Over To You: How Should You React To Bad Requests When DJing?

No requests

So in the week that DJ Dan (this isn’t him, by the way!) stopped the music to remonstrate at a clubber who’d swung a punch at him for not playing a request, we ask: How do you deal with inappropriate requests or aggressive requesters?

As we covered in the Friday Roundup yesterday, DJ Dan – a well-known DJ/producer on the underground house scene in the US – was punched when he wouldn’t play an inappropriate request at a gig in Baltimore a couple of days back. Nobody filmed the incident, but someone did film the words DJ Dan said on the microphone shortly afterwards (the video is here).

Here’s what happened in his own words:

“The place was packed with my hardcore followers and the vibe was amazing. A girl who obviously did not know anything about me (or the night) kept coming up to me asking for a request I did not have nor would I ever play. I politely told her that I did not have it but if I had a remix of it that I liked I would play it but I just don’t have it. She said ‘How can you not have that? You’re the DJ, you should have that’.

Then at about 1:30 she came back up asking for it again with a guy next to her. I honestly didn’t even realise they were together and trusting that the place was packed with people that came to hear my set, I figured he was a fan and he would hear me out and help me get through to her. Especially since he could see that I was still mixing and could not carry on this conversation. I looked at him and said…can you please explain to her that the track she is asking for is just not my style or sound? Shockingly, he started lunging an at me and said something along the lines of, ‘Bro you need to stop being disrespectful to her and play the song…’ To which I responded that no, actually I don’t! Then he ran up into the DJ booth and swung at me, fortunately he missed and barely got me. Right then my friend stepped in between the two of us until the security guards came to have them removed from the club. While this was happening, I shut the music off and pointed right at him and announced ‘This guy just tried to hit me because I wouldn’t play his girl’s mainstream request’. The crowd booed at him and then I made my announcement that was captured on video.”

Have you ever had to deal with something similar?

Most people think DJ Dan dealt with this pretty well, but of course, from drunken brides demanding Dirty Dancing ballads to psyched-up partygoers screaming for hard techno in Top 40 clubs, there are thousands of situations of all types where people ask DJs to play stuff the DJs don’t want to play – and therefore, thousands of ways of dealing with the situations. Indeed, we’ve got a whole article on it (see 10 Types of People Who Make Requests (And How To Handle Them)).

So today I’d like to hand it over to you. What the worst request you’ve ever been asked for? How did you dealt with it? Also, did DJ Dan do right? What would you have done? Please join the debate in the comments!

Comments

  1. I was asked to play a ’80s hip-hop song at a mainstream/EDM gig a few months ago by two girls. I told them i couldn’t due to the genre, and politely asked them to leave the stage. They came back two times saying at the last, that I would regret not putting it on. They then had two guys enter the stage, but fortunately I had already told security about them, and they we’re escorted out of the venue. I got quite lucky.

  2. “I’m not sure if I got that song, but I will check for you”.

    • Yeah, but if she/he keeps coming? How often do you think this answer will satisfy? :) I had some really stubborn guests one evening, they just kept coming and coming, did not want to understand there was nothing for them to find :)

      • “Sorry, I checked don’t have it”.
        “It’s not really in the style that I play”.
        “It doesn’t really fit the music of the night”.

    • Nocturnal Rhythm says:

      My favourite response to stupid requests that do not fit the night’s format is…. I energetically say “Do you have it? on an iPod maybe?” they usually excitedly say “Yes!!” I respond “go listen to it in your car”.

  3. jgarbett@hotmail.co.uk says:

    i will have a look and definitely play it if i have got it.!

  4. Geomanis says:

    I always say, “wow, that’s a great song! If I find it I’ll play it for you!” Usually they are excited I like their music and leave me alone. Sometimes I’ll play it and get a great response. I’m open to requests, it makes me more creative.

  5. I am usually honest, and tell them it won’t really fit the mood. I find telling them I do not have the track get’s a negative reaction, as they assume I am un-prepared, telling them it doesn’t fit usually gets a more appreciative response. As for the drunk bride, if she is writing the check, I will play whatever she wants.. I have strayed from suggested playlists before to get the party going, and the bride was actually angry that people were getting into it.

