Whether it’s a superstar playing a festival or a local hired for your wedding it’s no secret that DJs are expensive. And rightfully so, they should be.
Like any professional, who is good at what they do, they should be paid what their worth. The common misconception around why are DJs so expensive tends to come from a lack of understanding about what the job actually entails. So let’s break down piece by piece, Why ARE DJs so expensive??
Starting with what they do…
What Is the Job on the DJ?
The common misconception is that a DJ’s job is to simply get on stage and push play…but that’s way off the mark.
A much simpler, yet accurate explanation would be “A DJ’s job is to give the crowd and individuals an amazing experience they wouldn’t otherwise have in their everyday lives”.
And yes, the way they do this is by having a lot more fun than the average person who is just doing their job. But that doesn’t mean they deserve any less credit or money for doing so.
Chief Unity Officer
So while I could talk about the technical aspects of the job (and will further down) the truth is that a DJ’s role is to unify a group of people and, for a few hours, take them completely out of their everyday routine.
Club and festival DJs have a lot of freedom when it comes to what they play and how they go about producing this show. While Mobile DJs have a bit more to think about in terms of meeting the specific demands of the client that hired them.
For example, when hired for a wedding, they have to consider certain requirements and follow guidelines set by the bride and groom. These take time and a level of professionalism and help make up part of the reason why DJs are so expensive.
How Expensive Is DJ Equipment?
Another of the factors that go into why DJs cost so much is down to the amount, and standard, of equipment that they need. This applies both to mobile DJs (who are required to travel with their equipment) and also regular gigging DJ.
Even those that do not have to take their own equipment are still required to have an industry-standard setup at home. This allows them to practice the skills and techniques needed to do a good job on the day of the actual gig.
And of course, like all professional-grade equipment, this doesn’t come cheap. It can vary from $100 for basic equipment, however to do any serious gigs/events you need to spend $1-2000 plus.
Cheap…Cos Their Kit (& Service) Is
However, a DJ doesn’t necessarily need to go out and buy a full top of the range setup from day one. As with anything, there are several levels of equipment. Often DJs will start on the cheap and then build their setup as they start making money. And this is usually reflected in their cost to the client/promoter.
Why Is DJ Equipment So Expensive?
There are a couple of factors that play into why DJ equipment is so expensive. The first one I’ll talk about is reliablity.
Please Don’t Break on Me Now!
If you are going to go onstage and perform to hundreds or thousands of people, the last thing you want to be using some substandard bits of equipment made with cheap components. This would be a recipe for disaster that could result in something going wrong mid-set.
It could result in the music stopping entirely or, as is more often the case, one aspect of the DJ equipment going wrong. Making it is much more difficult (or nearly impossible) to do the technical aspects of DJing, such as mixing tracks smoothly.
One example of a common problem is when a fader starts to wear out causing the audio to crackle. This means that when a track’s volume is brought up/down, extra noise bleeds into the mix or can even cause the music to cut in and out. Which makes for very a jarring listening experience for the audience.
Another thing that plays into why DJ equipment is so expensive is because modern equipment has gone well beyond basic media players with speed control and a play button. Modern DJ kit is jam-packed full of features to help a DJ layer up and push the boundaries of their skills.
Therefore it is common now for DJ kit to include things such as looping and effects. Not to mention allowing a DJ to store thousands of tracks and search through them to find the perfect track to play next.
All of these features require time and research to build into the equipment. So, when purchasing a piece of kit, you’re not just buying the materials, components and time that went into physically building it. You also pay for the time to prototype and research that went in before the decks or mixer ever made it to market.
Plus, of course, the DJ industry is highly competitive. So companies and manufacturers are doing their very best to be innovative and push the possibilities. Particularly when it comes to what can be included in their pieces of equipment.
Is There Money in DJing?
Yes, there’s absolutely money to be made in the DJ industry. Both in terms of the DJ themselves as well as the promoters and booking agents that they are working for. In fact, billions of dollars pass through the DJing industry every year.
There are multiple ways to make money as a DJ that go far beyond just the earnings from gigs that is the first come to mind.
There are so many different ways to make money as a DJ that I won’t list them here. Instead, I’ve written an entire article that details every single way that a DJ can make money, including while not even anywhere near a set of decks.
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Why Do DJs Make So Much Money?
So now that I’ve given you an outline of what a DJ actually does and a bit of background to the industry itself. Let’s time to answer why do DJs make so much money, which we’ve kinda already touched on.
