DJ Name Drops: All You Need To Know

Sly Stone

Sly Stone was one of the first DJs to popularise 'name drops', many decades ago.

I’ve noticed many DJs on the Digital DJ Tips forum and on similar forums asking about name drops. How to make them, where to get them made, when to use them, even debating on whether DJs should use them at all.

Today we’re going to explore a little history on DJ name drops, as well as discuss how you can make your own and where to get them from professionally. Finally we'll give you some tips on when and how to use them for best effect.

How it all started

Let’s go back in time... way back into time...

Originally, name drop use mainly started on black-oriented radio stations in the 1960s as station and show IDs. Sly Stone was known for his own pre-recorded shots of his name that he would slip in as he did announcements asking “who’s the coolest?”. In the world of entertainment-based non-radio DJs, the only times you would see someone’s name mentioned was by an MC. It was a normal practice in the golden days of reggae and the early beginnings of hip-hop where the DJ was the star of the show, and the MCs merely were backup, hyping up the crowd.

You’ll see this practice still in use with much of reggae and hip-hop culture, and even a few house DJs like Bad Boy Bill have MCs like Alex Peace who do the same. Pre-recorded drops first came into the club DJ scene when club DJs were brought to the airwaves. I can recall the glory days of Chicago’s WBMX (102.7 FM) when you would hear name drops tossed in over mixes here and there, mainly so when someone tuned in at any time, they could eventually know who’s on the decks.

Cartridges

Those cassette-type things are actually cartridges, the standard hardware for drops and jingles at radio stations for decades.

These same DJs and others like them would also use their drops in the clubs, even paying money to have them pressed on vinyl. As time passed and technology grew, more DJs were having name drops made and using them on mixtapes and CDs, mainly to “protect” their mixes, so unscrupulous DJs could not take their demos and pass them off as their own. But as the musical scene grew, some factions felt name drops were somewhat “juvenile” and thus did not use them. (Nowadays, I myself only use them on radio and online show mixes.)

Before laptops made their way into the booth, DJs would find ways they could use drops in their mixes. Some would buy inexpensive samplers, or use records they found that said their name. Grandmaster Flash has been known to use an old children's record that tells a story of Flash Gordon - “The Adventures of Flash...”.

When CD players found their way into the booth, many DJs would bring a disc of their drops, and thus use the CD player as a sampler, since they mainly used vinyl for music. Now it’s more convenient with digital, as we have built-in samplers with our software choices.

Getting your own name drops and intros

There’s nothing wrong with making your own drops and intros. We have the technology and means to edit and toy with sound, thus you can use your own imagination and try to do it yourself. (Just to define things, a name drop is just a short blast of your name you might toss in anywhere, while an intro is more a small set of edits and sounds meant to be used to kick off a mix set.)

Microphone

A decent microphone is a must-have if you're to record your own name drops.

The first thing you will need for making your own drops is a decent microphone. I would not recommend some crappy little cheap thing you might use for video gaming or talking on your cell phone. Invest in a decent microphone, because you never know when you might need it for gigs. If you’re cash-strapped, see if a friend has one you can borrow.

If you’re buying a microphone of your own, you might want to invest in an inexpensive stand (I use a tabletop stand) and a pop blocker (not to be confused with a popup blocker, which is something totally different!). The pop blocker is very nice to have, as it will keep the blasts of air caused by the pronunciation of p’s and t’s. If not, then you might want to toy around with how you position yourself so those gusts will not put clicks and pops in your drops.

The other main item of importance is some kind of audio recording/editing software. Audacity is the easy choice as it’s totally free. Some with money might get their hands on titles like Sony Sound Forge or Adobe SoundBooth.

Write a script and record several takes
At this point, it’s a matter of finding the voice you want and recording him/her. It might be your own voice or a friend. That really depends on what you're looking for. Find a room where you can get total silence, and if that’s hard then look for a day perhaps when you get the house to yourself.

Set up the microphone around five or six inches from the person you are recording, and have them try several practice-takes of your script. Coach them and show them what you’re looking for. So if you’re trying to get a girl to sound like Leona Graham, play for her several of her demos and have her practice your script until you think she’s ready to be recorded.

