How to start a mobile DJ business
Step by step guide to starting a disco
So you want to start a mobile DJ or disco business?
This in-depth guide covers everything you need to know from what equipment you need, what legal and financial implications there are and how to start getting mobile DJ gigs in your area.
I’ve included links to handy resources and ways to push your business to the next level. I update this article regularly with the latest tips and tricks to have a successful mobile DJ career. I’ll also be expanding on some of the topics in future articles.
Iits important to think about what starting this business involves. Maybe you’ve given this some thought already but its worth going through this chapter to make sure you’ve covered it all.
There’s no point investing heavily in starting this business unless you’re ready and prepared for what you’re getting yourself in to.
So here’s a few things to think about
You’ll be working most weekends
Running a mobile DJ business means you’ll be working when others are partying. this usually means weekends so if you have a partner or children you’ll need to think carefully about this.Can you afford to take time away from loved ones most weekends? If you’re thinking of starting this for some extra money will you have the energy after your week at work to then work late in to the evenings as well?
If the answer is yes then great, you’re on the right track. What you’ll find is that its important to schedule in weekends off work too. It does mean you’ll need to plan your next 6 to 12 months meticulously so that when you’re taking bookings they don’t clash with your time off.
This wont be a problem when you’re just starting out as you’re likely to have a few free weekends anyway, but as you get busier you’ll soon wish you had planned for a few weekends off.
Those weekends you’re not gigging also mean you’re not making any money, so make sure your cashflow can afford it. Its all about reducing stress both mentally and financially.
Working in a loud environment
I know plenty of DJs who have hearing problems. Either going deaf in one ear (or both!) or have issues with tinnitus, the constant ringing in the ears. This is because you’re spending a lot of time in a loud environment both from your sound system and from your headphones.
Not only that but quite often people shouting in your ear for requests.
Loud noises come with the territory but there are plenty of things you can do to prevent long last damage to your ears.
I recommend investing a decent budget in your headphones with exceptional noise cancelling abilities. This will mean you can beat-match and cue the next track without turning the headphones up all the way. There are plenty of options here, check these ones out.
- Over-the-ear traditional DJ headphones that completely cover your ears. These can get a bit sweaty after a while but are still the preferred choice for many
- Ear-buds that sit inside your ears, blocking external noises from reaching your ear, a bit more cumbersome to put in and out but also more discreet
- Custom made ear-buds moulded to the shape of your ear, for the most comfortable fit and the best noise cancelling quality too. More expensive but they don’t get better than this!
I used to love over-the-ear headphones as these used to be the best money could buy, but things have changed. I know plenty of DJs who love ear-buds now as they’re less bulky and also keep your head cooler as they’re not trapping in heat radiating out of your head. Whatever you choose go for quality over price. You want headphones you can rely on.
When you’re not wearing headphones I would recommend wearing some in-ear defenders or ear plugs. They’re cheap and discreet, reducing volumes without reducing sound quality. Great for any gig in fact. Trust me your ears will thank you for looking after them. Prolonged high volume environments are not good for your ears.
You’ll need to be professional and sociable
While it’s great to be at a party, remember you’re part of the team making the party possible. So you must remain professional, sober, alert and ready for anything. This means being prepared for things going wrong, power outages, equipment failures and most likely drunken guests or curious children.
There’s no “winging it” for mobile DJs. You must be ready with the following key points
- Know your equipment inside out, so you can rescue any situation your tech throws at you
- Make yourself familiar with the venue’s staff. You are temporarily one of them for the evening
- Know the emergency procedure for the venue. In a moment of crisis you are the person with the ability to control the crowd and guide them to the nearest emergency exit
- Be ready for whatever requests the client or their guests throw at you. Their’s quite often speeches, favourite songs, cake cutting, family traditions and all sorts of other curve-balls a client can throw at you last minute
You’ll need to be good and talking with a microphone
While people generally don’t expect you to be radio DJ quality, they do expect you to be able to talk clearly and confidently between songs. This can differ from gig to gig but if this is something you’re not entirely comfortable then you need to practice.
This is easy as plugging in your mic in your home studio and talking over a few records. Try announcing the name of the song and the artist. Make up a few “shout outs” to pretend guests. You could be asked to say anything over the mic, from announcing a special event (like cutting the cake at a wedding). Or a hotel manager asking you to read out the registration plate of a car that’s badly parked.
