Over the course of the years, the Third Floor Network has produced hundreds of live events across the globe. We have booked DJs, artists and hosts for every type of occasion ranging from music festivals, concerts, corporate events, artist tours to weddings, high school reunions and elementary school dances. We’ve also hired DJs for birthday or family house parties and in some cases even made playlists for long road trips or backyard boogies for our clients.
We’ve worked with the best in the business when it comes to moving a crowd from DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Vice, Questlove, Z-Trip, Chromeo, etc. but understand not everyone has the budget that a music festival, nightclub or corporation may have to hire these trusted professionals for their event, so with a little help of a few of our favorite DJ friends we’ve created the tips below alongside a network of DJs to help you find a perfect man or woman to get the job done no matter your budget.
In no way are we claiming certification on what a perfect DJ is, but there are a few things you can think of that could help in the process of selecting the perfect DJ for your event. We’ve all been to an event where the DJ was so great that no one wanted to leave talking about how much fun they had, and we’ve also experienced the polar opposite, where the dance floor seemed empty for most of the night and the DJ seemed to be stuck in the 1970’s with “YMCA” and “Dancing Queen” on repeat. Don’t worry if you’ve struggled with the “case of the bad DJ” because we ALL have at one point. And of course, if you are ever in need of additional advice or DJ suggestions at every budget level
email: email@example.com (serious inquiries only).
In the tips below, we will use the example of a wedding as the event as this is what we get asked about the most from non professional DJ/talent bookers looking for guidance. Remember, just like you look endlessly for the perfect wedding dress or suit, design your invitations meticulously, test your make up and food prior to the big day and fine tune the guest list several times to whether or not the quirky co-worker made the guestlist, it’s important to make sure you plan for a great soundtrack for you and your guests that could make or break the vibe of the evening.
1. Have Fun During The Planning Process.
Weddings are meant to be celebrations, while they can be very stressful they can be fun too if you allow yourself to enjoy the process. A lot of brides and grooms think of planning their wedding as a job and procrastinate until the final hour when stress has reached it’s peak and they are worried about other things like who is going to pick up grandma from the airport or where you last left your garter belt. As soon as your date is selected, start thinking about the music for the day/evening. Picking your music could be a fun experience in itself. Invite friends over if you want– share your playlists, pull out the yearbooks and look up the Billboard Charts to your high school or college years and listen to the songs, write down if any of them stick out as dance floor favorites for you and your friends to help better prep your DJ. Thinking about your music will even make the long morning commute more enjoyable. You don’t have to create an entire playlist, but a select few songs you love to give your DJ an idea of what type of music you and your guests will enjoy.
2. Create An Itinerary.
Knowing there will be variables on timing always changing until the day of, it’s always good to start off with knowing what blocks of times you want for various events and types of music for the evening to start until you have a more detailed itinerary. Take into consideration the weather that time of year, the amount of time people are waiting and your own personal experiences at previous weddings. Reminder that the longer your guests are standing without any activity, the more tired they will get as the evening progresses, especially the elders and those with kids. Don’t over plan the evening where you don’t have time to enjoy the evening just to talk to the people you haven’t seen for a long time or dance with your family and friends. Grouping activities is always helpful and will help avoid long periods of waiting. IE: Speeches and dances during dinnertime, etc. Think of the music for the entire day starting from the night before, you can also create a playlist for getting ready in the morning or when you are taking photos to bump up the energy. If you are super romantic, you could even create a mixtape or playlist for your partner to play and think of you while getting ready.
Sample Itinerary To Share With Your DJ Alongside Sample Songs:
3PM-5PM Bride and Groom Preparation (Playlist: Wedding Day Mix)
530PM-6PM Wedding (Music: Pre-Wedding As Guests Wait, Walking Down The Aisle, Returning Down Aisle)
6-7PM Cocktail Hour (Cocktail Music: 90s R&B, Slow Jams, Acoustic Music)
7-830PM Dinner (Speeches, Dances, Photos, Cake Cutting) (Music: Pre-Selected Songs)
830PM-10PM Dancing (Dance: Family/Line Dancing, Current Hits, 90s Hip Hop)
3. Know Your Audience.
While you are creating your guest list, tally up how many people will be attending from the various age groups. This will help determine what type of music most of your guests will enjoy. Every good wedding has music for every age group, with the music appealing to a majority of the crowd. Think about the women in the room specifically, what songs would they like to hear? If they are happy and dancing on the dance floor, the men will be there too.
