Handling a song request and keeping everyone on side – can it be done?
Recently I was DJ-ing at a Christmas Party here in Perth when a lady sidled up to me and yelled a song request in my ear. Nothing unusual, except she followed it up with
‘But can that be, like, next? Like right now?’.
I explained, as politely as I could while yelling my response, that I already had a few tracks queued up. This included requests from other guests, however, I would try and work it into the next 10-15 mins. Cue the young lady rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath ‘but that’s your job!’. Then storming off to lament to her friends about the worst DJ everrrr.
Unfortunately a lot of people share the same view as this lady of what a DJ’s role is at a party: play what I tell you to, when I tell you to, or feel my wrath! If that were truly the way DJs worked, then there wouldn’t be much separating a DJ from a Jukebox. Or an iPod playlist. Or a toaster.
The reality is, when you hire a DJ in Perth (or wherever you live), you’re paying for a service that is a lot more complex. It’s a lot more like a carpenter hand-crafting a chair than pressing a button on a musical vending machine.
A good DJ will be considering a large amount of factors as he or she makes smart song choices throughout the evening. These factors include but are not limited to
-Tempo (beats per minute) and energy level
-Key (Do the tracks fit together melodically?)
-The event schedule (How will speeches and other announcements fit into the set)
-Audience appropriateness. This is sometimes referred to as ‘reading the room’. An inability to read the room is the most common cause of DJ train wrecks.
If the music played at an event didn’t consider any of the above and the DJ just blindly followed the requests of the guests -who are lets face it, very inebriated -you’d end up with some horrifically cringe worthy and dance floor killing clashes. Fancy some ‘Gangnam style’ followed by ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’? Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ and ‘My Heart Will Go On’ are both great tracks, but if you put them anywhere near each other you get a dance floor killing reaction.
The frustrating thing about all this from the DJ’s perspective, is that the accountability for a poor song choice is placed on the DJ, and not the person who requested the song. So if you do play it, everyone thinks you’re terrible at your job, but if you don’t play it, you cop it from the requestor who hassles you relentlessly.
It’s a predicament mobile DJs find themselves in at almost every gig, and trust me it’s not much fun.
So what is the moral of this story? If you’re going to hire a DJ, or if you’re going to request a song from one, understand that they are not your musical servant. Expecting them to play songs when you click your fingers is a sure-fire way to earning some serious shade. The best, and most likely to be successful approach to making a song request is to say something like this:
Hey! How’s your night going? Good? Mine too! Hey I was wondering if you have (x Song) by (x Artist)? I’d really love to hear it tonight, if you can work it in at some point.
If you follow the above, nine times out of ten the DJ will go out of his or her way to make sure your song gets played. I believe that’s what they call a win win.