Things People Say To DJs
People say some funny things to DJs when it comes to attempting to persuade you to play music that is not in the style of what you’re currently playing and/or doesn’t go with the theme of the night.
Most of these people don’t understand that you aren’t meant to be a jukebox, or an extension of what they were bumpin’ in their car on the way over.
A DJ’s job is to read the overall crowd and find a happy medium between what they want & what you have to offer. You are creating a journey that usually starts off as background music and slowly gets in their veins as the alcohol begins to kick in. You are creating a soundtrack for the night & although you are flexible, the last thing you want to do is get derailed from the vibe you’ve been building to play a request that doesn’t have anything in common with this theme.
Imagine how terrible some movies would be if the audience got to pick the playlist for the movie’s soundtrack. Imagine people bombarding the film booth with off the wall requests during the movie. I can respectfully say that Beyonce would completely ruin the flow of Donnie Darko.
So as we continue with this parallel between a DJ set and a movie soundtrack, lets discuss & translate some common things people say to DJs that attempt to derail us from the story we are telling through our track selection.
“What kinda stuff do you play?”
Translation: “The radio station I listen to does not play any of the music you have played & since I only own 10 CD’s and listen to 1 radio station I don’t have the depth or patience to be educated by you. Please play that one popular song that you would prefer to stab yourself in the eye than play”.
Now this statement might be ok if you haven’t started playing music, but when you are 2-3 hours into your set and they can’t figure out what kind of music you play (or read the sign outside that displays the musical styles that will be played), there is a problem with this person. Unfortunately, this problem seems to be a common one.
“Is THIS all you’re gonna play tonite?”
Translation: See above
I’ve gotten this response when I was only on my 2nd or 3rd song or after several hours of playing every style of music except what they are in to.
“Can you play something we can dance to?”
Translation: “I just learned how to dougie, so I must only hear songs that I can dougie to. I plan to dougie all night even though your club has an 80’s theme.”
No, obviously I can’t. You seem to think that only 1 style of music is danceable & I have clearly missed the mark on finding that one style that satisfies you.
I’ve heard this playing Michael Jackson & if that doesn’t make your body move, you’re body must be dead.
“Change the beat up, you’re just playing the same song”
Translation: ” I don’t understand what a DJ does. I don’t get that a DJ finds common themes through multiple styles of music & finds a way to seamlessly patch them together. “
Translation: “Please play a song that will lower the intelligence of the room by at least 80% & make you want to commit Hari Kari on yourself.”
Ok, we can stop right there. we all know what is coming next, so we can pretty much ignore the rest.
“……… up in here”
Translation: see above
Sorry, if you end any statement with “up in here”, I’m not gonna play it. It doesn’t matter what the request is, it’s going to be awful.”
“Are you just gonna play Techno all nite?”
Translation: “I only listen to top 40 music and every other style in the history of man will be collected and filed under Techno.”
Look, this might be a legit question if I was actually playing techno all nite, but then again, if that was the case, you would probably be at the wrong club to make any requests that would satisfy you. I’ve heard this question asked to me when I was playing 80’s, indie, electro, house, downtempo, breaks, Funk, old school & disco. If you can’t distinguish all of these styles from Techno, you don’t belong in my club.
“Hey man, you’re doing great & I love what your doing but I got this girl…..”
Translation: “I do not like what you are playing & I am using the girl I showed up with as an excuse to try to get you to play music you would rather send to the depths of Mordor to suffer a slow painful death.”
“Play something I can shake my ass to.”
Translation: “I’m afraid a guy won’t take me out behind a dumpster for some hot love making if he doesn’t see me dance like an idiot to that one song on the radio tonite. “
This is similar to the whole “something I can dance to” statement. Nobody is stopping you from shaking your ass, and you don’t need a soundtrack to this ass shaking you so desperately want to partake in. There have been many types of ass shaking through the ages to many styles of music, so just what type of ass shaking are you talking about? Do you only know 1 way to shake your ass? Is your ass deficient of all other forms of shaking?
“Can you play my song next? We’re gonna leave.”
Translation: “I don’t respect what you do enough to have even tried to be entertained all night but I expect it will be no problem for you to play my song next so we can stink this place up even more before we exit.”
Leaving so soon? But without you, where will I find my inspiration? Please let me honor your presence and contribution to this magical night by sending you off with the 1 song before you leave that will absolutely kill the vibe I’ve spent hours building. Oh and thanks for not tipping. My parents are wealthy & I just play music for fun.
* oh & if you do tip me to play a bad song, tip well because playing your song is probably going to ruin the rest of my nite.
“It’s my friends birthday &….”
