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Hiring A Bar Mitzvah DJ: How To Do Better Than Eenie Meenie Minie Mo

Aug 17, 2007
The customer is (mostly) always right.

A client's input is fabulous. DJ's love to feed off of creative parents and perform to their expectations. But, there are times when parents should defer to the better judgment of the DJ, despite how they've envisioned the tenor of the party will unfold.

There's rarely a Motzi, Candlelighting or Hora at a friends-only party. It's just a basic, fun "record hop."

However, if the Bar or Bat Mitzvah is for adults as well as friends (as most are) occasionally parents feel that "It's my son's day. Work for his friends. Don't worry about our family. They'll enjoy watching."

Hey, it's your dime and, if you insisted, your disc jockey will do it. But if this were your position, he might stress that the chance of what he perceives to be a successful function is negligible. He would hate leaving a party thinking "I told you so." (But, by then, you would know it too!) Sure, the kids would have a great time. But for the adults, it would be like going to a restaurant with bad Musak. They'll have their meal, light their candle, see what direction the party is going, kiss you good-bye and scoot out of there. Why stay if the music remains unintelligible and unfamiliar?

I'm NOT inferring that a DJ should play Sinatra for four hours. But...every kid is familiar with "I Will Survive," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "The Twist," "Shout," "Respect" and "Stayin' Alive." I recently had girls request "My Boy Lollipop," "Build Me Up Buttercup" and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy!"

These tunes were all released long before this group was BORN. (Some, before their PARENTS were born!) But they know the tunes. They love the beat, dance, sing the lyrics and don't perceive them as "old folk's songs." So although your DJ must have a comprehensive, up-to-date music library including rap, hip-hop, rock or any current music trend, don't have him spin new tunes exclusively, playing strictly to the kids. They'll usually stay until the end of the party anyway, so the final hour presents itself as a better time to have music blend or trend mostly, or totally, to current.

What if you just can't decide? Ties aren't allowed. This is better than Eenie Meenie Minie Mo:

If it comes down to it, thirteen questions to ask (and answers to expect):

1. "Is my deposit refundable?"

No--deposits reserve date and time for you and you alone. Your DJ likely had to turn away other business to protect your date. Deposit range: 20-40%

2. "Do you charge more for climbing steps?"

Hopefully, it's a moot point. Every piece of DJ equipment is HEAVY. Here's our routine: out of the house, into the van, out of the van, into the hall, out of the hall, into the van, out of the van, into the house. DJs will do everything they can to keep the weight of each case to less than 50 pounds. Many would opt for doing an hour free rather than setting up and tearing down equipment. It's no picnic. And they loathe a second story banquet hall. If there's no elevator, he's not a happy camper.

Most DJs don't charge more, but you may see a contract that adds $3 per step, since the DJ will be unable to use his rolling cart and must make multiple trips on the staircase. Ugh!

3. "Do you have a web site?"

Every day DJs open sites. But many don't have one for the same reasons they haven't produced a video: a competent single-unit operator is able to fill his calendar without one. Remember, a good web designer doesn't equal a good DJ. If he has one, of course, browse. But don't judge him by it. Don't hire him because he has a great one. Don't ignore him if he doesn't!

A company that produces generic brochures for DJs also sells a matching generic web site! So the same web site "look" belongs to many DJs territorially, with their name plugged in. You aren't inquiring out-of-state and would never know this. There's nothing wrong with it, of course. It's just that it's the brochure company's creativity. Not your DJ's.

4. "Do I need to provide a table?"

Yes, and be sure it's sturdy, not a glass top or a card table. Generally a 6' or 8' or two 5' rectangular tables suffice. Ask your DJ what his arrangement requirements are (straight, L-shaped or one in front, one in back). Your hall should supply them.

5. "Will you provide an equally high caliber replacement in the event of an emergency?"

Yes. Period. (Even if you don't book through an agency, a pro knows to network.)

6. "Will you work an outdoor affair?"

Yes, with a caveat. He must be under a cover, not only to protect against inclement weather, but also to protect against sun damage to the equipment, which could be extensive during a summer luncheon. How far is the socket? Is there rain exposure there? Will the table be level on the grass? When the sun shifts, will he be exposed under the tent?

7. "Will you work overtime if requested?"

Yes, if no other job follows. Expect a prorated fee.

8. "Do you take breaks?"

No. Unless you'd like several minutes to address your guests, during the Motzi or surrounding the Candlelighting Ceremony, music at a DJ's performance should be non-stop.

9. "Do you carry property and liability coverage?"


10. "Can my child supply his own CD's if he wants something special played?"

It depends--remember those questionable lyrics! Some DJs say no, others don't care since they want you to be pleased. Chances are, they'll have his favorite songs in their repertoire, anyway. Some DJs utilize new formats (such as MP3) and can't play standard CD's, cassettes or vinyl on their equipment. A great DJ toy was introduced to the Mobile DJ industry a few years ago: laptop software holding thousands of songs in memory! All a DJ requires are speakers and a mic. Less for him to schlep! Find out in advance. (Be SURE he has backup in the event of a hard drive crash.)

11. "Would you allow my child to 'DJ?'"

Extroverted kids get a kick out of it. Ask the DJ if he'll teach your child how the POTS work and how to CUE a song using the headphones. Letting your child TALK UP THE POST of his favorite tune will be a highlight for him, so be sure the cameras are rolling. The DJ may chuckle and feel "cheap thrills," but kids eat this up. Don't overdo it. One song. Your child only, no friends. Otherwise the DJ will be inundated and might, rightly so, object. (NOTE: some DJs may grumble at this one, anyway.)

12. "Do you need my input?"

You bet! Your contribution is essential and ought to be welcomed. You should always have relaxed dialogs and feel at ease speaking with your DJ.

13. "If I put my backside in, then put my backside out, then put my backside in and then shake it all about, are you going to laugh at me?"

Not out loud.
About the Author
Joe Pachino has been a Radio & Mobile DJ in Baltimore since 1974 and authored "DJ's Secrets Revealed! How To Select (And Get The Most Out Of) Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah DJ" c 2001, 2007 EMI. It's loaded with constructive, organized and valuable tip$ for Parents. He's performed at well over 1000 Mitzvahs, so take advantage of his experience. (And experiences!) You'll find loads of info and goodies at http://djs-secrets.com/
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