Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:14 pm

Thanks, guys!

I think we've all had those nights when we couldn't BUY a break. Over the course of my DJ career, I've had just about everything that can go wrong happen at one time or another. That's why I'm such a nut about back-up. I drive a big fat van (actually a commercial cube truck) and I have two of everything. That way, if something dies on me, I can run out to the van and grab another. (And when it comes to cables, fuses and bulbs, I try to keep three or four spares on hand.)

I think people will forgive equipment failures (as long as they're not total show stoppers). Everyone has had something crap out on them, usually when they need it most. Hell, just about everyone has brought something home, brand new in the box, only to plug it in and have it not work. One of those things that can happen to anyone.

I try to make sure that, if something does go wrong, that it's not reflected in my performance. Not always easy (and sometimes downright impossible), but the idea is to not let it show.

Back when I was working clubs as well as weddings, I had a custom search engine made for my music database. If I showed up at my club gig and I was having an off night, either not feeling well or just not thinking straight for some reason, I could punch in some parameters, call up a list in order by BPM and could put together good sets anyway. I can't tell you how many times that pulled my fat out of the fire!

There's also the Todd Mitchem approach. Prepare for a failure, and incorporate it into your show. That can take some real artistry, but he sure makes it look pretty slick.

When talking about other DJs, keep in mind that I'm only talking about those in my area that I know. I can count on my fingers how many full-timers there are. The rest all have other jobs. There are times when I can't blame them. But really, there would still be nothing to "justify to the general public" because I would think it would be much harder to work a day job and run anything like a professional DJ service! Your time would be even more strapped, and you'd have to work harder in less time. I can truly respect guys who keep up their quality and service and work a day job! I don't know how they pull it off!

As for tips, I don't ask for 'em or expect them. In fact, one of the things I advertise is that I'm a professional, so no tipping is required. After all, you don't tip the other professionals in your life, do you? Your doctor? Your lawyer? No, tipping is something associated with low paying jobs, like waitressing, valet service and bellboys. I just charge what I need and happily accept applause as my tip. Still, every once in a while I get one anyway.

Lastly, one of the ways I get feedback from my clients is to send out an after-the-gig survay. I include it in my follow-up packet with an SASE. (I also include a thank you note, business cards and a fridge magnet, so they can refer me to all their friends!) The survey goes point-by-point, asking them what they liked and what they didn't. There's also a section for comments and suggestions.

Even when they love your show, they might sometimes notice something that you can improve. I've gotten some great ideas from the surveys! It's also easier for a client to critique you in a note than face to face. Good or bad, I want to hear it. (It helps to have a thick skin.) I'm often surprised by how different perceptions can be; there are nights when I thought I totally sucked and the clients were totally happy, and other nights where I thought I really shined, and the clients weren't all that impressed. It can sometimes be humbling, but always informative.

Thanks again for the kind words!
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby Jem-star » Sun Feb 13, 2005 5:38 pm

DJStuCrew wrote:Thanks, guys!

As for tips, I don't ask for 'em or expect them. In fact, one of the things I advertise is that I'm a professional, so no tipping is required. After all, you don't tip the other professionals in your life, do you? Your doctor? Your lawyer? No, tipping is something associated with low paying jobs, like waitressing, valet service and bellboys. I just charge what I need and happily accept applause as my tip. Still, every once in a while I get one anyway!
C.J.: I think we need to start another thread here...Sounds like an open can of worms to me.

DJStuCrew wrote:Lastly, one of the ways I get feedback from my clients is to send out an after-the-gig survey. I include it in my follow-up packet with an SASE. (I also include a thank you note, business cards and a fridge magnet, so they can refer me to all their friends!) The survey goes point-by-point, asking them what they liked and what they didn't. There's also a section for comments and suggestions.

Even when they love your show, they might sometimes notice something that you can improve. I've gotten some great ideas from the surveys! It's also easier for a client to critique you in a note than face to face. Good or bad, I want to hear it. (It helps to have a thick skin.) I'm often surprised by how different perceptions can be; there are nights when I thought I totally sucked and the clients were totally happy, and other nights where I thought I really shined, and the clients weren't all that impressed. It can sometimes be humbling, but always informative.

