So you want to become a mobile DJ? It’s not just buying some decks and playing to huge crowds – you will need to know how to start a mobile DJ business.
In this article, we guide you through everything you need to consider when starting your DJ business, from why you want to do it to what you need to get started.
Why do you want to be a Mobile DJ?
Money – It can be well paid, a good hourly rate and per-gig amount once you’re established. Just remember everybody has to start somewhere – some people do their first gig or so for free, or at a reduced rate to get the experience.
You also have to consider how much you ‘need’ to make. Is it to replace your full or part-time job, or more of a paid hobby? Can you afford to wait until you can make it full-time?
Passion – If you have a passion for music and think you just wanna earn money for doing what you love, think about how this will be in reality. Think about what kind of music you will be expected to play for a 21st or 60th birthday party, a wedding, a christening.
Performing – Some people love the idea of being the DJ that stand in front of a huge crowd, shouting on the mic and thrusting their hands in the air. A mobile DJ is not quite like that. You might play to a room of 70 people in a village hall, half of whom don’t even dance how ever good you are. Whereas, club DJs are more likely to play to a larger, younger crowd, who are there to dance, to a certain genre.
Late Nights – Unless you plan to do children’s parties, the chances are you will be playing from 7pm until midnight, or thereabouts. I arrive at least an hour beforehand to set up, and am often there for 30-45 minutes afterwards packing down. Add the travel each way and you are doing a good 8+ hours on a Friday or Saturday night while your friends are out enjoying themselves.
Friends/Family – If you know someone who is a mobile DJ, ask them these questions, find out what it’s like. Better still, ask if you can join them at a gig or two to see for yourself before you commit. You could even get paid to be their roadie – help them carry their equipment, set up and pack down.
What equipment do you need to DJ?
This will be covered in another post in more detail, but there are so many different setups you could use, and I imagine no two setups are the exact same. Factors that affect this are budget, reliability, expected standard, personal preference, portability and setup time.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on your equipment, especially when you are starting out, but you can expect to pay anything from around £500 – £5000 ($700 – $7000) for a decent setup. I started with around £500, and bought most things from eBay and cheaper brands, and then upgraded the more gigs I did.
What you will probably need as a minimum;
- Playout – Turntables & Mixer, CDJs and Mixer or a DJ Controller
- Headphones – To preview, cue and mix music before playing it out live
- Speakers – Active pair – or – Passive pair and amplifier
- Lights – There are so many different options to list
- Stands – for your speakers and lights
- DJ Stand/Facade – Not 100% necessary but it looks more professional than using the venue’s wobbly table
The above list is not exhaustive by any means but a basic overview of what you will want to look into to get started.
>Read: Wedding DJ Equipment List<
What licences and insurances does a DJ need?
Again, we will go into full detail in a separate article, but there are a few things a DJ needs to have, and some which are not legal requirements but worth having, particularly for certain venues and venue types;
- Business Insurance – General Liability Insurance to protect your business against property damage, physical injury and legal costs
- Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) – for all your electric equipment, usually annually
- Public Liability Insurance (PLI) – to protect you and your business should your work cause an injury or damage to property
- Equipment Insurance – to cover any accidental damage to your equipment
- PRS (Performing Rights Society) Licence – This is usually a requirement of the venue to hold. Though you will want to make sure you play only legally obtained music. In the US it’s BMI or ASCAP, but it is the venue’s responsibility to obtain them.
- Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) – If you regularly work with children, for example, school discos and children’s parties, it might be worth getting a certificate by an approved authority to confirm you have no criminal convictions
- Car/Van Insurance – Do not assume you are covered by your regular vehicle insurance, as soon as your start your business you will need to upgrade or even change your insurance to cover you whilst travelling to and from gigs, and transporting your equipment
> Read: 5 Things That Should be in Your DJ Contract <
Where do DJs get their music from?
DJs, particularly mobile DJs will need a fairly extensive music library to cater for the various gigs and age groups they will be playing music to. But this could be expensive, right?
Well, in a word – ‘yes’. But there are some ways to keep the costs down.
> Where Do DJs Get Their Music? <
- Record shops – Whether new or used, you can find some great bargains to build your music library from a traditional music shop or online store. Look out for compilation albums, like ‘Best of the 80s’, ‘Best of 90s Dance’ and ‘Now 100’, for example.
- Apple/Amazon Music – There are many places to buy music online, either single tracks, full albums or compilations. They can vary in price so make sure you shop around.
- Record Pools – Probably the most used by working DJs are record pools, which are basically a subscription service. Usually, you pay a monthly fee, and the available music varies depending on the supplier. You can get the latest charts in various genres, or have access to a whole catalogue:
- DJ-Only Download Sites – There are a number of music download sites specifically for DJ use. Here you can find similar to what you would see in a record pool, but also albums full of music for a particular genre or occasion, such as 80s Night, Halloween, Wedding, etc. Some of these sites will provide radio-friendly, clean edits of tracks so you don’t have to worry about playing to families and children.
How to get DJ gigs
So you’ve got all your equipment, insurances and music, but how do you get bookings?
Here are some of my top tips to earn your first and future gigs:
- Practice, practice and practice some more
- Get an online profile – Social media, website, music streaming sites
- Record your mix and upload it online
- Get feedback and share it
- Do smaller and/or free gigs – Charity events, School Discos and promote yourself
- Get some Business Cards printed and always have some with you
- Ask local venues if they need a regular DJ for events.
> Read More: How to get DJ gigs <
How will you manage your clients?
I am sure you will want to start as you mean to go on, and be a professional business owner. So to make each booking run smoothly I recommend investing in some booking software.
It could be as simple as setting up Google Docs to share your T&Cs, send and receive booking contracts and more, or you could subscribe to a DJ booking service, that allows you to manage the whole process from enquiries, requests, booking contract, T&Cs to even managing your equipment inventory and cashflow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does it cost to start DJing?
The initial cost for a mobile DJ is in the equipment setup, which can be anything from $500 to $15,000.
You will need a playout system (Turntables & Mixer, CDJs or Controller), Laptop, Speakers, Lights, Headphones and Microphone as a minimum.
How do DJs start off?
To become a DJ there are a few things you should do. First, see if you like it by learning to mix using a friend’s equipment if possible. If you enjoy it buy some equipment – Turntables, CDJs or a DJ Controller. Practice lots! Record your mixes and upload your best ones online. Offer to play gigs for free or cheap until you get some credibility, then start taking bookings.
How do DJs get paid?
A DJ can make around $50 – $100 per hour (USD) on average for a 4-5 hour gig.
A mobile DJ will often take payment upfront from their client – a deposit on booking then full balance before the event.
If a DJ is working as an employee for a venue or booking agent, they will normally have to invoice after the event and then wait up to 30 days for payment into their bank account.
What equipment does a beginner DJ need?
A beginner DJ will need the following equipment;
- Turntables and Mixer or DJ Controller
- DJ Software
A mobile DJ will also need lighting and some kind of table of DJ stand for their playout system.
Where do DJs get their music?
Most DJs buy their music in digital format (MP3) either from a download or streaming service, such as;
- BPM Supreme
- DJ City
- Digital DJ Pool
- Promo Only
- Amazon and Apple Music
- Juno Music
We have covered quite a lot in this article on how to start a DJ business. It is not intended to scare you off, mobile djing can be very rewarding – financially and it can be very enjoyable. But, like any method of earning an income, you have to treat it like a proper business and have a business plan to make sure you have covered everything you might need.
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