Over To You: When DJ Price Quoting Goes Horribly Wrong...

What to charge

Here's the response to one of our VIP members when he told a potential customer the price of hiring him to DJ an event...

One of our Digital DJ Tips VIP Platinum Group member shared this screenshot, writing: "I thought I'd share an enquiry I had yesterday that made me p*** myself laughing and wondered if anyone had funny incidents of their own to share on enquiries/bookings?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

This kind of thing, of course, isn't limited to DJing: It's any service where the expectation may be worlds apart from what is about to be asked for. This especially tends to be in creative industries (web agencies, ad agencies and so on spring to mind), in my experience.

One way to avoid this is to open the conversation with "what's your budget?" or "what's your price range?", but at the same time, DJs who want to convince someone of their value before talking price often don't want to do so early on like this.

When we want to charge top prices, everything about our service has to be professional and impressive, and we need to be worth that money in the first place... but once those things are true, learning to weed out people who aren't ever going to pay what you ask is an art as much as a science - and can sometimes go horribly wrong, as our member discovered and was good enough to share!

So I'd like to throw this open and ask two things:

  1. What is your secret to confidently ask for (and, one hopes, get) the prices you wish for your DJing services?
  2. Have you got any stories (funny, tragic or otherwise) where it has gone notably wrong?

Please feel free to spill the beans below. We'd love to hear your experiences...

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  1. Matt Sears says:

    I get it in my "day job": 2 hours on site with a Client who wants to "knock through here" and "build two bedrooms on there", with a V&B bathroom in there, with B&O sound in all rooms, and then I ask their budget: "£15,000 top whack". Really? 😮

  2. Jean Bordeleau says:

    The thing is poeple don't realise what is involve in making a set , all preparaiton , behind the scenes.. Normally i have 3 meeting before and depending of what is needed , and the duration of the party or the event , i manage to split into 3 hours blcock . so for the first it's 240.00$ you can figure out the rest ..
    But so many thinks it's a almost free thing .. Since i'm not a pro but near i might say and with the economic context my average rate is around 80 to 90$/hour ...

  3. Never ever give a "first-time discount" to try and work up to your normal rate. A lot of people will try and use emotion to get you to do an "introductory rate" and lock you in at that rate with the argument "What are you doing differently this time than last time?" ... with the tacit threat of replacing you (trying to push hard the notion that people are lining up just to play their show.

    Know *your* value, what you're actually worth against your competition in your market. You have to be prepared to walk away from any deal when things do not satisfy your needs. Learn how to say (and mean) "No." Making things easier on someone else, in a deal, necessarily means you're making them harder on you. Discounts and Introductory rates don't work well for the person offering them, but if you think your full-weighted rate might be too much for the event holder to carry, they should at least cover your costs and then give a cut of the door or bar.

  4. AudioMaverick.com says:

    This is a trend that I have been seeing in increasing accounts, across the board and for many years. People, in general, want to make as much as possible and spend as little as possible. Minimizing cash outflow while increasing inflow is the successful business model. Couple that with the previously mentioned observation that most people are not aware of what it takes to do a particular "thing", and one ends up with a (potential) client expecting a lower value for what they want. So...
    . Emphasizing what is entailed to deliver what the client expects is the key and the challenge. I volunteer for a couple of major annual events. This gives me some public exposure with a chance to talk to potential clients, as well as work on the equipment and perfect how I use it. People can see what I have and the 'package' I deliver with my services.
    . I think I see a lot of people who try and plan events without understanding what they want. Somewhere along the line, a budget is defined. DJ and sound sound services are almost always the last thing to coordinate, and the budget is basically blown by the time it comes to me.
    . I struggle to understand why someone expects some things to cost more over time while others to get cheaper. I am sure it is a number of things compiled together. I could speculate all day, but the fact is most prospects don't seem to understand why the time involved in putting on a DJ should be less today than a few years ago.
    . I'd be interested in an 'industry movement' to push the perspective than DJ and sound services has value. There already is a Digital DJ course on selling one's self, but it should include marketing one's value... worth.

  5. Joseph Hakim says:

    This is a great topic and I'm interested in hearing other's strategies too. My basic strategy is to get a lot of rapport built up between me and the potential client BEFORE quoting a price, hopefully building value in the process and asking a lot of questions to "qualify" them and being able to recommend an appropriate quote. Obviously I do not have one set price, I charge by the hour, by the amount of equipment I will need to bring in, by the amount of stairs (hopefully 0) that I will need to deal with, etc.

    Then I hit them with my recommended quote and hope for the best :-)

    • Seems like a rock solid strategy, Joseph. Basic (and common sense) part of marketing is that people need to understand WHAT it is they are buying and WHY it is different from other "versions" they may know about before being able to evaluate its worth.

    • Quote by the hour = fair deal ... but a lot of clients want to know upfront what the price will be. They are happier to pay a premium fee upfront than not exactly knowing what to pay.

      Building up buzz ... most enquiries come by mail, so you can create a personnal reply, but in the end you have to drop a price, up to the customer if they find it Ok or too expensive.