Thanks again for the kind words!
You're quite welcome!
All of my clients get a link to my DJ Intelligence Survey, and I get nothing but 'Excellent' comments across the board (99.9% respond). But what makes me paranoid (again, C.J.,) is after all of their 'checks' straight down upon the 'Excellent' line, when it comes time for their "Any Comments" block, I'm usually left with more to be desired when it comes to anything I can use for my web site...It's always positive, but it always seems to be mindless, uninspired short sentences, like: "Good job!" or "Excellent", or "Did everything he was told" or the usual "I will definately refer you to everyone!"
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:33 am

Jem-star wrote:All of my clients get a link to my DJ Intelligence Survey, and I get nothing but 'Excellent' comments across the board (99.9% respond). But what makes me paranoid (again, C.J.,) is after all of their 'checks' straight down upon the 'Excellent' line, when it comes time for their "Any Comments" block, I'm usually left with more to be desired when it comes to anything I can use for my web site...It's always positive, but it always seems to be mindless, uninspired short sentences, like: "Good job!" or "Excellent", or "Did everything he was told" or the usual "I will definately refer you to everyone!"


Yes, most of mine look like that, too. The thing to keep in mind is that your survey is much more important to you than it is to them! As long as they're happy, they won't be picking nits usually. THe REAL test comes from referrals. Ever do a particularly good show and your clients turn into cheerleaders? That is the best feedback possible! I've had clients who nearly became an advocate, and I ended up doing several parties for their family that, in one case, has stretched out over the past thirteen years!

BTW, if you're getting 99.9% return on your surveys, you're doing WAY better than average! I get about 60-70%, and I was told that THAT was good! (Of course, mine are mail-in.) Oh, and on a sidenote, even though I mentioned that I don't encourage tipping, the beauty of a mail-in survey is that cleints have often included a tip in the SASE. I've also received nice cards and testamonial letters.

One of the things I put on my survey that has yeilded some candid comments is the question, "What did you consider our biggest weakness?" Yes, it's like putting your head on the chopping block, but frank question like that provokes some frank responses. Recently it alerted me to something I would never have spotted. I use an assistant at each event. Once all the formalities are over and dancing is going on, he generally mans my request table. For him, this is the boring part of the night.

Well, I get a survey mentioning my helper -- it was kind of vague, saying something like, "Need better assistance." Well, one comment isn't usually something to get too alarmed by. Then I got another one, but this one mentioned that he looked sad all the time. I checked, and it was the same assistant for both. So I watched him during the night, and sure enough, he had an expression that looked like somebody shot his dog.

He's generally an upbeat, jolly guy, so I only had to mention this once and he's now conscious of his expression. But I never would've caught it without that feedback.

Bottom line; the old saying that "no news is good news" is usually correct, and I wouldn't sweat a lack of negative comments. You do, however, have to encourage honest, constructive criticism. People are usually reluctant to volunteer such information, especially if they like you and are generally happy with your performance.

P.S.

Let me know if you start the "tip" thread. Didn't mean to lob an idea grenade out there -- it's just my own policy. I don't dis guys who do things differently.
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby Jem-star » Mon Feb 14, 2005 3:16 pm

Stu,

I'd love to see you hop on a plane and get down to one of these cruise conventions coming up (You, TOO, C.J.)! Besides...you Michigan boys could probably use the tan!

I'd love to chew more of the fat with you!

Conversely, I wish I had it in my budget to get to one of the conventions up north, such as 'Viagra Falls', The 'Mid-Merican' and 'Philthadelphia'.

Unfortunately, my biz has to get rollin' a bit more, first...Need to get MORE of these over $1000 gigs!
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Postby CJ Greiner » Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:14 pm

Make sure you post here when you actually book for one of those conventions or cruises -- that way we'll all know about it and maybe even meet you there!
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:19 pm

Thanks again, guys! I've been meaning to do just that, but I either get a strange gig or don't have the extra bucks -- as with the Vegas show this month. Was there in '03 and it was a BLAST, but had a gig last year and I'm short of cash this one. I'm sure you can identify. :)

At any rate, I'm the most reachable person on the planet, and even have an 800 number, so no need to wait around for a convention! Always glad to talk with other pros.
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Postby Jem-star » Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:46 pm

CJ Greiner wrote:Make sure you post here when you actually book for one of those conventions or cruises -- that way we'll all know about it and maybe even meet you there!
Of course!
I've already put in my deposit for next year's WeDJ Cruise coming up in about a year from now. Just go to their DJ site for more info.
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby Michigan DJ » Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:39 pm

Jem-star wrote:Stu,

I'd love to see you hop on a plane and get down to one of these cruise conventions coming up (You, TOO, C.J.)! Besides...you Michigan boys could probably use the tan!