I highly recommend you have a radio mic that others can use too. This is perfect for that best man’s speech or a special announcement and also handy in an emergency as well. Definitely more versatile than a wired mic.
You’re willing to put in the hours of preparation before gigs
While not every gig requires meticulous preparation before you arrive, you’ll find that each gig has its own little quirks that you need to prepare for.
Whether its putting together a playlist based on the client’s requests, or its importing the latest tracks in to your DJ software. Changing bulbs in your disco lights, fixing or replacing cables, testing DJ hardware or backing up your laptop and music library.
There’s plenty to think about and prepare before any mobile DJ gig, so you need to make sure you can devote the time to these jobs as much as you can devote your weekends to them too.
It’s very important to understand the various implications of running a mobile disco business. While its fairly easy to buy the equipment and get started there are a number of legal aspects you need to cover first. Without these you could be breaking the law or find yourself in serious financial trouble should anything happen to a guest at one of your bookings.
Insurance for mobile discos
There are two types of insurance you’ll need and these are pretty standard for any business that involves both hardware and puts you in touch with the public.
Your equipment is crucial to your business. Should any of it fail, get stolen, lost or damaged it can drastically affect your future business. You could miss bookings that had been planned month in advance, lose repeat business from regular customers and find your entire mobile DJ career comes to a grinding halt.
But don’t worry there are some great companies that actually specialise in professional music gear insurance. Its important to go with a company like this rather than a big insurance company because a specialist will know more about your industry and its needs.
For instance if your equipment is damaged during a gig by a fire or maybe just a drunken guest, you may have another booking the following weekend that your client is counting on you to appear at.
You need new equipment and fast, a quick turnaround and an understanding of your business needs can be crucial to get you back up and running. Check out Insure 4 music as a great example of specialist insurance.
I can’t state enough how important i is that you get liability insurance and I’m surprised how many people still cut this corner. You can land yourself in serious trouble both legally and financially if you don’t have liability insurance. In fact some clients and venues wont book you unless you have it.
Your equipment is heavy, often hanging above people’s heads and is also electrical. You need to take plenty of safety precautions to make sure your gear will stay where it should be. But there’s always unforeseen circumstances (thats why they’re called that!).
It only takes one drunken idiot falling over your gear, or even a fight breaking out too close to your setup (I’ve seen that happen) and before you know it people are attempting to blame you and your equipment for their injuries.
Not only that but your equipment is highly technical, involving plenty of cables and expertise to set up, being used in often dark and loud environments. Mis-use by guests or mis-communication during operation can cause accidents. Its never a nice thing but its very important you cover yourself against any possible outcomes.
The cost depends on the level of liability, generally around 2-5 million. You can get 1 million coverage but its not worth the risk. Again go with a reputable specialist, they can often include it in your insurance package. Its also worth checking with local venues to see what their requirements are. You may find some wont work with companies that have less than £2 million liability coverage. All it takes is a few phone calls
Licences and Permits
You may not know this but ANY business that uses music needs to pay royalties to any artist they play. This includes bars, coffee shops, even hair dressers and clothing stores. If music is part of your business you have a legal obligation to pay for any copyrighted music you play.
This is pretty much standard for any country you’re living or working in so you need to do your homework and get your licence before you take any bookings. Venues often have this licence but depending on the type of venue they may not, Often because they expect the music provider to have it.
In the UK the licence is called PRS and PPL which recently merged. You can find more about it at pplprs.co.uk. If the venue you’re playing at does not have this licence then you are required to provide it. In most cases a venue (like a hotel wedding venue or nightclub) will have it but its best to check, You can usually find this out on their website or a quick call.
Regardless of this there is another licence you will need in the UK which is called the “ProDub” licence. This allows you to use copyrighted music for professional purposes.
It was originally created to allow professionals to copy music from media like CDs to their laptops for DJing purposes, but it now covers more professional use as you’ll know doubt be ripping CDs and transferring downloads of songs from various media and backup drives. So the ProDub licence is something you need to look in to. Check out more on the ProDub licence here.
Other legal matters
Whether or not you think these licences and insurance apply to you, it is your legal duty to research and apply for those that do. Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to the legalities of your business.