Translation: “Can you please play 50 Cent or an equally overplayed song that has nothing to do with the genre you were hired to play here tonite?”
Ok, now I’ll be fair. I know people want to feel special on their birthday & hear that one song that will make them remember their night. I get that. Sometimes I have even got… wait for it….. a GOOD request. Most of the time however, the request is a buzz kill. I tend to opt for This song, instead of the obvious 50 cent tune if they want a song that actually says “Birthday”.
“Hey, I’m a DJ too, can I spin?”
Translation: “I think I know better than you how you should run your night & I have no problem showing you the disrespect of asking you to stop doing your job so I can show you my skills.”
No dude, you can’t. I don’t know you and I don’t trust you with my equipment. Also it’s obvious that as a DJ yourself, you haven’t learned any thing about DJ etiquette. As a DJ, I respect what the DJ is attempting to do during his set. I am hoping to be taken into unexpected territory and possibly even learn something during the night. I don’t have a list of songs I need to hear when I step into a place. I am more interested in his/her vibe. I’m either feeling it or I’m not. In neither situation am I going to ask that he step away from the decks so I can “show him how it’s done”. That’s why I got my own gig! If I am not feeling the music, I will go somewhere else. I am not going to force the club to be subjected to what I think the DJ should be playing. Not Cool.
I hope this has cleared up some of the common things people say to DJs & allow you to easily translate it to the true meaning behind the statements. If you have been accosted by these type when you are DJing and still made it through the nite without hanging yourself, I honor you. If you are trying to open people’s minds to new sounds instead of offering up the musical junk food that so many other DJs seem to serve, I salute you. You are art in motion & you are what pushes us all forward.
Happy Music Mixing,
Pick up my Ebook for DJ’s: Mixing with Your Mind: Make your Best DJ Mix in Less Time
Yeap. I have heard them all. This article brings back some not to distant memories.I had a residency in Fire Island/Pines/Grove for 10 years. It was always very disrespectful when people approach me with any idiotic request or comment. It took me a long time to realize that it had nothing to do with me, but their selfish self. Thanks Jason.
These are funny! Thanks for posting!
One of my personal favorites is not listed here and I had the pleasure of hearing this on a lot of my mobile events, sometimes while I was setting up and hadn’t even powered up a single piece of gear.
“Can you play something good?”
Translation may be from “Point 1” of “What kind of stuff do you play.”
Even at weddings I was DJing I’ve had people tell me “who cares what the bride and groom want?” Those where my thoughts too! Why should I worry about playing what the ONLY 2 people, who have actually paid me play, want to hear on one of the biggest days of their lives? Silly DJ!
Fortunately, the Love of Music and the occasional grateful, complimentary words from the happy clients make it all worth it. Of course, the other side of this coin is to be a grateful DJ and never forget the people we perform for.
A few weeks ago I was at a club and the DJ was rockin’! Went up to the DJ booth just to say “Thank You” and tell him what an incredible set he mixed and how much my wife and I enjoyed the evening. Following good DJ etiquette, I could tell he was getting ready to drop the next mix so I waited there until he appeared to be un-busy. When he stopped to look up at the crowd and take a drink of his water, I approached his side of the booth and with a huge smile on my face put my hand out to shake his. He looked at me, completely blew me off, and waived me away like I was an airplane on a bad landing approach. Giving him the benefit of the doubt in that we are in a new country and maybe there was a language barrier or something lost in translation, I went over to the lighting control side of the booth and attempted to convey my gratitude there. When I explained my intentions to the lighting tech, he more or less told me the DJ doesn’t talk to people. I understand it can feel busy and intense behind the decks at a big club, so I asked the lighting tech to pass along my message. He rolled his eyes, pretty much gave me a “what ever,” turned his back and went back to his lighting station. While admittedly I was a bit upset, I also found it sad that a DJ could work so hard throughout the years to work his way into a big club and not appreciate the position or the people that show up week after week with their dollars in hand. Then there are DJs like DJ Jazzy Jeff who took the time outside Etoiles UAE after his set to take photos and talk to his fans. He graciously shook my hand, I truly felt like he appreciated my compliments on how much my wife and I enjoyed his set, and is one of the most kind and poised professionals I have ever met. Why do great artists stand the test of time? It’s not just their music, films, or crafts. If you ever read DJ Jazzy Jeff’s twitter posts, you can still see how grateful and “blessed” he feels his life is. Coincidence?
Great article! I agree 100%
“I’ve heard this playing Michael Jackson & if that doesn’t make your body move, you’re body must be dead.”
Ha Ha Ha- Nailed it! lol!