  6. Wolfwristman says:

    “Here’s £1, there’s a jukebox in the lounge bar.”

  7. If they are polite-”Not sure ive got that, is there anything else you would like?”
    if they are rude- “probably not a great idea to insult me and then expect me to play a song for you. Think about that when making requests in future :)”

  8. just tell them you have a tracklist and you can’t change the tracks because there is a theme blah blah blah, if she becomes annoying, and you are a video dj and you have a camera: put her on the camera, for instance: she wants you to play the worst nightmare for a dj ever: justin bieber, so what you put on the diplay, her head, and she wants me to play justin bieber, are you crazzzzzzy! ahhahaha, (just like a meme) and its done… (but don’t turn off the music)

  9. Actually dealt with something exactly like this. I was DJing a party and one of the guests was belligerently drunk and kept requesting an artist I didn’t have (also I couldn’t understand what he was saying). He then went off on the tangent that I sucked and if I didn’t play it he’s knock me out. My friends didn’t take that to well and threw him out themselves.

  10. I cant play that…the file is corrupted.

  11. I’ve had that and worse, almost glassed once, had water/beer/wine and even shoes thrown at me for not playing some girls out of place tune request. Sad thing is that it’s 90% girls that give dj’s grief and even sadder that girls get barred more often that blokes (or maybe thats just my experience), on one night I had to leave the dj booth fighting and ejected the twat myself coz I couldnt get the bouncers/door staffs attention to what was happening (thankfully CCTV is everywhere).

  12. I was once asked by a girl if I could turn the music down so she could talk with her friends. This was an underground lounge bar that was decently packed and people were dancing. After being interrupted by her several times I point at a guy near the bare who kinda looked important and said go talk to him. Little did she know he was a friend and the next DJ. :)

    He pointed at the speakers and said those are here for a reason and the everyone else is here for the same reason. You are welcome to leave if you don’t like it.

    I then turned the music up!

    She stayed and her friends bobbed their heads while drinking to my set.

  13. Legit it’s what I learned in radio a long time ago.. “I’ll see what I can do”. I dj in a lot of bars now more then clubs so people think sometimes because they can get to the dj that makes me their jukebox. Unfortunately people love bad music at the worst times. I try and always play what people request in a request setting but at my own pace, when I am ready for it and when I can get to it. DJ Dan was absolutely in the right and I need to find the video. I will embarrass rude people all the time. I always think of the DJ in the movie the goods when it comes to requests too! Or the wedding singer ” I have the microphone and you will listen to every damn word I have to say!”

  14. Please upload the video!!!

  15. $20 a request and then I play some mashed up version of the song they probably wont like.

  16. Then, whether you’re able to accommodate this person’s request or not, they come back again and again to throw more at you…

    But I’m really noticing in the past 18-24 months, an unmistakeable trend of more requests coming in, especially inappropriate requests, paired with a total disregard for what kind of night it is otherwise. To give a sense of direction of this trent, the “disregard” part is often replaced with outright hostility towards anything that’s not already repeated several times a day on commercial radio, etc, along with an insistence on taking as much of the DJs time and attention as possible away from DJ’ing.

    Last year, I even drafted an outline for “Official DJ Request Forms”, designed partly as a joke, but also to address that easily 75% of the time, I know which exact questions with be included with the request, and the exact order, like: 1) “Hey, I really like what it is that you’re doing, but… ” 2) “I know you’re really busy, so I don’t want to take any of your time up, but… ” 3) can you play some _____, ______ , _____ , ______ 3b) or something good? 3c) or something we can dance to? 4) You don’t have it? 4b) why not? 5) You suck!

    Sure, I’ll still hear anyone’s request, even if I don’t want to encourage people to just keep coming up to get my attention and ask a string of questions along-with. My typical answer is an optimistic, “I’ll see what I can do!”, and even if it’s not something I’d play (or play otherwise), the input can still help me gauge response or steer me towards similar selections I’m willing to bet they’ll enjoy at least a bit more . But I get people telling me in their expert opinion, “how to DJ” (especially from individuals who clearly just want to, themselves). It’s a double-edged sword, requests… But I’m definitely dealing with more and more aggressive behaviour and awkward situations that I’m mostly able to diffuse (knock wood), and I’m sure the next night and the night after, DJs in that booth face the same dilemma.

