Your Questions: How Much Should I Charge For My DJing?

Money

How much to charge for your DJing services varies massively from place to place, but there are some basic rules…

Digital DJ Tips reader Eijah writes: “My plan in DJing is to reach the stage where I’ve made a name for myself in my region, and I’m working really hard towards that goal by reading and taking notes on everything I can find here and elsewhere.

“I plan to play my first gig in August. I will have my PA system in May and I plan on getting the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 and a PA mixer over the early summer by working summer jobs. My question is, for my first few gigs, how much should I charge hourly? Thanks for all the help!”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Great attitude, Eijah, remember gigs are everything, so get your first bookings as soon as you can! I can tell you’re doing this for passion not money which is good, and I can also tell that you’ve set your sights realistically. What I don’t know is where you are, what kinds of gigs you want to play (I am guessing you’re not going to be picky at first, and will be happy to play mobile gigs, parties etc wherever you can get them, which is good), and so in all honesty, what you might be able to charge.

As a new DJ, you should definitely charge less that an experienced DJ would (you’re not as good), but a couple of things. Firstly, charging by the hour is maybe not the way to go: Negotiate a set rate. One exception is if you want to negotiate a set rate then an “add on” rate for any time over and above that (say, they ask you to play for another two hours at the end).

The second thing is this: You’re not only charging for yourself as a DJ, you’re effectively charging for the rental of your gear, too. So while you’d never show these two calculations to someone booking you, you need to make them. How much should you charge for gear rental? Well, that depends on how good your gear is and how much it would cost to rent it where you live.

So you may decide to charge $50 for your DJing services and $50 for your gear for a show, or you may decide to charge $250 for each component, meaning by these figures your fees will be between $100 and $500. The point is not to follow my numbers (as I say, I’ve no idea what the “rates” are where you are), but rather to understand how to calculate them. That should ensure you don’t undercharge, and also that you know how to confidently increase your prices as your gear expands and improves, and as you get better established.

Would you like to add anything to help Eijah work out how much he should charge for the rental of “PA plus DJ”? Please share your own experiences and thoughts in the comments.

Comments

  1. here’s a simple idea, which is what i did when it came time to start quoting prices. start calling dj services in your area and ask them how much they would charge for the same gig that you are doing. obviously dont tell them you’re the dj actually playing. if you’re less experiences then charge a little less.problem solved.

    oh yeah also make sure to get them to quote the price with about the same amount of equipment you plan on bringing.

    cheers !
    Migs

  2. Also remember to charge for your music! You paid for it to be able to play them for their audience, so you also should be paid for that. And this way you can keep up with the cost of new songs every few weeks.

  3. Does your dj controller and headset also count as gear? becouse you’ve already bought them and meaby after a few shows you already got the money out of it

    • I say yes. First it was an investment to be able to get gigs then when it’s payed back it becomes profit that can be used fro uppgrates or replacement should it break.
      A mowning(cargo) company has fixed prices even when the car are payed back they don’t lowere their prices.
      You get payed for a service and the amount is based on what service you can provide. When you Gear(service) expand you can charge more. then When you gera has grown realy big you can start makeing solutions at differant fixed prices.
      1. DJ + sound system
      2. DJ + sound/ light system
      3. DJ + sound/ light system pack 1
      4. DJ + sound/ light system pack 2
      but you still charge full even when all the equiptment is payed back, You still need new music and toilet paper

  4. Try and make contacts with people doing a similar style to you. If you play house music, go find some local house DJs and ask them for guidance. I doubt they’ll tell you an exact price as we don’t like telling people because we either get paid more than we should, or LESS!

    If you find a venue you like and want to work in, have a chat to promoter or owner and try and work out a slightly lower price than average with the intention to up the price after 3 months when you’ve proven yourself, and the place is busier. ;)

    Don’t be silly and offer to play very cheap, because they won’t respect you, and you’ll upset all the other local DJs trying to make a living that have worked out the going rates for the area.

    Price also depends on the venue. Bars tend to pay less than clubs. Wedding DJs get paid far too much ;) but they do have to buy all their gear, carry it around, set it all up, repair it and have to listen to those annoying people who drink twice a year.

    Try and get somewhere doing warm-up or find somewhere on a night that there isn’t a DJ and build your own night and following from scratch. If you’re going down the mobile DJ route, get on every free listing website and get your name out there. I someone asks you to DJ, let them make the offer first. After a working for a few different people, you’ll work it out.

    • “I doubt they’ll tell you an exact price as we don’t like telling people because we either get paid more than we should, or LESS!”

      (Y) Thumbs up

      • Great advise, i don’t tell people my real price because they will surely price you down also you don’t know if client is willing to pay high price.

