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Author Topic: Just starting out - How much to charge?  (Read 14774 times)

Mike DiCosimo

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Just starting out - How much to charge?
« on: May 13, 2013, 12:29:00 PM »

Hi All,

I realize that money is always a touchy subject and some might be hesitant to share how much (or little) they really make, but I hope that we can have a candid discussion and I can become more educated on this topic.  I appreciate your patience and reading of this long post.  It's a long post b/c I want to describe my entire situation and what I'm trying to do.

First some background on me.  Age shouldn't matter, but suffice to say I'm "40+."  I have a full-time job unrelated to the DJ/music/entertainment industry.  However, I play bass, know how to run a PA (definitely "amateur rank" but have very good working knowledge) and have always been involved with "live sound" to an extent.  I've always wanted to have a "DJ Business" on the side, as I love music and enjoy entertaining people.  And frankly, I've seen DJs at parties and events with crappy gear that's set up wrong and crappy attitudes on top of it pulling down $200+ for a few hours of work; I think I can do a much better job and make money on the side.

I realize that how much money you can ask for is related to your reputation, "overall package" (lots of lights, etc) and other factors.  What I want to do basically is be a "content provider" as opposed to a "DJ." I would either just play whatever playlist the client asked for, or stick to a genre of music depending on the event.  Of course, I would interact with the crowd but it would be limited to "Wishing John a great birthday!" or egging people on to do the Chicken Dance.  I don't scratch, remix EDM or anything like that.  I know how to beat match and fade one song into another and I'm good with people as that is part of my day job.  I have enough PA for 200 people, easily.  I will invest in some cheap lights (cheap, for now) and a truss to mount them on.  My equipment is all flight-cased for protection as well as a professional appearance. 

To sum it up: I am good with people, own a PA, with setting up and running PA but zero experience as a DJ both hands on and the business side of things. 

I plan on starting my business as a proper LLC, getting a tax ID number, paying tax and all that jazz. I also will be insured both for equipment loss as well as property/people damage/injury.  I'll do the website and business card thing.  I realize that I will start out with backyard birthday parties and word of mouth will be key. I'm good with that as this will be a side gig and not what puts bread on the table.

All that said, how much should I charge for a gig?  Hourly? Flat rate?  How about this scenario:  What should I charge for a 4-6 hour indoor event, providing music and lights for 100-200 people?  $50/hour?  $75/hour? Flat rate?

Thanks for your patience and sharing your experience.








« Last Edit: May 13, 2013, 12:37:46 PM by Mike DiCosimo »
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Mike DiCosimo

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2013, 10:03:47 PM »

Wow, crickets.  Bump.
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Andrew Broughton

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Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2013, 05:25:27 AM »

Who can say?

Call a few competitors and see what they charge!
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Mike DiCosimo

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2013, 11:12:26 PM »

A quick check on gigmasters.com for a mobile dj in my area turns up a bunch of results.  One add says "$100-$300 per hour" another says "$300-$1,000 per event."  I don't understand the disparity b/t pricing and why one person would be hourly and another flat rate. I'm hoping that you guys will share your rationale for what and how you charge.  I found the attached "actual event/price charged" table on that site for a DJ in my area.  The pricing is all over the place.  I'm thinking $60/hour would be a bargain compared to this DJ, but then again, I don't know what his "total package" consists of.  Maybe he's got $4,000 in lights or something? Thanks in advance for your replies.



« Last Edit: May 15, 2013, 11:17:43 PM by Mike DiCosimo »
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Brad Weber

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2013, 06:25:41 AM »

Mike, it's like any business in that it depends on your market, your competition, your services, your existing contacts and reputation and so on which will vary from one location to another and one company to another.  It sounds like this is a totally new venture for you and if so, then before you spend your money you might want to spend some time researching the potential market for what you plan to offer and just how much that market is willing to pay.  You might also want to make some contacts with event planners, venue managers, etc. to see if this is something in which they might have interest as a good deal of your potential gigs may come through such parties rather than direct.
 
You seem to be going at things a bit backwards from usual as you would normally first define the target market and clientele and then adjust the products and/or services you offer accordingly whereas you seem to have first defined a 'product' and are now looking for the potential market for it.
 
The disparity in other's prices is probably simple to explain.  Most providers likely adjust the equipment and services offered to fit the events via something like a 'good/better/best' package approach or an 'a la carte' menu approach.  Being able to vary the services and products offered allows them to potentially serve a larger market.  As far as fixed versus hourly rates, some types of events and clientele likely prefer to work on an hourly basis and others on a lump sum fixed fee basis, so the providers may offer pricing either way based on what is desired, again trying to serve the largest possible potential client base.
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Mike DiCosimo

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2013, 08:47:33 AM »

Thanks for the very informative reply, Brad.  You're correct that this is a totally new venture for me. I guess that I sort of have put the cart before the horse in that I've not done much research.  But, I already have the PA, so I'm far from starting from scratch.

I had assumed that my target market would be based on my level of experience and number of clientele which is exactly zero and zero.   However, amongst my friends and coworkers, it's well-known that I'm the "music and sound guy" and I've been talking about starting a mobile DJ gig for well...forever.

I've looked into marketing services such as Gigmasters.com as a way to get myself out there and hopefully get gigs.  I'm sure though that my start will come from very small backyard parties and  word of mouth spreading and I'm good with that.