Record at least three takes. Even if you think the first one was perfect, record two more to be on the safe side. What sounded perfect now can end up being “ok” later. Best to have choices and variants to pick from.

What if I can’t find a decent voice?
If you can’t find anyone whom you think has a decent voice, and you don’t want to use your own, then you have other possibilities if you’re prepared to spend a little money. Perhaps you just want a specific voice that’s known in many circles. (That was my rationale when I got mine made professionally.) There are professionals all over the internet who specialize in station IDs, audio imaging, and DJ drops. They can do just the script in a raw voice recording, or even fully create you polished drops and/or intros if you want someone else doing all the work.

Below are four recommended names if you’re interested. I’ve worked with some of them, and all come well recommended by others.

  • Music Radio Creative DJ Drops - If you listen to radio from the UK, you’ll almost certainly have heard Music Radio Creative’s work - yet their rates are completely affordable for DJ drops
  • Mitch Craig - Mitch is one of the original voices many have known of when house music first blew up. His deep unique voice has been recognisable on stations all over the United States. For me, I wanted the classic WBMX name drop that I heard all throughout the late 80s and into the early 1990s on other radio stations
  • Michael Horn - Michael is the current voice artist for Chicago Urban Top-40 station B96. Taking over from Mitch Craig years ago, his bold voice has also become widely recognised even to this day and he’s created station IDs, voice overs, and loads of name drops for DJs all over the world
  • Lesley Lyon - For many years I’ve dreamt of having drops from a British female. Call it my Radio 1 fantasy. I came across Lesley’s site recently and loved not only her portfolio, but how easy and affordable a DJ drop is. She’s currently running a contest where the winner can get free name drops

Supercharging your name drops

You don't have to stop with the raw drops, though. Your next step could be to turn these raw voice recordings into refined drops for greater effect (if you haven’t already had that done by your company of choice).

The simplest, easiest enhancement you can do is to simply add some reverb. Some might think to add echo or delay, but the goal with reverb is to simply give some depth and sense of space. Even many radio announcers will have the reverb turned on all the time to make their voices not sound flat. Feel free to experiment with reverb, echo, delay, and chorus. Chop the samples up and set up stutters and repeats, or lay them out so they can read well on beat. It really depends on what you want your final result to be.

Audacity

It's free, it works - Audacity is a must-have DAW for post-processing name drops (and all kinds of other things too).

Now I’m sure while you’re happy to have a voice saying your name, you want the other kinds of effects, swooshes, blasts, and other sounds you hear in some drops and intros. You can go out and buy sounds from various sources, but also explore what you have. You might hear a sound sitting alone on a tune you bought. Use it. You might have a battle record or some “DJ Tools”. Look at them. You might find something of use.

You also have the internet at your disposal. There are several sites just full of free sound files many use for purposes like Flash web design and other possibilities. Three such sites are SoundSnap, Freesound and SoundBay. Bear in mind when you use sound effects, the goal is to enhance the voice and the final result. Often times the blasts, swooshes, and other sounds are more used to grab the listener’s attention, which can be a mistake.

The burning question: When?

This part of the topic can lead to endless debate. I won’t go into any of the opinions that DJs should not use name drops, because that’s not the discussion. I will say there is a time and a place for them.

I’ve stopped using them in live club sets mainly because they do not get the crowd hyped as much as it turns off that particular crowd. Always be careful to know your crowd and thus not come off as cheesy. However, I think you should use name drops whenever you play on the radio or any online show. It just fits. Just make sure you create drops that fit the climate.

There are two things I see as “cardinal sins” when you use name drops. The first is when a DJ uses his/her drop over lyrics or the main part of a song. So you’ll hear a vocalist sing or about to start singing, and then some DJ name drop comes in ruining the flow of the tune. Not to mention so much is going on already that you couldn’t make out the drop over the mess that was created.

It’s better to use name drops on transitions when there isn’t any major melody or vocals happening. DJs in the past would line things up so the drop hits right before the point the next tune kicks in. So it becomes a lead-in for the next song. Many others now will put one in over the breakdown, as it’s a moment where it will be clearly heard. This works well in trance.

