#ThingstoNeverAskaDJ has been trending on Twitter all day in L.A. today. That makes me happy because a lot of people don’t have a good grasp of club etiquette. What can you say? A lot of people don’t know that you’re supposed to read the story before you fire off angry comments either.
I can’t explain the idiosyncrasies of humanity, but I can tell you what annoys DJs. Certainly, many non-DJs on Twitter can too. It’s all too appropriate that nearly all of the tweets I saw had to do with requests. Asking a DJ to play your jam is a weird thing. Some people don’t take requests. Others do, but there is a certain level of selectivity in what they will play. Also, how you ask for a request is as important as the song itself. The moral of #ThingstoNeverAskaDJ is don’t be a jerk.
I’ve spent a lot of time working in clubs, mostly as a DJ, sometimes as a promoter. I’ve played at parties that hit capacity by 10:30 p.m. and spun at clubs where there were, maybe, 20 people in attendance. Clubs are tricky business. Even when a party is a running success, it’s not predictable. You’ll have nights where everyone shows up early and leaves by 1 a.m., nights where no one arrives before 1 a.m. There are times when all your friends flake on you and people you barely know are dropping your name at the door to try to avoid the cover charge. There will be parties where the crowd will dance to anything. Those are always the best. There are other nights, though, where people only want to dance to songs that came out before they were born. Then there are nights when no one wants to hear anything more than five years old.
Any club that’s a success takes a lot of work. Even the failures take some serious effort. Whether you’re a DJ or a promoter, you know that you spend most of your time promoting. You never attend an event without at least a small handful of flyers on you. There are probably more in your car. When you’re record shopping, you leave stacks with your friends at the store. You tweet and blog and update your Facebook page. You do this knowing full well that hardly anyone is paying attention to you, but you have to give it a shot. You do this on top of things like booking talent, finding a venue, creating the aesthetic of the event and practicing your technique.
DJing is an art. Throwing a party is an art. No matter where you’re going, the people running the joint and the people behind the decks are doing their best to make sure you have a good time. But, they’re doing this with a very specific vision in mind. So when you go into a club and try to insist that the DJ plays your request, a song that has nothing to do with the vibe of the night, he/she is going to get pissed. If you request a song, go outside while it’s playing and then try to get the DJ to play it again, he/she will get pissed. And if you mess with the DJs gear or music, there will be serious problems.
DJs are some of the chillest people you’ll ever meet, just don’t mess with their music. Be cool, keep the theme of the night in mind when you’re making a request, don’t freak out if he/she says no. And if you need more help, follow The DJ Gospel on Twitter. (My absolute favorite Twitter account.)
There’s one thing you can do that will endear yourself to DJs everywhere. Dance. Don’t just dance to the songs you know. Stay out on the floor until you start to feel like the girl with the red shoes. Here’s a secret, if I see that you’re out on the floor early, you’ll have a much better shot of hearing me spin your jam.
However, as much as we want you to get out on the floor, please don’t dance too close to the decks. Whether we’re using turntables, CDs or a laptop, gear is sensitive. If something skips or the power is lost, you’ll have one flustered DJ and a lot of angry dancers looking at you. While I’m at it, please don’t have sex against the DJ booth. I don’t want to see it. I’m sure most of the crowd doesn’t want to see it. Plus, you might make my records skip. I hate that I have to mention this, but that’s happened more than once during my gigs.