Every since I went to a disco when I was 14 during a family holiday and thought “This music sucks, I could do this way better!” I have been hooked on being on the turntables and playing out.
Finding new awesome tracks, hearing your music over a club PA and seeing 300 people go ape on the dance floor to your music selection is just awesome. So awesome that I have been djing for over 25 years now! Damn I feel like an old fart. Anyway. Check out my mixes, ya welcome: www.mixcloud.com/solaris100
But with great power comes great responsibility and every art form has some rules and regulations. Either imposed by oneself or by the rest of Club Land: The promoters, fellow DJs and of cause, the punters dancing in front of the DJ booth.
Being the DJ can be the best feeling in the world, or the worst place to be in.
So let me talk about what being a good DJ means to me. For me a good DJ only needs to do one thing well: Analyse the vibe of a crowd correctly and make people have a great time.
Sounds obvious, but the DJ and the crowd can really fall out over how this goal should be achieved best, and there has been a lot of frustration on both sides of the dance floor! DJs complain about people not being open minded enough to get into the groove and the crowd moaning about snobbish DJs who refuse to play the fun tunes!
I personally had people getting personally offended that I would not play their favourite Metal track… in a Funk Club… #facepalm
All this pain can easily be avoided with the right mind set on both sides of the equation.
To me the biggest aggravation happens when the DJ and the crowd BOTH misjudge what they signed up for and don’t adjust their expectations accordingly.
As saying YES or NO at the right time is the key to happiness, let’s discuss the different situations a DJ and a guest can find themselves entangled in, and how to deal with them correctly!
The House Party
A mate throws a party, and you bring a bag of tunes to play in the kitchen.
In this situation nobody is getting paid and DJ and guest are equally getting wasted. So the DJ really doesn’t owe anybody and can play what the fuck he or she wants. At the same time guests do have the right to ask for tunes without the DJ throwing a hissy fit.
This is a casual situation and should be approached as one.
Power levels: DJ: 60 / Guest: 40
The local boozer
You get a Friday to play tunes in your local pub
Here the DJ is expected to provide a service and is hopefully getting paid. Getting no pay or shitty pay does NOT relief the DJ of the expectation to provide appropriate music! So this is not the place to try out your latest Free Jazz albums and you need to expect to be approached by drunken punters.
Still, we are not at a high flying club night, so the DJ should be allowed to have fun with it as long as he or she is not playing Hip Hop tunes to a Classic Rock crowd.
Power levels: DJ: 40 / Guest: 60
A proper club night
Congrats! You made it to a properly promoted venue!
The DJ should hopefully get properly paid now and the pressure to entertain is on. In this situation the guest has ZERO right to approach the DJ! Even the promoter is banned from wandering over and suggesting tunes!
If things go south the guest is free to leave if he or she doesn’t like the music. And the promoter should have done his homework better before booking the DJ for the night. Once the disco train leaves the station all controls are off!
After the night is over and the DJ is paid the promoter has the right to shake his fist and never book that DJ again. That’s what people get for not booking ME in the first place!
Power levels: DJ: 100 / Guest: 0
A wedding / birthday party
“Hey I like your music, would you play at my wedding/birthday party? You can really play whatever you want…”
Let’s be honest here: You are, even if promised differently by the groom or the birthday girl, 100% expected to be a human juke box!
Very often the person who hires you has no idea about the musical preference of his or her guests. So when the people don’t dance and start to turn on you, the host will get nervous and will try to fix the situation by making comments like:
“Ok I said no cheesy stuff, but nobody dances… could you play 5 hours of straight Chart Hits although we agreed that I didn’t want you to? Please?”
Throwing DJ attitude around in this situation is futile! You have to accept that you are the little DJ BITCH of whoever hired you, all his mates and their drunken parents too. So get on with it and PRAY that you packed that ’50 classic Party Hits’ CD your flatmate got with his free paper the day before!
Top Tip: Either decline such bookings straight away or make it worth your while financially. As you WILL be required to play Justin Timberlake… at least twice! Being the humanoid Spotify playlist is not worth doing for peanuts and if the people don’t want to pay what you feel is fair NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER DO IT!
Power levels: DJ: 0 / Guest: 1000
The perfect gig
“Hey, we listened to your mix and as we are really into Minimal House and you are really into Minimal House we really like you to play Minimal House as our guests only like Minimal House!”
The perfect storm: You know what you get into, they know what they get into and it all falls together perfectly. You get paid a good fee, everybody is dancing and is happy. The Vodka Red Bull is flowing and MixMag writes a gushing review the next day.
Why can’t all sets be like this?
Power levels: All egos are extinguished… 1 Nation under a Groove!
Some final words of advice:
If you are booking a DJ: Communicate clearly your expectations and check his or her mixes first so you are not confused why he or she plays Techno at your Jazz Night!
When you hate the music as a guest: Either deal with it or leave. Respect that the DJ is a human person too and is not out to sabotage the night. Most likely he or she really tries his or her best to make you have fun! So buy another beer and give it a chance. Maybe the reason the DJ plays so much Trap is that your mate who hired him or her requested it.
Disclaimer: At NO POINT is it OK to walk over to the DJ, tell him or her how much he or she sucks and then rattle down a list of random songs you like to hear right now. Not cool!
When you are getting booked: Don’t sell yourself under value, respect your craft, try to spread L.O.V.E. and know what your getting yourself into when saying yes to a booking!
– DJ SOLARIS100 OVER AND OUT!
2 Replies to “It ain’t easy being a DJ”
Reminds me of DJ Shadow being asked to stop playing mid set in Miami in 2012.
Absolutely! Great call…