I have talked with numerous other DJ’s and have heard a variety of opinions and perspectives on what a company contract should include for the typical disc-jockey. Please allow me to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts, and offer some specific ideas on what to include in your contract.
In my opinion, the prudent thing to do is to make a compromise between the two extremes. In fact, I think it is wise to examine each and every component of the contract, and ask yourself a question to each item: “Is this a reasonable requirement?” If you find yourself in a position that you would hesitate to sign such an agreement, then your clients will likely feel the same way.
The first part of your contract should outline the parties that the contract is between: your company and a place to fill in the name of the people who hire you. Then you should proceed with the date, time, and location of the event. I feel it is important to be specific on these items. If you are too vague, then you leave room for misunderstandings. If you do not list the location, you could be traveling to a location that is 40 miles further away than the original event location, and you will then be obligated to perform for the same price.
The total price for your performance must also be listed, with the required deposit. I believe that all deposits should be non-refundable, however, if the client made payments above and beyond the basic deposit, and cancels your services, you should consider refunding any money paid above your base deposit. This, of course, depends on the circumstances and the amount of notice the client gives you.
One additional thing that must be addressed in your contract about payment of your services, is when the balance is due. This varies with a lot of DJ services, some companies require that the balance be paid the date services are rendered, and other companies required payment in full one week prior to the event. The number of bad checks you receive will dictate how you handle this.
One provision that has drastically improved the quality of my service, in addition to boosting morale among my staff, is a suggestion that the client tip the disc-jockey when quality services are rendered. This has essentially given my staff a pay raise without it costing the company a dime, and it has also motivated my staff into giving better performances. I can’t stress enough how well this has worked for me. My contract states ” A 5 to 10 percent gratuity is suggested (optional) when quality services are provided by your disc-jockey.”My staff typically receives $35 to $100 in tips, the average being $50.00. I ask you, do you think your staff would appreciate a tip like that??
I am not proposing that the suggestion of a gratuity is for everyone. There are several factors that go into whether it is, or is not in good taste to suggest a tip. First, if you are charging premium prices for your services already, then suggesting a tip on top of that may be out of line. However, if you have a multi-system company that charges $400, in an area that single operator’s routinely charge $600, then it is more than acceptable to suggest a gratuity for a job well done.
I also take the opportunity to tell the client in the contract that they must furnish a facility that completely covers the Disc Jockey’s equipment from direct sunlight and rain. This is necessary if you wish to keep your CD’s and equipment in good condition. Additionally, I think it is also necessary to communicate with the client that they are responsible for providing sufficient electrical power supply within 50 feet of the location where the disc jockey is set up. You would be amazed at the number of people who plan outside events, and forget about electricity. In addition, this provision also makes the client responsible for providing a sufficient electrical system, even in inside locations. Example: you are hired to play for a wedding at a very old inn, where you have never performed before. You set up your equipment, and are prepared to play, but you keep tripping the electrical system in the establishment. Should you be paid for not being able to play?? Or should the establishment who decided to “play” in the wedding arena be required to provide sufficient electrical power supply for the entertainment. I know of one such case that went to court, where a disc jockey could not operate his equipment, because of an inadequate electrical system. The judge ruled that the disc jockey could not be responsible for providing electrical power, and awarded judgment for the disc jockey.
We also require that the client provide at least one 6-foot table for us to use. You would be amazed at the number of events we play for where there are no tables allotted for the DJ to use!!!!
The next section is especially important. We spell out our overtime policy, and specifically advise the client that the availability of the disc jockey to play past the contracted time cannot be guaranteed. This is necessary, since you want to be able to contract a second event later in the evening, such as when you are hired to play for an afternoon wedding. We learned this lesson the hard way, when we did a wedding in the afternoon, and the reception was a blast!!! Toward the end of the wedding, the bride’s father came up and wanted me to play another hour. When I advised him that I had another event to play for, and could not stay any longer than the original contracted time, he went ballistic!!!! Although he had no leg to stand on, since the contract specifically cited the beginning and ending time, it created a scene at a wedding. That translates into bad press for the DJ. Later in this article, the language that is used in my contract for this situation is included for your review. I think you will find it to be very reasonable, and most importantly, you communicate up front with the client about the possibility of you booking another job later in the day.
The last section of my contract, is the liability section. In it, are two items. First, is failure to appear, and second, is partial performances. The language that I use in my contract is also listed later in this article. Examine the language for this, and evaluate for yourself if this is for you. I want to make one thing very clear: The liability section does not guarantee that you will not be sued for failing to appear, or arriving late to an event. A consumer cannot sign their rights away in a contract. However, in most cases, they don’t know that, and such a clause can reduce the chances that you will be hauled into court for ruining someone’s wedding.
Now that I have given you an overview of what to include in your contract, allow me to examine some items that I feel are not appropriate or too harsh. First is the provision that forces the client to be responsible for any damage to your equipment. This is, in my opinion too strong for most events. As a disc jockey, there are certain responsibilities you must take, and damage to your equipment is one of them. Don’t get me wrong, if some drunk guy damages your equipment, I believe it is reasonable to attempt to get this person to pay for the damage, even if it means suing them. I do not think that you should force the host of the party to be responsible for the actions of their guests.
Equally as offensive, is the suggestion that you, the disc jockey, will not be responsible for damage to the banquet facility, if you do something wrong. That is totally unprofessional, and is sure to scare off clients, and referrals from banquet managers alike.
Should I Sign The Contract?
This has been debated by a lot of DJ’s, all of whom make very valid points. Please allow me to share the pros and con’s of signing the contract at the time you mail it to the client. Keep in mind, that the minute that you mail a contract out with your signature on it, you are obligated to hold that date for this client. This is why it is mandatory for you to list the statement that says, “this agreement is contingent upon the receipt of the deposit within fourteen days after the date that the Disc-Jockey signs below”. This allows you to take another reservation if the original client has failed to return the contract with a deposit….theoretically.
Let’s go through an imaginary situation. Let’s say that a client calls you for a reservation six months from now. You send them a contract with your signature on it, and the contract requires the client to return the signed contract and deposit within 14 days to hold the date. Two weeks after the contract was sent out, another client calls wanting to book you for the same date. You make an honest attempt to contact client #1, with no response, so you take the booking for Client #2. Ok……..so far, so good. One week prior to the event, to your surprise, you receive a phone call from Client #1 to “confirm” the event. When you inform the client that you took another reservation, and are unavailable, the client gets irate, and claims that they sent the deposit, paid in cash, and expect you to be there! This could quickly put you and your company in a jam, if the wrong person decides to play games with you.
Now lets look at the drawbacks of NOT signing the contract prior to mailing it out to the client. I have a fundamental problem with asking a client to sign a contract, and return it with a deposit, when in essence; I have guaranteed them absolutely nothing. Such a problem happened to a new client of mine who had “contracted” another DJ for a school dance. The school signed and dated the contract, and sent in a $150 deposit. The DJ cancelled the event for a very bogus reason, and the client has never received the refund of the deposit. Now, this client will NEVER send a DJ any form of a deposit without having the DJ’s signature on the contract. Remember, there are some bad apples out there, and they make a bad name for everyone. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in a client being distrustful of the DJ industry.
So what is the answer to this problem? One possible solution is to include a clause in the contract that states that the deposit must be made by check or credit card, and no cash payments will be accepted. If the client pays by check or credit card, then there will be a record of the payment (or no record for the clients failure to send in the contract and deposit), and that will reduce your liability for such a problem to arise due to your signing a contract when it is sent in the mail.
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