Some DJs refuse to take any requests and others won’t even talk to anyone making them. But my take on requests and people who approach the DJ booth is that you should treat them case by case. Being open to requests can sometimes even help you if you’re having an off night or playing at a new venue that you don’t know so well.
However, being too soft and playing anything anyone asks for is the ultimate way to ruin your set and look weak and foolish. After all, surely a DJ is more than a human jukebox? So from my experience, here are 10 types of people who tend to approach the DJ booth, and how to deal with them.
1. The flirty girl
Invariably, whether you’re a club DJ, bar DJ or house party tune selecta, there’s a flirty girl who approaches the booth at some point during your set, smiling and making eye contact as she comes up to you.
This girl is used to getting her own way with that smile, especially when a man is controlling the decks.
She may lean forward slightly to reveal a little cleavage as she begins talking, and she’ll keep eye contact. She knows what she’s doing.
What does she ask for? More often than not, chart hits like Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga or Rihanna. Sometimes, she can take actually your breath away with the sheer cheesiness of her requests.
Occasionally though, she may ask for something with some taste and originality.
How to handle her
If the tune she’s asking for is completely out of sync with the music theme or policy for that night, then politely explain to her that it’s not the moment for that track to be played. Be friendly and smile as you speak; she’ll accept your message more graciously.
On the other hand, if the party you’re playing at is a cheesy chart busters’ haven with college fratboys, it’s getting late and you feel you can play that kind of chart music, then consider going for it. Don’t play her track immediately, though, or she’ll think you’re soft and come back every five minutes to keep requesting more songs.
Make her work to get her sole request of the night granted. You’ll get more respect this way. Just make sure she dances with all of her friends if you agree to her request so you get something back in return.
2. The "it’s my friend’s birthday" person
The old favourite: "It’s my friend’s birthday and she wants you to play the Bla Bla song." We all know this one. It’s one of the most common ways of people asking for a tune. They think you’ll refuse any tune they ask for, so they pretend it’s their friend’s birthday to get you to agree. Of course, it’s rarely their birthday, or their friend’s.
How to handle them
Ask them right away how old their friend is and what the date is today. They’ll hesitate, look at you then back at their friend, then sidle off, red-faced, knowing they’ve been rumbled.
3. Drunk guy who keeps coming back and repeating himself
One of the most common requesters is a drunk guy who is fixated on one tune that has nothing to do with the music you’re playing. It’s a tune that you could never play in any club or party, anywhere.
Generally, this guy will have heard this tune a few days ago and will have fallen in love with it. So now, in his drunken state, he thinks you should play it.
He is pretty annoying too, coming back and repeating himself, sometimes swearing if you don’t play it. Even when he gets distracted by a girl and goes away, he’ll eventually come back and ask again.
You’ll tell him you don’t have the tune. He might see you have a laptop and tell you to play it directly from YouTube. Then he’ll try to plug his iPhone in and play it from that. Whatever happens, it has to get played for him.
How to handle him
This can be a bit delicate because he’s really drunk and a bit aggressive sometimes and you don’t want beer on your new DJ kit. So don’t get too irritated but remain firm. If he gets really insistent, then ask his friends to take him away. He’ll often have a friend who will take charge and drag him off. If it goes further than that, then get the bouncer to kick him out.
4. Girl (and friend) who keep coming back and insisting you play their music
Sometimes, there’s a girl who’ll keep on asking you for different tunes when you play. She’s had a few drinks but still knows what she’s doing and she knows her music a bit. And she’ll have a list of about 10 tunes that she’ll ask for at different points of the night.
According to her, you have to play them, because they’re so cool and trendy. What, you don’t know these tunes? They're being played at fashion parties!
This girl may get in a huff and disappear, then come back with someone to support her, as if it makes her more powerful.
The person she’s with doesn’t really care if you play her track or not, but they pretend they agree with her if it makes their life easier.
How to handle her
This kind is not the easiest. She has a way of getting into your head. Her perseverance is so tenacious that you’ll be tempted to play her tune just to shut her up. Don’t believe me? Wait until you get one.
She’ll get people on her side, she’ll eventually do anything to make you fold. The best, indeed probably only, way to deal with it is to smile, concentrate on your mix, headphones on, looking through your tunes. Basically, ignore her.
5. The Latin music requester
If you're playing in a Latin country, or a Latin night, this probably doesn't apply to you. Otherwise, on occasions, you’ll may a group of Latin-music lovers in your crowd. Guess what they want to hear?
Yep, whether you’re playing electro, house, hip hop or rock and indie they’ll come right up to you asking for Latin music. You could be DJ at an underground junglist vibe party and they’ll still brazenly insist you put on pure Latin music, right away.
They've come all the way from Bogotá, Lima or Santiago to the New York, London, Paris or whatever city your venue's in, just to ask for Latin sounds.
How to handle them
It’s tempting to scoff at them and tell them to get lost and go find some little Latin bar around the corner, but hold back, that’s not the way to do it.
If you have a music policy that night and people are dancing already, then kindly explain that tonight is electro / dnb / house / indie night, people are enjoying themselves and that’s what you’ll be playing tonight. Be friendly about it.
