Beware of “Ladder” DJ’s!

You want to have a fabulous wedding with all the bells and whistles. When you start adding up all the different costs for the cake, dress, banquet hall, music, photographer, limo, on and on, it can be come overwhelming to say the least. You might think that a good place to save money is with the music. Hiring a DJ will definitely be less expensive than a live band. Let’s not discuss the merits of band vs DJ in this  article but rather the cost of a DJ and the dreaded “Ladder” DJ.

ladderYou might ask, “What is a “Ladder” DJ. This is a term in our industry that describes a less that reputable DJ who will hire himself out very cheaply and then double or even triple book himself. Here’s how it works.

A Ladder DJ will typically take any job offered and at a very cheap price. He might agree to spin a wedding for as little as $350 or $450. Great deal eh? This guy typically is working out of his garage with cheap equipment, no office, no insurance and travels in a junk car. This guy will then hope that another job comes along where at this point he jacks up the price hoping to secure a better profit. When he finds a new customer at $500 or $600 he then may (or may not) inform customer one that he is unable to perform at their party and has to cancel. Even worse, he might find a substitute DJ who will work for $250 and send him out on customer one’s job and pocket the difference. This is commonly known in our industry as a screamer: when a bride is sent a vendor to their wedding that she did not hire.

Unfortunately, a substitute DJ may be even more unprofessional than Ladder DJ and come to your wedding with an iPod and some radio shack speakers that distort and make unusual buzzing sounds. As we go up the Ladder, it gets better!

Several months later, Ladder DJ finds himself a new opportunity. Customer #3 is desperate because her DJ cancelled her and she needs to hire someone quick. Not a problem for Ladder DJ. He charges her $1200 and puts substitute DJ on customer 2’s job. Ladder DJ is in luck because substitute DJ has a cousin who does raves at his frat parties and he would love to make an extra $200 spinning at customer one’s wedding. He just has to borrow a car and some better speakers because the boom box that he usually plays on probably won’t cut a wedding. The Ladder is now fully extended.

I can’t tell you how many times I have answered the phone and heard “how much is a DJ?” That’s like going calling a Mercedes dealer and asking him “how much is a car?” The music at your wedding is one of the most important elements and should not be chosen by price alone. There are many factors to consider. Ask a lot of questions before you book. A reputable DJ will have several packages to offer you.

For most weddings it is a good idea to hire a DJ and an MC. Weddings have a lot of announcing and coordinating with other vendors and it’s best to have one person dedicated to that task so that the DJ can concentrate on the music. A good MC will pronounce your bridal party’s names correctly, integrate well with your other vendors, and help your wedding run smoothly. A good MC will also be able to motivate your guests to dance and keep the party lively without being obnoxious.

Some DJ companies now offer live musicians and singers who sing and play along with background tracks. This is a great option for some one who does not have the budget for a full live band but wants the excitement of live entertainers.

Ask the potential DJ about their experience and definitely get references from past customers. Make sure that the DJ company carries liability insurance! Discuss the styles of music you like and make sure that they are open to custom song selections.

Most importantly, list the performers on your contract to ensure that who you hire will be attending your wedding.

Having great entertainment will help to make one of the most important days in your life a wonderful, everlasting memory. Don’t forget my favorite saying… Good entertainment isn’t cheap and cheap entertainment isn’t good! The only “Ladder” you should be thinking about on your wedding day is the one that leads to your loft in your honeymoon suite.