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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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How to Approach a Working DJ
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When people are at an event where a DJ is providing the music the notion of requesting a song ends up coming to many party goers’ minds. The DJ is the only musical artist that people feel totally at ease making requests of while they’re working and, in truth, it’s not totally out of the question to do so. Like Biggie once rapped, however, "there’s rules to this shit," which is why this week, like the Notorious one once did for selling drugs, "I wrote me a manual." That manual is in the current edition of the Fairfield County Weekly and it was conceived by having a roundtable discussion with DJ E.L., DJ Halo (pictured above) and DJ Mo Niklz about the proper ways of approaching a working DJ.

Here’s what they had to say about approaching a DJ while they’re working.

Timing is Everything – Most DJs are open to hearing your requests, but you need to find the right time to put those requests in. According to Mo Niklz, “the best time to approach a DJ is to wait for a moment just after he’s fully mixed into a song because he should have the maximum amount of time to talk with somebody before he has to start working on getting the next track played. Also, if you’re there early enough and he hasn’t started spinning that’s obviously ideal.” Halo adds that “if it looks like I’m not having to concentrate too much on what’s going on, like when I take a sip of water, or when I’m not totally hunched over the turntables, that’s really the best time because otherwise you’re only getting a half to a quarter of my attention.”

Make it Quick – Once you’ve found the right time to approach the DJ, don’t loiter around his tables. Although it might seem nice to laud excessive praise, E.L. recommends a different kind of thank you. “Go enjoy yourself.” Halo seconds this, saying “just give your request and walk away.” He adds a surefire way to annoy the DJ is to stand around waiting for your request to be played. In that same vein, E.L. says another way to get on the DJ’s bad side is to keep coming back to the booth asking “are you going to play my song next?”

Have a Backup Plan – Halo recommends that requesters come equipped with a backup request, because even the best DJs don’t have every song ever made, while Mo Niklz says to simply make your request as broad as possible. According to Mo Niklz “the best thing is to give the DJ a genre, a time period, and an artist and have him build from there. That should give them a good idea of the type of music you want to hear.”

Recognize the Mood – When requesting a song a person needs to take into account everything else the DJ is playing. “If it’s a song that goes with the format I am playing then the request will get played sooner,” E.L. explains, “if I have the dance floor packed and someone requests a slow song, or a song that is totally not with the flow, there is no way I am going to kill the momentum. I try to stress that I am not a jukebox or the radio. If I am playing house music don’t ask for country music.”

A Tip Never Hurts – While most people tip the bartender every time they order a drink, how many people tip the DJ when they request a song? According to Mo Niklz that simple act you do to thank the bartender for getting you your drink might also go a long way in getting your request worked into the mix a lot quicker.

Avoid Greediness and Criticism – According to Halo one request is fine, half a dozen is going overboard. He adds that little is more aggravating to a DJ than a random person telling them how to work the crowd. “I’m the one they booked,” he explains. Mo Niklz seconds this, saying the best way to get on any DJs nerves is to tell them they don’t know what they’re doing (though, I guess that’s true for pretty much any job!).

Remember They’re Doing a Job – “I don’t mind being approached,” Halo explains, “but you must realize I AM working and I do need some modicum of concentration.” Mo Niklz adds that people also need to keep in mind “the DJ isn’t there to just talk with just you, he’s there for everybody.”

In the end, you don’t have to be afraid to approach the DJ you see spinning at your local bar or club, you just have to do it right. Following these guidelines is definitely a step in the right direction.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:17 AM  
  • At 1:29 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    This is a tough issue! The Djs I have worked with are not too keen about how people approach them, especially when they are trying to establish a vibe that has nothing to do with the current fab top 40 or whatever. Many Djs at clubs are virtually inaccessible (up a ladder, in a both, etc.)for a reason. The club owner has hired this DJ to create a particular atmosphere (IE trip=hop) and people asking for rap or Top 40 just does not fit in. Yes there are ways of fitting in music (on the spot mixes for example), but I usually enjoy the ride that the DJ is going to take me on.
    Besides, a really big name DJ will laugh in your face or ignore you - they are being paid $1,000 plus expenses to be there for there vibe!!

  • At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    nice post. you should askk 100dBs of what he thinks about people requesting songs while he's spinning. I'm sure you could get an entire article out of that conversation.

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