5 Ways To Tell If Your Crowd Has Had A Good Time

Nightclub

Sometimes it's obvious people are having fun. but what about those time when it isn't? How do you find the faith to carry on, to have fun, and to lead the party, when you're getting nothing back from the crowd?

Sometimes it's obvious your crowd has had a good time. Packed dancefloor, screaming girls, sweaty faces, a sea of movement, colour and smiles. It's what all DJs dream of, and we never forget it when we get it.

But not all gigs are like this. Half-empty clubs, bars without a dancefloor, too-cool venues where people just won't let their hair down - all these places need DJs too, and they can also be great places to play. But the question is: In places where it's not too obvious, how do you know your crowd is having (or has had) a good time?

More than that, how do you fight the demons that tell you your crowd is not not having a good time - and that it's your fault? Because once the paranoia sets in and you think you're wrecking everyone's night... well, at that stage, standing in front of a crowd can be one of the loneliest, most horrible places in the world for a DJ to be.

So today I'm going to give you a toolkit to deal with those kinds of negative emotions. Simple stuff that I know to be true. How do I know? Because I've played everywhere from a venue with 10 people in (when my housemate came up to me and said: "Phil, pack it in. Go home!"), to the biggest club in the world, packed with thousands of people. I've dealt with all these emotions before, and I know how to come out the other side smiling, with a more accurate picture of how the crowd has enjoyed the night. Here's how:

1. Assume everyone's having a good time.
Remember, people have chosen to be in the venue you're DJing at, and people tend to start from a state of "all is OK", so don't get paranoid and start convincing yourself otherwise. That one big night out a week is a big deal to most people. Hell, any night out is a big deal to lots of folk. Assuming they're hell-bent on making the most of it is a safe thing to do.

And importantly, never let that one drunken idiot giving you abuse spoil your evening. Someone once said that it's not what people say to us that hurts us, it's how we deal with it. You've done your homework, you've thought a lot more about the music for this night than they have, so trust your instincts and ignore unreasonable words. Even if there are changes or corrections to your style, your record collection, or your approach that you decide may have to be made, mid-set is not the time to make them. Sure, fine-tune what you're doing (that's what good DJs do, after all) - but definitely ignore the idiot telling you to "play something I can dance to". He's not the DJ. You are.

2. Leave the DJ booth for a bit.
Put a longer record on and wander off to the bar, chat to some friends for a couple of minutes, even just saunter along to the restrooms. The idea is to get out of the role of DJ, into the role of punter. That should help settle your nerves, and tune you in more to what your crowd is feeling. I love the idea of not treating your DJ booth like a prison, rather like a place you should be most (not all) of the time when you're DJing.

(By the way, have you ever been DJing, when a DJ you know - or worse, a group of DJs - walks in? Have you felt an almost primal urge to change the music you're playing to impress the other DJs, temporarily forgetting about your crowd? It's a bad move, and this trick is the one to use to tune you back in to your crowd and help you to counter those temptations.)

3. Be cool.
Grab a beer, turn the monitor speakers up a bit, play something YOU really love, to get you back "in the mood". You don't have to play for the crowd 100% of the time. DJing is a confidence thing, and people are looking to you for their cue to have a good time. So be selfish for five minutes and do something for yourself.

Your "crowd radar" will be better tuned once you've done this, and you'll spot the little signs of fun that maybe were passing you by before. As Chris Martin sang: "God give me style and give me grace; God put a smile upon my face". Be cool. You're alive. You're the DJ. Smile.

4. Have someone you trust in the crowd feeding back to you
Girlfriend, boyfriend, bar manager, best mate... pick someone who enjoys socialising and who'll naturally be mingling with your crowd, and ask them how the night's music is going down. Pick someone you trust, who has no agenda of their own, and who can be honest with you, though!

5. Remember, no news in good news
"If people have a good night, they leave quiet but happy and if they've had a bad night, they'll tell you about it in no uncertain terms." Wise words from Tu Kai, a DJ, bar manager and reader of this website. Remember, for a lot of people, music is a background. Whether or not they have a good time is not in your control.

