10 DJ Tactics For When People Won’t Dance

| Read time: 6 mins
crowd how to programming tutorial
Last updated 18 August, 2014

42

1125

Empty dance floor
For good DJs, an empty dancefloor is not a problem, it’s an enjoyable challenge of DJing.

Any experienced DJ, no matter how good or professional, has encountered dancefloors that just refuse to react as expected.

Sometimes, you’re confronted with a crowd that it seems just won’t dance, no matter how hard you try. It can be confusing to you how one night girls can be dancing on top of the bar gyrating to your tunes and giving you flirty smiles when the next week you seem to have weird, serious looking people and zero energy on the dancefloor, no matter what music you play.

It’s not your fault!

First, understand that there are a number of different circumstances that can change the mood and feeling of your night unexpectedly. You as a DJ have to be ready for them and know how to react to this when it happens.

Events taking place in the town or city that you’re playing at, door policy and even the weather can influence the crowd that turn up to your nights.

Just as a sudden surge in warm weather and sunshine makes people feel happy, energetic and horny, a blast of rain can do the opposite and take the mojo out of your night.

Big events in town related to fashion, sports or business may all mean you have to adapt to the crowd and go outside of your comfort zone to make people dance.

An overly zealous door policy can see the real party animals getting refused entry and your dancefloor filling up with people who don’t seem to care about your music.

All this can be a challenge for your usually lively dancefloor! So what can you do about it as a DJ? Well, the first thing is to relax. There are a number of ways of dealing with the floor that won’t dance, so there’s no need to panic: as a DJ, you can try all of them. Here they are:

1. Have your secret weapon tunes ready

Katy Perry
Is Katy Perry your dirty DJ secret?

Create a list of tracks you can play as secret weapons. You should make a rule to only ever drop these when you have a really limp crowd or people who only dance to cheese. Make sure that around half of these are well-known favourites and the other half discreet dancefloor bombs that you’ve found yourself.

Don’t ignore top 40 hits or old party hits because you don’t like them. You may hate Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun or Katy Perry’s latest chart hit but these tunes could spark life into a lame night for you.

If you really find it painful to play music that’s considered cheesy, then find or make remixes of well-known hits to play instead. Justice’s remix of the Britney Spears song Me Against The Music is a great example of where cool electro meets top forty hit. That way you can be cool and play to the top 40 crowd at the same time!

2. Find and know more music genres
To be able to react to different people you should be getting into different genres. Mastering one genre is fine but don’t be a one trick pony. You really need to be a pro at knowing other genres too in case your crowd don’t react quite as you like.

Organise your tunes so that you can flip to a different genre or sub-genre if your crowd aren’t digging the music that you’re blasting out.

Get to know and enjoy tunes of at least two or three other genres you are familiar with, identify the tracks people will dance to and try them out. You’ll see this come in useful time and time again to wake up the energy on the floor.

3. Find tunes that you know girls dance to
When it comes to the dancefloor it’s all about the girls. Why is this? Because when girls dance, not only do they look good but you’ll see an army of boys follow them straight onto the floor to try to bust out a few hot moves.

These boys don’t always care what music is playing, they’ll just head to the floor when they see a hot girl dancing to try to cut some shapes and impress her.

Use your experience to make a list of proven girlie tunes, then release them when you feel the dancefloor needs a boost. You’ll see those ladies liven up the dancefloor pretty quickly. Then watch the boys follow them blindly onto the floor, and chuckle to yourself.

4. Relax and become one of the crowd
All too often, we take ourselves a bit seriously as DJs. After all, aren’t we there to play some cool trainspotter tunes that no one else has discovered? Don’t you want to show that you know the best cool music around that no other DJ can get? You know, showcase some real hardcore DJ tunes with effects. Yeah!

DJ and crowd
Get out of your DJ box and mingle with the crowd. your enthusiasm and friendliness can be a vital ingredient in getting people relaxed and then dancing.

