How To Charge More for Mobile DJ Gigs

charge

What is it you bring that separates you from others? Great lights, a fantastic set-up, thoughful backdrops or room design? Conveying that stuff is important if you want to charge top dollar.

Do you want me to tell you what makes a client pay you what you're worth as a mobile DJ? What it is that means that some DJs can charge hundreds or thousands for gigs, while others seem to splutter and fail at the price part of the conversation, and always feel they're not being paid what they're worth?

Of course, reputation, and networking, and who you know, and what you've charged previously, and how much kit you own, and how long the gig is for, and whether it's a wedding or not, and the competition in your town, and a thousand things all affect your ability to charge decent prices... but assuming those things are exactly the same, what is it that separates mobile DJs who charge well from those scraping around at the bottom?

The answer is something called "perceived value", and once you get this and start weaving it into the way you speak to potential DJ clients, you will be able to charge more - it's that simple.

Note that I said simple; not easy. This is a difficult thing to sell, mainly because we have to sometimes teach the client what it is first, before we can show them we have it. What's more, it doesn't always work. But if you don't do this, you'll never get what you potentially could.. for any gig.

How to pitch your services to command higher prices

So let's dig a little deeper. When a client asks "what do you charge?", they already have an idea in mind of what it is they'll be buying. Whether that idea is correct or incorrect, no matter - in their mind, it's correct.

The same as if they want to buy a can of drink... they have a clear idea of the taste, the temperature, and type of refreshment they will get from it. So it follows that they also have an idea of what it is worth to them, meaning they will be willing to pay an amount they believe will get them that product.

If you told them the soda was $100, they would think you were an idiot because the perceived value isn't as high as that (and it is priced better at the store next door). So how do we let customers know that our soda can is special, made of better ingredients, gives them super powers, will stay in their mind forever as a high point, and so on?

We have to start by putting ourselves in their shoes. We have to imagine ourselves as an uneducated customer. So let's start with the expectation that the perceived value of a DJ in the public market is "audible music for people to dance to", then maybe some non-specific "flashy lights" on top.

(Any particular client may know a little more, but we can adjust up better than backtrack down, so let's start there.)

Our job is to change that idea and properly educate them what the real, higher value is... and then show them that we've got what it takes to deliver that higher value. For instance, we could...

  1. Make sure they know how variable the visual experience can be. The best way I have found to begin that conversation is pictures, for example pictures showing my choice of set-up options. Note that it is just as important to show them options they think they don't want as much as it is the ones they do, so that they understand what could be showing up if it is not addressed ahead of time. Do you just plop a controller down on a provided table and go? Do you have a small stand and cosy setup that's quick? Do you provide all tables, facades, cable management, power supplies, and so on?
  2. Emphasise that our expertise extends past music. Have you ever sat down with your client to discuss "lighting strategy"? Probably not, and if so you probably got a surprised look, since DJs rarely do this. But it is a fantastic thing to do! Even if you only have modest lighting options, bringing this topic up alerts them of the possibilities you could offer. Pics here work wonders too...
  3. Present unexpected value options for the microphone part of what we do. You are the loudest voice in the room, and smart DJs know they can use this to their advantage. For weddings this is a given but maybe present options for games they can chose from. For other events, are there sponsors you can offer to plug?
  4. Let the client know we can "design the sets" for their events. I mention this three or four times during a pitch. DJing is often perceived as showing up with a hard drive full of tunes and picking and choosing as the night goes on, or just playing whatever people request. This is definitely not what you want them to think you do, because as we all know, it doesn't take effort. Designing sets does, and it is specialised. It separates pro from wannabes... and we all know the pros are the ones who command the cash.

Finally...

There's nothing new here, yet it is uncommon among DJs pitching for work, and the fact that so many DJs overlook it is a major reason why they are paid less than they feel they're worth. Unless what you're buying is a "commodity" (that is to say, it is exactly the same wherever you buy it - like our proverbial can of soda), then you will always command higher prices by effectively explaining what exactly it is that you offer, what your options are... and only then talking price.

Do you use this tecnique or a variation of it in your pitching? What is it that separates what you do from your competition, and allows you to confidently ask for more money? Let us know in the comments...

