What To Do If You're Threatened While DJing

bottle

Being threatened with fists, bottles or worse is an occupational hazard for DJs, made worse when people wait for you as you leave, as happened to our member.

Digital DJ Tips Platinum Group Member, Peter, writes: "So I was DJing at a bar last night, a guy requested a song that I knew wasn't going to flow and I was on a winning streak with the tracks I was playing. The guy didn't take too well to me not playing his track to the point where he picked up a bottle and started threatening me.

"I tried to talk him calm and shake his hand but he wasn't having any of it. He threatened to wait for me and get my car, he then started threatening to shoot me (not sure if it was big talk or not). He did wait for me and had a gang with him outside.

"Thankfully I had enough people with me, but the locals seemed to not want to mess with him. Needless to say I won't be going back to that bar again.

"This is a first for me. Has anyone else had any similar experiences? How did you deal with it? It's close to putting me off DJing small bars...."

Group replies:

Joe says: "I've had a few threats and things over the years but never had anything that extreme. This is one of the main reasons why I won't play in local pubs and bars now. Hopefully a one off for you and it doesn't become a habit."

Jason says: "Never this intense... but had enough shady and 'weird' experiences at bars to stop doing them completely. What also motivated me to stop DJing bars was the pay... bars, at least around where I live, usually don't offer compensation that is truly worth our time. Glad you were not harmed and had people with you!"

Phil says: "I did end up in hospital once because of an incident. Long story but I have a scar just below one of my eyebrows. One guy head butted me with my glasses on and it cut across the top. "

Chuck says: "A drunk guy waited for me after my daily residency and tried to run me over in the parking lot with his Jaguar. This was after making waves in the club before that and sending hotel security after me while I was still playing."

Chris says: "If the bar manager and staff aren't able to deal with this type of patron I wouldn't want to risk my safety and the safety of my gear playing at their venue. It takes one drunken asshole to overturn your table and put you in the hole several grand. Did the staff not kick this guy out and call the police?"

Karlton says: "I have had situations (not that extreme because where I live firearms are carried by almost everyone legally), dependent upon where you are the verbal threat of bodily harm with deadly weapon is a felony. Next time I would suggest calling the police. It might save not only your life but someone else's as well."

Brian says: "I DJed in clubs for years, and I have been threatened a few times, just nothing that serious. I was always protected by a staff of very large men, so if anyone took a swing, they would have been in a very bad way in a matter of seconds. I would have gotten them thrown out and/or beat up by the bouncers (I wouldn't have had to ask). It's just another reason to follow the advise of Digital DJ Tips and treat the staff at the venue like gold. If I saw them again, outside, I'd probably have to call the cops at that point. The guy basically has threatened to assault you on several occasions. That's totally out of bounds."

Have you ever been threatened in a venue? How did you deal with it? What happened? What did you learn? How would you advise Peter? Let us know your thoughts below.

• This question and the answers are taken from our Platinum Facebook Group, an industry networking group for Digital DJ Tips inner circle members.

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Comments

  1. Kuldip Kerkar says:

    Once a guy came and requested to repeat a song which already been played. I said no to him at first. Then got to know who he was. I spoke to him on the side and then played his request somehow. And now we are great friends. It's easier to play a song and get back into your set and make friends that way..

  2. If the person could have some influence or does because they are the owner/host of the party/place, I may sometimes play a remix of the song especially if I played it already. Otherwise I may say no or let me try to work it in later. If the person is drunk, tread carefully, call the owner or host and get that dealt with.

    RD

  3. DJ Vintage says:

    I played in Germany when "I just called to say I love you" by Stevie Wonder was a hit. I'd have to play it at least twice or three times a night and still get requests for it.

    One night (busy Saturday at the height of the night) a guy comes up and requests the song about 20 minutes after I played (and I knew he was there dancing to it on the floor).

    I told him I couldn't play it. He asked why not. I told him the record was broken. He looked at me and said "but you just played it!" (like I didn't know, duh). I took the single out of it's jacket, put it on the edge of the booth, half of it sticking out. Look at the guy, said "It's broken NOW!" and just smashed it to pieces with my fist. He looked at me dumbfounded and just shuffled off, mumbling unintelligibly and shaking his head. No doubt cursing that "Crazy Dutch DJ" under his breath.

    It gave me a good laugh, especially knowing I had a spare and would be playing the song again later that night. The guy heard the song, grabbed his girl, came to the floor, started dancing. Then he stopped, tilted his head as if to check he was really hearing what he thought he was hearing. Then he looked at me with this totally bewildered look on his face.

    Priceless moment that made my night.

  4. Richard Dunne says:

    In my early days of DJing weddings I was using CDs and since you don't get a booth at a wedding - or any kind of personal space at all - I would often find that while I was mixing two or three people would be leafing through my CD wallet to see what I had (every DJs favourite question 'What songs do you have?'). This was obviously a pain so I came up with the solution of printing out a long list of most of the songs I had, then when people came to ask me I could just hand them the list and keep my eye on what I was doing, instead of listening to their drunken rambling stories when I hadn't even chosen the next song.

