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How and When To Request a Song From A DJ

I met Bak a few days ago, found out about the FeedBak, and thought I’d post something! As a DJ, when I found the question about DJ song requests in the FAQ section on this website, I thought I’d throw out my thoughts! So, when is it cool to make a request?

I’ll start with a disclaimer: Every DJ has their own take on this – myself included – so I’ll say that my responses here are just my own perspective. Some DJs consider “request” to be a 4 letter word, some love them. In general, the safe response is to NOT make a request. Most of the time, a request isn’t helpful to me, with a few exceptions I’ll talk about below.

Assuming you’re going to brave approaching the DJ booth, here are a few things to consider:

  1. The more people, generally the less helpful your request will be. It doesn’t make tremendous sense to play a song for one person when there are 199 other people in the room. And if you say, “Everyone’s going to love it and dance,” chances are we already know that :) .
  2. Don’t request a song as soon as you show up. First, you don’t know what’s already been played. Second, you don’t have a sense of the vibe, so you’ll have no idea if the song you’re requesting fits with what the DJ is doing.
  3. Along with that last point, consider the vibe. If the DJ is playing house music, don’t request hip hop. The DJ has chosen that genre for a reason (good or bad) – respect it!
  4. Consider the speed of the song you’re requesting. A lot of times, DJs play songs in certain tempo (speed) ranges. Try not to request a song that’s a lot slower or faster than the ones that are being played.
  5. Don’t negotiate. If the DJ doesn’t immediately accept request, thank him/her politely and move on. Don’t try to say, “But everyone will dance!”
  6. Don’t request the Wobble. Ever. (Or whatever the most popular line dance is at the moment). It’s not that the Wobble doesn’t have its merits, but there are 2 kinds of DJs – those that will play the Wobble, and those that won’t. Those that will probably already played it before you came, or are going to play it in a few minutes without your request. Those DJs that don’t play won’t, even if you request it. This really goes with most Top 40 songs (from the Motto to We Found Love) – we get 434 requests for the Motto each and every night. If we’re going to play it, we will or have.
  7. Don’t approach a DJ when s/he is touching his/her gear. Let me repeat this: Don’t approach a DJ when s/he is touching his/her gear. And once again: Don’t approach a DJ when s/he is touching his/her gear. Here’s what I mean: if a DJ has his/her hand on the turntable or mixer, it means s/he’s actively doing something and can’t simultaneously have a conversation with you. Mixing two songs isn’t the hardest thing in the world, but it isn’t the easiest thing either, and it’s not really possible to listen to you and actively mix two songs at the same time. Wait until the DJ is browsing songs on his/her computer, or otherwise not in the middle of something.
  8. Do not fondle or otherwise handle the DJ to get his/her attention to make a request. Seriously, this happens. I play at one club where the only place to really approach a DJ is from behind, and you’d be surprised (or possibly not) at how many times my right butt cheek is grabbed to get my attention. Don’t get me wrong – sometimes I turn around and realize that I’ve greatly appreciated that gentle touch. But, most of the time you just aren’t that cute to be worth it :) . If I’m not immediately turning around to talk to you, WAIT. Look and see (and listen) if I’m in the middle of mixing two songs, scratching, or doing something else. If you’ve called my name or otherwise tried to get my attention and I haven’t turned around, wait a minute, then try again. If I still haven’t turned around, give up :) . No offense, but sometimes we get busy.
  9. Offer to tip the DJ if you’re going to make a request – at least $5. For me, I actually turn down tips because I feel like I’m being paid to play by the club or promoter, and dealing with somebody’s request (whether I accept it or not) is part of my job. I’m just sort of against asking people to pay twice for something. BUT, that being said, you’ll never go wrong offering a tip – at the very least, it lets the DJ know that you appreciate them taking the time to listen to you.
  10. If your request is refused, don’t take it personally, then thank them, and go have fun. Acting insulted or put off isn’t cool, sexy, or likely to get your song played.
  11. Meet the DJ halfway, at least. Here’s what I mean – in a club, give the DJ’s music a shot. You may not have heard it, and you may not even like it at first, but give it a chance – dance to it if you’re in the mood to dance, and be open to learning something new. In a more “artsy” setting, expect to not know pretty much anything the DJ plays. This is normal, and expected. You shouldn’t expect a DJ in some settings to play what you know. But, even in a club on 6th, expect to hear new things, and try to appreciate them.
  12. Along the lines of the last point, if you aren’t going to meet the DJ halfway and you only want to hear what you know, okay – but, don’t come and request songs from us. In other words, if you want to have it your way, that’s fine – but realize most DJs aren’t going to go for that. That’s what jukeboxes and your iPhone are for.
  13. If you request a song, actually request a song. Under no circumstances should you request, “Can you play something else?” or “Can you play something we can dance to?” The problem with that is that there’s such a wide range of songs that people can dance to. You may not think the song is danceable, but it probably is to someone.
  14. Don’t “Request & Ditch.” There’s nothing worse than a bachelorette party or birthday party that comes in, requests a song, then leaves. Even if you buy a round of shots. If you’re going to request a song, that means you’re part of the night – not a fleeting moment of the night. You have to have been there for a while, then stay for a while.
  15. Don’t request a song to be played again. If it has been played, most DJs aren’t going to want to play it again.

