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Published 05.02.2424
A DJ’s Guide to the World of Corporate and Private Events

A DJ’s Guide to the World of Corporate and Private Events

What do beauty product launches, 70th birthday parties, bat mitzvahs and sunset drinks on a superyacht have in common? They all often require DJs. And not just any DJs—open-format DJs who, depending on the client and the brief, can create a very specific vibe.

It’s a vibe that’s usually not too wild, but also not too serious. Being an open-format DJ—meaning someone who plays a broad range of genres, often using techniques influenced by hip-hop DJing—requires confidence, deep musical knowledge, and excellent mixing skills. You must be good enough to blend several genres seamlessly, anything from ‘60s swing to Afrobeats. Whether you’re playing for two hours or nine, you might need to forget about your own musical tastes and instead prioritize your client’s wishes. So if you’re not comfortable mixing ABBA into Missy Elliott, open-format DJing in a corporate setting or private party probably isn’t a smart career choice. But for others, it’s a fun, varied and potentially lucrative way of making a living.

Every booking and every budget is different, and the rules of the club scene don’t apply here. A club DJ booked to open a techno night knows they will probably play to an empty dance floor, creating an inviting atmosphere as the club fills up, and allow the next DJ to take over smoothly. But at corporate events, you might be playing in a brightly-lit department store at 6 PM, or you could be soundtracking the foyer of a five-star hotel during a tech company’s annual conference. The location and the crowd always differ, which is why corporate DJing isn’t as easy as it might look.

How do you go about DJing for corporate events and making a career out of it? And what’s it like inside this world? We asked talent agents and DJs from across the world for their advice and insights on how to approach it.

WHAT ARE AGENTS LOOKING FOR?

Having an agent can give you a solid introduction to the corporate world and help you land as many or as few bookings as you want. Jaynee Wilkins is the founder of JW Agency, an open-format DJ agency and artist management company based in London with over 100 DJs on their books. The agency supplies DJs to corporate events across the UK, like Porsche’s staff Christmas party, afterparties during London Fashion Week, gigs at Be At One bars (where the JW DJs have ongoing residencies) and Ministry of Sound’s corporate events. The international branch of the agency, JW Elite, provides DJs to premium venues and spaces worldwide, like luxury yachts, beach clubs and 5-star resorts.

Jaynee seeks out potential in DJs and, upon signing, helps them evolve into skilled and in-demand selectors through the JW DJ Academy, where the team intensely train new signees. “We’re not looking for the perfect mix,” she explained, referring to the standard of mixes the agency receives from applicants. “Obviously if we get those that’s amazing. But when someone joins the agency they probably think they’re good, however, they’re not at the standard they should be, and that’s because no one has taken the time to tell them because they’ve probably just learned to play at home. They haven’t had anyone coaching them, so we’re very hands-on with our DJs. We’re like one big family. We’re very much on their development all the time.”

Personality is another make-or-break factor at JW. “We’re looking for good people who want to be part of our dream,” said Jaynee. “We understand that they’re on a journey to be a successful DJ, but while they’re with us they’re with a team, so it’s very important that they are good people, personable and fit in with everyone. Also, they are representing the agency to our clients. Even if you’re an amazing DJ, if you’re arrogant we’re not even going to look at you. That’s how we are. We’re very much about the people.”

WHAT IS THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS AT A DJ AGENCY?

JW Agency receives over 500 applications per year, mostly via the recruitment manager’s inbox. Applicants must send three mixes that adhere to the application guidelines, alongside a recent headshot and social media links. If the managers like what they hear, they arrange phone interviews and decide if the DJ has the right personality and motivation to work with JW. Following successful phone interviews, the agency invites the applicant for a trial with their training and development manager, so they can see the DJ in action.

“We’re there to see how they are, their personality, and what they are like, that kind of thing,” said Jaynee. “If they get through the trial they then have a lot of paperwork to fill out, and they have a DJ induction. Part of the induction is going to our DJ Academy and getting coached by one of our tutors in all the different genres. It’s quite a long process. And then, once they’ve got through all that, we take them out for dinner.”

HOW ABOUT FEES?

In any industry that involves talent, there’s usually a booking agent who represents that talent. The agent takes a cut of the talent’s fee or adds it on top. But in the case of open-format DJs, the agent’s cut can vary because it depends on the client, the client’s budget and if the agency needs to hire equipment.

Jaynee gave an example. “If it’s a corporate event where we have to provide equipment, normally the agency will charge for the equipment,” she said. “And that will be our fee, and then the DJ gets their fee.”

The agency fee also depends on the venue. “We’re quite generous; we probably take 15%, not even that,” said Jaynee. “It just depends… our full-timers, for example, say they’re on around £4,000 a month on average—they’re always going to get around £4,000 a month, even if they’re playing at different venues, because it’s a mix. It’s not like one month, they’ll get £500, and the next, they’ll get £6,000… With the corporate events I think you can definitely make more money because a lot of brands have bigger budgets, but it just depends.”

 

For the full article head on over to the official Pioneer Website here