How To Book Guest DJs For Your Club Night, Part 2

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 5 mins
Last updated 16 November, 2017


Guest DJ
Give your guest DJs space to perform – after all, it’s what you’ve paid them to do. Partying can come later if that’s what they want.

Last week in How To Book Guest DJs For Your Club Night, Part 1 we looked at why you should (and why you shouldn’t) book guest DJs to appear alongside you, DJing at your very own club night. We covered agents, fee negotiation and so on.

This week, we’ll look at what happens after you’ve made a booking – payment, riders, contracts, your responsibilities and so on. It’s all you need to know to confidently pick up the phone and get your heroes DJing alongside you!

Maximise your booking

Don’t expect a name DJ to pull the crowds without work at your end. Of course you’re going to use flyers, Facebook invites and all your usual channels to generate interest, but consider doing the following too:

  • Ask the agent for help. They may have national press contacts you don’t have, or be able to get other DJs who are on their books to publicise the event on their own networks. Get press photos, bios and discographies and pimp them round your local clubbing website and listings mags
  • Ask the artist for help. They’ll probably push the gig anyway to their own lists, on Twitter etc, but make it easy for them – give them links to flyers, promo pages, maps of how to get there; anything that’ll entice people to come
  • Ask the artist’s label for help. Labels have their own email lists and may be able to give the event a push for you; remember that the artist may be busy and might not automatically do this, so be proactive. Can the label give you a free track to download that you can put on your flyer?

Be ready for the contract/money bit

Read the contract, and be aware that often it’s a standard document that doesn’t get changes like it should booking-by-booking; there may be stuff in there that has no relevance to you or that is actually not what you agreed. Because these errors are rarely malicious, just politely ask for it to be changed to suit what was agreed – don’t fret too much about it. In 10 years of booking guest DJs, nobody pulled me up overa contract.

As far as payment goes, you’ll probably pay either everything upfront, or at least 50% up front, 50% a week before the gig. Occasionally you can pay some of the fee on the night, but usually only with trusted relationships. The agent will typically take 10-15% fee on top. Don’t be afraid to negotiate on payment terms as well as on the amount paid – if 50/50 suits you and they want it all up front, try and agree 67/33!

Be a good host

It’ll all be in the contract, but even if the booking is on a handshake and there’s no contract at all, there are several things that it’s the norm for a promoter to provide to his or her guest DJs. These include:

Airport transfer
There’s going to be no need for private jets and limos, but you will be expected to provide transport while you’re hosting your DJ.
  • Transport. Unless the DJ is local, you’ll generally be responsible for flights and transfers to/from the airport to the hotel, and from the venue. I always like to have a “designated driver”. Make sure he has a clean car and is polite and reliable. A non-clubbing friend is always good for this one!
  • Hotel. You’re responsible for the hotel. Book four-star as a minimum. Don’t skimp and put them in a hostel with a bathroom at the end of the corridor! Pay heed to special requests (breakfast, internet etc). Book early – there’s nothing worse than scrambling around for a hotel room for a guest DJ at the last minute, because often by then the only rooms are out of town, and not only will your guest probably not appreciate that, but it’ll cost you more in taxis/lifts too. And remember DJs keep odd hours, so having late checkouts is pretty mandatory depending on the timings of their flights etc
  • Food. You’ll generally provide all meals for your guest. Either they’ll provide you with receipts, or you’ll pay the extras on their hotel bill. That’s why getting rooms with breakfast can be good – it’s one less meal to worry about. Make sure you ask them what they want – do they want to eat out with you, or have room service on their own?
  • Entertainment. You may assume DJs will all be party animals, but in my experience most are i. tired and ii. working (this is their job, after all). They often just want to go straight to their hotels when they arrive in town, freshen up, maybe grab a quick nap, download some tunes, prepare their set, and get picked up. After a good gig they may relax a bit and want to stay with you to have some fun – but equally, don’t be offended if they want to leave right away and go and sleep. You should play this very much by ear – if they’ve not been to your town before and they want to be shown around, be ready to do so, or have someone who can

On the night…

Most contracts specify a “rider”, which is pre-purchased drinks, food, a dressing room, that kind of stuff, as well as equipment needs – of course you should have had this all sorted out in good time! Get your guest a drink when they arrive and make sure they always have one. As long as they can get a drink when they want, most DJs will ask for little more.

Steve Aoki rider
Steve Aoki’s infamous leaked rider. Most are less ambitious than this! (Click to enlarge.)

Give them space. Protect them from the demands of clubbers, well-wishers etc, because they need space and time to set up. When they’re DJing, don’t interrupt them or badger them for tune names and so on. Only help if asked.

Once a DJ has relaxed into a set, you’ll know – but also remember they’re performing, just like you perform when you DJ, and a big smile and dancing feet on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not concentrating intensely and still nervous about their performance on the inside. So the golden rule is as stated above: Give them space.

After the gig…

Of course you’ll get them home and off to the airport or whatever the next day, but I’m talking the week after. You should contact the agent to thank them. Of course, the DJ loved playing for you and you got their personal details too, so send them a short email to thank them.

If it worked for you both, get another booking in the diary right away – it’s often easier to do this with the gig fresh in memory than waiting a few months. Nothing wrong with booking a gig six months away – it can always be moved, and it’s easier to move a booking than to make one.


I think if you treat others as you’d like to be treated, you really can’t go wrong here. How would you want to be treated if you were in a strange city having to play a DJ gig?My parting thought is to make sure you have enough help: The idea of a non-clubbing friend who you pay a little to to keep an eye out for the DJ and drive them around is a golden one, and it’ll free you up to promote your night, and of course to do your DJ set too.

Playing alongside your heroes and learning from them is one of the most rewarding aspects of running a club night of your own. You learn so much, you make the right contacts, and you have great fun. For me, it led to me playing in the biggest club in the world – Privilege in Ibiza. Where will it lead you?

Check out the first part of this series:  How To Book Guest DJs For Your Club Night, Part 1.

Has this mini-series inspired you to try and throw a club night and book a guest DJ or two? Have you got any good or bad experiences of doing this? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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