A post from the blog of Mark Ferrell on DJ pricing
“The Great Wedding Rip-off”
I’ve read articles and TV exposes lately that reveal how DJs and other wedding vendors “gouge” brides by inflating prices for weddings. One headline read, “Great Wedding Rip-off: Party Venue Costs $250–But It’ll Be $850 For Your Big Day.”
For this reason, and many others, I always charged the same price for any event–be it a backyard birthday party or a posh wedding.
I believe that “hours” are not what people are paying for. Some DJs attempt to justify their prices based on the amount of hours or “work” involved. So, for some, charging more for a more intricate party, like a reception, would make sense to them. And so they approach their clients from that point of view.
Not that I think it’s wrong to do so per sé–I just think it’s incorrect as it pertains to clients’ true needs. Instead of justifying the added expense for a wedding in the eyes of the client, I believe it fuels the perception of “gouging,” which is represented in exposés like the one mentioned above.
I see what we do more as a talent-based profession than a service-based profession. And certainly not an equipment rental-based trade. When “buying” talent, time is inconsequential. The value lies with “ability” and “results” instead of how many hours are given and what gear we use.
The value lies with “ability” and “results”
When I hire a plumber to fix my pipes, I’m paying for the plumber to do just that. The equipment s/he uses to do that job doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that my leaky pipes don’t leak any more and that the job is done properly. I’m paying for her/his talent, knowledge, and results–not for her/his tools or how long s/he takes to do the job.
When I go to the dentist to examine, clean, and/or fix my teeth, I pay for the dentist to do just that. I’ve never asked my dentist what kind of drill or x-ray machine he used. Professional equipment was implied by virtue of him being a DDS. The time it would take never applied to the job he did. Rather, the job had a price based upon the knowledge and skill it would take to perform the procedure. I pay for his knowledge, talent, and the results I would receive.
When Johnny Depp gets cast for a role, they pay him millions of dollars because he is Johnny Depp–not because it takes a specific number of hours to act a part for a film. He doesn’t get paid because of the equipment, make-up, or costumes he uses to do his job. Johnny Depp gets paid a lot of money for his talent, knowledge, and the results he provides.
I see what we do as mobile DJs similarly, as did my clients, fortunately.
It is impossible to “gouge” a client when a DJ is already not charging enough to make a living.
Articles like the one mentioned above had no effect on my DJ business. People hired me by “word of mouth” advertising or having seen a performance. If a DJ is good and in demand, others cannot detract from that.
However, articles like this affect the industry and the perceptions of the public regarding mobile DJs–who already operate from a deficit in value. So it ends up making a difficult job more difficult–especially for the average performers out there. It helps make the public more skeptical of DJs who already suffer from low pricing. It is impossible to “gouge” a client when a DJ is already not charging enough to make a living. News writers and editors don’t really care if a DJ is struggling to earn enough on which to provide for her family — they just want a good headline. “Wedding DJs Don’t Charge Enough: Must Keep Day Job To Afford Health Insurance” won’t sell newspapers.
It’s one of the few trades where other vendors attempt to regulate what they charge.
DJs don’t get a very good press. And haven’t for a very long time. They are parodied, ridiculed, and not taken seriously. They are barely mentioned, if at all, in bridal publications and never interviewed on the ‘wedding special’ TV shows. It’s one of the few trades where other tradespeople–like wedding planners and venues–attempt to regulate what they charge. I know a very talented wedding DJ that left the business and started a fitness business because a planner convinced the client, after signing a contract with the wedding DJ, not to “pay such a high price.” The price wasn’t “high,” but it was fair and one on which the DJ could provide for his family. I wonder what would have happened if they turned the tables. The industry and many, many future brides and grooms lost a talented, genuine, and gifted entertainer when that happened.
It’s that kind of disrespect that I’m working to change.
Sadly, many DJs buy the negative press and believe the stated diminished value spewed like venom from wedding vendors.
Sadly, many DJs buy the negative press and believe the stated diminished value spewed like venom from wedding vendors. Because of that, I think too many DJs are quick to base their value, and therefore price, on the equipment they use and the time they spend to do a job. Doing so is limiting.
Basing your value on what you can do with that equipment and time, and HOW you do it is unlimited.
Here’s how I stated it in a seminar I presented a few years ago titled “Shout of Mouth” – “FOR THE BUYER OF FINE ART, IT’S NOT THE CANVAS OR THE PAINT OR THE BRUSHES OR THE FRAME THEY SPEND THOUSANDS OR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR, BUT THE ARTIST WIELDING THOSE “THINGS”. FOR THE ARTIST’S MASTERY AND USE OF THOSE TOOLS. FOR THE ARTIST’S ABILITY AND TALENT AND REPUTATION. YOU, AS A PERFORMING ARTIST, MUST UNDERSTAND THIS.”
Ironically, it’s not about money.
Ironically, it’s not about money. It’s about the ability to easily charge a fair and reasonable price upon which a wedding DJ can earn a living with benefits for the good works she does — like any other respected trade or profession. That sounds odd. I mean, it’s just normal that someone could make a living in a trade or profession. Yet, here I am pleading; arguing a case.
The big difference between mobile DJs and the trade examples mentioned above — i.e., “plumbers, dentists, and Johnny Depp” — is they all earn a living in their trade or profession. DJs largely do not (as DJs, that is).
From my perspective, I prepared as much for a wedding reception as I did for a corporate party as I did for a birthday party. To me, the value was the same. I prepared my whole life for each party.
And it is a matter of perspective–I charged the same amount regardless of the event, so I only worked events where I was paid my price, whether it was a birthday party or wedding.
The people who hired me wanted me to be their DJ. And because they wanted me, they paid my price. People will afford those things that they really want, even if they have to use credit.
The way I approach it is simple: I am no less valuable for a birthday or prom or backyard barbeque than I am for a wedding. The clients I seek feel the same way.
That has nothing to do with my performance and preparation time, or the equipment I bring.
Brides and grooms aren’t being gouged by DJs. Venues and wedding planners aren’t being “gouged.”
The only people being “gouged” are mobile DJs.
And…you can quote me on that.
©Mark K. Ferrell