Well… yes and no. You can educate people and take them on an adventure of musical discovery. But what people really care about isn’t you in your booth. It’s them and their night out. That’s right. All they want to do is enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Learn to relax when playing out and don’t take yourself seriously. Enjoy playing out. Have a drink if it helps you get onto the same wavelength as the people there. Chat to some people near you, head out of your booth and mingle a bit. You’ll feel better and less tense to be part of the crowd.

Very often, as soon as you relax you’ll find yourself automatically playing tunes that people dance to instead of ones that you thought you “should” play.

5. Think positively
Without trying to sound like a sales guru trainer, you have to be able to react positively as a DJ.

Being very positive really does help you when DJing as you’ll need to constantly boost yourself if the night isn’t going as well as planned. Moaning that your crowd are a bunch of losers when they don’t react to what you play won’t help you at all and it certainly won’t make them dance!

If they’re looking like they just came from a funeral when you drop your peak time hits just smile, be cool and tell yourself you’re going to turn it around. My DJ sets became better when I started to think this way.

You need to develop a reflex reaction to negative situations on the floor. Tell yourself that everything is going to go well and you’ll find the music that makes them dance no matter what’s happening.

6. Look at your dancefloor
Looking at who is out to have a good time tonight helps you gauge the atmosphere and get a feel for the kind of music they may like. Are your crowd more black, white, Asian or Latin?

Without generalising about their music tastes, the way people look can help you get an idea of what will make them dance. Are there more boys or girls? Straight or gay? Drunk or high?

Using your common sense to make decisions about what tunes to play, try them out and keep looking up at them from time to time to get a feel for how it’s going.

7. Take a request

Requests
You may not like to take requests, but they can be just the thing if you need to get the dancefloor going in a hurry.

We all know DJs who refuse to take any requests but you should think about being open to listening to what people say if no one seems to be enjoying themselves. If you have a group of seven pretty girls who promise to dance if you play Basement Jaxx, then why not play it?

You can be sure it’ll get some others on the floor too once a group starts to dance. Their request might be what you need to open up a bit and get the musical juices flowing.

8. Play out as often as possible
As a general rule, playing anywhere from the local hairdresser to the coolest club in town to the old people’s home around the corner will help to expand your musical knowledge and develop your DJ intuition. So go ahead, programme your friend’s party playlist, play out anywhere and observe how people react in certain situations.

You’ll learn much more about how music makes people react according to their mood, persona and the time of night or day.

9. Invite your friends along
If you’re not already doing this, then you should be. Make sure you do more than create a simple event on Facebook. Many people receive several Facebook event invitations per day and pay little attention to them. Be better than this and send only personal notes to more influential, musically minded friends of yours and those who know a few people who like a night out. People react far better to a personal message.

Invite plenty of girls that you know who are likely to enjoy the night. Rotate your groups of friends to keep them fresh so you invite new ones each time you play.

In smaller venues, having your loyal group of dancing friends present can save your life for getting people on the floor.

10. Start dancing yourself
If the crowd really do seem to be a lame bunch and refuse to move any parts of their body no matter what dancefloor bombs you drop, then start dancing away yourself in your booth. After all, you’ve done all you can, so you may as well just enjoy yourself!

Grab a drink, put on some great tunes and dance away to them.

The DJ’s energy is infectious and for some people; just seeing you enjoy yourself will make them want to have a good time.

Conclusion

Making people feel good and getting them dance is what makes you successful as a DJ. Nothing else is more important.

Preparing and knowing your music well and being ready to play outside of your comfort zone is great preparation for being able to react and adapt to a crowd.

If you’ve got your music organised and you know it well, then you should be able to relax, enjoy your mix, try out different tunes and make the girls dance. If you find out things don’t go as well as expected, the job is to get into the minds of your crowd and you’ll be able to get them warmed up and dancing in no time, whoever they are.

• Matt is a DJ living in Paris, France. He’s one half of electro duo Sao Paulo Punks and runs a DJ blog too.

What’s your tactic when people won’t dance? Have you ever had a crowd who wouldn’t dance no matter what you did? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.