UPDATED FOR 2020: This year, Backthird made the switch to True Wedding Pricing. Our couples pay one flat rate for ALL their wedding services - ceremony, cocktails, dinner and dancing. It's transparent and it's simple; no more math and no more mysteries. When surprises come up, we just take care of you.
The older article below is based on one-room reception services - and therefore, not on True Price. I'm leaving it online for reference, and because I don't know any other companies that practice True Pricing yet like we do. If you're comparing multiple Chicago DJ prices for your wedding, the confusing mess below is what you'll need to wade into.
What should a Chicago wedding DJ cost? If you’re at the early stages of planning your wedding, you may not have a clue. Most DJs don’t list their prices online – they’re afraid of you comparing their services based on price alone, which is a sure way to pick a loser.
But it’s also not cool to expect you to call 5 DJ companies and chat about your feelings for an hour just to get a price list.
So, if you want the straight scoop on DJ pricing – here it is.
I’ve broken Chicago wedding DJ rates into six common price points. In my experience, this is what you can expect at each. Of course, I’ve got an ulterior motive – I’d like you to hire my DJs! So I’ve included links to my competitors, as well, so you won’t have to take my word for it.
Be careful when you compare DJ rates. Some DJ companies list 4-hour rates, others list 6-hour rates, others list 7-hour rates (including ceremony sound and services). Some charge extra if your wedding requires extra equipment; others don't. When you ask someone for a price, you'll have to tell them what services you need - otherwise you'll have no way to know if they're all quoting you on the same thing.
This post is based on ballpark rates for a 6-hour reception: cocktail hour, dinner and dancing, all in one room with a single DJ system. To calculate your own DJ cost, try the cost calculator at the bottom of our Complete Guide to Wedding DJ Pricing.
$400+: The “buddy rate.”
No DJ can afford to work this cheap, but you might get the offer from a friend or someone who DJs “just for fun.” Expect consumer-grade rather than pro-grade equipment (toasts and speeches are difficult to hear; dance music is loud but makes your ears tired after an hour or two). No backup equipment (in case of failure) or backup DJs (in case of illness). Music is either limited to your friend’s personal collection or illegally copied. Planning help will be minimal (your DJ works a day job, so do not expect to call for help or work out requests in advance). MC skills and cooperation with other vendors will be poor (expect some hiccups in the schedule and moments where your guests don’t know what’s going on). Music skills and knowledge may vary.
$600+: The “scary rate.”
Companies at this price point are volume businesses that survive by booking a huge number of jobs and paying their DJs very little. Staff turnover is high (you don’t know which DJ will show up at your wedding) and reliability is low (sometimes, no one shows up). Equipment is consumer-grade and out of date. No backup equipment or backup DJs. Music is illegally copied. No planning help. DJs are poorly trained, so MC skills, music skills and vendor cooperation will all be poor. Expect a stressful evening.
$800+: The “hobby rate.”
Music and equipment lovers who DJ on the weekends to support the habit. Usually one-man operations that do not work full-time. Moderate equipment. Backup equipment and DJs are rare. Song collection is limited to DJ’s personal collection – but that’s probably large. Legal music files. Some planning help, but minimal DJ availability (he works a day job). DJ is self-trained. Reliability, MC skills, music skills and vendor cooperation could all be terrible - or they could be great! No DJ assistant. No insurance. Ask for references.
$1300+: The “pro rate."
Companies that do events full-time and rely on their good reputation to keep food on the table. Reliable. Pro-grade equipment gets regular maintenance checks. Backup equipment for anything that could fail (hard drives, computers and wireless mics are the biggest culprits). Legal music with unlimited song requests. You pick your DJ in advance. DJs are trained. DJ assistant can mind the music while DJ takes requests or coordinates with your other vendors. Insurance. Advance planning help including online planning tools and full-time office staff to help with the little things if your DJ's not available. Professional MC skills, music skills and vendor cooperation. My company is in this price range – so are these guys and these guys.
For a precise breakdown of what your money goes to at this cost level, take a look at this post.
$2500+: The “something extra rate.”
The “hybrid” DJ who offers something unusual or quirky in addition to planning, MC services and dance music. Perhaps he plays live music for part of the reception, or plays music videos or offers video games or other “interactive” services. Services should be comparable to the “hobby” or “pro” rates above.
$4000+: The “celebrity rate.”
DJs with a lot of experience who have made a name for themselves. Exceptional MC and coordination skills and highly customized introductions. These guys have years of improv classes under their belts and fancy websites. They get more work than they need and only take the weddings they really want. You pay them to charm the socks off of you and everyone you know.
Backthird DJ rates are in line with the samples given above. Some of our couples prefer only DJ services, while others combine DJs with live music. To discuss your wedding needs and choose your DJ, contact us today - or try the ebook below to see what other couples paid.