DJs...what's REALLY going through our heads when we're performing?
The art of DJing is sort of like a fine luxury automobile. On the outside it looks sleak, fancy and cool but on the inside there is a lot happening to keep the car running that you don't see with the naked eye. When we're DJing our minds are constantly working. Although we may be up there behind the turntables or CD players smiling, laughing and dancing around even, in reality our minds are going 100 miles a minute.
As a DJ you have to very quick on your feet and ready for sudden changes at the drop of a dime. When we're DJing, we're constantly thinking about what our next move will be and what direction we want to take our audience. Personally when I DJ, the most common question I ask myself at least 300 times per event is "What song should I play next?" Majority of people don't know this but there is a lot of psychology involved as a DJ.
Most people think of DJs as just someone who spins records and plays music for the people. Well some of that is true, but there is also A LOT more to it then that. A professional DJ who knows what they are doing is not only playing music, but they are also controlling the vibe and energy in the venue. In order to accomplish this, we constantly think about what song we’re going to play next or what song would work best next. We don’t simply pick a song and play it. It’s all about timing and it even involves some strategy.
Timing is crucial when it comes to DJing! Whether it be matching the beat of two songs or knowing when to play a certain song at a certain time. Timing is EVERYTHING as a DJ. Personally for me, when I’m DJing, I’m constantly thinking of whats the next song I’m going to play and also thinking to myself, is it the right time to play it? We can’t just throw on a song just because its a popular song or just because its a new track that you want to try out. It’s all about playing it at the right time during the night.
Besides thinking about what to play, we’re also constantly scanning the dance floor and looking at the people…or at least we should be. We look for everything from demographics (i.e. age, sex, race,) to how people are dressed, to body language. If its early in the night and not a lot of people are dancing, but they are bobbing their heads and tapping their feet while they’re getting their first drink of the night from the bar, then that tells me they are feeling the music and it gives me a good indicator of what path I want to take for the night as far as music style.
Its an unwritten rule that we do not play all the hottest and latest songs early in the night. I can’t tell you how many people request the newest and hottest songs at a club and its only 11:00PM. That’s a big no no in the book of good DJ etiquette. So as a DJ we create the vibe of a party by playing certain songs at a certain time.
Our brains are constantly thinking on what song will be good to play next where it will give us the crowd reaction we are looking for. You can ask any DJ, what the best feeling is when they are DJing. They will say, or should say, when the crowd goes “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!” or they scream when you throw on that track that everyone loves!
Even DJing for a crowd of hundreds and thousands on the radio involves taking a lot of thought and strategy…I would say way more than DJing in a club as a matter of fact. DJing for radio is all about PROGRAMMING!! Again, playing the right song at the right time. Sure beat matching is the basic element of DJing, and adding some flair to your mixes is great also, but when you’re playing music for hundreds and thousands of people over the airwaves that you cannot see, its so important to play the right song in the right order at the right time. If you don’t do this correctly, remember that listeners can easily change the channel on you in a matter of 1 second and its hard to get them to come back.
Last but certainly not least, on top of all the thought that goes into our mixes, we’re also thinking about how the mixes sound with regards to the equipment we use. We don’t want the music too loud or too soft, not enough bass/treble or too much for that matter. We have to make sure that the music you’re hearing is sounding good to yours and our ears which is why you always see us twisting knobs back and forth, pushing switches up and down, etc. We want to deliver the best sounding music possible to you constantly.
So the next time you’re at a club, wedding, party or listening to a DJ mix on the radio, remember what we’re going through. There is an actual science behind this madness we call DJing and in the end its all about the music and you, the people who listen to us and dance to the songs we play.
So hopefully this will give you a better insight on what DJs are going through mentaly when we're up there performing for a crowd. I will admit it can be very stressful at times. DJs have to be quick on our toes because if we happen to play a song that the crowd is not feeling which causes the dance floor to clear, we need to be ready with a plan B song that will bring them back right away. In the end it's all about you...the people having a great time. Our job is to keep you entertained and to keep you dancing so our minds are working constantly to make this happen.