Over the last ten years, I’ve been lucky enough to make the vast majority of my living as a club DJ. I stumbled into it entirely by accident and thank heavens I did, because I genuinely would’ve been on the scrapheap at 26 without it. It’s afforded me fabulous things – as well as feeding, sheltering and clothing me for so long, I’ve got to see some of the world through it, made some brilliant friends I would never have met, played to 15,000+ on a number of occasions (and to single figures far more times than I’d care to admit) and had more fun than I had any right to.
The employment benefits of being a DJ are immense. You tow up for work no earlier than 9pm, your getting drunk is positively encouraged (when I packed in drinking at work it was met with about the same degree of suspicion as if I’d turned up and suggested a bit of regicide), you can write music off as a genuine tax deductible expense, and without being cheesy, nothing will make you buzz like seeing a room full of people going crackpot to the tunes you play. Indeed, it is an honour.
In fact, there’s only one downer to this incredible job. It’s the thing that ruins most of the things we like.
The general public.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the general public are lovely. You know as well as I do, however, that a lot of the general public are a bunch of fools once they get a few Jagerbombs down them. And we have to deal with them generally being disgraceful, sozzled out of their minds, verbal tact filter turned down to zero. (A major fantasy of a lot of DJs is to get arse-over-teakettle pissed and wander into Asda on a Tuesday afternoon, just to bellow at the shelf stackers that they’re crap at their jobs, and that they’d sell miles more Corn Flakes if they put them next to the bread.) So, if you’re a member of the general public (and I know this doesn’t apply to YOU, but you might know someone this will aid) here’s a DJ’s advice onto how to get your request played in a nightclub, and without the DJ thinking you’re worse than Michael Barrymore.
You know as well as I do, however, that a lot of the general public are a bunch of fools once they get a few Jagerbombs down them
Remember what your parents taught you – manners cost nothing.
Lack of manners is the single biggest bugbear we encounter. People coming up, bellowing in your lugs, calling you worse than rubbish and rudely demanding their request “NOW” or “NEXT!”. Do these people go into shops demanding twenty Lambert and Butler NOW!? Or barge straight into the doctor’s surgery with a cavalier disregard for the queuing system and request their athlete’s foot be dealt with that instant? Actually, they probably do, but hey. “PLAY IT NOW!” is the single most annoying thing we hear – if God had intended us to be jukeboxes, he’d have created us with pound coin slots in our foreheads. And although a bloke in Middlesbrough once tried to forcibly create one for me, it hasn’t happened yet.
Another thing – when was the last time that someone you told was rubbish did you a favour? Just a thought.
Listen to the music that’s being played in the club.
One of my best mates once walked into a mosh club, marched straight up the DJ box, and demanded ‘Real Gone Kid’ by Deacon Blue. He absolutely expected it to be played, because he’d asked for it. He was dead wrong. If we’re playing house, pop, metal, indie, whatever – chances are we’re going to stick with that for at least the time being. Cross genre mash ups only really work if the DJs you’re dancing to also have a band called Soulwax. For us mere mortals, it’s not much of an option.
If you want house music all night, go to a house club. Ditto every other genre. And if you’ve been forced into the club because it’s your mate/partner’s birthday, just take your medicine and don’t expect us to change the whole course of our established evening, just because you’ve been forced here through loyalty.
We’re playing to the crowd, and not just you and your two mates.
As much as most DJs would like to be playing out their coolest underground tracks, a lot of the time, we’re stuck having to play the top 40 and ‘Mr Brightside’ over and over and over again. (“Not being able to play what I wanted was enough to make me give it up for good” says my former DJ partner Ciaran Bain.) So you coming up and asking for some Dylan or Daft Punk rarity is wasting everyone’s time – no matter how brilliant the piece of music you’re asking for is.
Don’t brag to us about your own DJing prowess.
If you’re that good a DJ, why have you just paid good money to come and hear my efforts? Shouldn’t you be at work on a Saturday night if you’re a miles better DJ than me? And no, you can’t have a go on the decks, clear off.
Unless you’re Paul Gambaccini or Annie Mac, chances are the DJ knows more about music than you.
People generally get employed for their aptitude in a particular field. HGV drivers know about driving flaming great big trucks. Vets know about making lickle poorly animals all better. And DJs know how to spin a mean tune that’ll get a crowd going. Standing there telling us what will mix great into this tune, and what will “get everyone dancing”…..look, we know. All you’re succeeding in doing, boys (and it is always boys), is making yourself look like a 21st century version of Harry Enfield’s ‘you don’t wanna do that!’ bloke. With awful tattoos. Always such awful tattoos….
If you want house music all night, go to a house club. Ditto every other genre. And if you’ve been forced into the club because it’s your mate/partner’s birthday, just take your medicine
Shout outs are ‘orrible.
We don’t care if it’s your brother/mother/sister/friend’s birthday/stag do/getting out/coming out (delete as applicable) party – shout outs are total Camembert and they lower the tone. The best sign I ever saw in a nightclub read thus; “We don’t do shout outs. Don’t even ask. We’re not common and neither are you.” Genius.
Finally, don’t act like an idiot and we won’t treat you like an idiot.
Only last night I was playing a very big house tune, one with a massive build up and breakdown. At the breakdown, one voice hollered from the dancefloor, “‘Ow, DJ! Sort the no-tunes out!”. And then the tune kicked back in again. Well done, you goofball. You’ve ruined the breakdown and made yourself look like a goon.
Stupid questions are a favourite too. “What tunes have you got then?” “Er, I’ve got around five thousand different tracks with me.” “Can I have a look through them?” “No.” “What tunes then?” “What, you want me to list them? Alphabetically or chronologically?” “Yeah.” What can you possibly say to that? Not much. “Can you play something we can dance to?” is a no-no. Asking for the number one sound in the hit parade when the club has been open three minutes another. Think before you bother your DJ chum.
It may seem churlish, all this moaning, but please, we’re only trying to make you have the best night that you can. Yes, as I said at the beginning, we’re recompensed in a fine fashion for what we do, but still I think there’s only DJs and comedians that get as much earache (literally in our case) in their attempt to make people happy. The big problem is music is so bloody subjective. One man’s ‘La Ritournelle’ is another man’s ‘Gangnam Style’. And, unless you’re Fearne Cotton or Zane Lowe, you can’t possibly claim to like every song in the world. I don’t like everything I play, so I don’t expect any one else to. This job is all about pleasing most of the people most of the time, so just let us get on with it and the majority of the time, we’ll all be smiling.