Many venues and sometimes clients will require the company they work with to have a full risk assessment for the equipment they’re operating. This can sound both dull and over-whelming but its actually fairly straight-forward.
Thankfully some DJs have put their risk assessments online for all to see so you can take a look and follow their template. Here’s a really detailed one covering both venue and DJ equipment. Here’s another fairly simple DJ risk assessment covering just DJ equipment.
P.A.T. (Portable Appliance Testing)
Any business using electrical appliances needs to have all the devices PAT tested. Some insurance, liability and otherwise requires it and indeed some venues will require you to have it too. A local PAT certified electrician can usually conduct a test for you and this only needs to be done every 2 years or so.
To make sure your equipment always passes you should look after it, buy rugged long lasting cables and equipment. Keep your equipment in strong and well padded cases.
Unlike a home studio sound system or even that of a nightclub, a mobile disco sound system has very different requirements. Here’s the most important ones to think about.
The space you need to fill with sound can range massively. From a small bar private room, up to a large purpose built venue or hotel function hall. So picking a sound system that cope with this range is important. There’s no point having a highly portable audio setup if you’re struggling to get enough volume to fill the space, driving the speakers too hard and eventually breaking them.
I recommend you get a sound system that can more than handle the biggest of venues you could be playing. Generally that could be something like a 500 – 1000 person venue like a hotel function room. Generally that capacity is for seating so you can imagine how large a venue may be when 500 people are seated.
As a general rule I would multiply the capacity size by 2.5 to give you more than enough audio for the venue you’re playing in. So a 500 capacity venue can easily be handled by a loudspeaker capable of around 1,250 watts.
You may find that for smaller gigs its worth taking a smaller sound system if you have one. Mostly because smaller venues usually mean you have less room to set up your equipment. Again its all about being prepared for the venue you’re asking to play in.
Sound quality at all volumes
This is one of the key areas for me as an audiophile. There’s nothing worse than hearing an inadequate sound system being driven to the maximum just to give the required volume. Or a cheap but loud system that suffers greatly at lower volumes.
I’ve heard all sorts over the years and it surprises me as there are some really great sound system solutions out there.
The old saying “you get what you pay for” is certainly true here. Your clients are paying you to play music so they expect to hear it loud and clear. Don’t disappoint them by cutting corners with your setup.
I’ve always been a big fan of JBL speakers. for the exceptional sound quality at any level. Their current active loudspeakers like the PRX815 are quite amazing. Not only as they have more than enough power output to fill any venue, they also have built in wifi-enabled technology that allows you to walk around your venue, adjusting the sound and frequency equalisers via a tablet or mobile. An ingenious way of sound checking before the gig starts. For something a little cheaper check out the JBL ES Series eon610 which boasts 500 watts and bluetooth connectivity as a bonus. Remember you’ll need two speakers too.
It will be you who’s carrying these speakers to and from your vehicle on a regular basis. Even if you have an assistant you’ll want to make sure you can lift them by yourself without damaging your back. I highly recommend you by speakers for your mobile disco setup that have handles. Many do but make sure yours do before purchasing. They are usually heavy and awkward to carry if they don’t have handles.
I also recommend getting speakers that can be mounted on tripods. This is important especially at larger venues to project the sound over the full space, rather than it being absorbed by the people dancing closes to your setup. Subwoofers can be located on the floor but you’ll want to lift up high the mid and high frequency speakers.
While bigger is often better you need to think about how they will fit in to your vehicle too. More on vehicles later, but keep in mind that they will spend a lot of time being loaded and unloaded from your vehicle along with all your other DJ gear.
Ease of setup
Time is often of the essence, for some reason clients and venues never give mobile DJs enjoy time to setup and sound check. So having a sound system that is easy to set up quickly is vitally important. Many speakers are “active” these days, meaning they contain the amplifier within them, rather than being driven from an external amplifier.
This means one less piece of equipment to carry around with you but does mean 2 power outlets are needed wherever you place the speakers.
Make sure you have ample power cables and long high quality durable audio cables that can reach the rest of your DJ gear.
The quicker you can set up and sound check, the more time you’ll have to feel fully prepared for the gig, and the more professional you will appear too.
A word of warning on cheap sound systems
There are lots of “disco speakers” flooding the market these days that claim they are high quality and loud (500+ watts) for very low prices. As I mentioned earlier you really do get what you pay for, so if you’re serious about this business, stay well away from these.