So don't take it on your own shoulders so much - some nights will go well, some not so, and you can't always control this. Enjoy your music, and trust everyone in the crowd has enjoyed it in their own way. Because normally, they have.

Do you play in venues where your crowd is sometimes hard to read? How do you deal with the feeling that your music maybe isn't going down as well as you think it should be? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Comments

  1. Klaus Mogensen says:

    I experienced this last Friday

    A company I know fairly well were having the Kick-off event of the year, which means sitting down listening to strategy (including changes in company direction) for 5 hours, then a pretty fast dinner, and then a 80’s theme party, that I DJed

    80’s songs usually ensures lots of people on the dancefloor, when the avg age is around 40, but in this case very few were dancing. They preferred to drink lightly and the discuss the implications of everything they had heard during the day

    But afterwards they were pleased with my 3 hour set, and knew almost all of the tunes I played. It just wasn’t a dancing event

    Best Regards
    Klaus

    • Yes, and I think the skill as a DJ with these events is to understand that. If you do, you can enjoy the DJing for what it is. After all, we all love to DJ, and we’d all play practically anywhere if offered, right? So it pays to get the “bigger picture” and not go down a rabbit hole of worrying that the place isn’t going off like an ’88 rave, and it’s all your fault! :)

  2. QUOTE
    definitely ignore the idiot telling you to “play something I can dance to”. He’s not the DJ. You are.
    END

    defo agree with this!! I play a regular house night on Sundays at one of the trendier bars in town, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had people (usually girls) come up and ask for, usually, a pretty commercial tune. Told ‘em sorry, would love to but either can’t / don’t have that track. They give it the sad face etc, but 5 mins later they’re dancing away with their mates anyway…

    • also, to add to “(By the way, have you ever been DJing, when a DJ you know – or worse, a group of DJs – walks in…..”

      I actually get more nervous playing to a room with 5/6 other DJs in, than I would with 100’s of punters in! DJs can be very critical of other DJs, especially since we’re often the only one’s who’ll notice a mis-mix!

      And defo do number 4 above!
      I’ve just started playing a bar on Fridays with a fairly laid-back house, sometimes old school hip hop feel. No one dances, but I’ve had excellent feedback from the manager via staff & customers. Even led to me cheekily saying “cool, sounds like I’m due a pay rise” and getting one! :)

      • Yeh definitely aggree with you here about being nervous when other djs walk in. i definitely get nervous. i dont change the set but get more conservative on “tricks” in case i do it wrong. and usually go around the bar a bit to make sure the sound is ok, loudness and eq, no distortion etc. i only do it part time once a week/once in two weeks in a small bar but still its a paid gig none the less and wanna do it right.

        And I do pay attention/listen to other djs myself so i assume they will do the same. a lot of the times tho ive gone over to the booth and said “well done/good job” especially on quieter nights. its funny because few djs initially assume im there for a request and like seeing their face change as soon as i speak :-)

        Congrats on the payrise by the way!

  3. Foldable disco says:

    I play at a bar where people in general don’t dance. My main indcators of fun are the headnodders and leg shakers… when someone starts to dance there is I light panic in the booth, how to maintain that vibe hahahaha!

  4. Bryan Singleton says:

    Thanks Phil for the post on how to tell if the night went well,i certainly agree with the point that if folks leave quietly then most likely the night went well.

  5. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Once played a wedding for someone in the entertainment industry. Grooms best friend was a national radio jock and there were about 8 more (semi)pro DJs in the house.

    The mood between us and the groom had been stressed to say the least (made us move the mobile set about 30 minutes before take-off to the other side of the venue (where we set up initially was the place the venue manager told us to set up).

