How DJs feel about requests...
Being a DJ is an experience like no other and hard to explain unless you've been there and been on decks looking out at the crowd. Most people see the DJ up there smiling and having the time of their lives. What most people don't see is the countless hours of preparation and practice that lead up to the gig, the loading and hauling of the gear to set up at the gig, and the anxiety DJ has leading up to the gig hoping everything goes smoothly-both equipment and performance. The other aspect to DJing that is usually unnoticed by the crowd are the people coming up to make song requests that they "guarantee" will make the place pop off.
This article is about exactly that: song requests in the DJ booth. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
You're probably thinking, what's the big deal with making a request? The simple answer is that it's usually not, however, as most things in life, there is a right way to go about doing things and this is specifically true when it comes to making a request to the DJ.
Back when I first started, I watched a video of the DJ Laidback Luke. #laidbackluke. He worded it perfectly when he said, "when someone comes up to make a request or to talk, the bubble in my head with the next 2-3 songs I'm thinking of playing next just goes "poof" and disappears". This begins gives you a small glimpse into the mind of a DJ and what is really going on as they are orchestrating their set with the sole intention of keeping the energy right and ensuring people are on the dance floor and having fun.
At any given point, a DJ is focused on the current song playing and realizing they have 10-20 seconds to make their transition, they are searching the library for the next song and the one after that, listening to the club patron who came up to make a request but is now talking about this song that she can't remember the name of but asks if I have it, and hoping their drunk friend doesn't bump into the equipment or spill a drink on the mixer. On top of this, the DJ is looking at the crowd to see how they're responding to the current track and monitoring the EQ. Just to name a few things going on in the moment...
Now that we have a small idea of what's going on, let's get back to making that request. I understand that this PSA has gotten off to a negative start but it's not all frowns and moans. Playing a request means that you played something that made someone happy and perhaps made their night. Sometimes you get a request of a song you hadn't thought about and when you drop it, the crowd loves it. As a DJ that's getting paid to entertain the crowd, this is the best case scenario.
Unfortunately this isn't the nature of most requests or the attitude of people making the request. There are generally 2 types of people and 1 sub-type in a DJ/music environment: one who knows what they want to hear and if the DJ doesn't play it, they will let the DJ know. The other type is the type of person who is there to have a good time and just trusts/realizes that the DJ is working and doing their job. The sub-type is a...person who has had too much to drink. I had to throw that in there because alcohol can change a persons demeanor and lose inhibitions on how they are treating others around them, including the DJ.
Some requests begin with, "dude, if you play this song I guarantee this place will go nuts, everyone will love it". Some begin with, "when are you going to play something...other than this". Some requests begin with, "can you please play _____ tonight". Sometimes you can be in a hip-hop club and someone will request country music or a genre totally unrelated to the crowd there that would alienate everyone if you played their request. Some requests begin with the DJ having to ask them what they want to hear because they come up to make a request but don't know what they want. Lastly, I'd say a majority of requests that come in are not necessarily mainstream songs but songs that the particular requester likes and wants to hear but most likely everyone else won't be familiar with the song. This brings me to my next and final point on the types of requests:
One of the worst requests is when someone comes up with their phone and asks the DJ to "plug their phone in and play it". They will have youtube or spotify up and try handing you their phone. It's not like we're in our car with an aux cable plugged into our phone and that is how we are DJing. Please don't be that person.
Lastly, be tactful when you do go up to make a #request. If the DJ doesn't acknowledge you instantly, don't worry-the DJ sees you. Part of their job is to watch the crowd so the DJ is aware that you are there and wanting to make a request. When the time is right and if the time is right, the #DJ will connect with you and listen to what you have to say. If there is already someone standing there wanting to make a request, be respectful to that person who was there first and also realize it's best to come back when there isn't anyone else trying to get the DJ's attention also. If you have been standing there and the DJ isn't addressing you or you've already made multiple requests, take the social que that you and the DJ aren't necessarily on the same page...
In conclusion, just like you wouldn't question a doctor on their diagnosis, trust that the DJ is prepared for their set at that particular venue and is selecting songs to the best of their knowledge and experience. It's like a stranger coming to your work and telling you how to do your job, would you be open to that or would you question it? Realize that most DJ's can be playing anywhere from 2-6 hours straight so if you don't like the song they are currently playing, there are plenty more songs coming and that DJ has a variety of people to please, not just you.
Nobody wants the night to go better or the people to be happier than the DJ does. Treat the DJ how you'd want to be treated and just might play your jam.