They are not built to high standards, with cheap cases that will not provide good sound quality. I guarantee within a few gigs you’ll notice case damage and within a year will be wishing you’d invested more wisely in a professional sound system.
They also do not offer the total watts they claim to.
Speakers don’t just produce power but also movement and heat. Inefficient loudspeakers will produce more movement and heat, wasting some of your watts. Only high quality speakers will have a high efficiency, producing more volume with less movement and thus generating less heat.
Generally cheaper speakers offer a narrower focus of sound, pushing everything they can give in one direction. Fine if you’re stood right in front of them but not much good for filling a venue with sound.
Be professional, buy professional quality equipment. Its a simple motto!
Watts vs Volume
If you have 2 x 500 watt speakers you’re not doubling the volume output. In fact you’re adding around 3 decibels of volume over using 1 single speaker, assuming your 2 speakers are the same type.
So a 1000 watt sound-system wont be twice as loud as a 500 watt sound-system. It will likely be more capable of handling louder volumes with better efficiency and sound quality. This is why filling larger venues with sound is done with multiple speakers, offering better sound driver efficiency and pushing the sound in to the right places.
This is where the fun really starts and the exactly what equipment you want is part creative flair, part versatility for all sorts of gigs. There’s so much choice these days and at increasingly affordable prices. There are some key things to think about here before you go jumping in and buying lighting gear. Be sure to have these in mind before you click “buy”.
- Will it be robust enough to set up and take down multiple times every weekend?
- Will it be bright or colourful enough to fill the venue?
- Does it offer an enhancing effect or is it likely to annoy the guests (think endlessly spinning dots or strobing effects)
- Does it match the brand image you’ve created?
- Does it compliment the other lighting gear you have?
- Is it controllable? Easy to switch on and offer, change effects and chain to other equipment?
You’ll often find equipment that ticks all of these boxes wont be the cheap stuff. But it will offer you so much more for your money so its worth investing.
So where do you start?
Light projection / Scans
This is always a good place to start, even if you’re on a tight budget. Whatever size of venue its important to make an impact and throw as much colour out as you can. You can fill the ceiling and walls with light and colour quite easily and this really helps set the mood for the party you’ve been asked to play at.
These light projectors are often called “scans” or “moving heads” and are often controllable which is very important. Scans are focus light sources that can be moved around around by bouncing the light off a mirror that is controllable on both X and Y axis.
Moving heads don’t have a mirror and are instead controlled by motors moving the entire light source on X and Y axis. While scans are arguably more portable they’re also more fragile, moving heads tend to be more robust and aesthetically more exciting.
[row][column total=2]Here’s a typical scan projector
[/column][column total=2]Here’s a typical moving head projector
Both can be a powerful tool for filling a room with light and complimenting the decorations if its a wedding, birthday or themed party.
Scans are generally easier to hang from a bar. Moving heads are better either on the floor if you’re on a stage or on their on plinths. In both cases you’ll want to own multiple units rather than just one. I’d say a minimum of 4 to really fill a room with colour and create some great party effects. For this reason its usually easier to get multiple scans which you can add to one rig, compared to getting multiple moving heads that require a plinth each.
I highly recommend you buy controllable scans or moving heads that can be chained together. Cheap alternatives that aren’t controllable will soon become an annoying burden both for you and possibly your client. They tend to jump around to the music and switch in to strobe mode without any control. Not a very professional look.
DMX control is the best method of controlling multiple scans and moving heads. You can chain them together and, depending on your controller, set colours, patterns, directions, speed of movement, brightness, groups and more.
I recommend you invest in scans or moving heads more than any other lighting equipment for your mobile disco business because you can create a very versatile display that will make your setup look very professional. Cheap disco lights or cheap scans wont be bright enough or professional enough. So don’t get sucked in by cheap prices. Here’s a few lighting scans and moving heads I would recommend checking out
- Mini moving head 50 watt LED
- Super bright 60W LED moving head with gobos
- A Stage Light moving head without gobos
- I love this beast containing 8 scans in one unit (very portable)
- Here’s a triple headed scan worth considering too
Another visually impressive disco light are lasers. These have become much more powerful and much cheaper in recent years so are well worth considering. They pack an incredible punch for their size and weight. They are now very portable, usually well built and and produce all sorts of colours and patterns to wow the crowd.