    While the bride and groom were being congratulated by a long line of guests and everyone is still sitting having their first coffee or drink of the night the groom comes up and tells me to change the music twice (second time while I was playing a request by his mother!). When the congratulating is dying down and I start picking up speed and the first people slowly start appearing on the dance floor, he comes and introduces his DJ buddy. “You don’t mind he plays for 15 minutes don’t you, my best man and all”. And I knew I should have said no, but the groom was a friend and former colleague of the owner of the agency that hired me, etc., so I gave in.

    Next thing I know, the guy starts spinning one floor filler after another (you know how you kinda want to spread them over the night? Not him, then again he only needed to keep them happy for 15 minutes right) and 15 minutes turn into 60. At the first notice that he is playing the floor is packed (hey, famous radio jock!) and stays that way. Then another pro DJ comes up, another “best friend” is shoved behind the DJ stand. “Nothing personal, but a friend of most everyone here, blablabla”.

    My companion (the lighting guy) noticed the pissed off look on my face. When the second DJ said he was about done (after an hour and a half) and wanted me to take over (by then 3 quarters of my playlist was shot) my companion told him in no uncertain terms that he could now bloody well finish himself.

    So, he finished the night, I ended up cleaning away all CDs (they just left them stacked on top of the DJ stand (why put your CDs away if you are a big shot DJ), breaking up the gear and going home one frustrated ” peep”.

    It was one of, if not THE worst night I ever had (not) DJ-ing. I resolved that was an absolute last for me. Never again will I let another DJ play in such a situation and if they don’t like what I am doing, tough luck, I guess you won’t hire me again.

    And if there are DJs in the house that don’t like it, then they too better deal with it. I am not there to make them happy, but to do the best I can for ALL the guests.
    If they want to do it differently, then by all means, get your own gig and do so, but not on my night!

    Greetinx,
    C.

    • Yeah, not fun or rewarding, but you really had NO choice if the groom goes “You don’t mind he plays for 15 minutes don’t you, my best man and all”. It is the party of his life.
      The second one “Nothing personal, but a friend of most everyone here, blablabla” might be different, but if the bride or groom in making the move… you are doomed.
      I guess the distinction lies in what kind of night are you playing, if it is a personal party, you are taking requests, etc. you have to be flexible and hopefully settle in advance the issue.
      Alternatively if you are in a public party on a public place, they have less chances to impose you requests of any kind, they hired you and there is an agreed contract between you.
      Obviously if you have a long trajectory/name, the owner has a special personal event, the attendance is in your/their side, etc. also wedges in.

    • Did you at least get paid ?

    • OUCH! I can’t imagine bro. I’d be seeing red…but what else was their to do? In the end if the night was ruined it wasn’t your fault….you did what was best in that situation i suppose. Appealing to your crowd matters alot in that situation (weddings, gatherings, etc…)….you took your ego out of the equation and did what made the audience, in this case the bride and groom where IT, happy. I feel you handled it well….seriously. BUT…the next time someone completely disrespects (whether their drunk or not) you buy totally being careless about your personal property….thats where the lines drawn….they can get outta the way….or show some respect and take care of your CD’s. Pisses me off to think about it really

  6. As Mogensen sad, “thats was not a dance event”, and I think all DJs have been there. If a DJ had not been there, thats one lucky DJ.

    I’m always trying to have a good time when I’m DJing. My thinking is that my positive energy will be transfered to the quest, in some way. If the music is wrong, I try 3-4 songs in one genre to see if I get a response, and if not, continue with another genre. If this all fails, I usually pick out one, and only one person, and try to make that person dance. If success, the person is dancing and at the same time, most of the quest is dancing to :)

  7. Andy Taylor says:

    Best one in there for me is leaving the booth, and getting out amongst the punters. Especially early in the night at a bar or club, it’s hard to feel the vibe, and easy to feel like you’re getting it wrong. But as soon as I stand at the bar for a minute and notice nobody’s complaining about the music and they’re actually having a good time, I’m happy again!