However, if you have a fairly open music policy night, and only a few people are dancing or nobody at all, then why not agree to play a tune for them? Latin music lovers tend to dance a lot and it can inject some energy onto your dancefloor. The girls can be very sensual when they dance and if there’s one thing that gets more people on the floor, it’s cute girls dancing.
As a rule, I always have some Latin music in reserve in case this happens.
6. Person who asks for something but never knows what
This kind of requester can make you bang your head on the wall. They’ll ask you for something from the 80s, or they’ll ask for commercial chart house, or something random.
But the thing is, they have no idea what. They just know they want to ask you to play something, by someone. For them. If you actually ask them what it is they want, they don’t know. In fact, what they know about music is summed up nicely in their 20 seconds of blank expression that follows.
How to handle them
Try not to bang your head against the wall in frustration. Instead, get into the habit of returning their question back to them as soon as they ask it. When their vague, vacuous request comes to you, ask for specifics right away. They’ll never be able to give them.
While they stand there with their mouth open, unable to give you specific track or even artist names, continue with your set. They’ll never remember and they’ll hopefully eventually get escorted away by one of their embarrassed friends. Hopefully.
7. Bloke who says he’s a DJ too
This one never ceases to amaze me. Now and then, you get someone (usually a guy) who claims he’s a DJ too. He’ll start by asking you what you use to mix with and will try to move his head into your booth to see your laptop screen if you’re using digital equipment.
He’ll then feel confident enough to start telling you about these cool tunes he knows and how you should play them, very soon.
Generally, the tunes he asks for are his personal favourites and rarely go down well with the crowd you’re playing to. He’ll have high expectations that you play the music he speaks of, soon. Because he knows best. Which is why he’s probably never actually DJed anywhere but at his own house party.
How to handle him
This guy is rarely a real DJ. If you bring that up, he’ll get shy and disappear suddenly. So ask him where he mixes.
If he brushes that aside by saying "oh, I play at parties, you know" and keeps being a pest and interrupting you too often, then explain to him that tonight it’s you on the decks, and you decide. But don’t get irate with this guy, he probably doesn’t mean harm.
Explain if he wants to mix at that venue himself, then he should ask. Tonight you’re mixing. This often makes him realise that he’s being annoying and should stop. A real DJ would never act this way after all.
8. Person who gets annoyed when you agree to a request but don’t play their tune right away
Every now and then you’re nice enough to agree to a track request and the person who asked for it just stands there and waits by your booth afterwards. You notice they’re still waiting as you line your mix up and just as the new track kicks in, they start kicking off at you like a spoilt child.
Not satisfied with the fact that you were kind enough to agree to their borderline track request, they were actually expecting their tune on right away instead of at some later point that night.
How to handle then
This is one of those occasions where with hindsight you should never have agreed to play their track in the first place. Maybe they always got whatever they wanted from their parents and think they can coast through life throwing tantrums when they don’t get what they want right away.
If they react this way, then I advise to simply not play their track at all, all night. They may try to come back but just put your headphones on and look away from them. They’ll leave eventually and get tired of coming to your booth.
9. Person who thinks you’re a jukebox and orders music
Some people who approach you may start by asking about how the night is going, then they might say that they liked a tune you played about half an hour ago. This is all well and very pleasant, except that once they’ve got your attention they start asking for all the tunes they can think of and ordering tracks as though you’re some kind of human jukebox.
How to handle them
Don’t get distracted from your set. Instead of giving this person your full attention, start concentrating on your music or ask the bar person for a drink, or go and get one. This should deflate the person who’s convinced you’re a human jukebox and calm them down a bit.
Then get back to your set and concentrate on relaxing and making people enjoy the music. After all, only if people decide to ask you nicely should you consider listening to them.
10. Person who asks for music then complains when it’s not the exact tune they wanted
Every DJ with some experience has had requests and has taken them with good grace.
Many of us become more flexible as the night goes on - we relax and we feel more open to dropping tunes that are requested.
And most DJs have kindly agreed to a request to play music by a certain artist, but only to have the requester come back and complain that they wanted another track by that very artist, or a different mix, and not the one you just played!
How to handle them
Someone complaining even after you were kind enough to play the music of the group they asked for is simply not worth it.
I'd advise not to pay any attention to this person again, unless they happen to be very nice and are asking in the best, most polite and apologetic manner imaginable.
The most important thing (apart from being positive and smiling) is not to let anyone distract you from your job. Concentrate on your mix and selection as a priority. Be friendly and respectful, but remain in charge. Put on your headphones and look away from people who you don’t want to talk to if you have to.
Be open to playing a request if it feels right. It just might be. Otherwise, be honest and just tell people if you don’t think a tune is right for the night. Never play music that’s just blatantly wrong unless the person paying your wages asks you to.
If you do agree to play a tune then apart from in exceptional circumstances, you should play it. Get the requester and their friends to dance if you agree to a request.
Do you accept requests when you're DJing? Have you got any horror stories about requesters who wouldn't leave you along? Do you think it's a DJs job to play requests or do you believe that the DJ should be left alone to do their job? Let us know yuor thoughts and experiences in the comments.