    At one wedding some guy who had obviously done a lot of coke was coming between me and my decks, with his chest out, saying 'Play something BANGIN' man! Play UB40!' Never had I heard UB40 described as bangin'! Anyway, he was clearly looking for a fight. I smiled, said no problem and handed him my booklet of songs. I told him to pick any song he wanted and I'd gladly stick it on. He kept repeating 'Play something BANGIN'!' and I kept telling him he could pick any song he wanted off the list. Thankfully it had the desired effect of just confusing him and he shuffled off.

  5. Well I was DJing this wedding I called "Ghetto Mexico meets Ghetto Black." The Blacks (the grooms group) were from Chicago and the Mexicans (the brides group) were from Tijuana. During the planning meetings with bride and groom I asked the groom what he did for a living. He gave me bulls#$t answer so I left it alone.
    Fast forward to wedding day and for the first two or three hours everything went well. The alcohol had kick in, everyone was singing karaoke. I thought it was going to be a good wedding. Then all of a sudden the venue staff came to me wanting to use the mic. Once he had the mic he said the" party is over" (not a good thing to say to a bunch of drunk party people). The staff member said that someone brought in some outside alcohol and that was grounds for immediate shut down of the party. Well things quickly rose to a boiling point causing the groom to tell the bride to "shut the f$# up." Of course the brother of the bride (one of Chapo's men) was not going to have anyone talking to his little sister like that. In an effort to get this unruly crowd outside the grounds of the venue the staff made physical threats (with a shotgun) against the unruly guests. Once the guests were no longer on the venue ground beer bottles started coming over the venue walls. I was unable to pack up my gear at this time. Shortly after the barrage of bottles landed in the courtyard of the venue members of the local law enforcement arrived and attempted to secure the situation. They told me to remain under shelter until everyone outside the venue was gone. So I did.

    As a result of this wedding event I no longer do any events where explicit rap music is the main requested genre and alcohol is being served. This was the third time a fighs or worst has happened at an event I was DJing.

    TJ

  6. It's always annoying to work around aggressive, drunk people. Luckily it's only couple of those usually and they usually aren't that interested of music. It was really town-depended while I was doing such pubs.
    Once someone tried to wish a song by saying "I'll kill you if you won't play this". I answered "Well, then you just have to kill me". He just left and nothing happened.
    Once I think some idiots talked while I was leaving that "That's that piece of shit dj, let's kick his ass". I just walked pass, nothing happened.
    There's always bouncers that can help if someone threatens you. Those bars didn't have an alarm system/radio, but bigger place got 'em now. Also useful if there something else disturbing on the floor.
    There was some other stuff when I quit. Someone threw a lighter towards me. Someone wishing songs stole couple of my records while I was playing. Still, the biggest reason to quit playing pop in bars was just bad music spreading all over.

    My dj friend had an different approach. If someone wanted to fight, he just put a mixtape on and went outside. He was a judo champion, so he was quite confident about that. I've never been big or strong, so it isn't a thing I could do.

  7. Kenny Schachat says:

    In 2006 I was DJing in the back room of a large underground event in NYC. About half way through my set, the two DJs that were scheduled to follow me showed up the booth. both very drunk.. They started demanding that I let them take over. Reasoning with them went nowhere and then I tried to ignore them but they wouldn't stop harassing me. Then they started trying to shove me out of the booth. I decided that a fight in the booth would have created a bad vibe for the event, which was promoted and hosted by a close DJ friend of mine, so I just grabbed my records and left them to it. The two bozos were so drunk that they were train wrecking every mix and they cleared the room in 10 minutes. My friend showed up few minutes later and kicked them out. One of them found me on his way out and apologized but the other tried to start a fight with me and was physically thrown out the front door. In those days the breaks scene in NYC was very tight and the asshole that tried to start the fight with me was blackballed and his career was effectively over. The other one who apologized, hung around the scene but it took him a while to get his career going again.

    I should add in the 23 years that I've been DJing the SF Bay Area, I've NEVER had an experience even remotely like that. The DJ community here is immensely respectful and supportive and I feel blessed to be a part of it.

  8. DiscoDingo says:

    A couple of friends and I used to play at a bar owned by the local biker group. One night, someone decided he didn't like the music and decided to throw a bottle at us. The bottle had even left his hand before he was grabbed by four very large bikers. Next thing he knew, he was laying face down in the street. We didn't see him in there again.

  9. If anyone threatens you, call out over the PA for security. The venue owner is responsible for your safety. If they get rough, kill the music and tell everyone in the space that you were just assaulted by the jerk. Watch how fast they get their ass beat down. The rule here is intervene early, do not let the situation spiral out of control. Hold firm that you are there doing the job you're paid to do, point to an exit, and tell them to leave.