      Price of a dj is most of the time set by his calender. If your calender is almost completely filled up when you are charging let's say a bottle of Rhum ... nothing prevents you to try to sell the next gig for 2 bottles. If it works for a few times, you new price is set.
      So we come by a quote that goes for everything ... The nutcase can charge whatever the nutcase is paying.

      • Joseph Hakim says:

        They do know the complete price upfront when I quote them because I ask them when to when? If they don't know or they want to add more time later they also know how much extra hours will cost them.

        Also, I'm not going to double my price to a customer if I wouldn't double it to all my customers, I want to be ethical and consistent in my business practices. Plus you never know if a client is a referral from another client who knows what you charged the first client. (Sometimes you do know and you should know that, if you ask the right questions, but still you want to be consistent.) It reminds me of pawn shops with no prices on anything, they basically charge what they feel they can get from you.

        If you are talking about permanently raising your prices, sure, you can charge 2 bottles of Rum, but then after that you should quote everyone 2 bottles from that point on unless you back down, and lower prices again to one bottle 😉

  6. Joseph Hakim says:

    The horror story I have is one that I will never tell. 😉

  7. For those that get booked, I'd say I'm very competitive with my local area DJs. So doing your research and pricing yourself right always helps. I, however, have noticed that industry prices are affected by services like Thumbtack where customers can select the lowest bid. Craigslist is another one where customers expect to pay below industry value or pay whatever they think you're worth. So you have to have a good strategy on how and where you will market your services or you price will be driven down.

    I wouldn't say my situation went wrong on this one even though I was paid well. The wall sockets could not withstand the amount of energy my system was pulling so we had some times where the system shut off. The client knew was explained what happended but it could have been one of those where a client wants their money back. Most annoying things are the lack of respect for the profession where people think you just plugin and play, what's so hard about that? So this is where you have to show your value, if they don't respect that, then you shake their hand and thank them for their time. Don't take anything that comes at you, value yourself and you will make a name for yourself.

  8. I really don't like doing business over SMS. I would always repond with a phone call. You're more able to sell yourself and less likley to get a rude reponse like that.

    • Joseph Hakim says:

      I do business whichever way the client wants to do it. SMS, Facebook, messenger, phone, email or in person, it doesn't matter. Whatever is most convenient for the client.

  9. Phareed Uno says:

    Any thoughts about playing a handful of free gigs just to build a name / leverage for yourself ?

  10. Aaron Slaten says:

    I have this as the last page of all my contracts & questionnaires that I give out, but I can't post the pic but this is what it says on it..

    Loading Vehicle With Equipment.......................................................................1 hr...
    Driving to Venue, Finding Loading Dock, Coordinate with Venue.................1 hr...
    Unload and Set-up...............................................................................................1 hr...
    DJ THE EVENT(This is the only time that's actually on the contract)..............4 hrs...
    Break-down and Re-Load Vehicle......................................................................1 hr...
    Drive Home & Unload back at home.................................................................1 hr...
    ...........................TOTAL TIME ACTUAL TO DJ EVENT...........................9 HRS

  11. I actually have a great story..... the exact opposite of what most experience.
    Last friday night, at the club. Im chatting to the bar tender before the music starts. A couple arrive & start ordering drinks, the guy offers to buy me a drink. I politely decline, but he insisting I have a drink with him & his fiancé. I eventually tell him I've got a long night ahead of me, so he can get me a red bull if he really wants to. I thank him for the red bull and tell him it's time for me to start work. He looks at me puzzled (like what u doing at a club before work!). I go to the box, welcome everyone & start the music as normal. Every 1/2hr after that, the bar tender brings me another red bull. Bout 2hrs later the same guy comes to the box & asks me how much I'll charge to do his wedding. I tell him my normal rate based on average amount of guests & travel etc. He says to me........ "I'll pay you double if I can confirm a booking now". I'm like "say whaaaaat? - Deal!!" So we exchange phone numbers. Next morning he calls me & asks for banking details. By Saturday afternoon, he had a paid 50% deposit into my acc - which was actually my full rate.
    Happy Days!! :)

  12. Jason Hooper says:

    You have to have a clear idea of the client's expectations and be able to relate back to them, in a way that they can understand- how you'll meet them. Depending on the type of event you do, you can show them pictures and video of past events, lighting you've done; happy brides, packed dance floors, etc. You're the expert at what you do, so show them that.

    You need to create an experience and also exceed those expectations that the customer has. This is easy for us DJs, because no one expects much from us, usually anyway. Finally, once you've demonstrated your expertise, went above and beyond their expectations and rocked the party, it's time to cash in: turn those clients in to cheerleaders for your business. Go out of your way to collect feedback and reviews from them; if you did all of the above they're usually more than happy to. Post those reviews on your website and other places that are highly visible to potential clients and the the battle is half won. Therawe is no better way to promote yourself than when others do it for you!

    This business model has paid dividends for me and also allowed me to raise my prices and justify it.

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