should dj’s do event lighting?

Recently I was told by a dj that our business website – which states “Let your DJ concentrate on entertaining your guests and let Table 4 Decor’s lighting and Design experts set the mood for your extraordinary event.” was starting an unprecedented (his words,not mine) war with an entire industry of DJ’s.
Besides feeling overwhelmingly defensive, I was confused. I had always considered a DJ an entertainer – the person who gets grouchy pants aunt edna onto the dance floor for a laugh until you cry version of the macarena. I thought a dj was the evening’s emcee – helping your guests navigate the event, giving them expectations of behavior, putting them at ease while moving the clients agenda along. To us, a DJ’s job starts when the guests arrive.

Alternately, I felt our job as event designer, was to create the mood. Whether it’s sexy, romantic, relaxed, abstract, pink or whatever idea the client dreamed up – we design the event space with various design elements – including, but not limited to, lighting. Our job is finished before the first guest (and often the DJ) even pulls into the parking lot. During a client meeting, an event designer gets a feel for the party by asking questions like

  • what mood are you trying to create –
  • what do you have planned for the evening –
  • how are you going to serve your food (sit down, buffet, food stations, etc) –
  • what do your tabletops involve (special centerpiece uplighting or downlighting for example)
  • what are you celebrating/planning/educating etc
  • what are the goals of the event
  • how will you gauge ROE (return on event)
  • what three words will guests use to describe the feeling when they walk in the room

All of these questions lead us down a certain design path – a client that wants a night club feeling for example might be heavy on the uplighting – a client that has 400.00 centerpieces might require pinspotting – a client with a shabby chic feeling wants tons of fabric and lighting only as an accent. We put all this information together into one overall event plan, from the tabletops to the flow to the autocad floor plan to the ceiling decor to the wall decor to the lighting.

What we don’t do as part of the design plan is ask the client what kind of music they want to hear- what games they want to play during the evening – what time they want to serve dessert – what other special occasions they might want to mention – what valuable information they want us to impart to guests. To us, that is the dj’s job.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not drawing a line in the sand to say this is the designer’s job and this is the dj’s job an ne’er the twain shall meet. Events are always a collaboration of vendors, personalities and ideas. In fact, we count on dj’s providing lighting for the dance floor-be it strobes, colorwashes, gobos, effect lighting or whatever else new light that gets the party moving. And not every client out there can afford an event designer or wants more than a few can lights placed around the room’s perimeter. For those clients, their dj doing lighting might be the right choice.

But if you are planning an overall design concept inclusive of all your event aspects,  hiring a DJ to do event design would be like hiring us to DJ your event – and even though I am sure we have fabulous taste- you would be stuck listening to 70’s and 80’s one hit wonders and hair bands and let’s face it – nobody wants that music combination.

About designdakotastyle

ideas about event design and function from one little party design firm on the prairie... a glimpse into design with dakota style.
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2 Responses to should dj’s do event lighting?

  1. I do think some lighting event needs are beyond the scope of most DJ companies. But more and more DJs are incorporating some fairly sophisticated lighting into the options they offer.

    • DJCraig I really appreciate the comment! You’re my first:-) I do agree that DJ’s (much like designers) are getting more sophisticated with their lighting – and a designer generally doesn’t worry about beat activation or dance lighting so much as the ambiance lighting. A question I would have for you – if a DJ does event lighting (uplighting, pinspotting, ceiling washes etc) would you charge an additional fee or include it with your DJ service? Around here often the DJ’s include it – and then if the client hires us, they go back to the DJ for a discount – which then the DJ’s are upset by because they want the whole package with the larger price tag. Any thoughts?

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