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We all get sick from time to time. So far, I’ve been lucky enough never to have been too sick to show up and perform at an event I’ve been contracted to play, but one never knows what the future holds. Do you have a plan in place in the even that you wake up too sick to DJ?

This is an especially important situation to plan ahead for during the Covid-19 pandemic. In normal times, if you felt a little sick it would have been fine to show up and play anyway. But with special rules in place, you may need to show a negative Covid test in order to work. And even without any legal barrier to working, from an ethical standpoint, if you think there is a chance you have Covid, you owe it to your client, their guests, and the other vendors, to make sure you aren’t sick before spinning. You may be fine, but someone who catches it from you may not be, so it’s important to be diligent about health and safety protocols.

So then, what do you do if you are too sick, or test positive for Covid, at the last minute, and can’t honor your contract? If you are playing a night club or other informal affair, it may be as easy as calling your contact at the club and explaining you can’t make it. They will almost certainly have a list of other DJs, and will find someone to cover for you. But what if you have signed a contract to perform at a wedding, and have been paid a sizable sum in advance to do so? You can be sure the bride won’t have a roster of DJs at her disposal, so you calling her isn’t an option. Sure, you could simply call and tell her you are too sick, but not only will you be piling stress on her, and likely ruining her wedding, you are sure to receive negative reviews online from her and all her family and friends, and are opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Wedding vendors have been successfully sued in the past for damages due to ruining a wedding that can reach into six or seven figures. You don’t want to become another cautionary tale.

Instead of risking everything, have a plan in place for this eventuality. Your plan should include:

1. Network!

You should be doing this anyway, so you have DJs to refer jobs to when someone asks about hiring you on a day you’re already booked, and so those DJs can refer you. If you aren’t already, you need to start keeping a list of local DJs that you can call at the last minute if you are sick, or otherwise unable to fulfill a contract. Reach out to them, get to know them, buy them coffee, let them buy you coffee. You’ll make some friends, learn some new things about DJ’ing, and have people to reach out to in an emergency.

2. Join a local DJ Association

This is like number 1, but in overdrive. DJ associations will offer you many perks; so many that I will dedicate a future article to them. For now, take my word for it and join one. If none exist in your area, start one.

3. Club owners can be a resource

If no DJs you know are available, start contacting clubs and promoters. They all keep lists of DJs, and can likely reach out to a dozen or so on your behalf. Keep this as a last resort, as the DJs who primarily work in clubs tend not to be experienced with weddings and such, but someone is better than no one. Be sure to sweeten the pot, and let the club owner or promoter know you’ll pay their DJ more than his full club rate, and you’ll toss in a finder’s fee for finding you a DJ. At this point, profit and loss is not important– you need to find a replacement!

4. Always prepare your paperwork

You’ll find it helpful to have all the important information about a given job in one place: the names of the bride and groom and their family and the bridal party, the name and address of the venue, the timeline for the day, requests, and all that good stuff. You should be compiling this for your own use, but also in the event of an emergency it’s key to have a document ready to share that tells a last-minute DJ all he needs to know. You will be too busy finding a DJ to create one at the last minute, so get in the habit of creating one in advance for every show you play.

5. The Hail Mary

You can’t make it, and you can’t find anyone. What do you do? You turn to your best friend, spouse, favorite uncle, eldest child… anyone you trust. At this point, you need someone standing behind the decks playing music, and since experience, skill, and talent are no longer an option, you need someone you can count on to do the job you tell them to do. You may have to spend the entire day sick in bed on speakerphone telling them step by step what to do, but at least they’ll be there doing it. Best case, it goes off without a hitch. Worse case, you may end up with a disappointed client, and find yourself refunding their payment, and maybe even giving them more back than they paid, but that’s a far cry better than finding yourself in court being sued for the full cost of the wedding, plus damages. Get someone there who will do as you say, and at least you have a chance to salvage the day.

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