HEY DJ: DO YOU TAKE REQUESTS?
HEY DJ: DO YOU TAKE REQUESTS?
For this post, I’m going to answer a question I can’t believe still gets asked: “Do You Take Requests?” I just don’t understand how this could possibly be an issue. My guess is that most people’s experience with DJs is at a bar or dance club, and in that setting some DJs do have a pre-planned set-list or a theme and they don’t take requests from the crowd. Some do, some don’t. HOWEVER, at a Wedding or other Private Event, where you are hiring the client specifically to play music to make you and your guests happy, taking requests should not be optional.
IF A WEDDING DJ DOESN’T WANT TO TAKE REQUESTS, DON’T HIRE THEM!
Sometimes the question is phrased like this: “what kind of music do you play?“ Which, as far as I’m concerned, is the exact same question. My guess is that people seem to think a DJ only plays one kind of music, which is also completely backward. A band has to play instruments and sing. They have to practice to sound good, and usually the voice and instruments used in one kind of music have trouble transferring to a different kind of music.
DJs don’t have this problem. We can literally play any one of a thousand songs at the touch of a button, no practice needed. It’s all ready to go.
And here’s the entire point of this month’s newsletter in one sentence:
DON’T ASK A DJ WHAT THEY PLAY, JUST TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT.
(it makes things so much easier)
Here’s what I do and why
Before the Event
I always talk with my clients about the Event, and LISTEN to what they have to say. I start with a timeline of activities – I think it helps if we actually know what we are going to be doing. We work up a specific list of songs to go with the specific activities. Then we talk about what kind of vibe and feel they are looking for at their Event. Then we go over what kind of music they like in general, and also what kind of music they like that will fit with their desired mood. It helps to consider the guests, time of night for different songs, etc. and take notes.
I don’t like sending out a checklist of available songs – or even genres (check if you like pop, country, hip-hop, oldies, etc.) for lots of little reasons, but the main focus is that I want to hear what you like, not tell you what I have. If you like something that I don’t have, then I should go and get it. I encourage clients to provide a list of songs that they like, or work up my own list of likes and do-not-likes by spending some time with them.
During the Event
I stick to our activity list, use my music notes, and read the crowd. I’ve been doing this professionally since 1996, and I’m really good at paying attention to what kind of music people react to. As far as requests, I’ll listen to any request that’s asked politely. And if it’s a good song suggestion, I’ll play it. If it’s not right, then I won’t.
The reasons for not playing a song request are always based on professional judgement. It always goes through the Cusswords filter selection that I’ve talked about with clients beforehand. The choices for me are: none whatsoever, a little later on, and Wild Out. I have no personal preference about Cusswords, because it’s not my party. Sometimes, for some crowds, cusswords are great, and I’ll play dirty songs if that’s what the client wants — usually that’s not the case, but that’s up to the client, not me. But if a song is too dirty (for that client) then the answer has to be no.
If a song is on a client’s do not play list, then it depends. Sometimes it’s a do not play unless requested list, sometimes it’s a do not play. If a lot of people request a song that I won’t play because of this, it’s typical for them to try to lie to me, yell at me, sweet talk me, or reason with me, and then they’ll just go and bother you the client. Turning requests down is part of my job. If I’ve been told specifically not to play a song by the people that hired me, then they are the only people that can change my mind. Just keep that in mind when you come up with you do not play list, I can not play a song, but I can’t keep guests from talking to you about it.
Other than the Cusswords filter and do not play lists, requests are encouraged. These are your guests, so I’m assuming they know you better than I do. You guys may have a song with special meaning that I don’t know about. Depending on what the song is, how the crowd is reacting to the music already played, who is the person making the request, how much time is left, etc. I use professional judgement on whether I actually play a song or not. I’ll always listen, but it really depends on the situation.
SO, If you tell a Wedding DJ what kind of music you like, and they try to talk you out of it – here are 3 arguments you might hear, and why I don’t agree with two of these reasons.
DJ only wants to play “cool” music, not the cheesy stuff.
I’m not going to lie, playing the “cool” music is a lot of fun. I’ve been doing this for so long that I can’t even think this way anymore. If someone tells me to just play whatever kind of music I like, I have to ask what’s the crowd. I just care more about the crowd reaction than the particular song at this point in my career. But when I was younger, I had a specific sense of “cool” which was mostly the top 40, hip-hop and dance music my friends and I enjoyed. As a Wedding DJ, you have to let that go, unless you happen to have a “cool” crowd.
Weddings, and most private Events are going to have a wider age range and variety of musical tastes than whatever music happens to be the DJs favorite. I would only go with a DJ like that says this if you are willing to potentially alienate a significant percentage of your guests.
If you happen to like “cool”, non-cheesy music, just keep in mind that it’s important that you can find a DJ that can play both the kind of music specialty and style that you are interested in, and also appeal to other age / demographics. There’s “cool” music of all types out there, varitey is the spice of your party.
DJ knows best, “everybody” likes these songs.
Going the other way, if you get an “old timer” who tries to tell you that you have to have some of the cheesy songs, be scared. A lot of people like the traditional Wedding songs – that’s why they’re traditional. But a lot of people don’t. Out of the hundreds of thousands of songs out there, it shouldn’t be too hard to entertain a group of people for 3 hours without playing the macarena, or the chicken dance, or whatever.
I wouldn’t want a DJ who never plays the cheesy songs, but I wouldn’t want a DJ who always plays the cheesy songs either. This is where reading the crowd and talking with you ahead of time comes into play. What you’re looking for is a level of flexibility, not necessarily any specific song.
DJ just says “I don’t think I can do that”
This is one to pay attention to. If you want a Wedding DJ that is great at telling stories on the microphone, but your DJ says he usually just makes simple announcements – pay attention. It’s a hard thing to do to talk a client out of a job, but sometimes we just have to. About the microphone, Weddings need announcements. If a DJ isn’t comfortable making the announcements, it usually means they’re on the newer side of their career, or they specialize in other types of parties.
That’s just an example, there’s any number of reasons why it might not be a good fit. As for myself, I have a size limit, and I don’t really like young children. I’ve had to talk my way out of a 4000 person, outdoor street fair earlier in my career, because my stereo just wasn’t built for that, and the cost for renting that equipment for one gig made my price out of their league. I also have had to say no to young children’s parties. When they enter their teen years and learn to dance, I’m really good. But if they’d rather have a clown, or someone who blows up balloons or passes out prizes, I’m not the best fit..
DJs will have their strengths and weaknesses. Being shy or modest isn’t usually one of them. If they say something like “I’m not really good at that” or “I’ve never done that before, but I can give it a try” you should probably pay attention to that. If they just tell you they’re not good at something that’s important to you, you should listen.
So to sum up, playing any particular song is as easy as buying that song and pushing play. If you TELL your DJ what songs you want to hear, there’s not really any good excuse for them not playing it.
And always remember: this is your big day – it’s supposed to be fun.
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The Real DJ Steve is both a Las Vegas Wedding DJ and the owner of United DJs Las Vegas.
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