A DJ referral or recommendation is usually based on trust.

In an earlier article, I suggested one of the most reliable sources of trustworthy vendor information is a DJ referral from wedding venues.

This means that the venue has to trust the people they’re recommending.  It’s still one of the best ways to know how to choose a reliable wedding DJ, photographer, or celebrant.

In theory, it means they’ve seen the specific DJ they’re recommending actually working.  It should mean they’ve seen or heard the feedback from other clients at the venue about the specific DJ, and they are confident the wedding DJ they’re recommending will do an awesome job and not embarrass the venue.

However, this is only my suggestion.  The reality is this – some DJ companies just pay better than others.  Yes, they pay to play.

The business behind this makes sense.  For a DJ company, paying a venue to give them work is no different to paying commision to a sales rep to knock on a bride’s door.

But does it change the dynamic?  And is your venue upfront about this?  Do you think they NEED to be upfront?  Or – do you just trust the venue to not recommend a dud?

When a venue recommends a “multi-op DJ company”*   they’re possibly only recommending the brand, perhaps just one of the DJs inside the company.  They may also only be recommending the company because they pay the best commision, even if the referral didn’t come directly from the venue.


What does all this mean for you?

Well, it means you’ve got more questions to ask, and you’re well within your rights to ask these if you think it’s important enough.  That’s your job!  Now you know it happens, you can ask the right questions.

  • Does the venue know who the actual DJ will be on the night?
  • Is the DJ company paying the venue just to be there?
  • Is the DJ paying the venue to recommend/refer them?
  • Has the person giving the referral actually been at the venue when the DJ has been working?
  • How many other DJs does the venue recommend or suggest?
  • Is there any DJ the venue will NOT allow?  If so – why?

Yes I’ve done it too

I was against it.  I believed that a referral should be based on trust and mutual respect for other professionals.  I wanted to be able to say “hand on heart” that the when a specific venue, photographer or celebrant was giving out my name, it was because they loved what I did, they trusted my name, they knew I’d look after their name and our mutual clients in return.

That was until an Australian DJ colleague explained “venue kickbacks” as nothing more than a legitimate business transaction not unlike paying a sales rep to grow your business.

For years, I worked with Collective Hospitality venues The Wharf and Orakei Bay providing my service as part of their package.  The venue made a small amount over and above what I charged, and this is normal business.  I looked after their clients like they were my own.  Couples got my full service including custom edited ceremony audio, lapel clip-on microphones for the ceremony (not big handheld microphones), support and coaching for their MC and a whole bunch of ideas and passionate perspectives.  That was a long list of things that the venue did NOT want to be dealing with (and should not be in most cases either, to be fair).   The venues knew when they called and booked me, they booked me.  It was me that was there on the day, it was me they entrusted to meet their clients.  It was me they knew would turn up on time (early, in fact), sober, dressed professionally, and know what to do in case anything wasn’t quite right.

They dealt with me, the owner of my business at all times from our first contact to end of the last dance.  Simple, and everybody wins.

But is it wrong?

In a word – no.Paid DJ referrals are just business

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any business paying to get more business.  It’s happened forever and is a core part of doing business virtually anywhere in the world.

It’s no different to paying a commision based sales rep, paying for advertising, paying to boost a post on Facebook.  There are “social influencers” on SnapChat, Instagram and other social networks who get paid to promote products they may otherwise never have used.  George Forman made more from a kitchen grill than he did from boxing.  Do you think he invented that grill?  Do you feel ripped off after buying one?

It’s the same thing here.  If your venue is making a little on the side from recommending that DJ, then it’s just business.  BUT…  In my opinion, shouldn’t the venue be upfront about it if asked?  Why they’re recommending these people, and what’s in it for them?

Because it’s your wedding, you can do nearly anything you want.  You can have the wedding you want, and you can have things the way you want.  You need to be able to trust the people you’re working with, and the names or suggestions given to you.

It’s really up to you to decide if it’s right for you.  Yes, it’s just business.  But your wedding is personal, right?

So ask yourself this – are they referred because they are going to do the best job for you, or is it because they have the biggest wallet?

Just my thoughts.  I welcome yours.



Nick Logan

  • Event DJ
  • Wedding MC
  • Nice Guy

* The term “multi op” refers to a DJ company with multiple DJs within the operation.  Some of the DJs inside the company may be self-employed sub-contractors, some may be salaried staff, others could be trainees or just audio techs used for sound-only events.  


DJ referrals that are paid for right or wrong?