    • dennis parrott says:

      “Wedding DJs get paid far too much”… SAY WHAT?

      Total unadulterated bull-puckey my friend.

      Top 40-style “club” DJs show up, plug in, play and get paid. Club DJs (the “genre”-specific type) do pretty much the same. (Unless they are also the promoter of the event…) They play, act a bit to get the crowd riled up and at the end of the night they go home.

      Wedding DJs start out working with the happy couple-to-be to find out what sort of musical tastes they have, specific songs to play (or NOT to play), the structure of the evening, how the “special” dances will go down, how to pronounce every bridal party members name correctly, creating special dubs of the Imperial March and Darth Vader’s theme for the couple to walk into the hall to (yes, I did that!), crafting special mixes of songs for the bride to dance with daddy to, …. and then the day of we get to set up, play, be the MC and the DJ, put up with the drunk who insists that it is OK to play Frank Zappa or King Crimson (while the dance floor is FULL) or the drunk who doesn’t know the difference between asking for Stevie Wonder’s song that the crowds like to do “the hustle” to or Van McCoy’s hit song, and then we get to tear all the gear down, load it out (rain, shine or heat) and drive home.

      And somehow I get too much money? I’ve been working on that gig for WEEKS beforehand…

      And for another thing, i really want to see that “deep tech house” or “electro” DJ swing a mix from Top 40-ish dance over to country-western and KEEP THE FLOOR FULL. (and yes, I did that too — played for my niece’s wedding — her pals were all Top 40, hip hop and dance tracks and his side of the aisle was all country…)

      when i get paid to do a wedding i am part wedding planner (“did you have a plan for those special dances? which ones do you want to do?”), part MC, all music (how else do you get from Top 40 to country in two songs or less?), part gatekeeper (“no i am sorry but the bride specifically asked that the song you want should not be played.”), magic song decoder/identifier (“can you play that song that goes dee-dum-dee-dee-die-doo?”) as well as the guy who has to reel in fascist hall managers (some of them think you work for them!). i do way more than just spin tunes. people in general and DJs who have never done it underestimate how easy it is — as in it ain’t easy. when it goes smoothly and the floor is full of dancers, it LOOKS easy but it really isn’t. and if you add in some creativity in the mixing, well, it isn’t just some butt head with a boombox.

      i will grant you there are wedding DJs that really don’t do much more than show up and play a song list. that is not me. i know that the one thing most new brides will say after their big day is that they wish they had spent more time and probably more money to get the music and entertainment more to their liking. i try every time i do a wedding to have that couple say “wow we had a great time! that DJ really kept the party hopping!”.

      so, yeah, i am a wedding DJ and i get paid. if you haven’t lived that reality i think you need to go do some events and see what it really goes down. i earn my pay and deserve every last bit and then some.

      frankly, as a music lover as opposed to a “genre snob” (“I only play deep tech house!”) it can be really fun to play out. there are couple of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac instrumentals that go down well during cocktail hour or during dinner. whenever there are few old geezers with ponytails in the crowd i can get their necks swiveling when i drop one of those tracks. or during the “open dance” part of the evening i will drop underground-ish chestnuts in and i always get people asking “i haven’t heard that in forever! where did you find it?”. (i have a great collection of old 60s music and can get that reaction with nearly every track i play if i want to…)

      you see, any form of DJing can be about the money or it can be about the love of the music. i mostly care about the music and having the crowd have a good time. getting paid is the bonus.

      • You obviously missed the winky face. Thanks for telling me the ins and outs of being a wedding DJ. I can do it. I chose the “club” route forall the reasons you mentioned above. It’s a lot easier dealing with a hot girl in a club asking for Rihanna, rather than a drunk divorcee asking for Rihanna. (insert winky face here) As much as you tell me it’s for the love of the music, you spent twenty minutes explaining why you are worth what you get paid. Isn’t getting a reaction to every track you play why we all do it?

      • DJ Doc Kristy says:

        totally agree with you man.

        I really did almost all the same things you mentioned.

  5. Jstewart says:

    In the beginning $75 per hour is good.

    • Literal says:

      Eff, that, if a new Dj is dropping a 4 hour set and getting $75 an hour that’s a load. $75 an hour if its JUST an hour and he’s opening, fine.

