Hey guys,

So I meant to write up on this topic a couple months ago after I had written a nice little rant on Facebook about some of my pet peeves when it comes to hiring DJs, but I never got around to formalizing the note into a post on here. Then this morning I saw a great write-up by fellow bboy and Atlanta-based breaks DJ, AlphaTrion, aimed at promoters looking to hire a DJ for a bboy jam that was apparently inspired by my own note . His article goes into great depth, looking at price considerations, logistics, and etiquette regarding the appropriate relationship a promoter should establish with a DJ. Though specifically aimed at bboy events, this guide can really be generalized to fit any other event requiring such services (in fact, I think I will write up a condensed guide for college campus event organizers soon). Check out the first part of the article HERE (also, thanks for the shout-out and link-back, AlphaTrion!)

On a similar note, another great article I saw a couple months ago breaks down DJ pricing for the laymen in a clear and concise read. Sometimes it’s very hard to explain why DJs charge the amount they do when dealing with clients unfamiliar with the industry. If you are one of those clients or plan to be, then be sure to check out the post by DJ JudgeMental HERE.

Lastly, here is my original, unabridged rant that I posted on Facebook a while ago in case some of you readers aren’t able to see my notes:

So recently over the past year or so, I have been hearing more and more of people saying things like: “DJ Keeno charges so much for DJing!” “Oh, he’s just in it to make money,” “Why can’t he give us a discount since we know him?” etc. Well, I am tired of explaining myself and repeating this to people individually, so I am going to lay it out for you all here.

Let me preface this by saying that this is in no way PERSONALLY directed towards any individuals or groups; it is all BUSINESS, as it always should be.

I know that many of my friends and most of the population at WUSTL are not very familiar with the DJ industry and are confused as to why I charge the rates that I do for my DJ services. I can completely understand this, having been involved in planning many SU events myself. Students groups want to get the best value for their limited budgets, so hiring a “student” DJ should be the most cost effective, right? Sure, but let’s not forget that I am no longer the newbie that had to play off borrowed equipment 4 years ago. I am a professional open-format DJ who provides a quality service that not just anyone can pick up and do well (regardless of whether I do it part-time or not). 

First off, let me say that it is one of my biggest pet peeves when people who are planning formals or parties undervalue the selection of a DJ and/or audio equipment. Some people may not agree with me, but when it comes to these kinds of gigs, the music/sound is one of the most important factors, if not THE most important factor of a smooth and successful event. Nonetheless, people will still try and cut corners to find the cheapest equipment/DJs because they feel that these costs are low-priority and would rather spend money on superfluous items such as party favors, lighting or extravagant venues. It needs to be understood that if the music sucks or the speakers sound horrible, it will drive people away from not only dance floor but also the event, therefore negating all the rest of the expenses. 

Second, I find it quite insulting when organizations think that I just arbitrarily throw out a price for my services to see how much I can “milk” their budgets. This is NOT the case at all; people rarely inquire about the breakdown of my rates even though I am always happy to explain it to them. My typical full-package rate for an event right now ranges from $400-500 (changes due to the nature of having unique events and obviously may increase as I upgrade equipment and skill level). The full-package includes rental of my sound system (top-of-the-line speakers, mixing equipment and software), transportation and set-up of all the gear and my DJ services for 4-5 hours. The breakdown looks something like this: 

Sound system rental (for 4-5 hours): $200

DJ services (usually is 4-5 hours): $50/hour 

Transportation/Set-up: $50 (varies depending on location)

I know that to some this may sound pretty expensive, but in reality, this is a very fair price and a much better value when compared to other “professional DJ companies” (cough, ahem, TKO). These companies overcharge for mediocre sound equipment and inexperienced, cookie-cutter “DJs,” who play way outdated music using iTunes or CD players. C’mon, really? The reason why so many Greek life houses and SU organizations approach ME and hire JLS Audio Services over and over again is because I consistently deliver QUALITY service. I know the music, I know the equipment, I know the crowd, and most importantly, I know how to troubleshoot if shit goes down. I realize that I have not always charged this much in the past, but you have to understand that I’ve been doing this for 4+ years now. When I started out, I did not have the strong reputation I have now, my equipment was borrowed and my skill level as a DJ was certainly below par. Thus, it makes sense that I raise my prices over the years to accommodate these improvements and upgrades to my sound system, no?  Believe me, I am NOT trying to rip you off! Even though I don’t have an official website, custom van or fancy print ads, I know exactly what my skills are worth. Do not think that I will compromise my integrity as a DJ just because “that other DJ offered to do it for free.” If budget is a great concern, then by all means, do what is right for your event! However, I will let you know that in terms of college parties and dances, I believe I provide one of the best valued DJ services in the area because I know exactly how to deliver the entertainment that you and your guests want in an successful event. 

