Mobile DJ Ethics

By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete DJ”

As many of you, my loyal readers know, I have several other jobs I do that all stem from my DJ work.

First, and most obviously, I’m a writer of books, blogs and magazine articles. Secondly, I’m an officiant, which allows me to perform a wedding and any other type of religious ceremonies. I do audio production, making remixes, commercials and other custom work all due to the enormous amount of studio gear and software I’ve collected over the years. Next, I’m a certified firearms instructor, all due to the safety concerns of being a mobile DJ. Most recently, though, I’ve become passionate about a field that I hadn’t ever considered before and had nothing to do with DJ work; I have enrolled in a school for Massage Therapy.

So, you might ask, what does that have to do with me?

Believe it or not, the two professions share many common aspects. For one, a massage practice is very much like a DJ business: you have clients, often couples. You tend to plan long-term. There are financial transactions, taking specific notes and sticking to a plan. And there are also ethical concerns.

Given the reputation that some have of the massage profession, some of it justifiable, my school places a very strong premium on ethical concerns. When this topic came up, I was immediately reminded of the image some have of the mobile DJ, which is also sometimes well deserved. Stereotypes exist for a reason, after all.

“Do what you say, say what you mean; one thing leads to another” – The Fixx

As DJs, we well know the ethics of the bait-and-switch; the shady operator who books a gig for the best price they can negotiate, and then finds a customer willing to pay a higher price, so now they’re running through their phone list trying to find another DJ to cover the original gig. This is a well discussed and universally condemned practice, as well it should be.

While most of us have clauses in our contracts that provide for, say, substituting a DJ in the case of an accident or illness, most of us recognize the unethical lack of professionalism of substituting DJs because “I got tickets to the big game”.

Respecting our clients, paying attention to their needs and concerns should never be in doubt. After all, when it comes to weddings, it’s not about us; it’s about our clients and one of the most important days of their lives. The most respected and in-demand DJs keep respect for the client first and foremost in everything they do. But there are other kinds of respect, and this is where a lot of us go wrong, even though we might not be doing so intentionally.

“Respect yourself” – The Staple Singers

A DJ who serves their clients best also serve themselves. It’s hard to deliver the performance of a lifetime if you’re not in good shape, both mentally and physically. How is your energy level? Are you eating well? Drinking enough water? Getting enough exercise? (Seeing your massage therapist?) Do you stress out easily and carry it with you? How do you feel about gig day; are you excited and “can’t wait to get at ‘em”, or are you dragging, with a case of the “I don’t wannas”?

Changing our habits is just about the hardest thing there is, but when I decided to lose some weight and become more active, I took a page from Randy Bartlett’s playbook: I didn’t change everything at once but took it one small step – 1% – at a time. After all, I hadn’t become unhealthy and out-of-shape overnight, so I knew I wasn’t going to fix everything overnight either! But, as the old saying goes, every journey begins with one small step. The idea is to then keep going.

“Some people say they love someone so much they would die for them. But the real question is this: would you LIVE for them?” – Dr. Phil McGraw

Then there’s the issue of WHY we’re working… at anything. While we, as DJs, have one of the most fun jobs on the planet, and it’s cool to say that we “live to DJ and DJ to live”, what you really are working for is your own life. Look around you; look at your home; your family; your hobbies… your friends and social groups. The people you love. All of the work we do and the money it generates is what supports our lifestyle and everything around it. It’s what we might think of when someone says, “retirement.”

If you’re anything like me, I can’t imagine retiring! I want to DJ forever! If money wasn’t an object, though, wouldn’t we all be far more choosy over what gigs we might take and what we reject? Would we make room in our schedules to take the significant other on a vacation? Or hole-up in a bed & breakfast on an Anniversary?

What I’m getting at here is that there’s the ethics of how we’re treating our loved ones in the here and now. And yes, this is a personal question for all of us. Only you can answer it. The point here is that we need to give our friends and families just as much regard and respect as we do our clients. They, after all, are the true fabric of our lives.


  • 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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