DJ Faux Pas

By Dave Austin, “Music Professor”
 under dressed
It goes without saying that the DJ business is brutally competitive, and anything we can do to give ourselves an edge should become a part of our model.  Let’s spend a few minutes here to touch on some of the things DJs do that turn potential customer away.  Although these things should be obvious, there are many in our profession who overlook some or all of them.  By the way, these are not in any particular order of importance.

Being on time
– From the initial meeting with the client right on through the actual event, promptness is a major issue.  Although they don’t always reciprocate in kind, most people consider their time as valuable and do not appreciate being kept waiting.

Failure to communicate
– This likely causes more problems than any other single issue.  Don’t sit around waiting for the client to contact you once the event is booked.  You should take the initiative and make follow-up calls and/or visits.  Take their “pulse” and frequently check on progress or changes.  Show them you’re on top of things and that you care about them as a customer.  There should always be a clear understanding regarding such matters as pricing, time and length of event, and the many details in which will be involved.  Don’t assume, and don’t leave you client to assume either.  Talk things over; take notes and work to establish clear understandings.

Courtesy and respect
– This is something we all want in our dealings with others.  Your client does too. Such simple things as addressing people with proper titles (Mr. Jones, Mrs. Smith, Reverend Williams, etc.) is sometimes an issue with people, so unless you’re on more intimate terms with a person, use their titles.  You should always be on your best behavior and mind your manners.  “Thank you,” “please,” “you’re welcome” and such verbal niceties do not go unnoticed.  Don’t let your ego get in your way.  You may be the greatest DJ ever known to mankind, but a friendly, down-to-earth persona will take you much farther than a superior know-it-all attitude.

Your attire
– We live in an extremely casual age when it comes to our dress, but in business dealings, “dressing for success” is still the rule.  It may not be necessary to don a suit and tie, but a clean-cut profession appearance is still called for in the business world.  In my business, any meeting with a client requires a golf shirt with our logo, dress slacks, socks for men, and proper shoes for a neat “business-casual” appearance. (Flip-flops or sandals are absolutely not allowed.)
Before we leave this subject, let’s not overlook personal hygiene – for both our clothing and our person.  You may have worked up a sweat schlepping gear all afternoon, but when the curtain goes up, clean fresh clothes and a clean fresh you.
I’m aware there are those who consider this old fashioned or out of step with the times.  If I’m chilling by the pool, working in the shop or just hanging at my house, you’ll find me in one of my favorite tee shirts, grubby jeans and tennis shoes.  In fact, such is my preferred form of dress, but I also know that when I go out to meet with a potential client, I want them to know from square one they are dealing with a professional – and I dress to reflect that.
A formal wedding may dictate that you wear suit and tie while a pool party may call for a tropical shirt, shorts and sandals.  Whatever the occasion, a sloppy unkempt look is unlikely to win you any future clients.

Your language
– This is a category covers a wide range of issues, all concerning our speech.  First, and hopefully most obvious, is the use of curse words.  Even the mildest oath runs the risk offending someone, so simply, don’t do it.  Also, avoid jokes which may be off-color or inappropriate.  In this age of political correctness, some people can be offended by even a mild reference to a touchy subject.

Pronounce people’s names correctly
.  If you’re responsible for introductions and there are names you’re not familiar with, find out how they are pronounced and practice them until you have them down.  As a personal example, I had a wedding a couple of years ago at which the bride’s family and members of her wedding party were from Russia.  I spent two weeks before the wedding practicing pronouncing a dozen or so difficult names.  It was time well spent as I managed to get through the names at the wedding without a stumble.

Don’t switch DJs
on your client.  If the client hired you, they are expecting you to do their event.  Unless you receive the client’s approval, never send someone they haven’t met or don’t know to do your job.
Have you ever had an event at which a drunk, aggressive or annoying person attempted to engage you in a debate about the music or other matters?  On occasion, there may be someone who demands that you play their song now, play a particular kind of music or let them have the microphone, etc. Having a “neutralizing response” can often calm such situations.  Such replies as “Let me check and I’ll see if I can find that song for you.” or “I have several requests already, but I’ll put yours on the list.”  Another that works well when someone wants a song that inappropriate is, “I don’t have that song with me this evening but is there something else I can play for you?”  Basically, you’ll want to try to deflect the offending person and offer them an alternative when possible.  Doing so can often defuse a potentially confrontational situation.
Another way to lose respect in the eyes of the client is to bring your friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. to an event.  The customer hired YOU and not your pals.  One sure way to anger a client is to have a friend or two tagging along, enjoying the free drinks, raiding the food tables or (yes this really happens) hitting on the bridesmaids.
Another of those seemingly obvious mistakes is playing the wrong music.  Again, communication with your client can give you a heads up about the kinds of music you’ll want to play at their event.  However, the majority of the selections will be in your hands and playing music to fit the audience is crucial.  As an example, kickin’ country likely would not be appropriate at an upscale wedding reception but would be just right for a “barbecue ‘n’ beans” anniversary celebration.  It’s up to you to know the difference.

Understand this:
  Every single time you appear before a client, whether you realize it, or even whether the client realizes it, you are being judged, evaluated and rated.  In most cases, a potential client’s judgment or rating of you determines whether you or your competition gets the job.  It’s just good business to do things to “up your numbers” in the client’s estimation.


  • Dave Austin began his career at age 13 at a small, hometown radio station. He went on to graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. Since that time, Dave has been a mobile and radio DJ, radio station Program Director, and a TV news reporter and anchorman. He has also done voiceover work for documentaries and commercials. In 1986 Dave’s longtime passion for music prompted him to start “Southern Celebrations DJs,” a multi-system mobile entertainment company serving clients in Tennessee, Northern Georgia and Northern Alabama. You can email him c/o

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