People are always asking me what should I expect to get paid when I play at events. This can vary a lot, depending on the venue and the event, so in this video I will break down what I think is fair pay and what you can expect to be paid when playing at different types of events and parties.
If you are playing at a friends house party, chances are you may offer to play for free. However if you and the person running the party are not that close you could comfortably charge $300 and express to them that a lot goes into set up, pack down and song preparation. You could even offer , for a slightly higher fee, to arrange lighting which would really help bring a professional atmosphere to the event. Professional lighting packs can be hired for as little as $150 and would make the world of difference and if everyone has a good time, word would spread and you could get a lot more future business based on word of mouth alone.
if you are a mobile Dj doing weddings and private parties you could comfortably charge anywhere from $300 - $1000. I remember a friend of mine had her own events business and she charged $800 per event. When she couldn't do it personally she would take $300 to organise it and pay me the other $500 for 5 hours work. I think roughly $100 an hour is adequate unless you are adding extras like lighting and photo booths, in which case you create custom packages and hike up the prices.
I would say entry level DJs probably get paid $50 an hour. To get $100 an hour you would have had to earn a place on a team and have proven yourself to be great at reading the crowd and creating atmosphere. To get more than $100 an hour is going to come down to not only how much influence you have, but ultimately how big your fan base is. I remember once, their was an upcoming DJ that was starting to build a name for herself. I approached her to play and she wanted $200 for the hour. I thought to myself at $10 tickets I only needed 20 extra people thorough the door to break even and decided it was well worth the risk. On the night she played well, had good support and even networked with the crowd after her set. She went on to build epic success for herself and now gets paid approximately $25,000 per show. Now why does she get paid so much more now, than before, because she spent the last seven years not only working on her DJing but also building a recognisable brand and probably most importantly built her fan base monumentally. She can now potentially bring 1000 people plus and The venue thinks $50 tickets x 1000 people through the door, that's $50,000, $25,000 to the DJ and the venue also stand to clear $25,000, plus of course benefit from introducing new people to their event with the hope of developing repeat business.
If you want to get paid lots as a club DJ, you need to work on your fanbase, The bigger your fanbase the more you are worth to venues, as at the end of the day, it is a business and for a business to thrive it must constantly attract new people. If you can help the venues to introduce new people to their events the more attractive you become and in short the more people you can bring the more you can charge for your sets.
I personally feel if you are approaching venues for shows and they do not know you, you are at their mercy. But once you start building a name for yourself and venues or promoters are aware of you and start approaching you that's when you can start increasing your prices and make your shows more exclusive.
A lot of people ask, what if the venue doesn't pay me. So many people are sensitive about the topic of playing for free, but i think before agreeing to play for free or vice versa not agreeing to play for free, there are a few things to consider.
Firstly is someone profiting from the event. For instance if they are running a door and using you as the Dj and they are making lots of money, on the back of your efforts, then 100% you should get paid.
However if the event is free entry and they are giving all your friends free entry and the event is being run more for the sake building momentum or awareness around a party, then it can be seen more that you are part of a collective and personally I see no harm in playing for free, especially when you are a beginner and wish to build on your experience and gain contacts.
Sometimes promoters will suggest to pay you based on your performance or more accurately how many people you can get through the door. This means they treat you like a promoter and you get people to say your name at the door or hand in tickets with your name on them for discounted entry. you then get a cut per head. For instance, let's say the door is usually $20, and you have an arrangement where everyone who mentions your name at the door gets $5 off the usual entry fee. you may then get $5 per person that mentions your name and the venue gets the other $10. this means if you get 100 people through the door, you get paid $500, and if you bring no - one you get paid nothing. If you know you can pack the place paid by performance is a good way for you to put your money where your mouth is and you may even suggest this payment method to the promoter when booking you. However if you bring no one, the promoter protects himself and doesn't have an extra expense. Paid by performance is often adopted by clubs that may be struggling and want to keep their expenses down.
At the end of the day trust your intuition, if something doesn't feel right, I would express your concerns calmly to the person that booked you and chances are you can both come to an arrangement that pleases everyone.