The Client/DJ Relationship from My Perspective
Suggestions to Help You and Your DJ Create a Successful Dance from Sean
These suggestions are based on my experience, from multiple vantage points, over my career in the DJ industry. In the past 23 years I have studied and watched various functions from vantage points ranging from Disc Jockey to the owner/operator of a Mobile Disc Jockey Company. My crowning achievement being the successful advancement into the Calgary market. By this point I was operating a business that serviced 30 dances on any given night in two different cities.
My intent here is not to impress you. The fact that you're viewing this page says you're already a client. My intention here is to impress upon you, after watching 8000 or more functions that included a DJ, and from various perspectives, I have some suggestions for you that will be helpful in making your event a success.
The questions you are about to answer are to help you design your dance the way you want to see it unfold. When I review your answers to these questions, if I feel that you have requested the DJ do something that would effect your dance negatively, I will be sure to tell you. I will tell you what leads me to believe this, and conclude by saying: "Ultimately, the decision is yours". Many things that I have brought to the attention of other clients are listed below. Whenever possible I have attempted to use a real life scenario to illustrate my point.
The following are merely suggestions, "Ultimately, the decision is yours".
A) Limit your number of interruptions that you throw at the DJ:
Your DJ is there to provide you a service. Making announcements, organizing and announcing a draw, getting your wedding guests pumped for a bouquet toss or garter removal, is all part of a DJ's job. It is also time taken away from the dance. I have seen a wedding couple make the decision to do their first three dances and then proceed to do a receiving line for over 300 guests. In this particular instance, the client believed that it wouldn't take any longer than 15 - 30 minutes, about 6 seconds per guest. In my opinion, and what ended up being the case, there was not enough time. I believe that the devastating effect this had was not congruent with what had been envisioned while planning their special day. The dance resumed 1 hour and 45 minutes later followed shortly thereafter with the late lunch break. Needless to say, their dance suffered because of this.
I have also seen corporate Christmas parties hurt their dance by giving the DJ 300 Door Prizes to award. These 300 door prizes would range from exciting trips and electronics to the typical key chains and coffee mugs. Between trying to pawn off the unwanted prizes on the unwilling and making a grand affair of the big ticket items, I had to try and complete a successful dance. Alternately, I have watched other corporations have a draw for only a handful of appealing prizes that were of more value. They would hold off the draw until later in the night and set a rule saying you had to be present when your number was drawn or another number would be chosen. Clearly, they were encouraging people to stay as long as possible as well as giving the DJ more of a chance of success with fewer reasons to break.
Keeping more than 100 people, with varying tastes in music to stay at the function you're throwing, requires more than just a great DJ. Even 23 years later, I am still in shock at how impatient people can be. Many people at a function want their request played immediately. Once in a while the timing is right and a DJ can accommodate them. More often than not, they will have to wait for an appropriate time for the DJ to fit in the request. Invariably the requestor has to wait to hear their request.
Making people wait even longer for their request, due to additional breaks, can send people home early. Keeping the music playing, as much as possible, allows your guests to see how the DJ rotates his music selections in an attempt to accommodate everyone. Once this precedence has been set, your guests start to understand that they may have to wait until the DJ returns to playing their type of music. Multiple breaks from the music disrupts this flow.
B) Making decisions on what to play and when:
I can not tell you how many times I have heard a guest ask "Will you play it now, I'm leaving right away?" Often I will see this same person 3 hours later at the dance. In one particular example, I elected to save a request made for Metallica at 9:30pm, until after midnight. This was shortly after Grandma and Grandpa thanked me on their way to kiss the bride goodnight. Similar situations can occur at a corporate function. Regardless of the type of function, the fact has always remained that older guests generally leave before the younger guests. Why scare some of your distinguished guests out of the room with something, that sounds to them, like it was recorded by a boogeyman man in a closet? This is merely one example of hundreds as to why a DJ may procrastinate on playing a request. Sometimes a DJ may avoid playing a request altogether. Sometimes a great song to listen to can't accomplish the goal of getting guests out of their chairs and dancing. Worse yet, it may clear the dance floor.
C) The speed at which DJs can find and cue up songs has increased significantly over the years but:
As the client who booked the DJ you are calling the shots. You certainly can request the DJ take a last second request from you and play it immediately. It's your dance and, "Ultimately the decision is yours". Giving your DJ a few songs to get to your request is allowing him to make the adjustments you would like and retain flow. Conversely, if the dance floor happens to be empty, your DJ should be looking to cut that particular selection short and probably will embrace a last second request.
DJs have talked for years about the importance of reading a crowd. A DJ that tells you he has never had a request or one of his selections clear the floor, isn't being honest. What is important is how a DJ responds, from time to time, when this does happen. What the DJ does to get people back is of paramount importance!
