Know Your Crowd


This seems like an obvious one, but when somebody is interested in hiring you for a gig, you should really be interviewing them, too. First of all, it gives a more professional impression. People want to be sure that their expectations are going to be met, and when you ask them what they envision for their event, you are showing them that you are interested in making that vision a reality. Find out what type of music they want you to play so that you have time to get more in that style if you need to. If they’re giving you free reign because they’ve heard you before, find out what they liked about it and what they didn’t so you know what to do/not to do. Ask them about the crowd. Ages, what they consider a good turnout to be, if they like to dance, that kind of thing. Ask about the venue: if there’s equipment already set up, if they’re cool with you bringing your own gear, where the DJ booth is located, how big the dance floor is. Anything you think you’ll need to know to ensure everyone has a great time.

Find out how you should handle requests if you’re given any. Sometimes people don’t care and will let you do whatever the crowd is feeling. If this is a club event and people have paid specifically to hear you spin, then forget that one or two people if you don’t feel like playing what they ask for. But if that’s not the case, take stock of the situation: if you’re playing house music and somebody comes up to ask if you have Free Bird, you may not want to honor that one if you don’t have to. Or make it fun and do a mashup. Who knows, maybe they’ll dig Free Bird: House Edition. Give it a try and see what happens. I’ve also heard of DJs who basically assign blame. If someone requests a song, the DJ takes it very seriously and asks the person’s name. Even if the song is a terrible idea, they’ll play it and make sure everyone knows who asked for it—and you don’t have to be a jerk about it, just be loud and clear—and put the tune on. If you see that it is crashing and burning, you can always transition to another song after a minute or two just so the requester will stop bothering you. But this way, you’ll still have technically done what they wanted and if it kills the crowd’s energy, they all know it wasn’t your idea to put it on. I know, you’ll probably get sick of having people ask you for the same earwormy dance song over and over but remember this: your success as a DJ depends on how much fun the crowd is having and how much people like what you’re playing. You may have the greatest edits in the history of DJing but if the crowd wants to hear dubstep and your stuff is all hip hop, guess what? Nobody’s going to care about what a cool and creative guy you are. All they are going to remember is the crappy DJ that “didn’t play anything good.”

Look out at the crowd from the DJ booth. If nobody’s dancing after one song and they were all on the floor a minute ago, give it another song and see what happens. If still nobody goes out there, start reading body language. Are people taking a break for some reason (maybe you wore them out, man) but still seem interested in what you are playing? Are they tapping their feet, nodding their head, or inching ever closer to the dance floor? Are they talking amongst themselves, or worse, looking bored? Making some quick musical judgment calls can save a floundering gig if you’re paying attention to the audience.

While the crowd may not be the ones paying your salary, if they are happy, they can help your reputation and credibility as far as landing future gigs. Happy crowd = better rep = more gigs for you. I may not be outstanding in math but I know a good formula when I see one.

Oh, and you’re welcome for today’s tip, brought to you by the should-be-obvious queen.