    Venues need to be educated. The public needs to be educated.

  17. It’s likely I won’t have a song that is requested, I say something like “I don’t have that song, but I can play something similar,” or “I’ll see what I can do.”

  18. This is the one thing that can DJ’ing from a fun night for both the crowd and the DJ into a dread. In my first years I let them get to me, but now, after many years I know that you can never please everybody.
    Dan’s case is extreme, usually people won’t get physical (apart from the drunken wandering into your gear), so the most important thing you need to do as a DJ is NOT LET IT GET TO YOU. As long as you are having fun the crowd will pick it up, so always watch the crowd.If there having a good time, you’re argument is pretty clear: I was hired to play tonight, people are having fun, I’m sorry I can’t cater to your specific needs, but I’m going to continue to rock the crowd now.

  19. First time: “sure i’ll play it in a little while..”
    Second time: ” i played it a couple of songs ago. Did you miss it?”

    It works every time..

  20. djbmurda says:

    I’ve actually had a pen and paper at a table next to me before labeled “requests” and just point to that whenever someone makes one. Then I take a quick glance at it when I have a moment. No one has ever given me a problem

  21. You can deflect it somewhere else –
    “The management have banned me from playing that. But if you ask them, they’ll deny it.”

    “If I play that, the crowd will boo me and you and I’ll lose my job.”

    “The last guy who played that in this club lost his job over it.”

  22. Da Sooz says:

    I had a drunk girl (who wasn’t young) come up to me and ask me to play, Baby by Justin Bieber. Even though I was playing house. I instantly packed up laughing as I honestly assumed she was kidding around with me. I soon realised she wasn’t joking. I usually spin some excuse of “I’ll look for it but I’m not sure if I have that one.” But with this sad Belieber standing in the box with me I thought I will just be honest with her and I said, “There is nothing on Earth that can ever get me to actually push play on any song ever made by Justin Beever.”

    • i had a gig in a club packed with marines (with very few females), and was in the middle of a hip hop set when this dumb b!tch came up demanding this same justin bieber song. i smiled at her , and held that smile for about a minute. the poor girl looked confused, then i politely said to her, ” look around you, you want baby by justin beiber, in the middle of a hip hop set, in a room full of dudes ?? she was still persistent but left disappointed because i wasn’t budging. i actually like bieber’s music, but there was no freakin’ way i was gonna make that happen for her. child please!

  23. This reminds me of my first DJaying gig I did for a friend who was a Club DJ and had double booked! It was at a Pub back room for a wedding reception. There were about 100+ people of all ages, and I had borrowed gear and records! To cut a long story and a stressful night short ,I’ll just say after 3 fights (1 having to go off to hospital) the grandparents falling into the speaker stack, and many fearsome requests from drunken partygoers I kept it going. That was 40 years ago.. so just keep as calm as you can and keep the music going, it amazed me that the Bride/Groom said it was a great night! So you just can’t tell !!

  24. When booked for a party I do discuss these situations with the organizer beforehand. “What shall we do if someone asks for that terrible recent chart topper?” Or: “What if people want latin/carnival/ballads?” It helps to know what the organizer expects from me and adds some more possible answers, like “Sorry, but I was asked not to play this artist.” Or “You should check that with he organizer.”

    If it’s a tune that would fit I usually say: “I play it if you dance. Promised?” So everybody’s happy.