D) Be careful about what restrictions you place in the music category page:
The more you leave categories open for a DJ, the better chance he has of playing something for everyone. If you have elected to place an X on a particular category, hopefully it is because you believe nobody will be present that likes or will dance to this type of music. If you have blocked a category because of your personal taste, you might find the DJ approaching you and asking you to change your mind if he receives multiple requests for it. Of course the decision is still yours. Simply put, no DJ can convert someone partial to Rock and Roll in to liking Country music. If you place your personal music taste above everyone else, expect some people to leave early or even complain.
E) Asking your DJ to change his approach:
If you want your DJ to make changes, go talk to him. You may be busy visiting with guests, but it only takes two minutes to let the DJ know how they are doing. Whether it's an adjustment in the volume level, a certain song you want played immediately for a very important guest or just an overall change in the music, this is a very good investment of your time. If your DJ is unaware of how you perceive the night to be going, he will be unable to give you the service that you are expecting. Communication is key.
Volume has always seemed to be a reoccurring theme that tends to be a challenge at a dance. An experienced DJ has spent years in an environment with loud music. His comfort with loud volume will be considerably different than most of your guests. To this very day, for the DJ to keep the volume level consistent throughout the night, takes skill and concentration. Different CDs have different levels, people coming in and out of the room and on and off the dance floor effects the volume level as well. This is without the DJ even touching the volume controls. Suffice to say, while taking requests, making announcements, arranging the music etc, the DJ must try to gauge the volume in front of the speakers while he is behind them. THIS IS NOT EASY!
The absolute best way to address the volume issue is to arrange a signal between yourself and the DJ. You can let him know from a distance, simply by tugging on your ear for example, that he needs to turn it down. I have personally practiced being on top of the volume level and having a good sense for adjustments that need to be made. I can also tell you that I spent years training DJs to have this type of sensitive ear. There were many great DJs that I could not teach to pick up this skill. I can guarantee you, not one of them was purposely turning the volume louder. Their ears were just not sensitive enough to pick up on the volume changes due to variables beyond their control.
F) Getting a head start in clearing off tables and cleaning up:
Starting to clear off deserted tables sends a subconscious message to your other guests to leave and that the night has come to an end. I firmly understand the desire for getting a head start on cleaning up, but I have seen dances end early due to this very simple act. Having a pre-arranged time for starting clean up will ensure you don't send your guests a message to leave.
G) Speak to your DJ with ONE clear voice:
If a bride and groom disagree on how the dance should be run, expect some problems. Some customers have appointed a contact person instead of having to communicate with the DJ themselves. Often this can lead to a communication breakdown.
In one particular instance I had a father of the bride and a bride as my contacts. The bride wanted a song she had chosen played for the cake cutting. The cake was located at the opposite end of the room. The bride felt that the volume should be at a certain level so everyone could hear the song she had chosen. She arranged a signal so I could achieve the volume level she wanted. As it turned out the volume was significantly louder than what her father was comfortable with. This resulted in her father yelling at me to turn it down. To make matters worse, and because he would not let me explain, he felt I was ignoring him! The father of the bride turned and walked away from me very angry. Right after the cake cutting I was scheduled to start the first traditional dance. I insisted in holding off until I could explain to the bride what had happened. Speaking to the DJ with one clear voice, from one contact, ensures that your DJ isn't being yelled at when he is following instructions.
H) 60 songs and 100 guests
The average dance will start at about 9:00pm and conclude around 1:00am. In this 4 hour time period all DJs are subject to the law of time. Based on the average length of a song being 3.5 minutes, your DJ is faced with the limitations of being able to only play approximately 60 songs. This is a fact of life beyond any DJ's control. This is the reason that sometimes a really good request doesn't get played. Even with a list of only 100 people attending your event this can happen. If it turns out that each person in attendance makes one request, that is 40 requests that the DJ just will not have time for.
I attended an event recently in which I was not the DJ. Truth of the matter is that I didn't even know the DJ that had been contracted. At this event were 500 people. As I watched, I noticed this DJ was skilled. He played a little bit of something for everyone. The dance floor was always full. A guest who I had met that night that was sitting at my table returned from the dance floor clearly irritated.
"What's wrong?" I inquired.
"I made a request an hour ago and the DJ still hasn't played it!" she snapped.
"Weren't you just dancing?" I asked.
"Yes, but that's not the song I asked for." she said.
"Did you like the song you danced to?" I asked, hoping I wasn't pressing my luck.
"Yes," she said, "but I made the request an hour ago"
To this very day I wonder how many requests that DJ had. It was evident that people liked what he was playing and he certainly was successful at keeping people dancing. This DJ even managed to play something this particular guest liked and danced to. In fact, she returned to the dance floor multiple times even though the DJ never did get a chance to play her request.
I overheard her telling a friend that she would never hire that DJ for her wedding. She never did ask me what I did for a living. In retrospect, that might have been a good thing. I guess even a great DJ can't please everyone all the time.
For those of you who invested the time to read my suggestions, I hope you found them helpful. Please attempt to keep them in mind when returning to the questionnaire page. Have a memorable dance.
Sean R. Lilley