How to handle annoying song requests as a DJ?
If you’ve been DJing for a while, you can probably spot a song request coming a mile away. You’ve probably even experienced some PTSD from the vast amount of requests you’ve had to deal with. You see someone typing on their phone, they whisper to their friend, and the next minute they’re making their way towards the DJ booth. The dread slowly kicks in as you realize what you’re about to deal with.
Sometimes you might get lucky and the DJ booth is far enough from the crowd that they can’t get close enough to ask. But how do you deal with them when they do? In this article, we go through everything you need to know about handling requests. Including the reasons why DJ’s hate song requests so much, how to politely say no, and how to take requests in real-time when you do decide to take them on.
- 10 reasons DJs hate song requests!
- How to deal with song requests
- The best way to take requests in real-time
Reasons DJs HATE song requests!
Why is it so commonplace for DJs to hate taking track requests? We’ve listed just a few of the main reasons below.
You’ve planned your set already
Depending on the event or type of set you’re playing, then chances are you’ve already planned out your setlist for the evening. So when you get one request, then another, and then another, it can get more and more frustrating. Especially given the fact you’ve already spent a countless amount of time deciding on what you’re going to play!
You’re the professional
You’ve been hired as the professional DJ to play the music for the event. So when guests at the party or club start insisting on what songs you play next; it can feel a little like they’re telling you how to do your job.
Breaks Your Focus
Many people seem to have the impression that DJs simply press play on a song, and then leave it be. In reality, that’s simply just not the case! When a DJ is playing a song, they’re often completely immersed and in the zone. So whether they’re cleanly mixing one track with another, seamlessly transitioning into the next, or busy cueing up the right spot for the next song to drop in at; they’re always fully focused. So when you’re interrupting a DJ to request your favourite song, you’re not only distracting them but breaking their focus and flow which can be extremely off-putting for a DJ.
Guests requesting a song is annoying enough. Add in the fact they’re drunk, loud, and asking for the same song every 2 minutes and it’s a recipe for disaster. There’s nothing worse than a drunk person persistently slurring the name of a song you know is going to kill the mood on the dance floor.
Not Always Appropriate
A lot of the time, you’ve been hired to cater to a specific audience by playing a particular genre or style. So you can’t always adhere to all requests just to appease one or two people and potentially break the dance floor! You probably wont want to play a screamo track at a wedding, unless you’ve been requested by the bride and groom that is!
No Internet Connection
Another issue when it comes to taking requests is just not having the song available. If it’s not pre-loaded on your USB‘s and you don’t have an internet connection to tap into your favourite streaming platform, you’re going to be limited on the amount of requests you can take.
As the DJ you’re going to plan ahead and come prepared with a wide variety of songs that you might expect to play. So when a number of requests come in for a song that you don’t have access to, it can be a real challenge.
That being said, if you’re playing an event where you know you’ll be taking requests, you’ll want to be prepared. Pioneer DJs Rekordbox allows you to stream directly from Soundcloud, while Denon DJ’s Prime 4 and other controllers let you stream directly from Tidal.
How to handle requests
We’ve gone through all the reasons why DJs hate requests. But how do you handle them when they do come your way?
Be Blunt. Say No.
It’s your set, so unless you’ve agreed to take requests prior, you’ve got every right to say no. This is especially true if you’re DJing at a club, bar, or similar venue. Although you might want to change your stance if the bride at the wedding you’re playing is requesting the next song. You want to keep your clients happy in the hopes they’ll refer you for future bookings!
If you’re adamant about not taking requests, it’s a good idea to get a simple no requests sign that you can point to without having to take your headphones off and lose focus. But you have to be mindful, sometimes the person making that request might be a fellow DJ, promoter, or even organizer of the event. So it’s worth keeping them happy, especially if they’re able to help with securing your future gigs!
Shift the blame
You’ve decided to take some requests, but you don’t want to be responsible for the tunes that break the vibe on the dancefloor. A great tip that is especially useful in a party, wedding, or bar environment (though not as viable for clubs) is to shift the blame! Let’s say that “Troy” has requested a questionable tune that you’re not quite sure the audience will vibe to. He’s been requesting it all night, and he won’t leave you alone, so you give in and decide to play his track.