I'd love to chew more of the fat with you!


LOL Wifey is planning a "spring break" trip for us to Florida in May...I'd be glad to meet with any of you to chew on a little fat!
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby djjdinidaho » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:04 pm

I agree with most of this post. I dj in Idaho and we have a ton of bottom feeders in this market. Myself and a couple others are above the 1000.00 dollar range. My only draw back to being a high price DJ is this NOT EVERY DJ IN THIS BUSINESS IS WORTH OVER 1000.00
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby Jem-star » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:30 pm

My fear is that I'm not doing the things to be worth over $1000...In other words, because I feel the same way as you do, I don't ever want to be that guy you fear is not worth what I charge.

So far, no one is telling me I'm not in any fashion (including my post-event review forms)...I rarely get negative reviews...In fact I have tons of rave reviews (see my site)...So, you'd think I'd have more referral response than I have.

I'm hoping, after 7 years as a full-time single opp, I just need patience.
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Mon Jan 19, 2009 3:07 pm

Actually, at the current rate of inflation, the BASELINE price for a DJ should average around $1400.00. (You guys with business plans probably already know that. You guys in MI or in any place that has been gutted by the downward-spiraling economy also know that WE AIN'T GETTIN' IT!!!) So don't sweat what others think -- which, apparently, is good anyway. You are your harshest critic! Focus on your show and set your rates according to your needs, your business plan and what the market will bear.

P.S.

I'll be presenting my FIRST CONVENTION SEMINAR at the Mobile Beat show in Las Vegas on February 16th!!! Yes, that's incentive to come EARLY! Look for "Supplement Your DJ Income...WITH DJ INCOME!" in your program. Hope to see you there!!!
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby SteveCie » Tue Jan 20, 2009 11:01 am

You are absolutely correct Stu. The baseline for a DJ currently should be in the $ 1400 area. Many DJs have not crossed that magic $1000 threshold yet, because they simply are not getting the jobs they seek.

Well, even in this economy, you have to be profitable to remain in business. So you really need to get your proper compensation.

The true answer is not to work harder and drop your price matrix.
The answer is to work harder and raise your price matrix.

You will note that in my last two sentences, I state "work harder".
Indeed this is not an oxymoron.

Today's DJ has to upsell as much as possible. Lighting, favors, give-aways, dancers, ZAP Photos, Video. It isn't just music anymore!

Today's DJ Entertainer must sell the extras to the client, especially the client who calls seeking "just some music".
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Tue Jan 20, 2009 4:51 pm

In just about any other circumstance, I would agree with you, Steve. The trouble is, our economic times are NOT normal circumstances. Here's a ferrinstance:

Another DJ company in my area spent thousands of dollars just last year in up lighting. The idea is to offer an additional service in order to offset the lower pay from our crappy economy. (Don't forget -- things are much worse here in MI, and have been so for much longer than in other areas of the country.)

Yet less than a year later, another enterprising DJ who also dabbles in sound and lighting SALES managed to sell uplighting packages to most of the halls in the area! So DJ #1 didn't recoup their initial investment before DJ #2 moved in for the quick buck.

Yes, we should bring in more "value added" services, and obviously when competition becomes more intense, we're going to have to work BOTH harder AND smarter to get gigs. But there is one more thing to consider: the day job crowd.

Those of us running as a business see the figures we need to make to survive. Those who run as a hobby consider it "gravy." If you have a day job that pays your bills, secures your health care and funds your retirement, then you don't care if your profit margins are below par for your DJ business. Hell, and extra fifty bucks a week is considered a plus! And so it is: part-timers are lowballing their rates in order to keep their calendars full. This is having a "Wal-Mart" effect on the full-timers, because in the customer's eyes, why should they pay more for YOU when they can get the "same thing" for far less money?

I can't tell you how many companies here in MI have closed. There was once four and a half pages of Yellow Page ads for DJs back in 2000. In the last run, there was two and a half COLUMNS -- not even one full page! I interviewed a bunch of my colleagues here for an article in MB ("The Frill Is Gone") and was astonished by how many former full-time operators now had day jobs. (And how many "the number you have reached is no longer in service" announcements.)

