DJ Mineh Ishida

Selecting a West Coast Swing DJ

Photo: CarbonNYC - Creative Commons

When looking for a west coast swing DJ, you’ll want to understand their experience with events similar to yours. For example, a DJ experienced in events with 50-60 people will have a very different experience set than DJs who are experienced in playing for 200-400 people. Competition DJs have experience outside what social dance DJs have.

Personality is also a significant consideration. The DJ you select should fit in with you and your event attendees and be able to develop a rapport. They should also be someone you trust will go extra lengths to be courteous and friendly to event goers.

What to Ask and Expect from Your DJ
Asking a few important questions when interviewing DJs will not only help you make a well-informed decision, but manage your expectations and avoid any surprises during your west coast swing event.

  • Do you own your equipment or do you rent or borrow equipment for events? It is important to ask about the quality and condition of the DJ’s equipment to ensure it is a professional quality. Ask how the DJ will handle technical and equipment problems that may come up during the event. For example, if the DJ is using a laptop, does he have a back-up external drive or other audio source in case of technical difficulties? If you do not have equipment and need to rent it, ask your DJs if they offer equipment or if they have any recommendations.
  • What hours can you work? Can you work late nights? Will your DJ stay with the dancers until they are done, or will he/she want to call it a night at 3am? Does your DJ prefer to play an earlier or later shift?
  • How do you select the appropriate music for the event? A DJ with a well-organized and extensive west coast swing music library can really make your event a hit because he is able to quickly and easily handle almost any demographic grouping. If you have particular songs you know you want played, go over them in advance so the DJ has them prior to your event. Remember, it is not your responsibility to supply music to the DJ. Keep in mind though that you do not want to treat your DJ like an ipod playlist. Creating a playlist with a specified order in which to play the songs can often spell disaster for even the most experienced DJ. Instead provide the DJ with the styles and genres of music. A professional DJ will know what songs to play and when, and will have mastered the ability to feel out the crowd, keep your event flowing and get guests out on the dance floor.
  • What sets you apart from other DJs? The first step is to interview your potential DJs over the phone. Spend ten minutes learning about their experience and background and then provide them with a detailed overview of your event and your expectations.
  • What additional information can I provide to you so that I can obtain a quote for your services? 95% of the initial inquires a DJ receives ask about price. The appropriate time to ask the price question is once you have a good comprehension of what the prospective DJ can provide, including the type of equipment, the extent of their music library and their experience in west coast swing events similar to yours.
  • Does your DJ have draw in the area that your event is held?  Some DJs are nationally known.  Others are hometown heroes.  Getting a DJ with a following in the area of your event will help increase attendance.
  • How Savvy is your DJ with Social Media?  Will they help your promote your West Coast Swing Event online?  Many DJs have fan pages or websites where they can help promote your event.  Utilize this resource when selecting a DJ.  Typically better DJs will have a following that can be used for marketing.

Getting References
One of the best sources for finding recommendations for DJs is to ask other event directors or dance professionals. Often they experience a variety of DJs over time and get to know the best ones. When asking for references from past clients, ask for only those that have engaged the DJ’s services in the last year. Today most DJ services provide testimonials on their web sites and this provides a good measure of the character and professionalism of the DJ.

Signing the Contract
You should always get a signed contract and this applies to all your event vendors. A professional DJ will insist on providing a written quote detailing the services for your event followed up with a formalized contract. Some things to keep in mind before you sign the contract:

  • The contract must have the specific name of the DJ you are hiring and the agreed upon dates for the event.
  • Clearly spell out all charges and fees, including any extra equipment, technical assistance, travel, hotel or other services that you asked for. These charges should be itemized as part of the contract. Additional performance hours that may be added at a later date, such as providing music a pre-party should also be clearly defined.
  • Specify the attire to be worn by the DJ during your dance event.
  • Confirm the method and timing of payments, including terms and conditions for refundable and non-refundable deposits and final payments