Sub Commander BY: Ric Hansen

March 9, 2012 by Aaron Burger



Call me crazy, but I cannot figure out why anyone would want to be a multi-op DJ company. Oh, I understand the need to grow beyond a one-system, one-show-per-night company. It’s a natural desire to want to grow beyond yourself. What I don’t understand is how buying more equipment and hiring employees makes any sense. The cost of equipment is huge. First you have to invest in the sound and lights (which depreciates the minute you buy it), then maintain the equipment, store the equipment, transport the equipment, insure the equipment, and ultimately replace the equipment with the latest gear. Add to that the cost of buying and licensing music for each system. Crazy. How about the cost of “employees.” To get good talent you have to pay a decent wage, plus cover their unemployment insurance and L&I and other related taxes. Then of course you have to hire, and train them, take chances with your clients as they learn and make their rookie mistakes. Then, ultimately, they become great performers and decide to buy some gear and go on their own, only to leave you to start all over again. The answer seems so simple to me: Find already existing great talent, with great equipment and a good work ethic and pay them to do what they have proven to do so well. Entertain. Yes, I am talking about the “S” word: subcontracting. Shutter at the thought. We’ve all heard the horror stories or have experienced them ourselves. Subs are un-reliable, un- controllable, un-trustworthy. They are not loyal to your company and will steal clients if they can. They are difficult to direct and don’t adequately represent your “brand.” Well, I submit that the subs are not the issue? screening and managing them is where the problem lies. My company, Radio Parties, has done literally thousands of DJ entertainment events since 1992 when I started it. I was not a mobile DJ, had no equipment and no DJ employees. Now, almost 20 years later, Radio Parties operates in 19 states working with 23 very picky radio station clients doing hundreds of events each year. I still am not a mobile DJ, own no equipment and have no DJ employees. I do, however, have an absolutely stellar network of subcontracted DJ talent that represents us. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this group of guys and gals. Week after week we get great reviews and a minimal number of problems along the way. But this great track record is no accident.


Here are the magical five ingredients to finding and working with sub-contracted mobile DJs… 1. Spend time and effort in recruiting. The vetting process is critical. We have developed a five-step process to finding the right people:

(a.) Specifically identify what kind of DJ you are looking for and publicize it wherever you can. Craig’s List, or sending out emails to DJs listed in DJ directories, is usually where we start.

(b.) Have inquiring DJs fill out a profile that includes all the things you want to know about them in capsule form, and make sure to get a picture.

(c.) If you are interested based on the profile, call and spend some time talking on the phone to get to know them and their personalities and what makes them tick.

(d.) If all goes well on the phone, meet in person to discuss in detail what your company is all about, and what you are looking for, and more importantly, who they are and what they are looking for. Nothing beats a face to face.

(e.) Finally, simply send them on their first event, trusting you have screened properly and minimized our risk. At this point, we monitor very closely how they follow our guidelines. We do instant follow-up with the client to make sure all was good. If they pass the performance test we continue our relationship.

2. Treat your subs with respect. If you respect them, they will respect you. Always be up front, and honest. When offering them a job, be clear in writing the terms of the agreement. Exact times, place and pay. Leave no gray area or loose ends. Surprises breed mistrust.

3. Pay on time, every time. Subs have likely been burned in the past. It is absolutely critical that if you say they will be paid at a certain time, the agreed amount, that that happens without fail. If you are operating on thin cash flow and are strapped for cash, subcontracting will not work for you. You will need to pay, whether or not you have been paid by the client. Period.

4. Give clear (written) direction and expectations. Most subcontractor relationships fail because there were
too many gray areas. Make it black and white. Clear and consistent.

5. Make it known up front that the DJs who perform well and get great reviews, who follow your systems and are easy to work with, will always get the first call for upcoming opportunities.
There’s no hiring or firing, because their are no employees; it’s the free market system at its best. Simply, the best DJs rise to the top and get the best and most job offers. Lack of performance, stealing customers or sloppy
follow through will result in NO calls.

It is absolutely critical that you know and understand the legal guidelines for sub-contracting. The government is very clear about what it takes to qualify as a subcontractor relationship. You need to make sure you get a copy of those guidelines and follow them. Among other things, your subcontractor must use his ot her own gear, work other events independent of your company, be able to accept or reject any job offer you present, and work without hands-on control. It is preferred that your sub has their own business license as well.
Creating a company built on subcontracting is very different then simply calling a buddy to see if he can cover a show for you when you are busy. If you approach it with a clear business model, understand its advantages and potential failings, it can be both rewarding and lucrative. MB
I do some limited career coaching for serious DJs interested in this model. I charge an hourly fee to help guys set up and grow their business using sub-contractors. I can assist in building the systems that allow you to find and manage your DJ (sub) team. Over the 20 years of doing this, I have learned a lot through trial and error and am willling to help others avoid the pitfalls along the way.
Call me at 800 954 3535 or email me at ric@ if you think I could help grow your company.

Aaron Burger Aaron Burger (77 Posts)

Filed Under: 2012, Mobile DJ Business