What Makes a Great DJ?
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
With today's seemingly endless lineup of eager DJ's, it can be a challenge to find the perfect match. The relationship between a DJ and a client goes much farther than hiring and hoping they are capable of rocking a crowd. It's a personal experience. A wedding, for example- All of the planning, cues, people, locations, speeches, dances to name a few, all have a common thread- Sound. Aka your DJ.
So how do you know if you have found a truly GREAT DJ? Sifting through all the myths, legends and stories that begin with, "I opened for DJ ______ (insert headliner)", or "I've been DJ'ing for 'X' years" can be a challenge. Here are some key points and things to check off the list to determine if you have found a truly great DJ that will be a great fit for your important day.
While experience is a must, it's not always the most accurate. Many DJ's have been doing what they do for a number of years- But are they doing it well? Are they reviewed? How active have they been during each year? It's beneficial to go beyond how much time as a "DJ" they think they have under their belt. Many DJ's count choosing songs on Spotify for a house party as DJ'ing. Find out how many (roughly) events they have personally done- Using professional equipment and being paid to do so.
A great DJ will always have sharply honed people-skills. A natural ability to project- Not only in voice, but in character. If the person controlling your soundtrack to the celebration of one of the most important days ever is clearly not smiling, staring down at the decks the whole time, and not dancing a bit (or a lot) to their own tunes, Houston, we've got a problem. Guests aren't going to feel as comfortably and confident if the guy that is supposed to create an atmosphere of fun isn't having fun him/herself. Try to picture the person in a fun setting. If they come off as a stress-case, jaded, or too cool for school, they may not be ideal.
If your DJ has issues communicating, being punctual, or executing simple, pre-cursory tasks, this could be a red flag. What will happen if they are late for set up? What if they Forgot to bring batteries for the wireless mic? What if they play the wrong song for the first dance? These are all scary yet very real scenarios all too common with novice DJs. A great DJ will have all of their bases covered, plenty of contingencies, and professionalism will apparent.
Of course, music is a vast importance. Any DJ can follow a playlist hopefully, take requests, or play one or or two guaranteed tracks, yet a great DJ knows when, where, and how to drop the cuts that keep the vibe alive. Knowing how to use discretion with requests is important- Unless the request is coming directly from a bride or groom, a great DJ will happily except, and play when appropriate. If they just started a throwback 2000s hip-hop session, it’s not going to make sense to play "Don't Stop Believin'", despite the opinion of a drunk guest.
Great DJs will naturally play to the crowd, weed out the intoxicated control freaks, and fill in the gap’s with Good, danceable jams.
It may be easy to find an available Dj for your big day, however not all are created equal. Look at past reviews. This is a great indicator of the level of service. For somebody to leave a truly a good review it, they had to have had a great experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if it seems probing. After all, it’s your day, and they are simply a potential contestant of your team. Once booked, make sure you communicate often- the more they get to know you, the easier it will be for them to make on-the-fly decisions when it counts. If they don’t sound knowledgeable and familiar with the process, it probably means a lack of experience. Everybody start somewhere, however you may want to pass as your special day is not their training grounds. Ask the right questions, take into consideration multiple factors, and don’t forget to trust The person you have hired. Often times it can be easy to be overbearing and controlling. Too much direction can be suffocating. Too little can be confusing. Find that sweet spot of the two, and let your DJ do the rest, and do a great job. Your guests will most certainly let you know!