  8. Great article, I agree. I have years of experience and I have played in various venues, and have gone through the gamma of emotions that come with being the mood setter (so to speak) of an event or just a regular night at the club. My only criticism is that trusting your instincts, sometimes, is not always the best thing to do. If I am reading a crowd, and noticing they are not responding to the music, and sometimes that’s okay, but for specific events, you want reaction, so sometimes, I will completely shock not only the crowd but myself as well. That’s okay, as long as I get a reaction. For me this kind of wakes up the crowd to the fact that there is a DJ, and he is live, I often get some strange looks and that’s okay, but at least I get looks, and that is where I start really catering to the mood of the evening with fun, energetic, positive melodic tunes, depending on what type of venue it is of course. Does this make sense? anywho it does for me.
    Cheers

  9. Great advice. Remember you’re an entertainer, even if its a venue where people dont generally dance, look for the foot tappers, head nodders which show they’re enjoying it. Mix it up a bit, change genres, throw in a few old classics or even obscure hits, entertain them.

  10. My favourite lesson I ever learned was “just when you think you know it all, you don’t.” In doing weddings years. Got all the playlists that never fail, chart, cheese, 70s,80s,90s, house, old school, rock, metal, indie. We all know what should be in all of these playlists. Somewhere in there is the key to getting the floor moving. Except one night I’m doing a wedding, nothing is working. I came on adter the band and they danced to them so theyre a happy crowd so whats going wrong, B&g had jus said keep the floor dancing but they’re bored. Cheese failed, chart failed, rock and indie failed. So I’m working the mic hard “any requests blah blah” when a girl comes up and asks for “Carly Simon coming around again”. Now I’m thinking wtf, eh sorry don’t have it without even looking, I fail with another couple of tracks and think ok let’s stick it on. I find Carly and the floor fills, woohoo I frantically start searching for similar genre and sure enough that slow swing well known cheese was working that you would never in a 100 nights think to put on. I saved the night in a “break when emergency” playlist. I’ll need it.

    • That sounds like dealing with a moody group of friends that were leading the atmosphere without you noticing…
      They might have been tired after the band (were everybody at the floor then?), thirsty or hungry or something happen and most wanted to talk/hear about it…
      These situations are most likely to happen at small events, but some wider groups on different locations do act like tight herds sometimes.
      Take also in account that it is mostly girls who dear to step into a void dancefloor first…

      Also reading from your actions as a DJ, switching genres at each next song while-nobody-is-dancing is probably the best way to lose the attendance confidence in YOU.

      All things that add to your learning experience anyway.

      • I like the girls comment. Girls are all I look to when I play. I figure if the women are dancing the guys will be happy. NO MATTER WHAT.
        I used to go out clubbing 3 nights a week for nearly 5 yrs right outta high school….and if theirs 1 thing i realized from that experience its that the women are what control the night. Play for the women…the men will be happy by default. (and no i’m not talking about being a “pickup artist”….I DJ for myself and the music…. sincerely (i even listen to alot of my recorded stuff).

  11. “Grab a beer, turn the monitor speakers up a bit, play something YOU really love, to get you back “in the mood”. You don’t have to play for the crowd 100% of the time. DJing is a confidence thing, and people are looking to you for their cue to have a good time. So be selfish for five minutes and do something for yourself.”

    This!!! Its way underestimated I believe! I cant really remember how many times I have witnessed the vibes of a club Im DJing going uphill just by playing a tune I, and only I, adore. Somehow I guess, the crowd “receives” the mood from me and seems to join along…It seems as if the crowd has the ability to “get” the “Do you feel this? Cause Im totally feeling this tune” mindset!

  12. you know your crowd had a good time when you get ZERO requests. just my 2 cents

  13. Javi Garcia says:

    I realy needed this I had an ok night last time I played and I know I could do better. But I did not feel 100% about it. The people I talked to had a good time and it also was a girls 21+ birthday so I wanted to make it extra special for her and Rock the house. It was not as full as usual maybe that’s why I feel the way I did. But this read made me feel at ease. And now I understand it was a good night.

