One of our company’s mentors, Arnoldo Offerman, recently wrote a fantastic article regarding school dances and why going with a student DJ or someone who does it “on the side” isn’t the option you want to go with when it comes down to your school’s dance.
Homecoming and proms have become a more elaborate affair ever year. Extravagant venues, Hollywood-quality décor, and even 5-star food can be seen at many of these dances. Unfortunately the cause of the dancing, the DJ, sets up a tacky 2 speaker system and a small tree with a light show that was decent back in the mid-90s.
Ouch. What an eyesore.
It’s not the school’s fault– after all, DJs are all the same, right?
Often, I’ve talked to too many schools that have hired a DJ who charges $300 – 500 because he’s a former student, teacher, or does it on the “side.”
But what else is out there? What if there’s a DJ company that does more than just send a random DJ with a Top40 list, pushing buttons, and telling students to wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care??
There is, and we won’t raise our hands because we DO care.
School Entertainment companies are a rare gem. Many DJs specialize in weddings, schools, corporate events, and backyard parties. There is nothing wrong with this, but the school business is a completely different animal than weddings. Our companies does all these events, but we have a dedicated staff that handles nothing BUT school dances. 4 Schools Only has a different structure than our wedding sector does. (JJDJ Entertainment has their own division dedicated to school dances as well)
School Entertainment Companies deal strictly with schools. We work daily with many issues that only a school dance can bring in: Appropriate dancing, music mediating between students and administrators, making the best out of available power, but most importantly, being 100% the success of your school dance!
100% I said.
Food, venue, & décor IS important, don’t get me wrong, and I won’t deviate from that point. These items are important to set the mood of the dance. If the right vendors are hired, then you’ve achieved success in setting the right mood. The proper entertainment will take that achieved ambience into the next level.
Use this for an example. If the DJ didn’t show up, would the dance be successful? The mood is set thanks to the right vendors, but now what will students do? No DJ means no dancing. No dancing means no one stays. No one stays means no food is eaten, décor and venue layout are not enjoyed.
If the DJ shows up but is AWFUL, or his equipment trips the breakers continuously– what percentage of success for the dance itself did he/she achieve?
But what if the right DJ shows up? Great setup, great sound, beautiful lightshow– and the right crew to make everything work! Students dance the entire night, eat ALL the food, take lots of photos with the décor and thank the venue staff and administrators for a job well done. The next day, the dance is the talk around school and ticket sales for next year look to be bigger than this one!
What percentage of success would you place on the aforementioned scenario?
I had a great chat with another DJ company who was asked if they can do a school dance for $395. When asked how the school chose that price, they told the DJ that’s what the other DJ charges.
Great! If they like that DJ and he’s $395, why keep calling? The school told him that the other DJ doesn’t have the equipment to pull off a dance of more than 100 kids.
So what is a dedicated school entertainment company worth? The truth is in the numbers. Let’s take a look:
Here’s a cost breakdown for a small DJ package that can handle around 500 kids.
- Two speakers = $800/each (there are cheaper, but you get what you pay for. $800 is a very conservative number for a system that can handle 500+ kids.
- One Sub = $1500
- 1 year music subscription (multipled by the last 5 years) = $1,200
- Trussing (to hang lights from)… At the cheapest $2,000 for a small setup
- A small light show consisting of 4 LED floods and one centerpiece effects light = $1000 This is a very SIMPLE light show with no special effects. Just the basics.
- Clamps & cords = $200
- Jessica Lunsford Act = $80 per employee
- Cheap Mixer = $300
- Cheap CD Players = $300
- WIRED (not wireless) Microphone = $100
- Tripods for speakers = $100
- Console to hold everything together = $200
- Controller for lights = $500
Keep in mind, I didn’t add in gas, $2 million insurance policy and other business expenses, a computer (most DJs spin MP3s with a digital controller that works just like a CD player/turntables).
That’s $9080. All rental companies charge at least 10% of cost. This means that to rent out this system at 10% it would be $900. In the last three years this number has averaged to about 20%. We’ll stick with a low 10%.
What does this conclude of our $395 DJ?
$900 is $505 more than $395. This means the DJ either 1) values his skills at NEGATIVE $505 or 2) He’s bringing out low-grade equipment that won’t serve justice to the students.
Not to mention it’s not possible to run a business and provide effective equipment and service at $395. Even if they were booked 52 days of the year, that’s $20,000…. Barely double of what it costs to purchase the equipment, not including the costs of running a business itself.
Here’s something to think about: the numbers I gave you are for lower/middle-end equipment. Most school companies bring out a much more sophisticated system. We also didn’t talk about special effects, large video screens, or other add-ons.
Think back on the scenarios I gave you on the success of the dance. Is that success worth more than $395? Talent should be worth more than that if the dance depends on it.
You’ll see numbers from $1500 for a small setup to $20,000 for a large setup. A few companies, such as ours, can even bring celebrity performances to your school.
We’ve talked equipment, but what about service? A school company brings the following talent:
1) DJ / MC Hypeman who knows the music on a daily basis
2) CUSTOM edited music library. FCC standards are NOT school standards. A proper DJ will remove the 4 words that the radio plays that do NOT belong in a school dance.
3) Jessica Lunsford certified. This is a level-2 background check for the DJ that is REQUIRED by the state of Florida.
4) $2 million insurance policy.
5) Proper knowledge of electricity. You want to maximize the use of each outlet (power drops are not cheap) while leaving headroom in case of an insurge. Having everything shut off in the middle of the dance is not a good thing!
6) Marketing! The company should provide custom commercials / audio drops / lunch “jam” sessions to promote the dance!
7) A limit! Every school is different and at some point the DJ setup can be too much or not enough. The right team should be able to design a setup to fit your needs 100%. Overkill does nothing for the dance except pull away from it!
So where do you start? Research DJs, or many will attempt to call or email you. The first question you ask should be: Are you a dedicated school company?
If the answer’s yes, invite them in for an audition/consultation. If they insist on doing this over the phone, move on to the next company. Dedicated means they have a person/crew who will handle your event at your comfort level and schedule.
In conclusion, these dances need to be treated as a business. Whether or not they are fundraises, you want to be in the black, not the red. A “$395 DJ” cannot bring in the excitement via service AND equipment to make students say “I WANNA COME BACK NEXT YEAR!” There are competing schools, many on the same date, that want the same business you want; keep in mind that students will attend each other’s dances. When a rival school has a dance on the same date, you want your students and their dates to attend your dance.
How will YOUR next dance be the best?”
This article was written by John Caniford