The reason DJs make so much money is to do with the fact that they deliver an experience to an audience. This goes for any industry that’s primary job is to take you out of ordinary life and give you some escapism for a bit.
Holidays & Blu-Rays…
That’s why holidays in nice places are expensive, and why blu rays cost much more than the piece of plastic that they actually are.
There has been a lot of time, effort and money that has gone into making a film that, when watched, elicits feelings, and is a form of escapism for an hour or two.
And this is the same with DJs.
Bad Music Takes Time to Find…And Discard
When you pay for a DJ, you’re not just paying for that person to come and do their job for an hour or two.
Instead, you also have to take into account all of the time that they have spent practicing their skills, creating tracks and finding other people’s tracks to play.
After all, there was a lot of bad music out there. And a DJ’s job is essentially to filter all of this to find the gems that are going to go down well. Be it at a club, festival or wedding.
DJs Can Pull…Well Duh
Another aspect of why DJs get paid so much has to do with their pulling power. This works on both a superstar and a local DJ level.
And that is because by booking a DJ, someone further up the chain can make money simply from having them. You only have to look at local commercial clubs and festivals to see examples of this.
People only go to festivals when artists are performing that they want to see. So, therefore, the DJ is pulling people in and driving ticket sales. Therefore the DJ can command their market rate.
As the saying goes…
“A product is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it”.
And this goes for the DJs as well.
The reason people like Calvin Harris (what to see his setup? push here), and Deadmau5 (Deadmau5’s amazing gear) are able to command hundreds of thousands of dollars per show is simply because promoters, bookers and ultimately the public are willing to pay it.
After all, if a DJ puts on a poor performance or plays obscure tracks then the crowd will leave thinking not only was the DJ terrible, but the event itself was. Be it a festival or a wedding.
So in this case, another cliche rings true…“You get what you pay for”.
So if you want to throw a great wedding or massive EDM party, that gets the entire crowd dancing and sends them home feeling they had an amazing time. Then it makes sense to book an amazing EDM or wedding DJ that is known for throwing great parties.
What Are the Skills Needed to Be a DJ?
As I mentioned before, Not only are you paying for the DJs time on the night, you’re also paying for time they’ve put in away from the event, perfecting their craft.
And the reason DJs are so expensive is that there are so many different skills that are required. Meaning practicing is hard. It takes a lot of time and dedication to master one skill, let alone the several needed by a DJ.
For example, beat matching. This is the art of adjusting the speed of two separate tracks so they are running in sync so they can be blended in the most fluid, smooth way possible. And while this sounds like one individual skill, already, we are dealing with several.
- There is being able to hear when tracks are running in time or not
- On top of that, you need to perfect when to drop the track
- Then master things such as effects so that you can add extra layers and make those mixes more interesting.
And that’s without even getting into:
- Tune selection and knowing what tracks go together
- Being able to read a crowd to see what they are reacting to so that you can make the best selection possible. Another skill in itself.
This is why DJing is nowhere near as easy as people think it is.
There are so many nuances, thoughts and individual decisions that have to go into making a track and a successful DJ mix that not just anyone can walk in off the street and do it.
Stripes Take Time…And Mistakes
A DJ will have had to earn their stripes, spending hours practicing, making and learning from many, many different mistakes to get to the point where you see them jumping around on stage.
Plus, all of the above is only taking into account the technical aspects of DJing.
Of course, away from the decks & music, a DJ will have had to establish their name and build a brand. Which requires a level of business understanding as well as, in the case of marketing, incurring extra costs.
Something both local and superstar DJs have to do.
So when you see headlines like Deadmau5 and Calvin Harris earning $250,000 for a gig, they often forget to include the fact there are things like management fees that the artists themselves have to pay.
So often they’ll be taking home far less than the headline would make you believe (don’t get me wrong, they’re still earning plenty!).
In Conclusion, Why Are DJs So Expensive?
As I’ve hopefully outlined for you the reasons why DJs are so expensive and why DJs (can) earn so much money is because of the amount of behind the scenes work that goes it. PLUS physically getting them to that actual stage and in front of the audience.
In essence, the reason DJs cost so much is because that is what people are willing to pay them and that is what we, as a dance music-loving/wedding enjoying, community have deemed them to be worth.
And so, if you book a DJ, either at your festival or your wedding, and your crowd has a fun, amazing experience with memories will last a lifetime then, surely, the DJ was worth every penny…
If you have any thoughts DJs being overpriced or think they’re totally worth it then drop a comment and I will respond to every single one.