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DJ Money – How Much Cash Do You Get For Gigs?

by Matt · 0 comments

in DJ Gigs

Do you play for DJ money or for the pleasure?

Or do you just want to get paid what you deserve like most of us?

The following question was asked to me by a DJ who’s just moved to a new city (Paris, France) and wanted to know how much cash to ask for.

DJ Money Question

Hey, this site is great! Really good tips! First of all, this is not about the money, i’m just new in town/europe.

I just recently moved to Paris and i’m slowly getting to know the cool places/small bars to play at and stuff but i have no clue how much to “charge/ask” and to my surprise, i’ve been asked this question a few times…

So, conclusion is, how much money to ask for when starting out and playing small bars etc here? I’m not expecting any money at all for the moment, it’s not that…

I just don’t wanna lose any opportunities for stupid mistakes and would simply like to know for future situations! Thanks a lot!!

My Answer

Hi Victor,

Great question.

DJ cash money

There are a number of factors which should determine how much DJ money you get paid for your time.

As you say, most of us play for the pleasure and getting paid is a bonus (or a forté as the “No Diggity” tune goes).

As I also DJ in Paris, I can give you a quick answer of 80€ being a normal cash payment rate for 3 hours of regular bar DJing.

However, some bars play twice that much. How do you know which ones?

See the following for my advice…

How much DJ Cash do you deserve?

I’m like most DJs in the sense that I play for the passion, the fun and the joy of seeing other people feel better thanks to the tunes I’m playing.

If you play tunes that can really mean something to people, make them dance or just tap their feet, smile and you create a great atmosphere then you’re really worth something.

The DJ is important. Some people claim they don’t care what music is playing. But who are they? No one knows. Because they don’t really exist, that’s why.

Everyone cares about the music, whether they realise it or not.

Some care more than others. But what is undeniably true is that the tune selecta’s presence is essential to the success of clubs, bars and parties everywhere.

As an owner, if you choose the wrong, self centred and pretentious DJ to play too often, then stand by and watch your profits go down the pan.

I’ve seen this happen and I had no sympathy for the place.

Investing time in a good music policy is worth its weight in gold to a venue. The music plays a huge part in shaping the atmosphere, the vibe and the happiness of the people.

Anyone who says differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

The message when it comes to you as a DJ getting paid is: don’t sell yourself short – you’re important.

On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you should use slimy tactics to extort more money out of people.

You need to get what you deserve for playing.

DJ money for gigs is influenced by a number of factors that can mean you can ask for more or less cash on the night.


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 Location location

Yes I’m fed up of smarmy real estate agents bringing out the “location location” cliché time after time. Don’t they get bored of it?

In the DJing world, location is very important to getting paid though.

In big developed cities like New York, London, Tokyo, Toronto and others, you should be able to ask for more money than you can in smaller cities. For sure, you can generally earn more cash than in the other cities.

But the problem with these big cities is the massive level of competition you always get.

Where I DJ, there used to be places a few years that wouldn’t even pay DJs anything to play.

There are other places that pay according to the amount that the bar takes.

There are others that I know that pay very well. Everywhere is different and it’s only by asking other DJs in that city (as Victor does to me above) that you can find out how much you should be getting paid for certain types of gig in your area.

Since every city has different going rates, I advise you to get in touch with local DJs over the Internet or in person to find out.

But watch out, you could have some competition.

Since the digital DJ came of age, competition is even more fierce.

Imagine asking for $100 to play only to have the venue owner reply to you:

“We got DJ Jonny here. He uses a Hercules DJ Control and he’ll play for just $40.”

Since digital DJing has lowered everyone’s cost of gear, music and transport (which is a good thing) some DJs complain of digital DJs playing for just half the rate, consequently lowering everyone’s pay.

Personally, I haven’t had this problem. My costs have been reduced, but my pay has increased since I have more experience. This brings us to the next point.

Your DJ experience

Your experience obviously can count in getting paid for some gigs.

A rookie DJ obviously can’t ask for too much money, otherwise he may never play again.

An experienced deejay who the owner knows and whom he knows will cook up a decent vibe every time without fail will be able to ask for a lot more.

The owner knows he has to pay good, experienced DJs. Otherwise, they’ll play somewhere else.

And they’re experienced because they’re good. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have experience, get it?

Rookies should be ready to play for free or for less than $50.

Experienced DJs should get paid decently most times.

The relationship

No, not the relationship with your girlfriend or boyfriend (although that can influence your pay too!) but your relationship with the owner or promoter.

The more they know and trust you, the more you can confidently ask for. Again, never be pushy and don’t ask for much.

But you can ask for what you’re worth and try asking for a little bit more if you keep getting regular gigs.

If it comes to negotiating, be flexible and open minded. Try to turn negotiation into banter and don’t make it serious.

After a while of getting paid a certain amount, you can announce that you’re increasing your rates by 10% and that you’re telling them beforehand.

The venue

The venue is very influential on how much you should be getting paid.

Or is it really?

I can play in a classy cocktail bar where people rarely dance one day and yet get paid more than in a club where everyone’s going crazy on the floor and giving me sweaty hugs.

You’d think it’d be the other way round, but it’s not always like that.

Why?

At clubs, promoters are more often the ones involved. They book several DJs and the money has to get shared around.

At clubs, sometimes your set only lasts for an hour or two and you can’t find the promoter afterwards.

It’s great, high adrenalin fun playing in clubs, but unless you’re a resident, you may not always get paid as much as you think.

Fortunately there are clubs that can pay very well, but make sure you find out beforehand what the policy is and how the cash gets handed out.

Often, they’ll be able to tell you.

Likewise, if you know the venue is taking loads of cash, then you should be confident enough to ask for more money if your gigs are going down well.

A swanky cocktail bar can be packed out every single night even though the drinks cost a fortune.

On the other hand, a weird little bar that smells and has one alcoholic in there betting on dog racing is unlikely to be able to pay you much.

The bar takings

Many places will show you a grid which relates to the takings of the bar.

The higher the bar takings, the more cash you get. This is a good way to get paid if the bar staff are straight.

Honest bar staff will show you on their till how much cash their bar has taken that night and then give you the right amount.

If you’ve invited your heavy drinking posse of high earning mates down, then get ready for a nice little wad to go home with.

Some places will just hand the DJ money over without telling you or showing you any bar receipts though.

If you smell a rat because the bar was heaving all night and they only give you $50, then ask how much the bar took. You’re entitled to see that information if it depends on how much they pay you.

Some bar staff unfortunately lie and will take money from your pay. Others are totally honest and straight about it.

If you operate as a company, billing venues for your services as a DJ, then you have every right to ask and see proof of what determines how much you’re getting paid.

The time of your set

Another factor to consider is your time.

If you’re playing on a Saturday night from midnight until 5am, then that’s valuable time.

You’ll be tired the next day, get up late and you won’t get much done.

It’ll be fun, but weekend sets that are late are peak time and should be the ones where you can ask for more DJ money.

A Tuesday night gig from 8-10pm won’t get you as much cash as a Friday all nighter.

Take this into account when charging people.

Also, consider paying yourself by the hour. If you’ve been getting $100 for 3 hours, then for 5 hours you can ask for $160 pro rata.

If your feet are heavy and you’re so tired you can’t speak by the end of the night, then increase your rate accordingly.

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