Professionalism, specifically regarding effective communication between clients and myself, has been one of the biggest keys to my success as a DJ/entertainer. So I if you DO have any problems with my rates or have anything negative to say about my motives as a DJ, I would appreciate it if you please TALK TO ME first, especially if you do not understand WHY I charge the rates that I do. I know I said I wasn’t singling out anyone but I wanted to make this known: the rate I charged for Show Me Stylez III ($450) was, in fact, a great favor towards WU Cypher (of course I am going to help out the club that I helped found and continue to support as a graduate!) I have heard that people were complaining specifically about this event and let me just say that I worked for days preparing my music, designing flyers, and promoting the jam and then worked 12 straight hours DURING that entire event (from noon-midnight): transporting, setting-up, sound-checking, DJing, making sure everything was sound and cleaning/packing up. I was one of the first to arrive and certainly the last one to leave (and I didn’t even get to DANCE!). The reinforced sound system that I supplied would normally cost at least $1000 from any other company for that length of time. I deserved my rate by threefold. No one should be complaining that I overcharged for this event. If I were a terrible DJ or had constant mishaps happen at events, then yes, it would be wrong for me to charge a premium rate, but this is not the case. SU groups are always welcome to rent out the free, crappy Fender speakers from Event Media Services and get their novice DJ friends to play music for cheap but why risk the potential to have a lame party b/c they didn’t prioritize the budget to have a legitimate DJ? Hmm…

Lastly, if you really believe that I am not a “true DJ”, or that I am only “in it for the money,” you obviously have never hung out with me or have even the slightest understanding about what it is to be a DJ in the first place. Above all else, I was drawn to this role because I love music and I love sharing music with the world around me. DJing was an obvious outlet and now it is one of my greatest passions. Sure, I have taken this activity and turned it into a great way to make money, but why does that automatically translate as being greedy? As I said before, if you are a professional freelance artist of any kind, be it musician, dancer, photographer, illustrator etc. you know exactly what your time and effort is worth and no one should knock you down for wanting to be duly compensated. The problem with DJing is that nowadays (and I won’t go in to further detail here) it is so easy to pick up some free DJ software, rip someone elses music library and start charging premium prices. If you truly love DJing, it will show in your performances. That being said, my commitment to DJing should give you an idea of where my motives lie.

This post has gotten rather long, but let me end with this: I consider myself to be pretty much the only real professional DJ at WUSTL. No disrespect to any other Wash U DJs, as many of them are truly talented and have great potential, but none have really built up a solid reputation as I have (YET!) or taken their skills to the next level (though I am sure they are on their way). I have spun at countless mixers/formals/parties, been the resident DJ at multiple clubs/bars, performed at many large scale concerts, competed and placed very well in several DJ battles and gotten hired for my mobile DJ services over 100 times in the past 4 years. I take my business EXTREMELY seriously and when people are ignorant to the time and work I spend towards my craft, it frustrates me like none other. 

Again, please know that this not personal and I can definitely understand why many of you may think that my rates are too high, but I hope that this has cleared some things up. If anyone has any more specific questions, I would be glad to answer them for you via email or in person. 


John a.k.a. DJ KEENO

p.s. Don’t complain about my DJ rates to my friends or my girlfriend, as it will most undoubtedly get back to me. Instead, be professional and take your issues up with me directly. Otherwise, in the words of the great Linda Zhang, I WILL OWN YOU.

p.p.s. Just to clarify, I am a PART-TIME DJ with a full-time day job as a research technician and I am also taking post-bacc classes at night in preparation for med school. I am certainly not living off the money I make from DJing, but it IS a significant portion of my income.