    • DJ Forced Hand says:

      This number is unrealistic and does not reflect anything with hard numbers. If you’re working with a Promoter, the first question out of your mouth should be “How many people will be attending?” Moreso than the genre, moreso than the number of hours, the number of people paying to attend will be the number the Promoter has to work with. The next question should be “How many entertainers are there?” If the head count is over 200, and door is around $7, on most nights and you’re one of two DJs, you might expect to see around $80 (all-inclusive) (unless you’ve never played before and that could come down as low as $50)… and probably $50 more for your PA gear. Once you get invited back and the numbers come up and people are showing up for your sets, you have a good foundation for asking more to play. Remember that the Promoter must make their expenses even if they are only doing it for the love of music… you still get paid. Do not accept that tired, old, excuse “Well, I ran out of money to pay people… get you next time?” because there won’t be a next time, they just used you to make money and you were the reason the party was even happening in the first place. NEVER volunteer for a gig that people pay to come see, and never let the promoter leave without paying you. These are old tricks used intentionally by Promoters to screw you out of money and try to make you feel good by saying “But you’re not a Real DJ.” Your time, gear and skill aren’t free and never let anyone bully you into thinking that DJs need to earn their right to get paid.

  6. Asking what budget they are working with can help. As well in addition to calculating rental of additional gear also count, distance you have to travel, the length of the gig and difficulty (I.e kids party, 500ppl+ club gig, 20ppl+ jack and jill, 100ppl+ House party and how much you’d be making at your day job and set an invisible “lowest you’re willing to walk away with”. You should learn to stick with it as much as you can so ppl dont look to you to lowball you and dj’s don’t look at you as ruining the fields by charging pennies.

  7. Michael the Ark Dj says:

    I’m a mobile dj in the rural US and the other djs around here charge way too much. I always reasonably underbid for the gigs (say $50-100 cheaper) because I enjoy djing more than making money. I never have a set rate either because no two gigs are the same

    • Literal says:

      Set a rate, know your value. Yea, no 2 gigs are the same but that’s not the point – YOU are the same and that’s what you’re charging for. If you don’t know your value you shouldn’t be charging anything until you can figure it out.

      • DJ King says:

        Michael,

        Looks like we are in the same area and I have the exact other thinking about it. I’ve DJ’ed long enough that I know that I’m better than the average DJ’s in the area, therefore I charge more than the average DJ.

        In the end you pay for quality, being it the equipment you use, entertainment you provide, etc. I tell any possible job at the start of our negotiations that I’m by far not the cheapest DJ, and its up to them to decide what their priorities are when looking for a DJ. In the end if you are intentionally underselling yourself just to be the cheapest, then all you are showing is that you don’t feel that you are worth the average price…and overall by driving down prices you are hurting the industry as a whole.

        DJ King LR

  8. Doobidoo says:

    Hi!

    Don’t charge by hour…chare by mission, time set and mainatracktion.

    Talk to the Djs in the area and get as near as u can get.
    It will take years to rise the payment.

    I have almost the samte payment totady that I had when I started 1984.
    The biggest reason Is the youngguns playing for a few yers and then are gone…Only because of the hip factor.

    I’m charging about € 300for time set 21.00-02.00
    and € 400fpr time set 22.00-04.00 and fvd (as an own company) Vat exl.
    Just bringing my controller setup.

    Im allround.
    Club, Dance, Party, RnB and Speaker.

    The best payment i got from Speaker-jobs at daylight.
    abou € 500.

    SWEDEN

  9. After you find out how much local guys are charging come in 60-70% of that price until you get some value bookings. Get a few of these out of the way until you have to get better gear and you’ve decided you want to make a go of the business. As an example If a pro DJ is 300 for a night(doesn’t matter what the function is), do it for 200-225. After a year and hopefully 25-30 gigs, up the money.
    Further adviceGet better gear as soon as possible. You won’t regret it. Keep receipts. Throw away broken leads. Always have spares for everything. Smile no matter how abnoxious someone is. Unless manager of venue tell you otherwise play another tune if asked. Watch your gain levels. If noones dancing put on billie jean or want you back, or Barry white first last, if still noone, put on black Betty, if still noone, I gotta feeling. Last effort is Garth brooks. Good luck!!

  10. Mark Quest says:

    I can tell you’re doing it for passion & not the money? Hang about – didn’t he specifically ask how much he should charge??
    I admire his passion but I feel he will become quickly deflated does he not reach his lofty goals in the time-frame he’s expecting. It’s excellent he’s “reading and taking notes on everything I can find here and elsewhere”, but the one thing that is consistent throughout all the advice that Phil gives is practice, practice, practice! (and practice some more..) Personally, I think he should get his equipment first & and actually learn to mix (track selection, beatmatching, EQing, etc) & build up a decent library of tunes that he knows relatively well, before getting too far ahead of himself. He’s set himself a pretty tight deadline from becoming a complete beginner to paid DJ.. 3 months! :O I don’t I’m alone in thinking he is setting himself up for a major disappointment, and usually those who come out with the guns-a-blazin, take-over-the-world, nothing-will-stop-me attitude (which is commendable) and fail to achieve the success the thought they’d have, turn around quicker & end up becoming just as negative as they were positive when they started.
    Not trying to be a downer but just add a dose of reality amongst the dreams..
    Crawl, walk, run, Dj, fly..

