• Tom Westwood

Choosing the right venue and DJ

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

So you've decided to have a party or wedding? Time to choose your venue and DJ then.

For some this will be simple, you may have already been somewhere and fallen in love with it or even seen a DJ, artist or band perform and know that they are just who you want. No need to read on!

If like most you aren't too sure here's a few tips from me, I've been lucky enough to DJ now for over 20 years, in most venues around Leicester and would like to think I could call myself 'experienced'!


Tip Number 1- Location

Think about the locality of the venue in relation to the distance you and your guests will travel, whilst one walking distance away from you might seem great if its a good distance away from your guests location you may find less people wanting to celebrate with you

Tip Number 2 - Cost

I guess the most important aspect if you are working to a budget, some places will offer free room hire, others may throw in a DJ or entertainment (be wary of this - I'll tell you why later!)

If you are thinking of a theme then look at whether your venue would accommodate room decoration or does it even fit in with the theme. Also find out if there is an additional cost for things like use of kitchen, hire of table clothes, some venues may even charge extra for clean up post event

Tip Number 3 - Bar

Who doesn't love a good bar, Ill tell you who, your DJ or performer if its in the wrong place! So often I've performed in venues where the bar is in another room or area away from the dance floor, whilst this might seem a good idea in principle (for example older guests might like a good natter) it can have an impact on people getting up and dancing. In my opinion the bar being in the same room as the dance floor helps massively! A performer of any sort should read the room, lots of chatting, operate at a lower volume with less intensive lighting.

Tip Number 4 - Entertainment

As mentioned earlier some venues will include DJ's or entertainment 'free of charge'. whilst in some cases this might seem like an ideal option, take time to get information, maybe even see them in action prior to booking, ask for pictures or videos of their set up, be mindful a picture of lots of people dancing doesn't always equal a great DJ or performer. I would always suggest a signed contract from them, nothing worse than finding out that you've been let down last minute because the 'mate of the owner got a better offer, or couldn't be bothered to turn up!' (and believe me I've known it happen!) also be wary of hidden costs, for example I've known of couples and event organisers have to pay to NOT use the venues entertainment. If you do intend on bringing in your own entertainment please check this with your venue. Any venue worth its weight should ask for PLI and PAT certificates from your entertainment (Public Liability Insurance & Portable Appliance Testing)


Tip Number 1 - I'll tell you what you want, what you really really want!

Or not! For me there's a bit of a myth here, booking entertainment for an event, party or wedding is less about what you want and more about pleasing your audience, they'll be the ones that will make or break your evening and will talk about it for years to come - good or bad, so think wisely!

You may love for example The Beatles so you may think that a Beatles tribute band maybe the way forward, great if you like them if your audience aren't fans it could be a hard days night! (see what I did there!) That being said if you are theming your evening then possibly a tribute act would be ideal, make sure you advertise your theme well when you invite your guests, let them know whats in store for them!

Tip Number 2 - The band / entertainment will DJ when they aren't playing

Not always. whilst its true enough that anyone can set up a playlist and leave it running that doesn't make you a DJ, reading the dance floor, responding to the audience, playing Uncle Dave's request at the right time, knowing whether the next song will fill or empty the floor is the art of a good DJ. A playlist that gives an artist or band a 'break' can't possibly do that. Far better to book both and give your party goers the best of both worlds.

Tip Number 3 - Know your entertainers

Might seem a little daft this but a good relationship with your entertainment can really help make an evening, this doesn't mean hire your brother in law to play some stuff on a poorly tuned guitar, but build up a relationship prior to the event, if you can see the act in action. If you as the clients are seen to be in good relation with your entertainment your guests will relax and enjoy the event too. All to often the entertainment can be put in a corner and left to 'get on with it'. The personal touch of making them feel welcome will always go down well, oh and being offered a drink always works wonders!

Tip Number 4 - Requests and music

So you've picked your venue, you've decided on a source of entertainment, they are likely to ask the type of music, specifics that you'd like. If they don't make sure you do! I'd offer two extra pieces of advice here.

1) Don't try and plan the music for the performer - yes give them your favourite tracks and a feel for the type of stuff YOU like to dance too, but remember your guests outnumber you, a good way to get around this would be to add a request slip to your invite, or leave the professional to do his job! You wouldn't tell the chef how to cook your food, or the vicar in how to conduct his ceremony!

2) Tell your entertainment what to avoid! As a DJ I know I can fill a floor with Whigfield - Saturday night but if the sound of the Nee, nee, naahs at the beginning makes your skin crawl don't be afraid to say NO before its too late. Also music can evoke an emotion, if there are specific tracks that may do this but NOT for the right reasons, speak up. Theres nothing worse than playing a track that may have been played at a loved ones funeral and to watch the audience reach for the tissues.

Word of mouth advertising and seeing acts performing are truly the best way of deciding if they are right for you and your event, you wouldn't buy a car with out test driving it, so don't with your entertainment. Remember, they will be the biggest part of your event, party or wedding.

Tip Number 5 - cost of entertainment

To coin the phrase 'you get what you pay for' goes someway towards getting the best you can for your budget. Whilst saying that it doesn't mean that cheaper can't be good.

Any entertainment should offer a quote, ask for a deposit, give a contract to be signed, offer readily the necessary paperwork required by your venue. If they can't do this, be wary. Looking to avoid disappointment on the day? avoid cash in hand deals, or a 'promise i'll be there arrangement' Whilst the business side of many artists may not be their strongest point, if it doesn't feel right it probably isn't!

Its all relative - If you are going to pay £500 for your cake but try and get your entertainment for less than £200 then you are looking at it all wrong! (I've seen it happen!) what happens here is you and your guests probably won't have the best evening and at the end of the night your less than adequate performer will be helping himself to the left over cake!!

Your performer more often than not makes up the biggest part of your day - in the case of a wedding longer than the ceremony. My advice would be budget backwards, don't leave the entertainment until the last thing on your list because they are often the last thing that happens, They in some cases make up more than 50% of your day and need to be treated like that!

I hope my advice makes some sense! If you've got any questions or would like to know more please get in touch, I'd sooner offer useful advice even if you decide against TMW Productions for your event!

Thanks Tom

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