But you also don’t want to cop all the blame if its a stinker! So grab the microphone, and do a quick shoutout thanking Troy for requesting the next track, before you press play. This way, if the crowd isn’t vibing it, you won’t take all the blame!
Tell them you don’t have the song
If you legitimately don’t have a track available that’s getting requested, then just admit you don’t have it. Letting them know you don’t have access to the internet, streaming platforms, or just that song will hopefully deflate the pestering nature of whoever’s requesting it!
Leave a notepad
If you know you’re taking requests in a particularly loud environment, the last thing you’re going to want to be doing whilst in the middle of your set is constantly taking off your headphones. So another idea would be to place a notepad and pen to the side of the DJ booth. This way, guests have a convenient way to request their must-play songs without putting you off while you’re performing.
Ask for a playlist beforehand
Especially useful when you’re DJing a wedding, its a good idea to ask the couple for some ideas on what to play beforehand. You could just ask them to email you a list of songs, although it can get quite taxing going off a written list. A better idea that is to ask for a playlist in advance. This is going to give you a good starting point for organizing your setlist and ensure you’re as prepared as you can be for playing all the songs they love.
Nearly everybody uses some kind of streaming software these days. So if your client has the option, creating a playlist for their big day on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Tidal is going to make your life so much easier when you’re preparing your set. Especially if your DJ Setup allows you to stream directly from the platform. Unfortunately, Spotify no longer supports integration with DJ Software, but it’s still the most popular consumer streaming platform.
In saying that, it’s still going to streamline the process of organizing your set. There are even services such as Soundiz that make it easy to convert playlists from one streaming platform to another. So you can convert your Spotify playlists to SoundCloud or Tidal and stream directly from your compatible DJ Controller. It’s free to set up for a basic account, although upgrading to premium can give you access to a few more features.
Play it again
If you’ve already played a song that’s being requested, you definitely want to avoid playing it twice. Not only can it give the impression you have a very narrow music taste, but it can also be super painful for guests having to hear the same songs twice. In saying that, it’s always best practice to use your DJ instincts, and rules are meant to be broken after all.
So if its the biggest track of the moment, and you know everyone at the party wants to hear it again. Then it might make sense to play it one more time!
The ONE exception
It probably goes without saying, but what the customer says, goes. If you’re DJing at a private event, birthday, function, or wedding, and the client insists you play a song; then its always a good idea to play the song next and keep your customers happy. But as always, it’s important to use your judgment as a DJ. If you don’t think it’s the right song to play next, express your concerns to the client. But if they really want you to play it, then you should!
Likewise, the customer might not want you to take any requests from other guests at all! So it’s important you get the go-ahead in advance before firing off guest requests.
The best way to play song requests in real-time
We touched on it before, but the best way to play requests these days would have to be through streaming platforms. Up until recently, this wasn’t such an easy option for DJs as most of the major DJ software choices didn’t have the ability to access streaming.
Thankfully, with advancements in technology, TIDAL and SoundCloud integration are becoming industry standard. If you’re at an event that has a WiFi connection, you can hook your controller or laptop up to the internet for instant access to your playlists.
If you don’t have access to a WiFi connection, another solution is to turn your mobile phone into a hotspot. That way you can connect to your phone via WiFi and use your mobile data to spin requested songs in seconds.
However, streaming integration on controllers and software is a feature that’s continuously developing. So it’s good practice to test out these features at home before trying it at a big event! You’ll also want to make sure you have a stable internet connection so you don’t experience dropouts during your set.
What not to do
I’ve seen it done before, and it almost always ruins the vibe on the dance floor. But unless you absolutely have to, please don’t resort to playing songs straight from YouTube! It’s likely going to sound low quality, and your audience is definitely going to notice it. Not to mention the awkward silence when you stop playing from your DJ Software and then have to start playing from YouTube. It’s never going to be the smooth transition you’d expect from a DJ and can really look unprofessional!
The Final Say
There you have it, not many DJs will put their hands up and say they love taking requests, and it’s something that will take continual practice to pull off seamlessly without disrupting your flow. But it’s your job as a DJ to keep the crowd as happy as possible, so sometimes you’re going to have to give in to those pesky song requests or even cop a little bit of criticism on what you’re playing!
Different scenarios will always call for different responses, but it’s important that you always remain respectful. If you liked this article, you might like our last one on pricing your mobie DJ services!