Hiring A Sports DJ

Hiring A Sports DJ

We’ve seen and heard of a lot of mobile DJs being approached about taking jobs as sports DJs.  Please keep in mind that these are two completely different animals and just training someone on the job can be a lot more daunting that you can imagine. While a lot of really great sports DJs have

We’ve seen and heard of a lot of mobile DJs being approached about taking jobs as sports DJs.  Please keep in mind that these are two completely different animals and just training someone on the job can be a lot more daunting that you can imagine.

While a lot of really great sports DJs have started out, or became, great mobile DJs you can’t just hire blindly.  A club DJ and some mobile DJs are used to playing sets for a crowd that’s typically 21 and over.  Most sports crowds include kids so you need to understand more about the content of the songs, rather than how “hot” the song is.  Tove Lo’s “Talkin’ Body” is a top five song as of this writing, and she has another hit called “Habits”.  Neither are not family friendly.  The other thing sports DJs need to know how to react at a moment’s notice.  Even though you plan ahead in your sets, you pretty much stick to it and rarely does it change.  In sports, you could be all set to play one song, then you need to jump to something completely different depending on what just happened in the game.

SportsAnnouncing.com: How Much Music Do You Need?

Mobile DJs can also get set in their ways.  If you find a mobile DJ who works hundreds of events every year, you could get someone in a rut who plays the same songs nightly.  Variety is needed in sports and different playlists by the night.  A Saturday night playlist is going to be different from a Tuesday playlist, or a Sunday afternoon playlist.  The thing to remember, watch the crowd.

So, what should a team look for when hiring a mobile DJ to be their DJ:

  1. Do they have knowledge of your team and sport.  Sports knowledge is a must because you need to understand the ebbs and flows of the game and react accordingly.  If your DJ doesn’t know a timeout is coming up, that little delay in finding the right song to play can have a big effect on your game operations.  In baseball, you don’t want the DJ playing a home run celebration when the visiting team hits a home run.  The DJ’s knowledge of the sport is extremely important to knowing what to play and when.
  2. Do they have knowledge of multiple genres, and do they relate to your fans.  Hiring a DJ who only plays house or EDM is not going to translate well for a hockey climate which can–and does–include both of those genres, but also alternative, rock, hard rock, classic rock, top 40, techno, and more.  Instead, hiring someone who plays a top-40 style who knows the various rock genres will be of better preference as they can research one genre that’s primarily new songs and evolving as the season plays.
  3. Does the DJ know how to use software other than DJ software.  This is big.  And speaking from experience, DJ software does not give you the flexibility that sports DJ software offers.  Using industry specific software like Sports Sounds Pro, Click Effects or Sound Director is a completely different animal than using Serato or Virtual DJ.  While the latter are great for making mixes, the former allow you to play the songs fans want, set cue points, and choose from 48 or more sounds at a time.  There are samplers and the like, but they don’t give you the full effect as the industry-specific software does.  When you consider you should have your goal celebration, power play song and a crowd prompt at the ready at all times, that doesn’t leave much space to drop more music.  Sports DJ software allows you to do more.
  4. How long has the DJ been a DJ.  Experience matters, along with knowledge.  A DJ who has only been playing for a year may have a good idea of the music, but then you have to figure in his/her knowledge on what’s going to work and what isn’t.  At the same time, a DJ who has been doing it for 20 years may very well likely fall into the same category as the DJ who gets set in their way and plays what they believe people want to hear.  That DJ with 20 years, though, may also have the best knowledge of anyone in the group.  Don’t consider length as the final choice, consider experience, especially sports experience.
  5. Will the DJ be open to new ideas?  Sports is a different animal than weddings.  From my own experience, weddings tend to actually be easier to DJ than a sports event simply because of the speed and how quickly things can change.  At a wedding, or birthday party, people are there to have fun and will dance the night away to pretty much anything if you set the mood right.  In sports, the DJ doesn’t have that control to always set the mood and has to rely on what happens in the game.
  6. I really hate to say this, but there is a sector of the DJ industry who feels drinking on the job is ok.  Make sure this is put first and foremost that drinking alcohol will not be tolerated.

What should be expected of the team when hiring a DJ:

  1. Plugging into the existing sound system is very important.  We’ve heard some situations in which a college wanted to have the DJ bring in their own system.  Arena sound systems are a lot different than a mobile system, and a mobile DJ who has the proper equipment to fill a sports arena is going to cost the team money.  Teams can expect this to cost, at a minimum, $1,000 per game if the DJ brings his own sound system too.
  2. Being straightforward with what is expected.  How long the hours are, what time they’re expected to arrive, how long they’re expected to play afterward, if they will be supplied water, how they will be paid, etc.  Any little detail.  DJs can come from situations in which they’re paid at the end of the night and have to hustle to find the right person to pay them.  Some DJs expect payment before the event even starts.  Sports is a completely different animal, and being straightforward with the DJ on everything is key.  Not everyone understands the nuances of pro or college sports.
  3. Tell the DJ who they should be listening to, and who they need to be listening to.  It’s easy in that environment to mistake a corporate partner for someone from the athletic department.  The corporate partner may not understand that certain songs shouldn’t be played, while the athletic department, game operations, sales, etc., does know.
  4. Provide a playlist of the important songs, and expect to provide those songs as well.  Some DJs carry only a few hundred songs, others carry thousands.  Even if they have thousands of songs, they may not have the right one.  If you’re expecting the DJ to pay for the new music they acquire for you, then you shouldn’t have a long list.  If the team has already purchased the music, keep it on a separate hard drive for the DJ to use for team-supplied music.
  5. The team should be ready to work with the DJ for a few weeks to get him/her acclimated to sports.  It is a completely different animal, so getting into the flow is very important.  Once the DJ can get a feel for the games, they should do well.  If you have the ability to have the DJ shadow another sports DJ, or work exhibition games, all the better.  Those are the opportunities to learn and possibly make mistakes.
  6. The hired DJ should get at least 24 hours worth of exposure to the computer/playback system so the DJ can get familiar with the system.  Spread this out over several days and provide a script with ALL of the promotions you plan on using.  This lead time is important as the DJ will be able to become familiar with the layout and location of the music and crowd prompts.

What should the team ask of the DJ before hiring (in addition to the above):

  1. Can you make all (or X-amount) of the games?
  2. Can you arrive two hours (or more) before each game?
  3. Can you provide some equipment as may be necessary (i.e. controller)?
  4. Could you DJ other events for the team for sponsors and season ticket holders?
  5. Can you communicate quickly and efficiently with others?
  6. Can you follow direction under pressure?

If you’re a team and have additional questions, please contact me and I’ll be happy to add them to the list.  If you’re a sports DJ and would like to provide feedback but not leave it in the comments, please contact me and I’ll be happy to adjust as necessary.

Jarrod Wronski

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