DJ Equipment Rental (and Borrowing) – Some Thoughts

A party hardly seems worth the effort without music to set the atmosphere.  Without equipment to provide that music, you're out of luck.  As club DJs (or promoters, club owners, party-throwers, etc.), we will often run into situations where we don't have the gear we need when we need it.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who has had this problem.  It usually leads one into panic mode, and starts the hunt for a pair of CDJs, a mixer, or some speakers.

It doesn't take long to realize that equipment doesn't just easily manifest itself out of thin air… especially if you're a small-town DJ like I am.  (If you're a mobile DJ running a business, you shouldn't even be reading this post.  Make the investment!)  You're usually left with two options: start hunting for places or people willing to rent DJ equipment, or start scrolling through your phone to call/text all your friends to see if they can help you out.  Additionally, you may have run into scenarios where people have asked to borrow or rent your equipment.  All of these situations call for a bit of consideration.

Determine Your Requirements

Obviously, the first thing to do is to figure out what it is you need.  Probably the hardest part is the sound equipment itself: speakers, amps, etc.  This is a common situation for one-off outdoor events, special events/fundraisers, house parties, and weddings (since night clubs and bars typically have a house system… if they don't, they might want to reconsider their business).  For smaller (low/no budget) events, you might be basically stuck with whatever you can track down or afford.  But if you have the option, keep a few things in mind:

  • Is this an indoor or outdoor event?
  • What size is the venue?
  • How many people are you expecting?
  • What are the power requirements?  Are there adequate receptacles close to where you will be setting up?

If you're working as a promoter and bringing a “big name” into town, the requirements might be fairly easy to determine since it should be listed on the DJ's technical rider.  Sometimes, the DJ will be willing to work with you on this, and sometimes they won't.  You should make these determinations before actually booking them.  A while back, I contacted a well-known DJ with interest in bringing him into town.  His technical rider stated that he required three Pioneer CDJ 1000's or better.  That was hard for me to swing on my small budget.  I already had CDJ-800s, so I asked if they would be acceptable.  He (very politely) stated that he needed at least two 1000's, because he didn't like working with older equipment due to some bad experiences in the past (my 800s were fairly old).  I honestly couldn't blame him… making a 3+ hour trip to come play on iffy equipment doesn't sound appealing to me, either.  I came back with an offer: 2 brand new 850's (a friend was willing to work a deal with me).  He said that would be just fine.

Turned out, I was able to score a pair of brand new CDJ-2000's by renting them off of a friend-of-a-friend.  It felt good to be able to actually deliver above and beyond the requirements!  But, it did cost money.  The lesson here is to be sure you can provide what you need or is asked for.  If you can't, perhaps you should consider not throwing the event (or modifying it to fit your budget).  You owe it to yourself to do it right!

DJ Equipment Rental and Borrowing Etiquette

It's easy to rely on your friend network to borrow or rent equipment, especially if you have few actual rental businesses local to you.  This is a viable option, but keep a few things in mind.

  • Treat it better than you treat your own equipment, or don't expect people to bail you out again.
  • Don't take advantage.  Remember, in the world of networking… you want to make yourself a resource too (and not just be a leech).
  • If you're turned down, don't take it personally.

It basically comes down to respect.

You should show the same respect to equipment that you rent from a company, if you want to keep your pocketbook happy!  If the company is worth their salt, they are insured… but that doesn't mean that you're in the clear for damage caused by carelessness.

Most people have a death-grip on their good DJ gear, and with good reason.  If someone helps you out, be prepared to pay it forward in the future.  And if this is becoming a frequent problem, you might just consider purchasing some new gear.

Renting Out Your Equipment

When you're involved in a tightly-knit scene, and you have good equipment, someone will inevitably want to borrow that equipment from you.  I learned this by being one of the few people in my small scene that had decent CDJs.  I let people borrow them here and there, and before I knew it, my CDJs literally spent more time away from my home than they were there.  And I didn't have a dime to show for it.

Guess what?  One of my CDJs is broken now.  And I only lent them out to people I trust to take good care of my stuff.  The point is that I wasn't charging for their use in a club environment, and in a club environment, things happen.  And now I didn't have a pool of “oops” money since I'd been loaning them out for free.  If you're not okay with this risk, don't be afraid to say “no”.  If you are, consider charging a reasonable price.

Loaning DJ equipment has some pros…

  • You can make money from equipment you already have.  (If done right, you could have “free” gear).
  • If you have a local, tightly-knit scene that you're passionate about, you might enjoy helping them out.
  • Networking.  If you're up-and-coming, it could lead to gigs.
  • Can make it into an actual business, or a part of your existing mobile DJ business.

… as well as some cons…

  • People don’t take as much care of other people’s equipment.  Ever driven a rental car?
  • Faster wear/tear on your gear.
  • People taking too long to pick up/drop off… I've dealt with this one many times.
  • Need to have “stock” to run a lucrative business.
  • Hours spent might not be worth it.

My personal recommendation would be to stay away from loaning out your equipment, unless you really really owe someone a favor.  That is, unless you want to make it into a legitimate business.  If you do that, I would suggest writing up a contract (or having someone write one up for you).  A typical going rate for renting DJ gear is about 1/10th of the MSRP of the equipment in question, and sometimes a security deposit.

Have any horror stories regarding borrowing or lending out DJ equipment?  Post your stories below!