(disc) jockin ain’t easy


DISCLAIMER: I just want to say that I am in no way a professional disc jockey. The only things I do fairly well is put together a pretty good playlist and enjoy being an on-air radio personality. Only one of which I’m going to discuss doing recently.

Can someone buy me this t-shirt? Thanks

Over the holiday weekend, I was asked to play some music for the family reunion cookout party that was going on. It was suggested I play the typical music I’m known to play at events like these: oldies from the 60’s to 80’s, a few newer hits thrown in mixed with some gospel. A fairly easy gig especially if you set up all the music you’re going to play ahead of time.

I’m not a pro at being a DJ, and I wasn’t getting paid for what I was doing, which was basically bringing a little amp-like-device and my iPod. But having someone like me around keeps the host/hostess from having to worry about background music. But I know most of the basics:

  • Know your audience. The only functions I wouldn’t mind being a DJ for events put on by my family or church. But even if I were to be a DJ at some wedding in Nashville, I’d probably want to have a few hours worth of country songs. If I were at a night club, hip-hop/techno… something of that nature. This event was more of a family friendly sorta thing. So with kids running around and half the family being more of the religious type, songs with lots of swears wouldn’t be ideal. Most of what I played might have been a decade too late, but lesson learned and no one complained either.
  • Have plenty of music. I usually don’t have any playlists longer than 5 hours. There hasn’t been any reason for me to play music that long anyway… although had I stayed at this cookout the entire time, I would’ve needed maybe 7 hours worth. But the more music you possess and have prepared, the more options you have. I make it a goal to never repeat a song at an event unless asked for. Even during my church’s Halloween parties, when they play musical chairs with the kids (even the adults), I changed the song each time a chair is taken away. It’s also good to have a diverse variety, just in case a request is made (see Take requests below). And if you are playing music for an event with crowd participation, you’ll want to…
  • Feel the vibe. Even when I prepare playlists, I have the songs set in an order that will allow me to leave my area if I needed to. I would groups songs together that seem to flow into each other fairly well so just in case I wasn’t at my table area (probably to get food), I wouldn’t worry about what’s about to play next. But I usually stay put, and if the next track doesn’t feel like people will really like it, I will skip to the next one. And it’s not always easy to feel the vibe of the crowd, especially at the event I was at. I was ill-prepared and didn’t have the best speakers, so I was easily overpowered by louder neighbors or louder voices, unless they came over to where I was set up… then yelling over the music was necessary. But keep an eye out on the crowd, if they seem to be tapping their foot or singing along, reward them with another hit. Sadly, it might be a miss if you play the wrong song. But should you have enough music or access to unlimited music (or a friend with like-minded musical prowess), don’t be afraid to…
  • Take requests. This is where I failed most recently. If I am to be a party DJ, there are some staples I should already have on stand by. “Electric Slide” and “Cha-Cha Slide” are those that every DJ on the planet should have. As much as I dislike the latter “Slide”, a DJ must remember, it’s not about you and what you like, it’s about the people you are entertaining. If they wanna hear it, you should be able to play it. Sadly, I didn’t have either of these songs. I let the requester plug in his iPod to play something they were looking for. For a little while, I let him play whatever he wanted from his iPod, reminding him of the rules I was set to follow: family-friendly. He played about 4 songs and then 2 of them were repeated before he gave it back to me. Even though I had never heard the songs he was playing, I warned him to have a next song ready if he wanted to keep playing music. This is an essential rule to any party DJ or radio DJ to have…
  • No dead air. To have silence at a party or on the radio might signify something is wrong or the party is over. Once this guy realized he was out of songs to play, my iPod was already ready with the next song so the silence didn’t last very long. To be fair, the majority of the crowd we were entertaining probably could’ve cared less at that point. I was 30 minutes away from packing up anyway. And the small group that was around me was with the dude with the iPod. So once he was done, they all left. When I’m a bit more organized and I have more equipment, I usually bring a microphone. The mic is either for me or whoever is running the show to make their announcements or say what they need to say. Speaking of equipment…
  • Be as self-sufficient as you can. This makes the host’s job easier when all you really need to do your thing is an area to set up, and an electrical outlet. What would be awesome is if I had my own back up generator. Why? Black outs and beach parties, of course! But since I’m the A/V tech at my church, I have access to things like speakers, amps and microphones. I have an assortment of my own audio cords. I currently have a lawn chair and a card table in my trunk. They aren’t in there for DJ gigs… but I could use them for that if need be. Power strips and extension cords are great to have. But I would assume these things are a must to know and to have if you were a beginner at some event that needed music.

And at some point on my life, I’d like some of the cooler niftier gadgets like an iPod mixer and turntable. So then I could be a “real” DJ. It’s not really my dream job and I’m not looking to make a living off of it, but it’s just fun to do. And that should be the number one thing to know: have fun.

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