  14. Wow…I just did this last night. My first party and I thought I could play Trap & Dubstep to a majority of people who have no contact with the club scene. Sure the remixes of radio hits went well, but 2 songs later, they left the floor. It killed me…! Those DJ “Demons” are real! I blew mixes because of it and all my energy was lost. I was asked to play Hip Hop which I lots of for mobile gigging but it’s not “DJ friendly” so I never intended on playing it. I described the night as something completely new, but they definitely wanted the usual. When I had em going it was the best feeling ever but when I lost em I died too. I definitely learned something about myself and what direction I need to take as a DJ. “Crowd Control up front, with a little me on the side!” For now, that’s the new recipe…!

    • My hometown is that way. I play (and even post alot of my mixes on FB) and it seems the ppl from my hometown disconnect when I play “House” or even anything that pushes they’re boundaries of digital music more than what they’re used to. When I do play alot of club jamming music most of my comments of appreciation come from friends that live in, and grew up, closer to a mainstream city. I’m from a small southern town in the US thats mainly used to listening to “Cornbread and Chicken” (ala Travis Tritt) on the radio….so i cant blame them. I like what i like…and i’m not ashamed to play it in front of them…afew raise eyebrows….but 2 or 3 discover they like something they’ve never had the chance to hear before…that fills me with alot of pride. (their are probably lots more ppl that generally really like it to….but are just to afraid of what their friends might say to admit it).

  15. This article really speaks to me. I am bad at letting an empty dance floor shake my confidence! My weekly gig is a very small bar with a tiny dance floor and most people go to just drink and socialize. I have printed this article out and put it in my DJ page with a note that lists the quote: “Be cool. You’re alive. You’re the DJ. Smile.”

    I think I will play one song for myself each night right in the middle too :) Thanks so much for this!!! Much love to the Digital Dj Tips team and all that you do for us!

  16. This is once again a great article Phil!

    Being a mobile DJ I gauge how well the night is going by the amount of people who come up and ask for my card :D If I’m on a good night I can give out maybe 5 – 7 cards which doesn’t sound a lot, but for a fledgling mobile DJ that’s pretty good.

    But generally people will come up to me and compliment me if I’m doing good so I get some feedback…

    DJ N3XUZ!

  17. Great article!

    I often get much more positive feedback on nights where nobody’s dancing than nights when people are going crazy – it’s quite fascinating!

    My advice would be don’t be afraid to play something more mellow! I take it in cycles to try and get people dancing, and if it’s not happening, I wind it down a bit. Patrons seem to appreciate it… but managers not so much!

  18. I’ve experienced a myriad of different crowds and situations where I didn’t initially know whether my set was going down well.

    As mentioned, you can often notice heads nodding or hands and feet tapping, especially in a bar or place where dancing isn’t ‘the thing’. I’ve taken a real buzz on occasions where somebody has approached me during or after the night and asked about the tunes. Once, I even had two guys in front of me who stopped mid-conversation to turn round and say “cool groove!” when I emphasised a baseline. That made my night, just a little subtle acknowledgement that the music was appreciated.

    I too have been annoyed by those people who say to your face that they want something to dance to. Often, it’s been at an inappropriate time but is really because THEY don’t know it! Trust your DJ instinct, always. An annoying woman said this to me once and sat there with a face like thunder because I wouldn’t play her song. I was polite but thought NO, in a minute I reckon I’ll get others up and I did. I’m all for learning from mistakes but you have to be bold too.

    Stay cool!

  19. I’ve literally just started DJ’ing last weekend. I’ve learnt all the basics of DJ’ing etc and how to bend my knowledge of using a wide array of equipment. BUT! The only thing i was never taught was how to please a crowd and how to find out what they like. Before i saw this article, i have been fretting what i should play, i know that i wouldn’t get it right %100 of the time but i try my best to link Age to GENRE and all kinds of songs at the crowd till at least one of them is moving! This article has made my life a bit easier and to remember to enjoy what i am doing! :D

Leave a Comment