What you said about the disparity in other's pricing formats makes sense.  This is a lot to digest, that's for sure.  Thanks again.

Mike D
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Zachary Zimmerman

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2013, 12:20:00 AM »

Mike, it's like any business in that it depends on your market, your competition, your services, your existing contacts and reputation and so on which will vary from one location to another and one company to another.  It sounds like this is a totally new venture for you and if so, then before you spend your money you might want to spend some time researching the potential market for what you plan to offer and just how much that market is willing to pay.  You might also want to make some contacts with event planners, venue managers, etc. to see if this is something in which they might have interest as a good deal of your potential gigs may come through such parties rather than direct.
 
You seem to be going at things a bit backwards from usual as you would normally first define the target market and clientele and then adjust the products and/or services you offer accordingly whereas you seem to have first defined a 'product' and are now looking for the potential market for it.
 
The disparity in other's prices is probably simple to explain.  Most providers likely adjust the equipment and services offered to fit the events via something like a 'good/better/best' package approach or an 'a la carte' menu approach.  Being able to vary the services and products offered allows them to potentially serve a larger market.  As far as fixed versus hourly rates, some types of events and clientele likely prefer to work on an hourly basis and others on a lump sum fixed fee basis, so the providers may offer pricing either way based on what is desired, again trying to serve the largest possible potential client base.
I to am like you mike in a way I do slash work for multiple pro sound company's and do djing on the side.

I totally agree once your fine out who your perspective clients might be you must then decide by gathering information what clients pay what and then make the decision of price   Most of the time the question is do I want this gig then it's how low can you go.  The djing side of audio things is a very hard market. But if its something you like doing and you have gear go for it man. But around here most of the going rates for the HS dances are like 175-250 for 4 hours. I'm not to Familiar with the higher end market around here.

I will say mike if you do have to buy gear and you do every thing by the books your gonna loss you ass. Sorry and I'm not being a pessimist just telling you the facts. It's a hard market and a cheap one to.
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Dennis Goh

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2013, 06:46:05 AM »

Sometimes more sometimes less.
Market is bad with many competitor.

People over my side's wedding is different due to culture etc.(Not doing for dinner as culture over my side is going to Hotel only.)
So for real basic set-up. 1 pair spks on stands with 2 mic + background music (bout 3-4hrs).
My rate can be from SGD$180-$280>> which is bout USD$ 145 - $225. Depending on customers.

Smallish event for friend Drift Event also about the price above but i include sub for them.

For those private party animals (with minimal 2 pc 18" subs) [5-8 hours block]> can be as high as $700/-
Sometimes when the host R really nice and ask me to join with booze/food, i'll just continue music throughtout  the event there to enjoy together which can be from 8pm till 3am.

Renting stuffs to them, bout USD$ 120 - $150 per 3-4 hrs block.
Well, at times, price will be real low due to end of month.. $$$$$$$.

For me, my price really depends on customer's budget as this is my side-line & for fun.
I ever have competitors (i guess) calling & cursing me. "steal their business when it come to price-point", however there are also other competitor that gave my clients a price that there is no way i will agree to.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2013, 06:54:59 AM by Dennis Goh »
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Mike DiCosimo

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2013, 02:03:21 PM »

Thanks very much for the candid replies.  $175-$250 for 4 hours sounds just fine to me.  Figure roughly $30 in gas (truck gets lousy mileage) and that's not bad for a few hours' work.
I realize that doing things "on the books" greatly complicates things, but it protects me in numerous ways.  With insurance I don't have to worry (too much) about getting sued over something stupid.  And by paying taxes on my earnings I have no worries about getting audited AND gear/supplies I buy for the business are deductible .  I"m no tax pro but that's my understanding anyway.  Plus, with the clientele I'm aiming for  (upper-middle-class and above), they are much more likely to hire "a pro" with an honest-to-goodness business than "Donny the DJ" who books gigs through text messages and doesn't communicate beyond that.  I'm looking at getting my family involved in this as well...make it a family business. Again, aiming at a specific clientele/demographic.

Thanks again, everyone.

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Steve Alves

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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2013, 02:33:36 PM »

Thanks very much for the candid replies.  $175-$250 for 4 hours sounds just fine to me.  Figure roughly $30 in gas (truck gets lousy mileage) and that's not bad for a few hours' work.
I realize that doing things "on the books" greatly complicates things, but it protects me in numerous ways.  With insurance I don't have to worry (too much) about getting sued over something stupid.  And by paying taxes on my earnings I have no worries about getting audited AND gear/supplies I buy for the business are deductible .  I"m no tax pro but that's my understanding anyway.  Plus, with the clientele I'm aiming for  (upper-middle-class and above), they are much more likely to hire "a pro" with an honest-to-goodness business than "Donny the DJ" who books gigs through text messages and doesn't communicate beyond that.  I'm looking at getting my family involved in this as well...make it a family business. Again, aiming at a specific clientele/demographic.

Thanks again, everyone.

I must be missing something...

$175 for 4 hours minus $30 in fuel = $36.25 per hour
$36.25 - taxes (about $9) = $27.25 per hour
licenses, insurance????
maintenance, blown drivers???

Do you ever intend to upgrade or replace any equipment? Are you buying your music tracks?
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Steven Alves
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Re: Just starting out - How much to charge?
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2013, 02:33:36 PM »


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