DJs or disc jockeys have a unique job of having to cater to a specific audience with a selection of songs from a wide range of genres. Every party, venue, gig, usually calls for something different. What worked for the last event may not work for the next.
Here are a couple of things that I’ve learned over the years from DJing house parties to DJing on the radio for thousands of people at a time.
There are a couple of factors to consider here…
You’re about to DJ for a room of 50 to a 1,000 people. How do you prepare your playlist for a party? First, let’s take a sec to consider the venue size. Anything larger than a 1,000 people you can pretty much play whatever the hell you want. People will dance as long as they see enough people on the dancefloor dancing too. I mean, who would show up to a party that size and not PARTY? Anything less than 50 people and you may find people dancing for a few minutes tops before they sit down and bob their heads, no matter what.
There is a little bit of human psychology involved in all of this. Ever noticed that when people talk about great parties they refer to parties with a fairly good turnout? When there isn’t a huge turnout, people will usually say the party sucked, even if the DJ was the greatest in the world.
It’s not just about sheer numbers though. I’m simply talking about how packed a room or venue got. If you’ve got 50 people in a venue meant to hold 2,000, people are going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. However, if you have 50 people packed in a small living room, they are going to have a great time and spend all night talking and dancing together.
Packing a venue is key to creating an awesome party. If you’re throwing an outdoor party then you’re going to have to pay attention to how much space they have got to roam around.
Even the temperature of the environment matters. The hotter it is, clothes come off and people move around more. If they’re wearing winter coats, they’ll be getting ready to hibernate. So make sure you’ve got the correct venue for the size of your audience.
I strongly believe that most people over the age of 35 don’t really tend to seek out new music. Most people usually stick to a variant of whatever they listened to between their 20s and 30s.
Some people will argue that the music in their teens is what defines a person. I beg to differ. The reason why is because most people change life priorities when they switch from teens to twenties. Some people will stop hanging out at their friend’s basement and opt for clubs, bars, or festivals in their early twenties.
The music, culture, and environment changes as a person progresses in their life. For instance, if you spend a lot of time at a club you’re going to be more familiar with the kind of music that is usually played at clubs. The same goes for bars, lounges, and restaurants. You become familiar with whatever your surroundings are and the music that is played in those environments. Some environments are more dance-heavy. Some are more chill. Therefore, most people’s music tastes will change after high school as they grow older.
We’re going to have to play into stereotypes, generalities, and even connect with your inner psychologist. This is the part about being a DJ that is like playing roulette or throwing a dart on a board and hoping that it sticks to the right target. It’s called, “reading a room” and knowing what your audience will react to.
Until there is an app that tells you what people in a certain vicinity like to listen to, you’re going to have to pay close attention to your audience. You’re going to have to pay attention to hairstyles. You’re going to have to pay attention to their shoes. What kind of car would this person drive? Is it an expensive car? Is it an economical car? What kind of lifestyle do they live? Did this person grow up listening to rap? Did they like 90s house music? What kind of music did this person listen to in their 20s-30s? All of these things can help you zero in on the next song and genre you’re going to play.
Sure, this rule won’t apply to everyone in your room. When you’re DJing, you’re thinking about what “most” of your room is going to like, not one person’s B-side request. You’ve gotta identify if a majority of your audience is there for the music or simply just there because their friend is turning 21 but would rather be at home watching Netflix. From there, you can craft your playlist to cater to the casual or die-hard music listener.
What’s casual? Well, a casual music fan typically listens to music in the background while they’re doing things like driving or mopping the floors at home. They usually won’t blast their music and if you ask them to sing their favorite lyrics, they’ll only be able to recite a few lines. Yes, you’d be surprised how many people out there think of music only as an afterthought.
A die-hard music fan will have their own music collection, a pair of headphones, and will usually play their music past 10 on the volume dial. They will know everything about a specific genre or artist. They’re the ones who are most likely able to compete and win Jamie Foxx’s Beat Shazam show.
If you have a party based around a certain genre of music on the flyer or invitation, then chances are you’ve got an audience that came for the music. Play that. However, if you’re throwing a party for someone’s 70th birthday party, wedding or anniversary, you’re going to get a wide range of people with various tastes in music and will have to jump through a lot of music genres … and maybe stick to more mainstream hits from different eras. If you’re DJing for a group of 20-year-olds or younger who specifically want a certain genre, you can pretty much stick to what’s current, underground, and new. Knowing your audience determines what you play.
So before you get your stuff and head over to the club or venue to DJ your party, try to get as much intel as possible about your audience, venue, environment and have the appropriate playlist(s) ready to go. Do not put yourself in a position where you have to scramble to find songs in a certain genre while you are DJing. You don’t want to be standing there trying to remember who that one artist is when you’re in the middle of DJing a party. Being prepared is everything!
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or think I may have left something out. Thanks for reading!
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