The Art Of Taking DJ Song Requests
Firstly, what makes a great DJ?
To understand more about taking DJ song requests first we must ask what makes a great DJ. I believe what makes a great DJ is a DJ who cares, therefore when it comes to taking DJ song requests, you should always try your best to squeeze them in so long as they are appropriate. Besides, taking requests can sometimes be really helpful if you are trying to work out the crowd. Let’s use a school disco for example, you might not be up to date with the latest Top 40 hits or whatever little kids listen to these days, so allowing a request in this scenario can be a life saver and even teach you a few things about what people really wanna hear. Even in a club however, you don’t need to be some arrogant DJ with his nose stuck up in the air like ‘this is what i’m playing and if you don’t like it, f@#$ off!’. Yeah well I hate to burst your bubble Mr Tiesto Guetta wannabe, but whole reason you are here is to make people dance and if all you wanna play is just what YOU think is cool only then go back to being a bedroom DJ where you belong. I’m not telling you to go and play the Macarena every time someone asks for it, but what I am saying is sometimes the people on the dance floor have good song suggestion or two, and if they fit in line with the genre or sub genre you are playing, then why not make someone’s day and play their song? It’s all about making people have a good time and enjoy your music, and that’s why I always try and play as many requests as possible.
Should You Always Take Requests
Most of the time… YES. You should take requests at every event (unless you are a main stage DJ at Tomorrow Land but this probably isn’t you) however there are some exceptions to this rule, please continue reading.
But I’m a Club DJ
Even as a club DJ, if people are asking for songs, so long as they are in line with the genre you are playing, then why not? It’s about lifting the energy in the room and getting people in a good vibe, playing the odd request never hurt anyone.
But I’m Not a Jukebox, I’m A DJ
We know you aren’t a jukebox, that’s why you’ve been hired to DJ so that you can do a job that a jukebox can’t do. That is read the crowd and choose the right selection of songs, have a huge knowledge of music in your head so that you can choose the perfect songs for the perfect moments, and take and manage requests. You see, a juke box will just put whatever song has been entered into the machine as the next song, you as the DJ need to use your brains a little and work out if and when is the best time to play them songs, and if possible find a way to play them all.
Reasons why you might reject someone’s request
When turning down someone’s request always try to be polite. As I mentioned above, you should try to play people’s requests if possible, but sometimes for various reasons it’s just not possible and here 4 possible reasons why:
1. The song is not appropriate
Sometimes people ask for songs that are just not appropriate. You could be DJing a kids party and someone asks for a song with swearing or sexual references, or it may be that you are DJing a wedding and someone asks you to play some Metallica or Guns n Roses.
2. You’ve already played the song
In my opinion, It is best to try not to play songs twice as it can really bore people and it just doesn’t look cool. In fact, playing songs twice in one event is one of the cardinal sins of a DJ. If someone asks for a song you’ve already played, unless you have been asked specifically by the birthday person or the client themselves, then do not play it. Just tell them it’s been played already and if they persist, tell them to go and speak with the customer.
3. The song does not fit in with the current genre and your structure (See “Structuring An Event”)
As a professional DJ, you must be confident in your plan for the night and aim to stick to your structure, read more about that here, but in simple terms it just means grouping genres of music and changing these genres at key moments to build up a climax towards the end of the event. What I am more referring to here is trusting your instincts, you should feel if a request is appropriate or not. If you go against your intuition and break your structure, you might kill the dance floor with a bad request and then be struggling to recover the dance floor again.
4. You KNOW this request is gonna kill the dance floor
Then there is the time when you have a full dance floor and everything is going just fine and dandy. Then someone comes up and ask’s for some random song that is surely going to kill your dance floor. Well you don’t want to be rude, but you must be honest and just tell them you don’t think their song is suitable and to pick another one.
So how do you manage song requests and still keep everyone happy?
