I’ve now been DJ’ing for many years and have DJ’ed in clubs and private parties in many countries around the world to many different nationalities and one thing that seems to be the same in many countries is guests asking for requests and then expecting them to be played immediately. Most people are OK about it when their song isn’t played soon after asking but there are always the inconsiderate and or ignorant types that seem to think they’re really special and that the very fact that they have asked for a song means that it should be played straight away!
I realise that it’s not something most people would give any thought to but I thought I’d attempt to explain some of the reasons why there’s a good chance your request won’t be played immediately, and that it’s not because the DJ is on an ego trip!
For this article I am focusing more on private events such as weddings, corporate parties etc. At such events usually there is a huge cross-section of people, ages and music tastes and thus the DJ will attempt to try and keep everyone happy and so there will be music from many different era’s and genres played.
If for example I’m playing “Stevie Wonder-Superstition” and there are a lot of the crowd dancing to it and a guest then requests The Killers; if I went from Superstition into a track from The Killers the probability is that many people will leave the dancefloor and a few of those would probably give me a strange/dirty look, especially if the track prior to the Stevie Wonder track had been a song from the last few years.
To try to keep as many of the guests as happy as possible I and many other DJs will tend to group together small groups of similar genres/era’s, because very often if someone gets up to a 60’s track for example they’ll likely want to dance for a few songs at least and there’s a good chance anyone that has come onto the dancefloor to a 60’s track will like other songs of that era. So if you followed that 60’s track with an 80’s track the people that came onto the dancefloor to it will probably go and sit down again. Whereas if you played around 3 sixties tracks they’d stay dancing to all 3 of them. From the 3rd sixties track I could then gradually transform into something from the 70’s or something with a similar feel from a different era, by mixing the tracks into each other, thus maintaining exactly the same tempo and so many people will just continue dancing as long as they still like the next track. And by playing a few from this era and then a few from that era and then a few from a certain genre it’s easier to try to keep most of the crowd happy. It can be a problem though to stay with one particular era/genre for too long, say for 30 minutes or so and that is almost certain to rile at least one section of the crowd.
Can you imagine what would happen if the DJ just played every single request they received in the order they received them and as soon as possible?
To give you an example at a recent event I made a record of the requests received, and this is how they came in (in the order they were received):
“something from Usher”
“some sixties or rock n roll”
“Black eyed peas”
“Yolanda – We no speak Americano”
“Joe Tex – Ain’t gonna bump no more”
“Robin S-Show me love”
“Rihanna-Only girl in the world”
“Fatback-I found lovin”
“Lady Gaga-Bad romance”
“Kings of Leon-Sex on Fire”
“any Jackie Wilson”
“Bruno Mars-Just the way you are”
If a DJ played those tracks in that order, it’s unlikely that they would maintain a full dance floor throughout that set. One thing that would be likely is that a lot of the guests would get annoyed with the constant change of tempo, era, style and the atmosphere would probably be pretty bad.
Personally I try to play every request I receive unless it’s a song that is probably gonna clear the floor. I will try whenever possible to play it as soon as possible after being asked for it, but sometimes that might not be until over an hour after it was asked for, while at other times it might be within a few minutes, and there have been times when someone has asked me for a song that will fit perfectly with what I’m playing at that very moment and I’ve then mixed it into the current track within a minute or so.
Other things to bear in mind when making a request; there are certain songs which will work particularly well near the end of the night and others that will work better earlier in the night but not so well later on. Other times I’ve been asked for a song and at the time it was asked for I’ve thought that I’ll be able to fit that in later but then the way that the event progresses, it gradually dawns on me that that request just isn’t gonna work. So I then decide not to play it because it’s better to annoy one person by not playing a track than clear a dancefloor and annoy a load of people!
There are some requests that ordinarily wouldn’t work but will work when they are asked for by the host of a party such as the bride or groom at a wedding, because if the bride or groom dance to it then usually some of the guests will dance with them, same for the birthday boy/girl at a birthday party…unless of course they’ve asked for a real floorkiller such as Leonard Cohen or James Blunt!
Hopefully it’s given a tiny glimpse into some of the many things that a DJ needs to take into consideration when receiving a request, and most of the time if a DJ doesn’t play your request it’s not because they’re on an ego trip it’s because they feel it either won’t work at that particular time or just won’t work at all.