  25. My fave via Robb G.

  26. DEEJ KINGSIZE says:

    have you ever played @ a gig where you were asked to play a song with a gun pointed to ur hip? Maybe you should ask DJ JIMMYJATT @djjimmyjatt about his very scary experience

  27. DJ Vintage says:

    We (our mobile DJ show) used to play in what was essentially a community hall for a year or so in a medium sized village. It was the only bit of fun to be had in the place and it was bi-monthly I think. There would be well over 1500 people in the place and things would start out pretty decent. Before the show was into it’s third hour though, so much beer would have been consumed (and lots found its way to the floor and onto the bass bins) that the mood would change from enthousiastic to rowdy. And, more often than not, it would develop into agression at some part of the room. This was in the days before professional doormen in bulletproof vests. The “security” was usually a couple of volunteers from the organisation that frequented the gym. One night it got so bad (we had a “swaying” crowd that would move back-/forward for 10-15 yards!), that we had to stand, arms locked with all our people except the DJ and some guys from security to keep that moving mass of over 500 bodies from banging into our setup. Suddenly you have an inkling of what riot police must feel like.

    The next gig we set up barriers 5 yards from the booth. It was a pretty intense insight in what an inflamed crowd can grow into, even without bad intentions (the swaying was in itself harmless, but for people tripping and getting caught in the melee and the unstoppability of the crowd as it moved into our direction).

    I don’t scare easy, but those were some of the few nights I felt pretty uncomfortable and happy the night was over. We gave up after the 5th or 6th time playing there as it started getting more grim and more aggressive and we just didn’t feel we could protect ourselves and our gear anymore.

    Guess those are some of the occassional dark sides of (mobile) DJ-ing.

    Greetinx.

  28. Terrance says:

    I did a wedding and my partner and I were playing R&B smooth ballads before the wedding party had there first toast. A drunk woman who by her outfit was trying to steal the attention asked, “Why are you playing all them love songs? ” ” I came to party.” We politely said it’s a wedding, this is what the bride and groom wanted. Wow. I did like the tiger tattoo all the way up her thigh!

  29. Jonny Howard says:

    I was in a club the other day a club i play at from time to time when the DJ who was playing was asked repeatedly by a guy for Chase & status song, Great song but didnt really suit the vibe so he said no He was playing the before slot b4 DJ Ironik played and he had brought his own CDJ 1000 and DJM 800 mixer setup. The guy came back asked again when he said sorry i cant play it the guy proceeded and poured his drink all over the DJ’s mixer. Every DJ’s nightmare the music stopped the people started chanting we managed to swap it out with the in house Numark mixer but the poor guy was distraught trying to clean his mixer which was certainly broken. The security grabbed the guy kicked him out then he was nicked by the police for criminal damage. After that the night was just not the same the DJ lost his mojo. In my opinion the only way to combat this kind of thing is to have a blocker somebody who you can direct the punters too to talk too when they are asking for a song and he can chat to them so you can get on with concentrating on mixing.

  30. dj_aris says:

    Beign a wedding DJ, my line is: “If the bride or the groom approves it, then I can play it”. That should disencourage many people, having to annoy the couple duting the reception. That said, some people go even through the couple and in one or two cases my wedding parties have ended much sooner than expected because of that exact reason. It’s very fruhstrating and bad for the DJ’s reputation because all other people think you are just kicking them off…

  31. About three weeks ago at a house party I put together with a rotating cast of DJs, I had a rather creatively passive aggressive approach from a young woman as far as requests go:
    “Hi, can you play some hip-hop?”
    I try to be pleasant in my reply, “Actually, the hip-hop guy just finished up. He’ll be back on not too long from now, don’t worry it’s coming!”

    20 minutes later she’s back while I’m in the middle of a mix:
    “Yeah, I don’t mean to be rude (which pretty much indicates she’s about to say something incredibly rude), I like house music as much as the next person, but I was just wondering if people dancing was a concern of yours? Like, do you actually want people to dance (as she waves her hand at a dance floor of people actually dancing – though it was still early in the night and the floor wasn’t packed, it later would be)?”

    I just stared at her silently until she threw her hands up in defeat, “Yeah, ok, whatever!”, and huffed away.

    I have to admit, really funny now. Wasn’t as enthused at the time.

  32. Carvell Rock Show says:

    ‘I will have a look on the system and see what I can do’. Normally works for me, if they comeback asking for it again, ‘Sorry, haven’t got time left to play it tonight, maybe next time’. This gives me a chance to find a good version of the track and make double sure it will work within my set..

