I’m sure everyone’s heard it from the legions of wedding DJs on the boards and through other networking opportunities:
“We don’t do school dances because there’s no money in that market, schools are cheap, it requires too much equipment, etc.”
This article is going to discuss if there is any REAL money in the school dance market and if there is any truth to the above statement. Please keep in mind that this is one man’s opinion (and of course, a biased one… My company specializes in school dances and I keep this topic close to my heart). I will try to present the facts as I have seen them over the years working hundreds of school dances.
Is there any truth to the statement that “there is no REAL money in school dances?” Absolutely! I would say for a lot of mobile DJ companies, it simply is not worth their time or investment to pursue this market. It takes a certain kind of DJ, a certain kind of company, and certainly a different business plan to effectively attack the school dance market. If someone thinks they can just send a few flyers out to pick up a few dances on Fridays throughout the year, they should save their time and money! As with any market in the DJ business (and probably any business), you have to dedicate yourself to make it happen.
First let’s look at what is required to perform successfully at school dances (generalizations, of course). One would need big sound, big lights, big transportation for the sound and lights, the newest music, the knowledge on the newest music (having it and knowing it are two different things), and the ability to deal with rude students. Does is sound like a lot of work? Absolutely! Does it sound completely different than a wedding? Yep! Keeping up on current music, along with the larger gear requirements can get very expensive, but there is a tradeoff. School dances generally do not require the pre-planning meetings or time that a wedding requires. Photo montages, love stories, multiple meetings with the engaged couple and their families, and ceremony systems simply do not exist in the school dance market. School dances are big sound, big lights, and big energy for 3 hours. This is why it takes a different business plan and business approach to successfully engage in the school dance market.
Next, let’s look at the payout for school dances. There is the low end of the spectrum where the schools only have a few hundred dollars for their entertainment, but there are also the “high-profile” events that often budget thousands of dollars for their entertainment. There are schools in our area that will pay over $4,000 for their entertainment several times per year. The key is being able to handle and perform the high-profile events while making that school a long-term client. Just with the wedding industry, there are those clients that don’t fit your business just as though your business doesn’t fit their needs. There are very loyal school clients and very fickle school clients. It is important to take the time to build relationships with genuinely good clients that can budget for your entertainment while you perform beyond their expectations.
The school dance market is great for referral and repeat business. Schools have an average of 3-5 events per year, every year. If your company performs flawlessly at a school, you could have a repeat client throwing thousands of dollars your way every year. If you can land multiple schools for multiple events over multiple years, you can see how that could add up to be substantial money.
As I stated above, you have to dedicate yourself to this niche market. If you were to show up to a high school homecoming with two speakers on sticks, a tripod light system, wedding music library, and YMCA hats, that would be the last time you would work at that school. I have written another article on DJU dedicated to performance and gaining repeat business entitled “Tips to Make Them Want You Back”. That article explains in more detail how to keep the repeat schools calling!
The school dance market is not without its own problems, though. There are two large, insurmountable problems that will affect your business plan and ultimately, the money you take it. The first problem is that school business is very seasonal. Schools are only in session for nine months of the year, and they generally only have dances at certain times of the year (forget November and March, they’re usually dead months). Another problem is that most schools have their big dances around the same time. For example, EVERY school in Chicagoland has their Homecoming dance on a Saturday in September or October, so a single system operator can perform at a maximum of 6-7 Homecoming dances. Ultimately, your business plan will have to adjust to compensate for these problems (market Sweet 16s & Mitzvahs throughout the year, add multiple systems, etc) as it will for other bumps along the road.
Overall, school dances can be very lucrative for a certain type of DJ. If you enjoy performing for teens, this can be a very successful endeavor for your DJ business. If you can’t handle the “in-your-face” attitude that teenagers sometimes present, this market may not be for you. Please feel free to PM me with any questions!
Filed Under: School Dances
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