You can cover a wide area with a laser too although this is pinpoint light rather than a flood of colour so you’ll still want something like scans or moving heads to fill the room.
Lasers also don’t really have much impact unless coupled with a smoke machine also known as a fogger or mist machine. More on that in a moment.
One thing to think about with lasers which is very important. You must keep the beams away from people’s eyes as this can cause irreparable damage. Keep the laser display above people’s heads or constantly moving. Its pretty easy to do this but you must keep this in mind when working with high power laser beams of any sort.
Next up is LED lighting which has become very popular in recent years. Prices are tumbling and quality is improving.
Look out for lighting effects like moving head par cans, DMX controllable light bars and carousel effects that contain multiple mirrors to scatter patterns around the room. Again the most professional lighting isn’t the cheapest but is well worth the money. Remember you’ll be installing and de-installing these lights a lot so they need to take a hit or two.
DMX control is a worthwhile feature too as it means you can create entire scenes for your lighting setup which would include your scans, moving heads, LED lights, even lasers.
All these projection style lighting effects need somewhere to hang from or sit on so lighting rigs are an important part of your DJ setup.
I recommend you space out your equipment evenly and where possible try to balance out the weight of the equipment too. This will make the entire setup more stable and quash any potential wobble.
You can also use something like sandbags to shift the centre of gravity as low as possible which will reduce any chance of your equipment toppling over is someone happens to bash in to it. Definitely something to be aware of.
For moving heads I recommend you get a set of plinths like these which are highly portable and look great. They’ll make your moving heads have much more impact and look very professional too.
Smoke machines and foggers
Most of the lighting effects above will have much more impact with the addition of a smoke machine, also called a fogger or mist machine. These use an alcohol solution, boiled and then sprayed out through a fine jet nozzle.
They generally have interval timers built in to them so you can set how often they spray smoke in to the room. They also come with a button to manually spray whenever you want.
Again the more you spend the better reach and quality of smoke you will get. Usually the more expensive units also heat up quicker and are ready to within a minute or so of switching on. I’d recommend having two smoke machines if possible, pointing in opposite directions to get the best spread, but if only one is possible then be sure to hang it from your lighting rig so its next to the lights that will benefit the most.
Here’s a smoke machine worth looking at, reasonably priced and high power.
Consider a haze machine for longer term smoke effects that last the evening. Much more impressive than a smoke machine.
You’ll also need to have a healthy supply of alcohol solution ready for each gig. You can buy in bulk and keep the bottle in the machine topped up.
As you might expect smoke machine scan set off smoke alarms, depending on the type of smoke alarm installed in the venue. So always notify the manager of the venue before using a smoke machine. They may be able to isolate the nearest smoke detectors to your mobile disco setup, avoiding any embarrassing evacuations!
Now its time to think about what DJ decks, controllers and mixers you will need to complete you mobile disco setup. There’s so much to choose from here but there are a few questions to ask that are specific to mobile DJs.
- How portable is the equipment?
- How robust is the build quality?
- How versatile is the equipment?
- How quickly can you set it up and ready to play?
Once your business takes off you’ll be setting up and dismantling your disco setup on a regular basis, so a quick and easy setup can make all the difference here. Buy too cheap and the build quality wont last the constant use and movement. Too complex a setup and it’ll take you longer to install. Too simple a setup and you may find yourself unable to cope in a DJ emergency.
Your budget will no doubt play a part too but I urge you not to overspend on your sound and lights and then underspend on your DJ gear. Being professional, flexible and ready for any situation will win you more clients than anything else.
An integrated DJ solution
I highly recommend you ignore the idea of separate decks and mixer and go for something integrated. This gives you the power and versatility you need but in one easy to install unit.
Two great examples of this are the Pioneer DDJ controller which is great for use with Pioneer’s RecordBox app and Serato too. Or my personal favourite the Traktor Kontrol S8 which includes some of Traktor’s exclusive features.
Both of these are high grade professional units that have all the most important buttons and controls right there in front of you.
They have mixers and pro quality sound cards built in, along with 2 decks, loop and sample modes, effects and mic inputs. So pretty much everything you need all in one place.
You will need a laptop to store your music library and run the DJ software on, connecting the DJ controller via USB to your computer and phono output to your sound system.