  10. Under one of my monikers in the 00s I kinda specialised in UK hiphop. It was a time a time of strong loyalties and, towards the end, one group had taken to threatening my life (literally, though I'm sure it would only have been a serious beatdown) if I ever played a certain influential MC/producer/label owner. They weren't drunk, I was warned many times and in many places and I knew those boys meant business so I complied !!! (Actually, easy as I didn't really like his music anyway). But I eventually got so jittery that once during a monthly, right after turning down a request for one of his tunes from one of his collaborators, I heard someone say "taken that thing off now!" from right behind me. I jumped and pulled the needle straight off the tune I was playing ! ..only to turn and find it was the sound engineer bollocking one of the acts for something lol. I really resent being made so fearful but I guess the music industry has always had that side to it.
    But a couple years later, a ket-head crashed the booth (this time in a post-dubstep bass club, my other thing at the time) talking (friendly) nonsense, then out of nowhere, grabbed me by the windpipe with a locked arm in a claw grip, cursing me violently, for no reason I ever figured out. I froze but then, also out of nowhere, his friend hit him with a flying tackle sideways - which didn't do the booth any good but probably saved me.
    For different reasons, these were the worst examples but they weren't the only ones. These happened in decent sized club environments - not small bars - and in both cases (the first because it was business and the second because it happened so fast and random) could not have been prevented by security. I went home and thought about it and in less than three days later decided to change my genre (which actually wasn't hard as I had been musically moving back in that direction for a long time).
    I haven't had one single problem since I now only play on the soulful house and LA beat side, no matter if it's a club, bar, private party whatever (except for drunks demanding some downtempo Rihanna joint during a peak time jazz house set lol... what is it with Rihanna fans btw ??) I still love my UK Bass/Urban and my closest friends are still from that world - but, in my experience, certain genres and environments have more of an edge than others and different drugs of choice play a big factor. I'm pretty sure this has always been the case?

  11. DJ Peter says:

    To be the DJ in an environment where people get drunk and pay money to get entertained, always creates situations where you'll see the best and the worst side of people. For most of the time you see the best side and that's why DJing is the best job ever. Sometimes, you'll get to meet the people with no social skills at all. They don't need to be drunk to be rude and with alcohol and whatever they may be on, their attitude gets even worse, and they don't even know it. I think we all know someone who always get in trouble every time they go for a night out.

    As DJ's, it's part of our job to create an atmosphere where people are happy and are having fun. The better we succeed doing that, the lesser the chance are for bad things to happen, anywhere in the place you play in.

    I've had my fair share of stupids and intoxicated people but most of them can be handled with a smile and, while I'm very sorry that I can't play their request, I do agree that it's best song ever made... Sometimes I have to say it a few times because it's not easy to remember my answer until after 3-4 times.
    When you get the demanding types ''you need to play'' ''the song that sounds like'' and you have to do it know .... because ''everybody wants it, or any stupid reason'', I always go with ''No I don't, and I won't, period. That usually stops them in their line of thought, and if they go on, I just tell them to come back when they've learned to behave.

    The worst I've ever said to someone, was a woman in her 40's, who just couldn't or didn't want to understand, that the music she wanted to hear was something I was not aloud to play. When she started shouting obscenities, I calmly said said I was sorry for her being single and without a job... She paused for a second and then bursted out that she were married and did have a job... Well, I said, then I'm very sorry for them having you in their lives every day, and that she should consider herself very lucky... She turned around and left. I did regret it later, but very little. The only alternative at that point would have been calling the bouncers.

    Fortunately, most of the times there's no incident's at all. In the club where I'm resident, only once in three years the bouncers had to intervene when a guy was disturbing other guests repeatedly. That's once in over 120 gigs. It's also safe to say that it's easier to handle people the longer you do this job. You recognize patterns and behaviors before they even get to you, and that makes it easier to keep calm and use a smile, at least to begin with.

  12. Stephen Nawlins says:

    Well this guy came over me and said that he would have a Chance of having sex with that sexa Girl if I Play some J-Lo Song.
    I told him that J-Lo wasn't appropriate at this Venue and then he started saying that he would kill me if i do not Play it, being very rude and aggressive I said I would Play it.
    He walked back to the Girl at the bar and I played J-Lo right next.
    The Girls seemed really happy.
    Then I took the microphone and said "This Song is for my friend over there on the Bar" and pointed at him. He was really excited, waved back to me, felt like the King 'cause the DJ mentionned him and he would look cool in the Girls eyes, he was posing like a king when I went on with the sentence "He really things he's gonna fuck the Girl next to him because I Play this song, well I wish him good luck".
    The whole Club started laughing, the Girl slapped him in the face and when he started Walking straight to the booth with angry eyes...well 2 Bouncers took him and thrown him out of the Club.
    Oh yes...guess who brought the Girl back home? (But I'm a Gentleman I left her on her porch, real men don't take Advantage of a Situation).
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    One of my friends been threatened during a Set, guy taking out a knife and Bouncers saw the guy but were too far away to react directly ('cause of crowded place). So as the law over here, requires a Fire Extinguisher (Powder no foam) next to the Gear, just in case the electronic stuff starts burning, he ttok it and pulverised the attackers face...what left enough time for Securities to cross the crowd and pick him.

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