The second “cardinal sin” is what I and others have called “audio masturbation”. Some DJs can put in a drop every 30 or 40 minutes and be happy, others will put them on every song. A few will annoyingly stutter, toy, and repeatedly slam their drop in over 32 beats. They’ll have a small library of drops and jump around in that short time span. I don’t care what anyone thinks: It’s annoying! We know who you are already, and we’re not impressed.

Always bear in mind your name drop is supposed to be an identification for you. First and foremost, it tells the crowd or the listener who you are. What you create and how much you use it can either make or break you in all this. You can enhance your set or ruin it. Listen to other sets, listen to the drops. Figure out what brand image (yep, we’re back to that again) you want to send. Treat your drops as something that’s important as when you select the next tune to play in a set. Make them fit in.

Do you use name drops? did you make your own or have them made professionally? Do they annoy or delight you when you hear them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Comments

  1. Recently I am using name drops every 20-30 minutes.

    Reason? I am an allround DJ and post my mixes on soundcloud or mixcloud from time to time.
    Recently one potential customer came to me saying he already heard that mix … some investigation prooved that another “DJ” downloaded my set and showed of as it was being his.
    Unbelievable but true … i am still full of unbelief …

    • I’m a female dj and finding the right DJ Drop has always been tough for me. I like a Deep Male Voice and http://www.djdropscentral.com has always been fast and professional. Check them out sometime. They have like 10 or more voices to choose from so you never get bored. I love your blog phil!

  2. Did I already told you that I love this site ? ^^

    I tried to do my own drops but they never came close as the professional sites you’ve provided. So I endup with artificial voice generator but it wasn’t what I would really like.
    So, thank you very much for those certified professional sites, I’ll gonna burn some cash on this ! ;-)

    • In all actuality, getting drops from any of the four professionals listed are not that expensive. You could spend $20-$50 and at least get several statements read in raw voice that you can use later. They’re all very talented, professional, and affordable.

      In the past, I’d use some recorded voices of friends. It was problematic, simply because they and I were not talented voice artists like the four mentioned.

      These guys have total audio control on their voices. Lesley Lyon even went through examples of the different types of readings on her site. You can also hear it in her demo reel.

      Michael Horn is another one who has a lot of this control. I put his demo reel here (http://soundcloud.com/ddjttwo/michael-horn-demo) because he’s fixing his site a bit so his clips might not play. You’ll see how he can variate from energetic to deep. I’m impressed in all honesty.

      If you do go the homemade route though, just remember to write a script, practice, do multiple takes, and toy with it using effects to make them sound solid.

  3. Mr stifffy says:

    Living in Ireland I think it sounds tacky to have an irish person say it… So I was on a site (cant remember which site) but within 10 mins an american had said ” you are now listening to the sound of mr stifffy” took this to a daw and added a few reverb effects and played with it till I got it how I liked…. You can here it in the first few seconds of my top mix on http://www.soundcloud.com/mr_stifffy

  4. When I DJ’ed on Virtual DJ Radio I started up with a drop then one in mid set and one as outro. But for a gig or nightclub set I wouldn’t dream of using drops. My name is one the poster or flyers. So I see no need to tell anyone who I am.
    But If you would make a cheesy dance tune like shake that ass or bunch the boobs I might add dj gullum whatever in the song.

    But for radio be it Internet FM AM or LW dj drops still have their place.

    • Ah but not so fast, IMO. I used to go to a club night called “Freedom” and they had found an old accapella of one of the house great male vocalists (can’t remember which) singing “freedom” and it got a right reaction when dropped in two or three times throughout the night.

    • Everyone is different. I know if I walked into the underground club playing tech house or deep house, the crowd would not think highly of name drops…simply because they are seen as “top 40 mainstream ghetto DJs”

      However, on any kind of radio or online show I think they are very useful. I also think events that are more energetic or even mainstream they work. Listen to any big names who play at events like Sensation and you’ll see them use drops. A big outdoor festival would probably make the crowd scream.