If you’re on a tighter budget its worth looking at some older models like the Pioneer DDJ-SB2 and the Denon DJ MC4000 both of which have decent build quality and enough features for a mobile disco environment.
You can of course use any DJ setup you want but the fact is the more pieces of hardware you have the more points there at which something can go wrong. Whether its a cable breaking, a device burning out or something getting damaged during setup, you can avoid all these problems if everything is built in to one unit.
They are also cost effective too. Having all these features in different units usually adds up to more than an integrated solution so you’re getting more bang for your buck.
Most importantly they do what they do really well. Big clear buttons for key features you’ll be using constantly. The Traktor Kontrol S8 especially has high definition screens built right in and some advanced features like Native Instrument’s “Stems” audio format and easy library browsing and looping.
Personally I think jog wheels aren’t necessary for mobile disco DJs as mixing and beat-matching with absolute precision is often less important than quick browsing and fast cue-ing of tracks.
Integrated controllers give you just the right amount of buttons and controls, all in one unit so less cables needed, less power sources needed and quicker more robust setup.
Avoid budget DJ controllers
While you may see lots of cheap DJ controllers there are plenty of reasons to avoid them.
Firstly a lot of them do not include sound cards so you’ll need to purchase any extra external sound card device which adds complexity and cost to your setup.
The build quality is usually sub-standard, I’ve seen plenty of reviews that mention jog wheels that stop working, faders that cause crackles and buzzing noises over your audio, buttons that stop working after just 6 months of use.
All of these things are a nightmare if you’re trying to run a professional and reliable business. You want something that is long lasting, highly capable and built with professionals in mind.
Almost all controllers require a laptop to work and store your music library on, so again you need something powerful and robust. For this reason I always recommend Apple’s Macbook Pro laptops as their solid build quality and powerful processor means its more than capable of handling Serato, Traktor or any other DJ software you plan to use.
It will run just as well on a Macbook and plenty of Windows laptops too but you’ll notice most DJs opt for Apple laptops because of their superior build quality. Again you want hardware you can rely on so avoid any plastic cased computers and avoid Windows operating system if your budget allows.
A word of warning: Avoid any laptops powered by AMD processors as you’ll often find DJ software will not play nicely with them. This isn’t true for all AMD laptops but I’ve read many reports of DJs having problems with AMD powered laptops. So stick to laptops you know are powered by Intel CPUs.
DJ software like Traktor, Serato and RekordBox are usually included with the hardware or are a free download. You just need to install and connect your DJ controller to your laptop.
It is entirely possible to DJ using only a laptop and I’ve written an entire article on the subject. So if you really want to save space and money it is possible. Its definitely not the easiest way to control your music but it does remove more points of failure in your mobile disco DJ setup.
Personally I’d go with the Kontrol S8 hardware, its powerful, robust and has some of the best features available in the industry right now.
So you’ve invested in your hardware, you’re ready to DJ but now you need to get gigs to really kick start your new mobile disco business. So where to start?
Let’s face it everyone goes online to find services like mobile DJs near them. A quick search on Google for “mobile disco” will bring up results near you so this is where you should concentrate most of your efforts.
Firstly you should get your business listed on Google via google.com/business its entirely free and you can upload images of your DJ setup, your logo, contact details and availability too.
You’ll need a website too but I’d advise just keeping it simple to start with. Get a domain name with your brand name and keywords in it, so something like Xmobiledisco.com and set up a simple one page website that has photos of your setup, clear information on what you’re offering, what kind of parties you cater for, what area you serve, all your contact details and also any social channels you use.
I would recommend using Instagram and taking photos at every gig you do. Be sure to get permission from your client first. Don’t expect many followers but at least it is an easy way to showcase your experience. Try altering the layout of your DJ lighting, sound system and rigs at some gigs so your photos don’t all look the same. People like to see versatility.
Search for business directories that include mobile discos, submit your website and contact details. Most are free but if there are a few that seem to be active and can prove they get traffic then by all means pay a little to be added.
I highly recommend you contact wedding directories and get yourself on their listings. If they offer things like interviews for their blog then definitely get involved. Offer to link back to these sites on yours and share them on social media. Being generous to others online often gets you something in reward so its worth putting the effort in.
Other sites to think about are yell.com but this will have less impact that a simple Google search. So its better to invest your time there.
