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DJ & Master of Ceremonies Wedding DJs do much more than play music. Learn the latest trends in the trade and how you can be successful.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

DJ & Master of Ceremonies

Startup Costs:$10,000 to $30,000
Home Based:Can be operated from home
Part Time:Can be operated part-time
Franchises Available?No
Online Operation?No

Business Overview
What:Provide the couple with a DJ package that meets their needs. Lend services ranging from by-the-hour DJing to full-day packages with the DJ acting as master of ceremonies.
Advantages:Start part-time while learning the craft and gradually building your supply of equipment and music. It's a creative and challenging job, and can be home-based.
Challenges:Requires a lot of energy and split-second decision-making. Most DJs act as master of ceremonies for the event and some also provide wedding planning services. Learn both trades to become more competitive.

The Market
Clients are couples seeking a DJ and master of ceremonies for their wedding.

What You'll Need to Get Started
A large collection of legally acquired music, turntables or a couple of CD players, a power amplifier, two speakers, a microphone and cables. Business cards, website, calendar, phone, a van or vehicle large enough to transport equipment and a list of resources and contacts are also necessary.
To get attention:

  • Attract business through ads in your local Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of your local paper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Maintain a wedding blog and participate in popular wedding blog forums, such as Wedding Bee, Style Me Prettyand The Knot.
  • Establish a relationship with local wedding-oriented vendors--florists, bridal shops, photographers, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and venues.
  • Leave brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.

Q&A With DJ Jeremy Ganss spoke with industry professional Jeremy Ganss about how he started his successful wedding DJ business, Jeremy Ganss Productions. He offers tips on how best to provide music and be master of ceremonies on one of the most important days in a couple's life.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in starting a wedding DJ biz?The first thing I would recommend to someone who is seriously considering starting a DJ company is to spend some time thinking about what they can do to stand out among all the other DJ companies that are out there. Take some real time to consider all of the other talent. Think of both the good and bad about what is currently being offered. What is the market saturated with and what is it missing? When you mull over those questions, you will eventually figure out what you have that is unique to the community, what you can offer that no one else can. This will ultimately lead people to the realization of who they are, who they don't want to be, and what their basic business philosophy will be.

What kind of market research did you do when you first decided to start your own business?My first paying job as a DJ came in 1997 from Jamie Simpson, owner of Houserockers DJs. I started off working in a local college bar before gaining more responsibility with wedding receptions and eventually became the office manager. Thankfully, as the office manager I didn't have to do very much market research. It was pretty simple to figure out how many inquiries we received per month and also how many clients we had to turn away because all of our other DJs were booked for other events.

Do you think now is a good time to start up a wedding DJ business?I'm not sure that I would want to take responsibility for talking someone into starting his or her own DJ company at this moment. The market is being overrun by hobby DJs who are using their own hodgepodge collection of music to start doing wedding receptions. If you are serious about the craft and willing to spend time and money on getting better, then I would say go for it.

What services can DJs offer in this do-it-yourself world to remain cutting-edge and in business? How do you grapple with the challenge that many couples are opting for an iPod playlist instead of a DJ?A professional DJ does so much more than just play music. A major attribute of my job is to organize the order of events and facilitate the general flow of the evening. I meet with the client about one month before the reception date, where we spend some time finalizing the details of the event. I take the work we do that day and create a flowchart and timeline for the event that is e-mailed to the other wedding professionals that I will be working with for that particular event--the manager of the reception venue, the caterer, the photographer, the videographer, etc.

What kind of person does it take to do what you do? What kind of training and background are necessary?Much like any other profession, you must have a good attitude and an excellent work ethic if you expect to be a successful DJ. You have to understand that you are not the most important person in the room, and you are part of something that is bigger than yourself. This might be the 25th wedding that you have worked this year, but for the couple, it is the first.

You also have to be a person who loves people. You have to be able to look at the day as if it were your own sister's/brother's wedding and not just another paid gig. There are many other things you can do on your own to start the training process. For instance, I would recommend starting off by reading The Best Wedding Reception Everby Peter Merry. This book is an excellent tool to help you make every couple's wedding unique to them. Another must for anyone taking this business seriously would be Randy Bartlett's DVD "The 1% Solution."

Would you say it's common for those planning their own wedding to decide to start up a DJing business?My experience tells me that this is not common at all. The clients I work with typically appreciate the work that I do and the skills that I have. On the other hand, most people I have talked to that have tried to take control of their music and do the "iPod wedding" wish that they would have just spent the money to hire a professional. Again, when you try to reduce my role to "someone who just plays music," you are forgetting that you also now have to worry about the order of events, staying true to the timeline, the emcee work and, on top of all of that, trying to play music from your iPod that your guests will enjoy.

How much capital did it take for you to start your business?First and foremost, good and legal music is going to be your biggest investment. If this were a mile race, music would be crossing the finish line while things like equipment and advertising wouldn't have even started running. I have been collecting and purchasing music for more than 10 years, so I wouldn't even be able to guess how much I have spent on just this one area.

Other than music, you need to think about equipment and advertising. Remember that you can't fit all of your DJ equipment into the back of a Ford Focus, so you also will need some kind of transportation. I would say that a very conservative guess would be $10,000 to $15,000 to get started. That's depending on the grade of equipment you are buying, if you need storage or transportation, and several other variables.

What were your fees at first, and what are they now?When I started my business I charged a base rate of $950 for five hours. Now, just a few years later, I find myself getting well over $2,000 for the same five-hour package. How much a person charges ends up depending on his or her experience and level of commitment to both the client and his or her own company.

Do you recommend they offer a flexible package to accommodate a range of budgets?I personally don't offer different packages. I do a flat rate with absolutely no hidden fees. You don't want to ruin a future referral because you tried to charge someone a hidden $50 setup fee. I do lower my event rates during the "off season."

What are your closing words of advice to would-be wedding DJs?
This is not a regular job, and don't even think about getting involved with it unless you are prepared to commit. When you provide a service like this, you do not punch a time card and you do not call in sick. You are dealing with individuals who need to be able to trust you. You can have a lot of fun doing what I do. I can't even begin to tell you how much fun I have had over the years, becoming part of people's families for an evening, meeting new friends and assisting in memories that will live past me.

On the other hand, there is a level of professionalism that has to be there. If you skip out on an event, if you show up looking sloppy, if you generally don't care about the guests at the party--then you are doing the bride and groom a tremendous disservice. You are also doing the entire profession a disservice. You have to marry yourself to the idea of being a DJ, but also to being fresh and exciting. You have to show up to every reception with that same level of excitement as if it were your own party. Ultimately, you are responsible for the guests' enjoyment. It's a big deal, so don't screw it up.

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