Employees vs. Independent Contractors

Attending a Wedding Reception as a Guest: A DJ’s Perspective

As a professional DJ with Music By Design, Ltd., my calendar is booked between now and the end of the year with wedding receptions. Every weekend is different, fun and exciting. I have the opportunity to play music customized to each couple’s taste, observe family traditions, and orchestrate the evening and deliver a memorable and enjoyable event for everyone involved.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a wedding as a member of the bridal party. The couple was using a DJ who was working as an independent contractor for a large DJ company based in Naperville. Clearly, the couple did not know the DJ was an independent contractor – most DJ ‘booking agents’ lie about that part. Because of Music By Design’s attention to detail and commitment to stellar customer service, I was eager to see how this DJ would perform. Needless to say, I was observing with a critical eye and ear.

The first thing that struck me was that the DJ was not prepared with the proper equipment to run the audio for the couples’ video montage, even though the couple had made arrangements for with DJ company in advance. Fortunately, Music By Design’s office was not very far away and I drove to get the proper equipment. Since the DJ was not accountable for the quality of service (he is an independent contractor), there was obviously a communication breakdown between the couple, the company (booking agent), and the actual DJ.

The next thing that I found unsettling was that he had the wrong bridal party introduction music cued up. Luckily, I clarified with him moments before he was going to begin and had him change the song to the bride and groom’s selection. In some cases, perhaps the introduction music is not a big deal, but in this instance the groom was a big Chicago White Sox fan and wanted the party to come out to ACDC’s “Thunderstruck.” Any other song would have fallen short of his expectations for this big moment.

Next, there was an issue with the dinner music. When a Music By Design DJ plays dinner music, we hand select songs based on the musical taste of the couple and their guests. We remain at the DJ booth and actively select music to accommodate the bride and groom. This DJ put on Michael Buble and let it play through – even allowing the songs to loop (play the same song over and over). I am not knocking Michael Buble, I think he’s great, but I would have mixed it up with various artists. To put music on “loop” is cheating the guests and the couple and leads people to wonder, “Why not just plug in an iPod?”. When a couple is spending over $1,000 for a DJ, they deserve a DJ that is going to “actively DJ” the entire night.

Next, there was an issue with the first dances. The bride and groom’s dance went smoothly as did the father-daughter dance, but when the DJ played the mother-son song, he began to replay the bride and groom’s song. Not only was it embarrassing to have to stop the dance and have the groom walk to the DJ booth, but then the DJ did not have the custom song that the groom had requested. As far as I am concerned, that is completely unacceptable. How is it possible to not have the mother-son dance? That is what happens when independent contractors are invovled.

At this point, I wanted to try to let go, have a few cocktails and enjoy myself. After all, it’s not often that I get to party and dance at a wedding. So, the dance floor opened up around 9:15 p.m. and I put on my dancing shoes. I was determined to have a good time no matter what and I did, but, I know for a fact that the bride and groom submitted a detailed list of must play songs and I was not hearing any of those songs. What I was hearing was a very cookie cutter, run of the mill, been-there-done-that, stale list of traditional wedding reception songs. Oh, we heard, “We are Family”, “Celebration”, “YMCA”, “Shout”… you probably know them just as well as I do. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these songs. I am not trying to sound like a pretentious music snob. I am simply noting that this bride and groom requested specific songs and not many of them were played until the groom spoke with the DJ. All they got was the same cookie cutter wedding music as another couple got the weekend before that, and the weekend before that, and so on. There was nothing unique about the music selections…even though the bride and groom were told they can choose their music. Did people dance and have fun? Yes, they did. Did I hear people comment that the DJ wasn’t very good? Yes, I did.

Bottom line: Always know what you are getting if you book a company using independent contractors. Also, learn how to identify a company that uses independent contractors (most of these DJ companies ‘booking agents’ try to hide it). Chances are, they are accustomed to playing the same music week in and week out and will not go above and beyond in terms of customer service.

2 replies
  1. Fair Witness
    Fair Witness says:

    The fact that a dj is or is not an independent contractor has nothing to do with the quality of his performance. Communication between the dj and bride, dj and office is key. Pride in one’s craft/professionalism is important.

    Bashing other djs is a poor way to differentiate your service – just be excellent if you are in fact a superior service provider. It will be noted. Knocking others down to build yourself up shows poor judgment and questionable ethics.

  2. Chicago Wedding Blog
    Chicago Wedding Blog says:

    Clearly, the DJ Industry is very shady and unprofessional…any industry that has low barriers to entry is always questionable. I was just at a wedding on 9.3.11 as a guest and the DJ had a beer in one hand and the mic in the other. The bride and groom were really upset. It was a larger well known company that uses independent contractors. Our intention is not to knock others down at all. Just tell the truth and inform. The goal is to inform customers about all the tactics used in the DJ industry so they can make an informed decision during the hiring process. When a customer asks to meet their DJ and the “booking agent” (not DJ company) say that can’t…the customer should understand what is really happening.

    “The fact that a dj is or is not an independent contractor has nothing to do with the quality of his performance.”

    In most cases, absolutely false. Independent contractor’s are not vested in the well being of a company. They are “for hire” DJs and do not really work for a company on an exclusive basis. If they are working for a company exclusively, they can not be directed or controlled in any way by that company, therefore, the company can not guarantee the quality of service to the customer. If you do hire contractors and have them rent equipment from you to get around the tax code…now we are talking about legal vs. illegal (tax code IRS penalty)…that is definitely about questionable ethics.

    Communication between the dj and bride, dj and office is key. Pride in one’s craft/professionalism is important.

    Clearly. However, most “booking agents” that operate with independent contractors do not communicate well. Proof is in the reviews and just being around the industry. I hear it all the time…book ’em and bill ’em. Customers need to know what is really happening. Also, directed communication between the “booking agent” and the independent contractor is illegal according to the tax code (the “booking agent” can not “GIVE DIRECTION” in “ANY CAPACITY” – straight from the tax code).

    If you would like a discussion about ethics, you have come to the right place. Music By Design holds ethics as the basis of our business model starting at the core of our business plan. If you believe it is unethical to tell the customers truth about the DJ industry or you use independent contractors and tell customers (it is just for tax purposes only)…ethics is something you may want to brush up on.

    Unfortunately for the customer, outsourcing is common place in the DJ industry. Independent contractors do not actually work for the company, therefore, they are not accountable for the quality of service provided. By law, a company that uses an independent contractor does not have the right to direct and control work performance — including the details of when, where, and how the job is accomplished. In other words, Independent contractors cannot be supervised or directed in any way. If you hire a DJ company that employs independent contractors, it is illegal for that company to direct and control the actions of the DJ performing at your event. It is difficult for a DJ company using independent contractors to honestly guarantee the quality of service and equipment that will be used at your event. In addition, independent contractors are not covered under most company’s liability insurance. Beware! Many DJ companies in the Chicagoland area outsource independent contractors. Music By Design employs legal employees only (it is the ethical thing to do), not independent contractors.


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