Make sure each customer leaves a review of your business on Google. You can incentivise them by offering a discount on future bookings if they do. Maybe “15% off your next booking when you submit a Google review”. You can send them details via email after the gig. For more information on leaving Google reviews read this.
While this has less impact these days its still worth considering. If there are local advertiser magazines, local noticeboards and other venues that will accept print advertising it may be beneficial. Generally you’ll see less return on investment with this method but it can win you some clients who don’t use the internet for their business searches.
The one big benefit here is that your competition are less likely to be here so its easier to get noticed. With online marketing you’re competing in the same space as many others, especially if you live in a city.
So targeting particular venues and local community publishers will get your brand away from the noise and possibly in front of a different audience.
Your DJ software of choice no doubt has a music library system in it and you’ve imported all your music there. But that’s just the start of organising your collection.
Creating playlists for different parts of the evening will make your life so much easier and save you a lot of time and energy during your gig
Here’s some handy pointers to get you set up.
Create general playlists for any gig
These are a great thing to have so that whatever gig you play you have a collection ready to go for each part of the evening. Its best to have playlists in the following categories
Start of the evening – Songs that are relaxed and recognisable, getting people in the mood for the night ahead
Dinnertime playlist – If its a wedding reception or corporate gig they often want background music while they eat. Pick easy listening tracks, instrumentals and nothing too in-your-face.
Floor fillers – Songs you know are absolute anthems everyone will recognise. Generally these are high-energy “classics” that people know the words to.
Trending tunes – This is a collection of the latest songs usually from the charts or songs you know go down well at the gigs you’ve played so far.
Romantic songs – Perfect for changing the tempo or for weddings after the “first dance” of the bride and groom. Also often used at the end of the night to wind things down.
Regularly requested songs – Any song you regularly get asked for. There’s some overlap here with floor fillers and trending, still its a good playlist to have is it gives you an indication of what people ask for at parties.
Other playlist ideas include
- Dance classics
- Indie classics
- Rock classics
- Pop classics
You’ll need to keep all of your playlists up to date, order the songs by release date so you have the latest tracks at the top of your list.
Create playlists for your booking
I highly recommend you have a conversation with your customer before the gig to find out what their favourite songs are, Its really easy to do by email and will give you an idea of the genres the customer will want to hear the most of. For example if they list a bunch of dance classics they’d like to hear you know its likely there are plenty of other dance classics you can pick out.
So make at least two booking playlists. Name and date them like this-
- Jessica Smith – 12/06/2018 – Requests
- Jessica Smith – 12/06/2018 – Suggested
Make sure you play all of the tracks in the “Requests” playlist and drop in almost all of the tracks you picked out for the “Suggested” playlist.
This technique will keep you organised, reduce your work load during the gig and will impress your client too.
Don’t throw away these playlists, you may get repeat bookings! Simply archive the playlist and use again in the future if the client books you once more. Be sure to update them with more requests and suggestions.
Here’s a few pointers to help your gigs go smoothly.
Always arrive early and be ready
Bad traffic is never an excuse to let down your customers down. Neither is any other reason for not turning up on time. Make sure you’re packed and ready to go well before the gig.
Arrive at the venue early and use the time to chat with the venue manager or other staff if they are there, or simply be patient and wait for your client to arrive. First impressions often count for a lot these days so being ready and waiting could win you more business in the future. Think of it as good marketing!
Stay sober, friendly and helpful
I’m always surprised how often DJs drink at their own gigs. While you may think you can handle your drink you’ll never be as sharp, responsible and professional as being sober and in full control.
Your client or the staff at the venue may be stressed, especially if they’re organising the party or are int he middle of multiple tasks at the venue. So always be friendly, offer help where you can.
Be an extra pair of hands if you have a few minute spare. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference this can make.
Be prepared for anything
You will at some point experience emergencies, unforeseen circumstances and challenges beyond what you may be expecting so it pays to be ready for anything.
You could find that there’s no electrical sockets where the client wants you to set up, so have an extra long extension lead or two ready to go.
Have a large supply of gaffer tape kept with all your cables. You’ll often need to tidy up your wiring and help avoid any possible trips or falls because of your setup.
Fuses will blow sooner or later, so have a ready supply. You’ll also want to have a decent toolkit with you to open equipment, change fuses and plugs, tighten lighting and tripod equipment and be ready for any technical problem that might arise.