    • It’s no different than having a business plan, and the guy is planning on buying public performance gear so I think it’s OK to work out how quickly one might repay that money.

    • I really want to be a DJ so I made a bussiness plan so that I could get a loan. As Part of the bussiness plan, I needed a realistic idea of how much I would be charging so that my grandpa (who im getting the loan from) would know that I have at least a basic and realistic plan for paying back the money. I have two years to pay back the money so that if it does not work out, I still have time to pay back the money by doing yard work and others jobs that I can get my hands on. I think that if I practice every day for three months, I will know enough to do at least my first gig. I also have Phil’s class to teach me and I believe that he can teach me in time.

  11. I’m in Pensacola,Fl. I am a mobile DJ .Doing top 40 events ( weddings, anniversary, corporate events) is a job to me, I am a promoter/dj/ producer so the wedding circuit is not a passion .

    Over years of throwing shows I have aquired a P.A, hordes of gear,and the promotional ability that is required of one pursuing mainstream bookings. They pay almost 500 dollars more than say playing at a local venue or even playing a regional event.

    Having a background in events, It was only natural to do weddings because anyone who has thrown big budget events will tell you , buying your own gear is one of the best ways to increase your profit margin and I have aquired all the gear one needs to be a mobile dj over my ten + years of promotion . So it was an easy and obvious choice for a job.

    If you are still building your collection I suggest teaming up w a local sound company or broker , if they see that you have made a name for yourself in the industry and you can provide proof of upcoming events , most will run a rent to own contact with you,
    They typical end cost ends up about 25% more than the f
    Gear is at a retail rage, but if you would have applied for a
    in store finance you would pay much more than that, so try to go that route if at all possible.

  12. DJ Steve says:

    As someone who has played every type of venue, charge what you’re worth and based on how much you want to play the gig. For instance, I hate doing weddings because I have to bring gear, set up, break down so I charge $150 an hour to do those. I like playing dance music at night clubs so I charge $150 for a 1-2 hour performance of dance music. For bar gigs where I am going to be constantly hassled to play whatever top40 song is hot by a bunch of different people all night long, I charge 200-400 dollars depending on what night of the week it is. That is another point you should take into consideration. If you are playing on a saturday, or special holiday such as NYE or any other drinking holiday, you can charge more because the promoter is going to be charging more to the guest.

    I’ve been DJing for a living for 10ish years, and the best advice I can give you is no matter what you decide to charge, get it in writing. If you don’t have a contract, what you’re charging is basically you trusting the promoter with your bank account. Make yourself a contract, and get them to sign it before you ever step foot in the booth.

  13. In my country I get between $160 to $210 for just DJ’ing between 3-4 hours a night at clubs. When I need to bring light or just provide lights I get
    1. for basic light setup $170
    2. Full set of lights $260
    3. Lights and me DJ’ing $345
    Thoses prices are not 100% fixed and will increase if I need to travel to an other town

  14. Thanks for all the help guys! Besides lighting, I have everything that I need so I was unsure of what to charge but all of you have cleared up my confusion so I think im all set!

  15. dennis parrott says:

    without knowing where you live, it would be hard to just go digging on the net to figure out a nice estimate.

    here in the Detroit MI area (birthplace of Motown and techno!) there are guys doing weddings who get as much as $2000 a night — typically 4-5 hours. the wedding halls all seem to kick you out at midnight so it depends on the start time…

    in fact, a lousy wedding DJ is why i got into DJing. my wife and i went to wedding and there was some friend of the bride and/or groom DJing the wedding. there were at least 350 people so you can figure how large the hall was. he had two really cheap PA speakers (some very weird brand) and 100 watts/channel (the rig was WAY TOO UNDERPOWERED) and you couldn’t hear him at all sitting off to the sides. his CDs were made on a PC and every other song skipped like mad. i looked at the wife (i own a nice JBL/QSC/Crown PA rig) and said “geez i could do better plugging my laptop into my PA rig and playing through iTunes!”. she said “maybe you should”. my immediate next question was did they pay this slug and if so, how much.

    that is why i ended up DJing. BTW – people pay more for a DJ with a lousy PA than they will for a great PA and a soundguy to make their bands loud.

    later i found out that their “friend” cut his normal rate in half to a mere $500. the guy was charging $1000 for a crappy PA you could not hear well and CDs that were pirated and skipped like mad!

    when i start talking with a prospective customer, i always tell them that i am bringing top quality digital music with a good quality system to play it on. if they were cool with a teenager flipping through iTunes and a boombox to play on, they would not have called me. i would advise that you do the same — get a good sounding system and get the highest quality files you can afford — since you will be earning your pay with them. my dad (rip) always tried to teach me that you get good tools to start with as it will always pay off in the end.

    the idea of shopping around is fine but be sure that you have settled on what you are going to ask them to bid on so that you can compare apples-to-apples.

    good luck with your venture. i hope you do well!