Okay, maybe you can request a song if…
Since I’ve listed a lot of ways to NOT request, here are a couple of times when it might actually make sense:

  1. You know the DJ, know his/her music, know that requests are cool, etc.
  2. You really think your request will help the SET, not just something you personally want to hear. There are a few people that I know who will hang out near the DJ booth, and make requests that are right on point – around the same speed, in the same genre, and genuinely contribute to my set. These are very rare people with special powers that probably could be (or already are) DJs in their own right.
  3. You are at a private party when you paid for the DJ to come, and made it clear up front that you wanted to be able to make requests. For example, at many weddings, requests are totally cool because we are working for you. Some DJs still don’t like requests at weddings, but most that I’ve met are cool with them.
  4. You represent and personally know a substantial percentage of the people at the function/club, know the DJ isn’t playing the right music, and feel like you could genuinely help. This is a tricky one, though. For the most part, this applies to private functions where you know everyone there, and really know what will work, such as at a wedding for sorority party. If you really know that everyone is going to dance to Wagon Wheel, that’s cool – come let us know. Many of us actually will appreciate it. What this does NOT mean is: Your 6 friends are out on 6th for a birthday party and are part of a larger experience that wasn’t created for you. It’s generally safe to say that if you represent a bunch of girls for any sort of party, don’t make a request :) .
  5. You are tipping an insane amount of money for a request ($20+).

So, now hopefully you can see that, to be honest, it’s probably just easier to not request a song. There are a hundred ways you can offend or frustrate a DJ when making a request, so it’s just safe not to.

Finally, I’d be really interested to hear from other folks about what they think of requests – other DJs, non-DJs, etc. – are your thoughts similar to mine?

About bobbywestmusic

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DJ Bobby West started off his career over 10 years ago on the East Coast, and has since DJed hundreds of events across the country, from clubs to weddings. Since relocating to Austin in 2011, Bobby has played a range of venues in the Red River District, 6th Street, The Warehouse District, & East Austin, as well as several private events with promotion companies such as Knuckle Rumbler. Bobby also holds multiple weekly & monthly residencies in Austin playing Hip Hop, R&B, Neo Soul, Dance Rock, and more. What sets Bobby apart, though, isn't just what he plays - but how. Bobby manages to strike the often difficult balance between accessibility and creativity: keeping the crowd engaged with familiar music, while at the same time keeping things fresh and interesting by mixing in new or less frequently played tracks. In short, you get a unique experience that's still responsive to the audience and event.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/TheDJCharlie Tony Huynh

    this is dope!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chase-ChesterRoy-Marz/100000316204770 Chase ChesterRoy Marz

    Only thing I would have added is; if you request a song and it hasn’t been played yet, don’t send up each member of your group to ask for the same song. I see the logic is, “if more people request it, he has to play it!”. No, no I don’t. Otherwise, great post!

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