Kids 15 and under – 30 guests
15-25 – 20 guests
25-45 – 70 guests
45+ – 30 guests
For example, if 40% of your audience is 45+, make sure to have songs that cater to them that they can dance to, particularly early on as you know they may leave earlier. Some families have particular songs that people like to hear like “Toro Toro” for ballroom dance routines, “Cupid Shuffle” for line dancing or kids always love the “Cha Cha Slide” that they are familiar with because of school – these are perfect for the beginning of the dance part of the evening to get people on the dance floor early before they have to head home. A perfect time to request everyone on the dance floor is by an event such as taking a group photo on the dance floor or after the bouquet toss followed by a popular song people of all ages can enjoy.
The last to stay are usually the closest of your friends and family that are also the young at heart or the drunk and fun, this is a time that could be reserved for special memory, less mainstream songs including songs that you partied to at your favorite clubs, heard on repeat on the radio when you were younger, etc. with those still there.
4. Research Your DJ, Ask For Referrals And Make Sure They Are Prepared With The Right Equipment.
Once you know your date, your audience and your itinerary, it’s time to find the right DJ. The right DJ is a DJ that knows he/she is hired for YOUR wedding. You should be able to trust that your DJ has your best interests at heart when being booked to play and should be accommodating to special requests of songs you want to hear during various parts of the wedding, first dances, specifically for your mom, etc. He/She shouldn’t play just what they want to hear and not consider the audience they are playing to. Some DJs aren’t comfortable in playing songs they don’t like and unless you have the exact same taste they do alongside a majority of your guests, they might not be the right DJ for this particular event. In the same way that you request songs you want to hear, you can request some songs you DON’T want to hear as well.
Shop around for prices, make sure you are getting the best rate you can and in most cases you get what you pay for. You could ask around to friends and family what they pay for DJs as they do for other vendors like photo-booths. Most DJs are paid an hourly rate but in some cases a flat rate could be suggested, especially where travel is needed or additional equipment. In most cases a deposit is required to hold the date. Don’t expect the deposit back if you cancel, most DJs are booked for several months and if they hold the date for you it’s expected you understand that they didn’t take another event to commit to yours just as any other wedding vendor and could be at a loss. You could ask the DJ for a window the deposit could be returned if there is concern you may book another DJ. More experienced and well known DJs typically get paid more for weddings they play at because they are experts in their field, but paying a high price doesn’t always guarantee a great DJ, make sure to do your research and if you are paying higher rates it is because of the quality of the DJ.
Most great wedding DJs have a form that you can easily fill out alongside a list of song suggestions that you could google if you get stuck and can’t think of any. Some people LOVE “YMCA” while others may cringe at the thought of it. Referrals are great especially for previous events you attended that you liked the music at, ask for sample playlists or videos to preview the DJ’s style and if it fits your vibe. If there is time, take the time to check them out live in action in a similar event to yours. What DJs play in a nightclub setting may be different from what they play at a wedding. In a pre-wedding meeting with the DJ either via the phone or better in person, make sure to go over the itinerary, special requests and all of the equipment the DJ has to see what they have or will bring or what needs to be rented. If you have additional performers or routines, make sure the DJ has the music ahead of time and tested. Costs could potentially be discounted if they don’t have to bring their own equipment such as speakers, turntables, etc. and most costs should also include cost for equipment. If you don’t know where to start and need support, your existing vendors are a great start as they usually work together or feel free to contact us.
5. Hire A Host.
Even when you don’t think you’ll need one, you usually do. In most cases the DJ should/could also be/include the host with price included, but if the DJ isn’t a host, or they mention it is an extra person for a cost that you can’t afford, don’t be afraid to ask your outgoing friend or Uncle to take on the job at least to introduce you to the crowd during the intro and dances if you have them. Whoever it is, make sure they have the itinerary BEFORE via email and several copies printed on the wedding day to review and have time to ask questions alongside notice things that may be missing. If there are different versions, make sure to date and number the version so everyone has the most recent version or notice if they don’t on day of. Having introductions of your maid of honor or best man before their speeches is always helpful. Most people in the room know the details of who they are, but for those that don’t, it’s fun to know that the girl who is about to make the toast was your roommate for 15 years or the guy holding the mic was there for you when you got dumped by your first girlfriend. It makes these moments just that more intimate. Make sure the venue or the DJ has all the proper equipment for the toasts as well as back up batteries for the microphones.
6. Have A Kick Ass Intro Suited To Your Personality.
Whether you are the reserved couple that likes to walk in casually to their favorite song or a couple that wants a choreographed routine during their entry, this is the one time that EVERYONE is in the room and all eyes are on you. Fun ideas include creating an intro video re-enacting how you guys met, giving a quick speech before you enter or having the host introduce each wedding party guest as they walk in like the NBA Chicago Bulls. (Hi Five Kim & Cass Cruz). Enjoy the spotlight, don’t be afraid of it and remember that they are there for you because they love you, they want to see you having a good time, especially when being introduced to the world for the first time officially as man and wife. You could kick off the energy of the night with how you first present yourselves. Prep your DJ and review the intro music ahead of time, make sure the music is received prior. You or the DJ may need to make an edit to get to the right part of the song for entry. Make sure someone is filming your kick ass entry, if not a professional videographer, ask someone who will happily film on their phone for you, trust us, you will want to see this special entry later.