  33. Got a request for “No Hands” by Waka Flocka Flame 15 minutes into a wedding reception. I told him sure and of course I did not play the track. 10 minutes later he came back and asked for “Turn Down For What”. I politely told him I would be playing those kind of tracks later in the evening and left me alone the rest of the night.

  34. How about if its the early birds and they keep asking you for a song you don’t have. And keep saying common we the only people in the house.

  35. squeeam says:

    Last year I was DJing for a charity function and playing to all age groups. Whilst Get Happy by Daft Punk was playing, which was number 1 at the time and was huge, a woman asked me if I could “play something more modern”.

    She looked a bit confused when I asked her if she wanted me to write and perform a song there and then as you couldn’t get anything more up to date than that.

    Luckily she didn’t call me out on this as I can not play an instrument much less hold a tune.

  36. 1st Let me see if i have it? then if they come back say I do have it but the file is corrupted or won’t load and give them a alternative to that song which is similar but fits the mood you are trying to set

  37. I’ve started playing regularly at a bar that is next to a large, popular concert venue. Being a girl DJ, I’m especially aware of what I might have to deal with when it comes to stupid bros trying to hit on me in order to get me to play a song they want.
    Recently, the bar was packed after a very prominent metal band played next door. A group of dudes came up and started asking for things that were way off from the vibe (I was in the middle of a dancehall/reggae set), and wouldn’t leave me alone. I finally pulled up the search in Serato and showed them that I did not actually HAVE the music they wanted. I also pointed out that I was playing reggae, and Dropkick Murphys really don’t jive with that.
    Generally at this bar, we DJs play whatever we want, and the staff will back us up.
    However, if I’m just messing around one night, I’m not opposed to finding a way to work a song in if a patron slips me a $10… gotta eat too, ya know…

  38. Pesky Kids. when I say that I don’t have a certain song when I ussualy do have the song but just don’t want to kill the dance floor the pesky kid will now say I have it on my phone can you play it through your controller / mixer.

  39. I’m 19 years DJing and I thought I had seen it all, can’t believe that happened. Great the way he called that guy out though. I’ve had all the usual disses. I even had a girl last week tell me I was not a proper DJ as I didn’t have an iPhone charger !? I was like I use an Android phone why the hell would I have an iPhone charger and what is that got to do with DJing? Or my personal favourite that happens a lot ‘will you play such and such a song so I can get with this girl’ – that one is hilarious.

  40. I think we should all make up a list of the crazy things we have encountered in the DJ box or have been asked – I have enough for a book lol

  41. At the HighRise NYE 2013/4 party on a rooftop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I was asked in the middle of my set (I’m a DnB DJ) if I “had any Johnny Cash”. Sadly I didn’t and I’m not sure whether it would have gone with the mood of a DnB set…
    On the same night, the DJ after me was asked if he “could play a Prodigy song”. His simple reponse was to point to his decks and say “This is a Prodigy song” – which it was – “Out of Space”…
    Great night….

    • renton marx says:

      I bet there’s a killer dnb track with Johnny Cash samples in it – and if there’s not… there should be.

  42. I never underestimate the stupidity of people. A couple months back, during spring break season, I was doing lead in and breaks for a rock band in a club on Fort Myers Beach. I had just brought the band on for their second set. This kid, the epitome of the term “douchebag” jumps up to the booth. “Can I make a request?” Uh, dude, I just turned the stage back over to the band, I don’t go back on for 40 minutes. “No, I mean a request for the band.” What? WHAT???!!!

  43. Josh Westwood says:

    DJ Dan got it spot on. I’m reading this article to try and establish if I was in the right at my gig last night. Some girls kept asking for hard trance and other utter crap that was totally out of touch with the other music of the night. I refused and they became very agressive. The host was also asking for “something decent” and “some new chart stuff and not this crap”, but as she never actually named a tune I couldn’t help her. Granting their request to “play some Avicii” still wasn’t enough to convince them that I know what I’m doing. Glad to hear that I’m not the only one who gets hassle from people occasionally!

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