. For instance, if it's a nighty with half a dozen DJs, maybe not. But if you're going to see "David Guetta", then yes.

    • A large nightclub here in DC advertised a Z-Trip show, which was later canceled with no explanation from either the venue or the performer. The advance tickets sales were refunded. Of course, the ticketing company kept their "processing fees."

      I suspect the venue started selling tickets before they event contacted Z-Trip or got a contract signed.

  6. It has happened often in Montreal this past winter. We got hit by many huge snowstorms and 2 of the most popular venues had to announce last minute that a DJ could not make it because the flights got delayed. In the case of New City Gas, they had Skrillex booked and they reimbursed the tickets to people who wanted their money back and rescheduled him for 3 weeks later. The night still happened with the opening DJs and local talents and people who had tickets could go without paying the cover charge, which made a lot of my friends happy (2 nights for the price of one!).

    As of Circus, they had Hernan Cataneo booked in their main room and 2 other DJs as openers and for their smaller rooms. 1 of the them, the Cube Guys were not announced - a surprise for everyone who would show up - when Hernan Cataneo cancelled so they used their "surprise" as the main act. I have a feeling that they booked the Cube Guys as a "Plan B". Again, tickets were reimbursed and people who still made in to the venue only had to pay half price.

    I think this way of dealing with DJs that can't make it is the best. By offering a discount on the night of the event for people with original tickets, it leaves a good impression of the venue. But again, I'm not the one dealing with all the complaints. All I know is that it made some of my friends really happy and it made me happy because Hernan Cataneo and Carlo Lio were booked in 2 different afterhours on the same night and I couldn't make it to both.

  7. 3 weeks ago, I had to cancel my performance...
    I think this was the 2nd time in 8 years that I have to do this and ofcource I didn't like it.

    I had to fly from Madrid to Amsterdam, at 7pm ... and yes, in my mind it had to be 7am ..... stupid. So i could be there on time in the club. And I sent out an emergy sms to ask other dj's to play there for me.
    And one of them did the gig.
    The owner of the place was happy with my action, and next week, I will do 'my' gig :)

  8. Mekanikz (MEF) says:

    I have has two headliners ( one from san fran one from heathrow, london) flights get cancelled, / delayed.we did not find out until 5 min before doors,BOTH times, One was on account of thanksgiving and the other because of a travel agency that booked a blackout flight to save money... the artists booking agents waived the flight deposits for the next two shows. And sorted me out on prices from that point on..
    We did exactly what Phil said: Put a sign up at the door . Charged half admission and apologized , spent the entire night explaining that it was out anyone's control.

    If you book one headliner a month ; it's simple statistics that after a few years something is gonna happen. It comes w the territory .

    Thank god we didn't do presales

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