Make sure you have backup gear ready to go if your kit fails. A backup laptop is a must and if your budget allows a backup DJ controller too. It might seem an expensive thing to carry around and not use but the day your equipment fails you’ll be so glad you were prepared. It can be the difference between fulfilling your professional obligation or failing miserably and never getting booked again.
Have plenty of power cables, audio cables and extension leads ready to go. You can never have too many, they have a tough life so keep an eye on their quality and replace if you’re not confident they will last.
Be prepared for your client to change the start time and end time, even change venue last minute. They may change their mind about the playlist or spring a whole new schedule on you last minute, whatever happens be sure to have a procedure to tackle all of these challenges.
Be confident, happy and excited
Lastly you are the face of your brand. The person that is expected to fill the party with, light, laughter and sound.
Everyone has their off days when they’re just not feeling great, but in this business people expect you to be confident on the mic and when talking to them. To be happy and excited for the client and the happy couple, or person the party is for.
Don’t let your client down just because you’re not in the mood. Let the happiness of the party lift your spirits!
Word of mouth
This is one of the most fruitful methods of getting more customers and its why you must remain professional, friendly and sober at all times when you’re interacting with your clients and their friends.
Do a good job and people will remember you, the mobile disco business sees one of the highest rates of repeat customer and word-of-mouth clients than almost any other industry. This is because a party and its facilitator are memorable moments in a person’s life. Also people that tend to go to parties also are likely to throw parties of their own.
- Make sure your brand is instantly recognisable
- Have your logo as part of your DJ setup either via a TV screen or a banner
- Get on the mic and drop your brand name in to the announcements
- Have business cards and leaflets ready and easily available
- Offer a 15% discount if a previous client’s name is mentioned with a new booking
- Contact your clients after the event as a courtesy, get feedback and offer a discount for repeat bookings
All of this can have a great impact and keep you in the minds of your customers and the patrons to their party. Word of mouth reviews are often the strongest way to gain new clients, especially on a local level.
I strongly recommend you become friends with the venue manager too, offer them a discount or commission for any bookings they can generate. Almost all good DJs play the same private venues in a local area so its a good chance to network with people that could bring in more gigs for you.
Arrive early, stay a little later, but don’t get in their way if they are busy.
Pick the right moment to chat, share your contact details or get the manager’s email address. You’ll be surprised how often this brings in new business.
Business cards and leaflets
Its wise to have a healthy stock of business cards and larger one page leaflets ready for any gig you do. There’s usually plenty of opportunities to hand these out and make sure your brand is in front of as many people as possible.
I highly recommend you invest in getting these professionally designed and printed. The cost for a few hundred is relatively low compared to the business that just a few of these could bring in.
The design and print quality will reflect the quality of your brand and services, especially as this is the one take-home item from the party that will remind them of how good you were.
Ask the client if its ok to hand these out at tables and or key points in the venue either during or after the gig. Often they wont mind but its their party so its best to ask permission first. Standard business cards are good for a portability by but its the one page leaflets that often have more impact. Partly because they’re bigger but also because they offer more space to be creative with a design that gives a more memorable impact.
Always offer incentives
Discounts go a long way to getting repeat customers and if you did a good professional job the first time there’s no reason why they wouldn’t book you again for their next party. Or your details are passed along to their friends and family. For this reason I recommend always running discounts and sales of one type or another.
In fact in the higher demand seasons like summer and Christmas I recommend doubling up on your promotional efforts with clear discounts and sales that your competitors aren’t running. You don’t need to drop your prices that much, you’re just using the incentive of a discount to boost your bookings.
Be sure to let your previous customers know that you have a new promotion, the best way is by email if you have that contact detail. It takes minimal effort and can reward you with a few extra gigs every year.
Time to start you new disco business
Hopefully you’ve found plenty of advice in the chapters above and feel confident you can now start your new business. We’ll be posting more articles on this subject so do bookmark this page and return whenever you need more insight in to the mobile disco DJ business.
Invest wisely in equipment you know will last, wont let you down and makes your gigs run smoothly.
Be professional at all times, think of it as part of your marketing efforts.
Make sure you have the time, the resources and the commitment to work at it long term. Its a fun and interesting business to be in, bringing happiness to many at every gig!