Some key ingredients to a successful DJ set include song selection and controlling the energy of the room with song transitions. These two parts of the equation are fairly mathematically in the sense that songs with similar tempos can be mixed and you can find out what songs are popular via music charts. If DJing was boiled down to only song selection and transitions then most DJs sets would sound similar. Apps such as Spotify and Apple Music can literally select songs for you and transition in between them. Yet there must be some special, intangible component to DJing that can’t be determined by numbers.
This magic component we speak of has no name, it’s not something you can measure, and it will never be the same. Its an ever evolving connection between the DJ and the listener. Many DJs assume that if a person is not dancing, they are not enjoying the music. Take some time to scan the room and you may find folks bobbing their heads or tapping to your rhythms. Depending on the time of the event that may be the most physical movement you get out of the people there.
For most, partying is a process that has a beginning, middle and end. The catch here is that not everyone will always be on the same stage of the process at your party. Some folks will come in ready to dance while others will need to warm up with socializing or maybe a few libations. The patrons sitting at the bar warming up should be tended to just as much as those on the dance floor (early on). If you neglect them from the beginning then they will be the group of folks that walk right out of your venue ready to party at another.
It’s also a good way to gauge what directions to take the party later on. If you are playing dance jams from the 90s early on and can see everyone bobbing their heads then the odds are that’s a style of music you can use later in your set when the dance floor has some more life to it.
Throughout a set, the DJ should constantly be looking at their audience and watching how they move. A persons body language will tell you so much about how they are feeling in the present moment. If you can see they’re feeling funky, string together similar songs that will continue to make them get down. You may see that certain sounds and beats make them react in different ways. Keep a mental note or even a physical one and write down that the “crowd loves Nu-disco/doesn’t respond to Pop”.
Understanding what “works” for your crowd means you are able to read the room. With the combination of great song selection and seamless transitions, you have all the components needed to create a sonic experience for your audience. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on a song; it may seem far left, until everyone in the room is up doing a two-step. A DJs relationship with their crowd is give and receive as in if you take the time to truly give them a curated experience then you will receive nothing but pure energy that will leave you feeling on top of the world. You can have the exact same crowd in the exact same venue and the energy still be completely different so always pay attention to who is in front of you. Keep your eyes on the prize. Do you read the room when you perform? What are some tips that help you understand your crowd? Drop a comment!