    • That was a lot of help and the PA system that I bought is from a friend whom DJs at his college and he has used them at wedding and I have heard them as well and all three sound great o I beleive that I am good on that. My first gig is actuelly a famly wedding that I was asked to do becouse they recently had an incident and lost quite a bit of money so they needed somebody to do it for free. Im hoping that even though im new,I will be a better DJ than the “family friend” is/was that you were describing.

  16. DJ Blitz says:

    The problem in my area (Texas) is that there’s allot of competition and some DJs get desperate for Gigs and advertise as low as $20.00 to $25.00 an hour on Craigslist.People here choose price over quality.This destroys the market & It makes it difficult for the rest of us who have worked hard to be able to have a decent setup to compete in this market.Your area should determine what your price should be set at and hopefully its not like mine!

    • Same problem here in Ohio. We have a ton of kids who spend a couple hundred bucks on a crappy rig and pirate a bunch of music, then call themselves DJ’s and go out and charge as little as $50 a night. In the ecomony we’re in right now, it’s damn near impossible to sell why these customers should pay me (and my thousands and thousands of dollars in equipment, and 19 years of experience) 5, 10, 15 times more than these guys. They don’t understand until it’s too late and their events are ruined.

  17. I have been Djing in the UK for years here are my top 5 recommendations:
    1. Understand what you can and cannot do – Charge dependent on your skill, experience, standard of your equipment, whether you are warming up, or the main event. Do not over-promise, you want to exceed expectations.

    2. Build a reputation – No matter what or where you play, Djing is all about reputation, if someone books you and pays for you they expect a certain level of service. If you let them down word will spread, but if you exceed expectations you will get more work and can charge more money.

    3. Supply and Demand – Once you have a good reputation the gigs will start to come quickly. If you are getting booked up weeks in advance then you can justify charging more. Also at certain times of the year you can charge more, I charge double around Xmas and New Year. If someone tries to book you with less than 24 hours notice charge extra and ask for 50% up front.

    4. Work for someone else – find the local big wedding DJ and offer to work for them (driving, setting up, packing up, sound testing etc), you will learn the ropes from someone with experience on decent kit. When the boss is double booked offer the take the reins at one of the gigs. Once you have a better idea of what to charge and what equipment you need, strike out on your own. Or when you have experience go to the clubs with confidence (the rules of rocking a dancefloor, hold true in a most settings).

    5. Representation – If you are serious about making it as a big Dj, once you have achieved a certain level of success get an agent, they will arrange your gigs and charges.

    I know you were looking for a number, but I hope this helps.

  18. I think that every dj have his price, 4 hours?…1 hours?…All night long? Naturally before need search in the market near your city what kind of prices other dj’s ask. For exemple in some countries is available a list of prices per hour, 1 hour cost 60$, and so for all time hours during your gig…naturally is only example but also depend in what kind of place you work. Naturally work in a bar is not the same as work in a club and at the same the price you can ask must be little less. In the same time not we live in the same country and also need know about what is possible ask. I’m from Italy and for make you understand here in my country are more dj’s and less places.
    More Clubs are closed and much bar now live with hide dj, so price that dj ask for all night long with their equipment is near at 250€ but somebody ask also less of it.
    So here with help of a lot of collegs probably you can understand well what it possible to ask in the beginning.

  19. Hello,

    I am a mobile DJ for a few years… i don’t do any gigs for less than $500.00 “starting rate” that’s kind of my get me out of the house rate… depends on the customer package can be more.

    however the truth is that i loose gigs because there are DJs willing to go for less, not everyone understands the costs involved in doing this.
    bottom line i know how to sell my self and my show so i manage to stay busy every weekend.

  20. I´ve been having the same doubt lately about how much to charge, by hour, set rate or whatever. This post helped me a lot. Thanks again Phill and all comments.

    Thanks

  21. If brining my own sound I charge 50-75 for that off the back. I also charge 40-50 for gas, pending how far the gig is from where I live. And then I ask for 20 an hour to dj… Not to much not to little

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