As a DJ in the Austin/central Texas area, or really anywhere in the world, you basically have two choices: You can DJ at bars/clubs or DJ for private events. Regardless of which you choose, both are very competitive. In the bar/club scene, DJs are expected to do all of the advertising and promoting, and are expected to bring in customers, based on their following. So as you can imagine, every DJ, at every bar in Austin or anywhere, is competing to try to have the biggest crowd. With private events, every DJ/company is competing to get the most bookings. This means DJs/companies will market and do their best to get booked. One way to assure more bookings is to get on a venue's "preferred vendor list."
Venues, wedding planners, and many other vendors have their own preferred vendor list. When we began focusing more on weddings, several years ago, initially, we wondered how do they decided who is preferred? How can we get on that list? Are those companies that are being referred simply better than all the other companies out there? Before actually knowing the truth, we thought that if we simply showed up and did a great job, every time, and developed a working relationship with the venue managers/owners, they'd refer us. That should be how it works, right? Yes, it should be, but it often doesn't work this way. Yes, it may work this way for some vendors, but there are many venues and vendors that do not do this.
Venue managers often create a preferred vendor list based on one thing: money! DJs/companies work out deals with these venues and people who refer them, and agree to give a percentage or dollar amount to the venue or person who made the referral. It's often 10% of their fee. So if a DJ books a $2000 event, they'll give a referral fee of $200 to the venue/person. Many DJ companies and other vendors will "partner" with venues and be on the preferred list, or create a package that includes a DJ, photo booth, caterer, planner, etc. The venue manager will create a price that pays everyone the fee that they want, and still get a kickback from the vendors. Simply put, these "preferred vendors are not much different (if at all) than other companies. They're just willing to pay to be referred!
Even worse, some venue managers will penalize clients by charging a fee for not booking their preferred vendor lists (we've seen many charge $500 for not booking their preferred vendors). We've had many couples choose to book with us, despite paying that $500 fee, because our reasonable rates were still better, with that fee, than the preferred vendors prices. Usually, the DJ/company will charge extra if they're booked with a venue, and that extra will go directly to the venue. It's almost exploitation! This may not be the case for all venue managers and vendors, but we've definitely seen it at many venues in the Austin and central Texas area.
Overall, many DJs/companies choose to "pay to play." I can understand why DJs and other vendors do this, of course. More referrals means more income. We choose not to do this and still have plenty of bookings, all year long. Sure, we'd probably have more bookings if we did do this, but we'd rather not. Now you know the truth about those preferred vendor lists. Choose wisely!
Austin's Best DJs
We've taken our decades of experience and compiled it into a few helpful articles, to help you plan your wedding or event!