      It’s all about the right place at the right time.

  5. Great article, as always! :)

    I would only add a little suggestion: it’s a good idea to find a local band’s singer and get them to do the drops.. My drops were made by a girl from my last band, no fuss about it: she had her own mic, knew how to use her voice and everything. I just showed up with my laptop and got it in less than 15 minutes, in exchange for some sweets, of course ;)

    Btw I put drops on all my promo CDs, Mixcloud mixes and radio shows.. started doing it after I walked into a club, realized my mix was playing while a DJ was pretending to mix.. (turns out the owner hired him instead of me because I was 10 euros more expensive)

  6. the only time it is ever acceptable in a club is when a dj/producer plays an unreleased exclusive, It definately amps up the crowd and makes them open their ears to your new choon…

    And you forgot the most important ingrediant in making a drop… You have to compress the vocal to get the levels the same, then add reverb and other effects like echo’s, delays etc…

  7. I’d just like to actually take a second to thank D-Jam for this article; it’s something I’ve been meaning to get round to for a while and I think he’s done a through job of it. Hats off, sir!

  8. Check out radiodaddy.com for free and sometimes very professional voiceovers that’s where i got mine and it’s amazing..nuff said

  9. Try this sight for pretty decent drops:

    http://www.djdropvoice.com/

  10. Hi Guys,

    We just started offering professional drops, we think our production is pretty decent and the prices good, see what you think:

    http://www.mixaloop.com/dj-drops/custom-dj-drops/

    Plus we have thousands of DIY tools to enablke you to create your own dj drops

    http://www.mixaloop.com

    Thanks

  11. Similarly to an earlier poster, I’ve had parts of my online mixes ripped off. Now I use a drop that I created myself, but I went a slightly different route, I found my name in a couple of places within my music collection and just used the slices I needed to create my drop. While the voices listed in the article are dope, I think having Jay Z, Ice Cube or Chuck D giving me a drop is pretty cool too. I generally drop at intro, midway and near the end of my sets posts online.

    • I’ve done that too. Waaaaaay back I combined a “D” from Public Enemy with “Jam” from Bart Simpson. I also mentioned Grandmaster Flash’s use of an old Flash Gordon record.

      I will say going this route can be quite creative and imaginable. Nice work on making your own.

  12. James Pieaterson says:

    Well I’ve just ordered my DJ name drop, using the discount code. Tried several times to record one of my own but it never seemed right. Excited to hear the result of the new one :D

  13. While I see the logic, I really dont like obnoxious “watermarks” on tracks and mixes, the “you’re in the mix with DJ dude” or “you’re listening to the latest track from bootleggers music”. It seems pretentious and obnoxious. I think once or maybe twice an hour (standard for radio shows) is a good amount of time, but not in a 15 min mix or single track. What do you guys think?

    • I agree…when I make a 30-60 minute mix for shows like TheMovement.FM, I’ll usually start with one of my own drops, and put one somewhere 1/2 or 2/3 into the mix. I’ll also toss two drops for the show on there as well.

      I’m with you, I’ve seen obnoxious usage of name drops…and I believe it was my brother who first coined the term “audio masturbation”. Everyone in our social circles loved it.

      I think if one is making an intro of edits or scratching/tricking their drop somewhere, then have a little fun for 32 beats. I just think it becomes ridiculous when it’s every few minutes.

  14. DJ Urkel Dee says:

    I just picked up some DJ drops last week and pretty excited to use them… Mix shows and mixtapes will be my use for them… I’ve noticed the new trend is suttle voices these days… I like over the top voices and that’s what I got…. Very happy with the results.

    The scripts I wrote are very unique… STOKED!!!

  15. Nice article!

    I have made my own recorded name drop which I use solely on radio shows! As far as the when and how often, I usually drop it (as it has already been said) during the breakdown of a tune and never more often than once per 30 minutes – so usually I get to drop it 3 – 4 times during a 2 hour radio show. Usually, I’ll also pick a tune I particularly like to drop my “jingle” in it or when I get feedback for a tune that is good.
    As for the clubs I never do that, specifically because the greek audience thinks its cheesy and amaterish (hint for future guest DJs in Greece)- to say the truth I kinda agree!

