How Much Do DJs Make?

Written by: Zach Wright

DJs get the party started – and keep it rolling – with great music, mixes, and engaging conversations with their audience. But there’s a lot more to being a DJ than just spinning some tunes, of course. And if you’re looking to be a DJ or hire one, you might be wondering. How much do DJs make? 

In this article, we’ll take a look at how much DJs make. We’ll also go over what a DJ does and what kind of equipment a DJ needs so you know what type of investment it takes to become a DJ.

What Does a DJ Actually Do? 

  • DJs typically use pre-recorded music and play it at events such as weddings, parties, and clubs or even on the radio. But they do even more than that! 
  • A DJ might interact with their audience, asking questions, playing trivia, introducing wedding guests, or talking about the music, keeping them engaged and excited to be there. 
  • A DJ will create smooth transitions between songs, create a sense of atmosphere that fits the mood of the event, and provides music that is suitable for the audience. 
  • A DJ will manage their sound equipment, making certain volume levels are appropriate for the venue, adding effects when needed, and even creating music by scratching or remixing popular tunes. 
  • They may introduce fun sound effects, provide short speeches, or lead karaoke. 
  • A DJ may act as the cruise director of the event, keeping everything running smoothly and ensuring the audience is enjoying the music. 
  • DJs may also work at private or corporate events, lead podcasts, work at radio stations, and of course, play gigs. 

What Kind of Equipment Does a DJ Need? 

Unless you work at an established club or radio station as a DJ, you’ll probably need your own equipment. However, when you’re just starting out, you can rent equipment or purchase just the basic equipment you need and then expand as necessary. 

The equipment cost is an essential consideration because if you treat being a DJ like a business, and you should, the cost of the equipment will take away from your profit. You might purchase the equipment up front or use a monthly installment loan to cover the costs. Some things you will need to get started are: 

The list can get a little bit longer than that, but those are the basics that will get you started. You can read more about beginner DJ equipment here. And you can find out how much DJ equipment costs here. This way, you’ll know how much of an investment you’ll need to make before you get started. 

How Much Does a DJ Make? 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for DJs in 2021 was about $45,000 for the year. Some of these may work part-time, and some may work full-time, so the average hourly rate is around $22 per hour. The actual amount is going to vary based on the type of DJing you do, the area you live in, how much you work, and how good you are. 

Hourly Salaries for Gigs

DJs in larger cities will make more money than DJs in smaller towns. You can expect a DJ in New York City or Los Angeles to make anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour for a typical 4-hour club gig, making the nightly pay anywhere from $200 to $400, according to DJPro Tips.  DJs playing a wedding may work for more hours per gig but will bring home anywhere from $600 to $900 for the event.

Assistant DJs

As a beginner DJ, it might be difficult to get gigs. You may need to do DJ some events for free or at a low cost to get your name out there. But once people start hearing your music – and loving it – that will help you get hired for better-paying gigs. If you are having trouble getting started, one of the best ways is to find a well-established DJ that will hire you as an assistant so you can learn the trade. A DJ assistant may only make around $15 an hour, looking at opportunities that are available on indeed. This type of position would be like a part-time job that helps you get started, but the education you get from assisting can be priceless. 

Radio DJs

Radio DJs and announcers often have a degree in journalism or communications. They don’t usually need their own equipment, though. On the other hand, DJs that play gigs such as weddings and parties don’t usually need a degree, but they do need their own equipment. 

If you took out a loan to purchase your DJ equipment, you would want to consider that as a business expense that needs to be paid before you take a salary. You’ll also need to set aside enough money to cover local, state, and federal taxes. However, you may want to talk to your local accountant to find out if equipment and mileage are a tax-deductible expense. 

Example of a DJ’s Monthly Salary 

So for example, if you play 2 gigs a week at $50 per hour, you’ll make about $400 a week part time, or $1600 a month. You’ll need to hold back about 12% for taxes (or whatever amount your accountant suggests) and enough to cover the monthly cost of your equipment, if you have any. So maybe you’ll need to hang onto $192 for taxes and $100 for equipment, leaving you with about $1300 for your work. Of course, the exact figures will vary depending on where you live, what kind of gig you are doing, how much your equipment costs are, and how much you need to pay in taxes. 

Final Thoughts on What Does a DJ Actually Make? 

If you are going to be a DJ, you probably have a passion for making great music, and you probably love being a great host! You’ll spin tunes and engage your guests to help them have a great time at events, weddings, and clubs. In a sense, a DJ is hired to be the life of the party! And as such, they’re definitely worth being paid well. 

So once you get established in your field, you can expect to make around $30 to $60 per hour in smaller towns and $50 to $100 per hour in bigger cities, so long as people like your tunes. Of course, if you are playing weddings, you’ll make a larger salary, but weddings also require more prep work because you’ll need to meet with the bride and groom to make sure you are playing all of the songs they love. 

Written By:
Zach has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Being a studio owner for 13 years, he actively helps musicians and producers with technical issues around musical instruments and studio and audio equipment.

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