I'm seriously beginning to think that ours is an industry in decline, akin to when Wells Fargo nearly collapsed when the first telegraph systems began operating. The Pony Express vanished overnight! Now the wedding client has a wide variety of choices; DJs with big credentials and embarassingly low wages; companies renting sound systems and actually encouraging people to use an iPod for their music; companies (including many DJs) offering jukebox system for a fraction of their regular price and on and on. Value added items are life preservers -- a temporary fix.

We also cannot be successful targeting the same market. I keep hearing calls to "set yourself as a high-end DJ" and target wealtheir clientele. That is good advice in ANY market in any economy! Yet now just about every DJ and their dog is targeting this group -- and OFFERING DISCOUNTS TO ATTRACT NEW CLIENTS!!!! In short, the bar is being lowered in the face of the most lucrative segment of consumers!

I still remain optimistic because people are still getting married and always will. We've done a good job over the past couple of decades of communicating our importance to the wedding / event planning public, and so demand hasn't evaporated completely. If / when our economy recovers, our industry may also recover. In the meantime, we must develop new coping strategies. It's either that or choose a new line of work. That's the brutal truth.
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby djmc » Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:15 pm

For me.....its not about getting over the 1k mark.

Its all about PROFITABILITY, baby!

Back in 2005 (when this thread started): I was spending about $1500 to $2000 annually on internet costs.

Fast forward to 2009: My entire spending for internet (including web hosting) is only $550 TOTAL.

I'm saving about $1000 per year on web advertising now!

My overhead is almost nothing: its about $30 per show (including dry cleaning, postage, music, office rental, insurance, and transportation costs)

Here in Sacramento, a local DJ multi-op (let's call him "Sunny") is spending $60,000 per year on advertising, including Bridal Fairs, YP, and Bridal Magazines.

Sure, he grosses over $300,000 per year......but when you factor in his OVERHEAD COSTS, he spends about 1/2 of his gross on expenses!

"Sunny" has basic rates starting at $1500.

Even though he is about $600 higher than my AVERAGE rate, who do you think is more PROFITABLE?
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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby rickdj » Mon Sep 27, 2010 10:06 pm

Hi CJ

I respect your remarks about all of the content...except the money back guarantee! I know you are putting $ where your mouth is...so to speak, but I had issues with this several years ago. I would do a bang up job at a gig and the customer would come back with "well..you didnt quite do this or that" and then want thier money back. How do you "give back" a wedding?? You don't!

I had one bride who was a real ^%&*& and she complained about everything...not only me (and I know I did everything right, including the photographer, bar, facility, etc.). I am sure non of them gave money back, and I wouldnt either. If they are dissatisfied, I might buy them a gift certificate at thier favorite restaurant with a dollar limit to make them feel good and apologize for that, but I would not return monies.

Just my thoughts, but value your input on this...I also note that these articles were writeen in 2004 and on. Now that we are in a recession, what do you use for the $1000.00 and up closer when everybody is Ipod shopping or looking for the "el cheapo" DJ"?

Your thoughts?

Thanks

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Re: Raising Your Rates Over the $1,000 Mark!

Postby DJStuCrew » Tue Sep 28, 2010 5:48 am

I know where you're coming from, Rick! I think we've all had that ONE client...

I remember one in particular who, after raving to my face and handing me a huge tip at the end of the night, contacted me a week later (after receiving my review packet) nitpicking everything I did, making up all kinds of imagined slights and asking for money back. I said, "Let me guess: you guys got back from your honeymoon, saw the stack of bills that were waiting for you, and after opening up all of your cards and finding less money than you thought, you're feeling overwhelmed." Busted, he admitted as much. Not a bad couple, just scared, young newlyweds who got a good look at how over their heads they went with their wedding.

The trick is to never make your guarantee UNCONDITIONAL. In short, specify exactly what you're guaranteeing. I focused on the biggest fears of most couples: not showing up; being late; being unprepared (as in not having the very few [20 or less] songs the couple feels are "vitally important"); wearing professional attire, etc. In short, you're only guaranteeing the things that you already do, yet have heard horror stories about from others. Then add the disclaimer: "the items listed herein are the complete and total scope of coverage of this guarantee" (or words to that effect). This makes it fair to you both.
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