6. Don’t Be Shy To Say A Few Words.
Some couples shy away from saying a few words to their guests, wishing they did, it’s a perfect time to say what you’ve always wanted to say to everyone you love all in one room. Whether it be thanking your parents or telling the funny story of you you guys met, remember they are here for YOU. It’s okay to take all the spotlight for the night. It’s okay if you don’t have a well planned speech, a genuine “thank you” to the crowd will be heartfelt and you won’t regret not saying anything at all after. This could also be a good time for you to ask everyone to join you on the dance floor right after. Make sure the DJ has the perfect first song that will keep a majority of the people on the dance floor which you can decide on together.
7. Have A Last Dance Together
Every couple needs to sneak away from their own wedding to be alone, that’s part of the beauty of marrying your best friend and soul mate is they understand the need to break away, but don’t be gone so long that you miss the wedding and miss the last dance. Reserve a last song with the DJ and let him or her know not to play it until instructed by you. You could even let your venue know that you will leave AFTER this last song is played and that they should come find you BEFORE shutting down for this special moment if you are away. Even if it’s just you and your new spouse left on the dance floor that’s left, take that last second to end on a great note and rejoicing that it’s all over. If your family and friends are around even better, great time to play that one slow jam that brings everyone together hugging, singing at the top of their songs like “One Love” by Bob Marley, “How Deep Is Your Love” by the BeeGees or “Just Friends” by Musiq Soulchild. We’ve seen several couples disappointed walking into a wedding that has ended without them knowing because they were “getting some air” or saying goodbye to guests. Don’t worry about saying goodbye to every guest if there isn’t time, they will completely understand if you need a last dance together and may even join you. Make sure the DJ announces that it is the last song of the evening.
8. Tip Your DJ And Don’t Forget To Feed The DJ.
Don’t forget to order a dinner plate for your DJ and arrange for it to be brought to him as you do your other vendors. Although most DJs come prepared eating prior to the wedding or bringing their own snacks, they may not have time to leave for a meal and the last thing you want is a hungry DJ. And if they did a great job, extra $$$ you got from the money dance won’t hurt, even if it’s just a few extra dollars. Before everyone got there, they had to set up all the heavy equipment and now they have to stick around bringing it all back while everyone is gone. Plus they even played “Macarena” for your drunk Aunt Martha! It will help encourage them to continue to do a great job in the future and you can potentially discuss even getting a small referral rate if you do suggest them for future events and thought they did a great job.
9. No Budget Or Weddings In Unique Places?
There are some weddings that take place at the top of the mountains or on a beach that may not be in your budget to fly a DJ out. You could create your own playlist, hire a DJ to create playlists for each hour for your wedding or download great ones you may find on the internet at sites that allow to search and download mixes like mixcrate.com. Once you have the playlist ready, you could easily assign someone to hit “play” from your Ipod/computer plugged into a portable speaker. DJs also have great portable equipment that could be used to travel to exotic location, if you have the budget, splurge on the extra flight, room and DJ cost, some DJs will offer a great discount or even play the wedding for little to no cost if it means an all expense paid vacation.
Last but not least,
10. Don’t Worry If Things Don’t Go EXACTLY To Plan.
Every wedding has their share of challenges whether it be the rain coming last minute or the groomsmen going missing after the bachelor party. Be ready to roll with the punches, know that nothing is ever perfect and if you don’t have a wedding planner, assign one of your bridesmaids or close family/friends to be the best decision maker for you in case you can’t be found and specifically knows how to talk to you in your most stressful situations.
The MOST important thing is to have fun and capture this once in a moment lifetime in your memory. Make a note to your photographer to capture the candid, unique moments on top of the posed photos throughout the evening. Create a unique hashtag for your guests so you can track the photos after on your honeymoon that you can place on your photobooth picture prints, table place cards as well as have the DJs announce on the mic throughout the evening. If you do have a photobooth, make sure to schedule it to come AFTER the main activities such as speeches are over or on pause to avoid people missing the important parts of the evening, this could include bars that are located outside of the main room. The DJ could announce that the bar will be closed during speeches and dances so people could prepare to have their drinks prior or after.
Good luck and best wishes on planning your big day!
For more info on DJ rates, referrals and tips for any occasion from company holiday parties to concerts to weddings, anything large or small: