Are You Worth Your Booking Rate?


By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”

A couple weeks ago, my esteemed chief scribe here at asked me to write on this question: “How do you know if you are worth your booking rate?” My first impulse was to flippantly reply, “Because I get it.” But even I knew that was a cop-out.

First off, since the economy went bust, my calendar isn’t anything like it once was. During the boom years of the ‘80s and ‘90s, referrals accounted for more than 75% of my incoming business. As the old saying goes, “Let your work speak for itself.” It still does, but I’m doing a lot less of it these days, so there’s a proportional drop in referrals. I’m also not commanding the kind of rates I once enjoyed, my competitors having dropped their rates across the board. The Metro Detroit area was the most brutally hit and, unlike most of the rest of the country, has yet to recover.

Still, my rates are in the upper percentile among my peers, so there’s the additional question of whether or not I have ever lost a job because somebody didn’t think that I provide good value. You seldom know why you lose a sale, or even IF you’ve lost one! So I pondered the question a bit more seriously.


We’ve heard it so often when reading marketing advice that I instantly thought of the “elevator pitch.” What could I say, concisely, that shows a prospect that I am, indeed, worth my booking rate? This question eliminates the most pragmatic business realities, since DJs cannot whip out a business plan right then and there, showing expenses, cashflow, marketing, per-prospect costs and so on. In short, the actual meat-and-potatoes that dictate our minimum possible costs in order to remain solvent are non-starters. Your clients don’t care. The question then becomes: what makes you worth your price tag?

Now you’ve got a suitable question for the elevator! What’s your answer? Mine would be something like this [click stopwatch}: I’m not worth my booking rate. Not even close. What I bring is worth so much MORE than what I charge! You’d have to pay many separate people a lot more money to handle everything you need! For instance, you could go price out rental sound systems. Next, you’ll need to hire a host. Call your local public speaker’s bureau, such as, and note the several thousands of dollars that professional speakers charge. But that’s not all. Even their best speakers don’t know anything about weddings. You’ll need an on-site coordinator. I handle all of these services and more, and have 35 years of personal experience that I bring to bear on your event [TIME!].


Okay, so that runs about 30 seconds, but is a fair answer to the question. I say “fair” because it is all true. It’s not marketing hype. As a full-time DJ, I’ve spent a lot of time, money and effort honing my craft; vocal training, public speaking, English and writing courses, seminars on mixing, programming, editing, recording, acoustics, show prep and rehearsal, lighting, transportation, casing and truck packing and on and on. I’ve attended DJ expos and workshops. I’ll bet you have, or will, also. Each one of these things adds value to your service, giving you more tools to better serve your clientele. That’s how I know I’m worth my booking rate. It is, however, not the only way.


I mentioned it so briefly that you might’ve missed it entirely: a business plan. With one, you can know the exact worth of your services far less anecdotally. A well-executed plan details finances, giving you a clear picture of profit, loss, needs, past trends and projected growth or decline. As the old saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Don’t fail to have one and you’ll have real data to help answer the question, “How do you know if you are worth your booking rate?”


  • Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

    He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

    Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

    To contact him, email You can grab Stu’s book at

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