    • I’ll remember that if I never get a chance to play in the old country (I’m 1/2 Greek).

      Right now, I’m just hoping things stabilize out there. It’s kind of heartbreaking when I read of the mess in the news.

      • Yeah I remember you are – I had asked you when I saw your real name posted somewhere in the forums……Heartbreaking indeed friend – aaaaanyways! Let me know if you ever visit – we might hook up an event! ;)

  16. wow this trend came just in the right time
    i do a radio show and a need to redo my intro/outro and make some drops …. thanks for this good read

    • James Pieaterson says:

      Same here. I co-host a semi weekly show on dancetransmission.com https://www.facebook.com/events/359087380776272/ and I wanted to spice it up a little. I’ve already got some intro samples to build up the tension before the mix and all I needed was a name drop. Not a cheesy one with FX and music, just a simple spoken one. I chose a nice female voice. It’s been ordered and I’m waiting with excitement.

  17. Drops are huge tool for professional DJs! I’m glad not many people are going on and on about how annoying they are. Obviously, as the article mentions, it can be over done. But at the same time it can be heartbreaking to hear your great mix being claimed by someone else.
    Different genres are very different when it comes to the acceptance of drops—most fans of music of the African Diaspora (ie hip hop, reggae, reggae, R and B, soca, etc) actually expect to hear your drops or dubplates on a regular basis. This is especially true in reggae where myself and many others have literally spent thousands of dollars on dubplates (unique songs about us by popular artists) which our fans consistently want to hear.
    One idea for DJs looking for drops is to recruit artists and well known DJs for them. Many record labels will be happy to provide drops by their upcoming artists for DJs who play out often, and many touring DJs don’t mind a drop for their opener or a local cat they have a relationship with. Celebrities outside of the music world can be fun for drops as well!
    Here are a few examples of my own dubplates for your listening pleasure, for those curious: http://www.aztlanroots.com/category/dubplates

  18. I use simple drops from Mitch Craig… Growing up in Baltimore, he was the ONLY voice you heard on 92Q, the hip hop station in Baltimore… And I use the drops sparingly, always at the start of a mix… maybe once or twice during an hour mix.

    Another thing I do is to incorporate very brief soundclips from a movie or show into my mixes. Just like a name drop, if used consistently enough in all your mixes, your listeners will immediately correlate the particular clip with YOU. This is done all the time with airway DJs on some of the hip hop stations I listen to… It’s kind of like your “signature”, if you will. Not quite as obnoxious as a straight name drop, but a nice change of pace. I’ve got about 3 clips I use consistently, and I think it works rather well.

    The pro name droppers listed in the article are the top of the line, cream of the crop… As I said, I use Mitch Craig drops. But another option you can use is to hire someone on a site like http://www.fiverr.com to do a drop for you in their voice. Lots of professional voice-over guys/girls and impressionists that you can have make you a short clip for only $5. I used a guy off of the fiverr site who sounded JUST like Obama to cut a quick comical intro plugging my name into it… I’ve used that as an intro on a couple of my mixes with great feedback.

    Happy name-dropping LOL

  19. I’m American, and 90% of my drops are of a female voice from the UK. I like it because it is a HUGE contrast when I’m playing trap-rap and electro to a bunch of hip hop kids and hipsters. I love seeing the reaction on people’s faces.

  20. Okay within a club I would not use Name-Drops. Seeing I do a fair bit of Live Mixing on various Internet Radio Stations, I drop my name in normally during the beginning of my 2 hour shows.

    Mind you I have got a friend to record using his voice which is very “BBC-English” and he has said my DJ-Name “Ravin-Rom” and various other words to create Dialogues, seeing I mix Hardstyle and Hardtrance which are my main genres. Believe me I have had no complaints from any of my listeners.

    If you want to check me out please tune in Thursdays 20.00 to 21.00 and on Saturdays 20.00 to 22.00 “UK Time” on:

    http://www.tongiesgroove.com/Hard_Room.html

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