DJ GIGS - FAQs
What music do you play?
The radio show is a funny beast. Everyone thinks the credibility of having your own show on the BBC means every door just swings open for you - but I still have people saying “I wouldn’t want that played at our venue” based on what they’ve heard on-air. So when I get asked “what genre do you play”, I always respond with “whatever you - as the client - wants”. The radio show is one thing, but the sets are a very different thing altogether. Yes, sometimes that makes managers nervous - but their bar staff wouldn’t serve a customer with a Jagerbomb if they’ve asked for a pint!
I also read somewhere that when MySpace first launched, something like 60,000 new artists were signing up every single day. If you want somebody who plays the same songs in the same order, every night, so you can reset your watch at midnight - click away now!
Will you send me a demo/tracklist?
Having DJd 125 times last year, it still comes as a complete shock when somebody asks me that! I read a wonderful blog, last year, where an industry professional said “you wouldn’t ask a hairdresser to service your car - and you wouldn’t book a builder to audit your accounts”. Yet I’ve met so many DJs who play records at night and, by day, work in a shoe shop! Discovering new music is what I do - and I refer to my best discoveries as my “secret weapons” - tracks that will blow the roof off any venue. Every week I listen to in excess of 400 tracks - and very very few will ever make the final cut. Yet an audio recording will never convey the energy - the manipulation - and the live sampling of what was going on in the club at that time. I do, however, release the tracks and listen again for my radio show.
Do you talk?
Sheesh! I present a radio show. Of course I can talk. If you want me to!
What about requests?
Nowadays I get more people saying “here’s a list of stuff we don’t want” than pages of “what we like”. Requests from joe-public I take on merit. If I'm in the middle of a house set with a packed dancefloor, I’m not going to bang the brakes on and play AC/DC. I do like requests because 99% of people ask for stuff they really want to hear - and it’s another way to make new discoveries. Before taking on a residency, I usually ask the promoter “what three songs best represent your night” - from there I can musically join the dots. But if you really do want me to read the crowd and have everyone’s arms in the air, I’d say keep requests to an absolute minimum.
Can I give you a list of songs we want playing?
In terms of setlists, I'd say the golden rule is to not overplaylist - keeping it to bare minimum and open to requests on the night. That's the reason an iPod or a jukebox never attracts a dancefloor, as it never captures the mood and feel of the night - and you lose the ability to go 'they liked this and they liked that, so they're going to love this'! People will always dance to stuff they ask for on the night - and, as a DJ, if they’ve been on their feet all night and ask for something - I know they’ll dance to it! If they’ve sat there all night and asked for something and I have a packed dancefloor, I know I risk killing the floor for an unknown. For that reason, I tend to put request cards out wherever I perform.
Even with my years of experience - and performing in a club where I've been a resident for years - I can never predict what will work from one night to the next (and I've seen many DJs fall flat on their face by having everything pre-prepared).
Definitely a steer on genre and era is always welcome (which can include artists) - as is "try to avoid XYZ", but I've also done plenty where they've asked every guest for their favourite song on the RSVP and it only appeals to that one person - if they're even in the room when it gets played! Those kind of events can result in hundreds of songs when I can only play 10 in an hour meaning you're setting 70% of people up for disappointment before even pressing play (and I'm left kicking myself because I held back on what I knew would get everyone up). I’ve done weddings before where 30% of people haven’t actually been at the wedding and I’ve still played the songs, another 40% have been having their photo taken/been at the bar/in the loo, another 15% who hate dancing in front of their family and have asked for the most weird bizarre B-side nobody has heard of, meaning you’ve only been left with 15% of what people will dance to - and even that may only be aimed at one person rather than the entire crowd.
Bands 100% need a playlist as they will need to rehearse beforehand but with my vast collection, I'm 99% sure if you/your guests asked for something on the night (when they're in the full swing of it), I'd have it at my fingertips. But that's where my secret skill as a DJ lies - reading a crowd - something which you could never get from a jukebox or Spotify. And I’m always happy for it to be a request-fest on the night! :-)
Equipment required, if provided by the venue:
For sound: Either 2 x RCA Phono Inputs, 2 x 1/4" Jacks or 2 x XLR inputs up to 5M away from setup (more available upon request).
For video: Either VGA or HDMI up to 5M away from setup (more available upon request).
Equipment provided by me:
I regularly tour with a 3.6M projection screen as part of the lighting rig. I can use this for a variety of functions, from simply throwing some colour into the event to visualisers, lyric videos, music videos, video clips and other things to keep people visually entertained in sync with the music. But I can also use this for photo or video slideshows during my set, so if there’s anything you want to display during the event - do fire it over to me on Dropbox/WeTransfer/Hightail/etc (although the easiest is dropbox.com/transfer).
While some people have simply given me photos/video clips of their engagement, first holiday or ‘best of’ - others have been more creative, going through social media to find the worst photo/video they can of every single guest to create something hilarious during the night.
If you’re keen on having anything displayed and you’re able to get it to me up to 5 days before the event, that would be great! In terms of “how many is too many”, I like to sequence these to songs - so if you consider having an image on-screen for 5 seconds, a 4 minute song = 48 photos. Double and it’ll be 2.5 seconds which is just a bit quick, so those are definitely the sweet spots. I can, of course, do multiple galleries but keeping people’s attention is key.
If there’s background music to play, I’d always advise that’s best done by the venue as - in most instances - they’ll have loads of tiny speakers dotted across the venue perfectly balanced for that very purpose - whereas you’d risk blasting the people closest to the DJ booth while the sound may be lost towards the back of the room. Plus, to make the biggest impact, having that clear divide between background music and foreground is much harder for a DJ than a band (with a band, it’s an obvious “boom, we’re on!”). So I’d always recommend background music is done in-house or have an acoustic musician perform before the main event.
It’s always worth checking with the venue if it’s ok to bring a haze machine. Ever since the smoking ban, a lot of places have replaced their heat sensors with smoke detectors (although larger venues tend to have zonal systems they can isolate for events etc - theatres and nightclubs, for example, switch them off during performances - and on for when there’s nobody in the building to spot a fire!). So, if it’s a decent enough system, it should be on an isolator for when it’s fully staffed/there’s public in to raise the alarm in the unlikely event a fire should break out. Building insurance tends to only be null and void if they’re left off when the building is unattended.
If you think of those iconic festivals and gigs where you can see every single beam from the lasers and the lighting looks amazing - that’s because of a small amount of ‘fog’ in the air (the liquid particles show up every beam). You’re talking about a teaspoon full of liquid for a room of about 250 people - so it’s effectively steam. Without it and all you’ll see is the dots of the laser on a far wall and the same if you were to shine a torch against a surface. A £25 light with a small amount of haze in their air will look like Glastonbury or a high-end theatre show while a £5000 light with no haze will look an effect you can buy in Home Bargains! So the difference it makes is vast - but always worth checking in advance as you don’t want all your guests standing in the car park while the sprinkler system is going off!
More and more people are adding sax/percussion/singers to DJ sets - if this is something you’d be interested in, let me know and I can pop you in touch with some really amazing performers.