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Comments

  1. Over the many years I have DJed, I've covered parties, clubs, radio presenting (10 years), corporate functions, MCed and weddings, these days I find most of my bookings are wedding-reception based or 'significant' birthday parties, must be the amount of years I have been DJing!.
    Wedding receptions particularly carry significant responsibility. I charge good money (minimum £500) for me (NOT a stand-in or agency jock) for this they get my undivided attention, lots of tips and experience on timings, styles of music that work for the client, the offer to focus on a music genre theme, but gently avoiding their strict 'stick to this' order of playlist - I have had song lists presented that amount to 3 days of none stop music.
    Weddings carry significant extra work as initially, I will not arrive and set up whilst guests are in evidence and so you have to be there early, sometimes in the morning, to avoid the lunchtime reception of close friends and family and a sit-down meal, that then extends to a wider friends guest list into the evening when they need little old me. This is especially important for Marquee events, especially wedding receptions in marquees. This extra set up leave and return factor alone justifies a higher charge.
    Providing a pre-event meeting face to face, the offer of background music provided which can play out un-manned on auto pilot (highly reliable gear essential!), and generally make the client feel they have your undivided attention.
    Use top equipment, only the best and totally reliable, it definitely makes a huge difference.
    Quality non-intrusive lighting that can be well controlled, in case some of the guests don't want a mobile Studio 54 with all the whistles and bells. Definitely no 4 way sound-to-light light boxes and those wretched snake/rope lights threaded wherever possible around the room. Totally naff these days.
    As far as weddings are concerned, this is their (the clients) biggest and certainly most important day, stress levels are high, you need to be able to handle people and be amenable to sorting out any issues that may arise, occasionally not necessarily DJ/Music related - If you sort it professionally you are golden boy and they are very happy with you.
    The down side at inquiry level can be the classic "I just want to pick your brains" no need to respond rudely, but these types are most often harvesting all the tips and advice they can, and then booking some goon for £75 who turns up late with no PL Insurance, borrowed gear that's liable to break down, and can't string a sentence together and stands there playing EDM far too loud all night saying inappropriate stuff over the mic whilst he gets pissed on the clients bar tab and makes a pass at the brides sister.
    Only experience sorts the time-waster inquiries from the genuine ones.
    That said, I do find it staggering that certain types try to spend as little as possible on the DJ (or band, I agent for them too) when they are spending £25 - £30 per head on catering for 300, a free bar in a marquee costing 8 grand. The only logic I can offer is they are convinced we DJ (or play in a band) because we enjoy it, no other reason, and, like the old court jester, can be summoned at the click of a finger for free. (or nearly free). The music is arguably one of the most important elements to any party scenario, why devalue it?
    ALWAYS take a deposit of at least £100 to secure the date, this actually makes you look professional.
    Don't insist on cash payment, the client may work for the Inland Revenue, but it looks so obvious.
    Professional confidence is most important, if they quibble on fee explain the benefits of booking you, as this article states, sell the advantages, identify your USP.
    If they still quibble but reluctantly agree to the booking, you probably don't want to work for them as the chances are they will find any reason not to settle the full fee at the end.
    Ultimately DJing is a profession, if you are getting paid it is no longer a hobby so don't be shy about how much you charge, if you undercharge you are the one losing out and who will be unhappy in the end and your mood will show it. Justify your fee by highlighting the advantages of the client booking you.
    The worst salesmen are those who can only sell by lowering the price and selling cheap, a DJ should not be 'cheap'.

  2. Gosh, I've done custom movers for lighting (using a controller), audio (and LSM time alignment), video projection (and content, and switching), and scenic (that's custom sets and lighting (with some moving and lighted parts), with fire/sparks and a fog machine and lasers, in addition to DJing, but most small spaces and even bigger clubs do not want most of that. I've learned how to do all of this stuff over the course of my life, but I hadn't really thought of trying to get a small venue to pony up for it.

    • Mike Gerth says:

      Have you ever gotten a "yes" to a sales pitch so fast you thought later that you should have asked for more? Or wished you had presented more options for them to buy? I can imagine the look on a brides face if you ask "you want fire?" But how cool is it when they just keep saying yes to all the options? Keep selling till they say no, and let the venue sort out the fire department later :-)

  3. Charles Williams says:

    I like the ideas presented in the article. Here is what I do. I offer several packages depending on the need. I show short videos and pictures of my setup. I remind them of my 20+ years experience as a professional DJ/MC. I show them a clean professional set-up, top quality PA Powered System, Proof of Insurance, light options, customized music playlist, online planning tools and finally, I offer several unique tools to enhance their events, such as; my Video DJ Booth, Social Media Live and Customized Intelligent Light Show to match their theme.
    Sales is an Art. I usually start with our low cost, no frills option and the high end sticker shock version, then start building value based on their unique needs. It works. They rarely want the low cost or high end option and usually pick something in the middle. Once I get a yes, I make sure I give them more than what they paid for.

  4. Excellent article, one of the best I read on the subject.

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