1 Never Lie
Why should you never lie? Because it’s not nice to lie to people that’s why, and you’ll only make them angry, just be upfront and honest. Sometimes people will ask you for a request and it might not be easy to say no but you don’t want to say yes either. As a DJ, one of your main responsibilities is to decide whether a request is appropriate or if it’s gonna fit in, or if it needs to be delayed but to help you put it in the right words here are some things you can say to people.
Here are some things to say to people if you do not think you’re able, or cannot play their requests
> I’ll see what I can do
> I can’t promise but i’ll try
> I’ll see how we go for time
> I’m sorry I don’t think I can right now, but maybe later
2 If They Persist, Direct Them To The Client
Sometimes someone will be really persistent but you are just not sure about the song they have requested, in fact you know it’s gonna be a floor killer. If you really don’t want to play the song for whatever reason then direct them to the client for the clients direct permission. Do not play the song until the client has given you eye contact and instructs you to play the song because sometimes people will lie and tell you they spoke with the customer and it’s their best friend/sister/brother/mother or whatever, but they don’t even know who the customer is. Directing them to the client will take the pressure off your shoulders and covers you back if it ends up being a disaster.
3 When Someone Says ‘Play It Next’ . . . Never Play It Next
If you’ve been DJing for some time now then you’ve probably heard this one, ‘Play It Next!’. If you haven’t already, you can expect to hear this many times in your future days as a DJ. People will often ask you, “Have you got this song? Can you play it next?”. Now unless this request has come from the customer themselves or their request just happens to be a great suggestion and is a better than the song you already had lined up already, then never play the song next. Let me explain why. This has nothing to do with being rude or being that arrogant DJ who doesn’t care what the crowd thinks, it’s about not becoming a human jukebox that every DJ complains about. What you do by playing someone’s song next is train (or reward) people that if they ask you for a song you are going to play it next every time just like a Jukebox. Then people take it a step further and before their song has even finished they come straight back to the DJ booth and ask for another one (so annoying). It is not a power game and you are not declining peoples requests to boost your ego, but you do need to manage the requests in such a way that keeps you in control of the music direction. After a few songs have past you can play their request and they will appreciate it more after a a little wait, just when they thought you weren’t gonna play their song. People will make less request and let you do your job as the DJ.
4 What The Customer Says, Goes
There is an exception to the rule ‘Never Play It Next’. When it comes to song requests, if you are DJing a private event such as a birthday, corporate function or wedding it should go without saying that the customers demands a song then you should play it next. However, still use your good judgement and if you feel the song is not appropriate then let the client know that it’s probably best you delay their request but if they really want you will play it right away you will.
5 Can You Play It Again
It’s best to try not to play songs twice as this suggests that you have a narrow musical range and is really painful for guests and patrons at a club. Refuse to play songs twice unless it has been specifically requested by the client. Also use your own instincts to make a judgement, perhaps this track is a latest hit or is everyone at the party bugging you to play this track once more, if this is the case, then of course play it once more.
6 Stick To Your Plan
If you have just finished playing a set of 70s and 80s music for the last 90 minutes and then transitioned into the Top 40 music and then someone comes up and asks for a 70s song. Politely tell this person that you will try and play the track later in the night however you are running to a structure and that you aren’t able to play it right now. The last thing you want to be doing is confusing the crowd and bouncing from 70s back to Top 40, back to 80s, and so forth. If however it’s still early in the night and you are playing 70s and 80s and someone asks for a Top 40 song, just say to them, ‘Sure, I’ll play it as soon as I’m finished this current classic hits set’.
So there you have it that is the art of taking requests. It’s a lot of information to soak in and honestly takes years to really master in such a way that the requests never ruin your flow, but enable you to keep as many people happy as possible. Anyway thanks for reading this blog and if you found the information useful then please SHARE this on on social media and leave your comments below (all comments will be moderated, no spam please) and I will be glad to hear from you and even answer your questions.
Paul Anthony is the Managing Director of Event Master Pro and Discosource DJ’s based in Phuket, Thailand. With over 20 years experience as a Professional DJ he built a nation wide DJ service across every major city in Australia teaching over 50 DJs his craft and now developing the EMP online application for DJs.