10 Commandments For Better Digital DJing, #4

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 28 November, 2017

DJ hiding
Does the music you play at your gigs sometimes make you want to hide out of shame? Then commandment four is for you…

If you’ve just joined us, we’re in the middle of ten days of extra posts on top of all the usual blog content, as part of our Campaign for Better Digital DJing.

We’ve distilled all our advice on how to DJ properly with digital gear into ten “commandments”, which we’re publishing over this ten days along with worksheets, web resources and videos explaining the “commandments” and showing digital DJs some things they can do to better themselves in each area.

Today’s commandment

Today we have a music commandment – and a truly important one at that. It is:

Commandment #4: Only play music you like, but which you also believe your crowd will like.

Now, before we go any further: As this is a special, one-off campaign, with valuable extra content created over and above our usual posts, we are asking you to help us by clicking the Facebook Like button at the end of today’s post, if you enjoy it.

By you passing this post on to your friends (and hopefully some of theirs too) in this way, we are aiming to reach a whole audience of people, some of whose opinions about digital DJing we hope to change by the end of the campaign.



Music sweet spot

First, take a look at this diagram. Imagine the yellow box as containing all the music that’s available to you, all the music you know. Of that music, the only music you should have in your DJ set (or your collection, in all honesty) is the stuff in the red box – the “music you like”.

Now, at any given gig, your crowd is going to have its own ideas about what it likes (the blue box). At the perfect gig for you, your two circles will overlap perfectly. More likely, though, there will be a lot of your records, and their tastes, that don’t overlap. Your job is to play the tunes in that “sweet spot” in the middle where you can satisfy yourself and please your crowd, while trying to fend off requesters asking for stuff thats way over in the blue to the right!

The kind of gig where those two circles don’t overlap at all is the kind of gig you need to think hard about whether you should do it or not.

Expanding your taste

So you’re being realistic. You’ve realised there isn’t any call for your new favourite music form, Country & Western Dubstep. You’re going to have to rethink.

Seriously, though, to be a well-rounded DJ you need to have lots of music to cater for any occasions you may decide you’d like to take someone up on a gig. There are lots of practical things you can do to fill your virtual record crate with stuff that is more likely to live in the “sweet spot” than firmly in just your (or their) circle. Here are a few ideas:

  • Listen to music outside of your comfort zone – In our post Why All Music is Good Music for the Very Best DJs we explore practical ways you can do this. Expanding your taste is a surefire way of becoming a more versatile DJ
  • Trawl chart compilations – This is a great tactic if you’ve suddenly been asked to DJ a wedding or something more commercial than your usual style. In the UK, there is a compilation series called Now That’s What I Call Music that’s been running since 1983 that has much of each year’s chart music on it. By looking back through such compilations, you can pull out the big, commercial records that you don’t mind, and assemble a whole chunk of familiar music that is very likely to fall firmly in the “sweet spot”
  • Join a record pool – A record pool like DJ City can provide you with upfront popular music with a twist – the twist being different versions, or just getting the stuff early. Here you can find remixes and different takes on familiar music that may satisfy your DJing sensibilities while still holding appeal for even the most dumbed-down of crowds

So in the video we discussed packing your tunes carefully – here’s a description of how it used to be done, and here’s a fairly recent post on how less is more when it comes to your music collection.

At your gig…

One rule that we used to apply to our gigs pre-digital was the “one in three” rule or the “one every 20 minutes rule”. This rule states that you should play a familiar record for your crowd one in every three, or once every 20 minutes.

Back in the vinyl days, that stuff was really important, because you couldn’t pack very many records, but even now, it makes perfect sense – sort out a set, include your 10 or 15 floorfillers, and work out clever or interesting mixes into complementary, less popular records to give your sets a well-rounded feel and to give you some creative space.

Finally, there’s no better resource for dealing with the inevitable inappropriate requesters than 10 Types of People Who Make Requests (And How To Handle Them) – if only to make you realise you’re not alone!

Bonus link

Kerrang vs Gaydio

In the video we mentioned a website that lets you compare the output of UK radio stations to see where they overlap. If you’re in the UK, or you just like crunching music data, you may find it interesting. Here it is: Compare My Radio. (Thanks to Haroon for the heads up on that one.)

Just for fun, we ran a compare on gay radio station Gaydio and Kerrang!, the heavy metal & rock station (click the pic to enlarge) – even these two had 35 tracks that both played in the past month. There is nearly always overlap between musical tastes if you know how to look for it.

We hope this material has been useful to you, and thank you once again for Liking this post in order to help us spread our campaign for better digital DJing far and wide…

• Watch out tomorrow for the fifth of our ten “commandments”. And thanks again for your support – it’s appreciated.

Check out the other parts of this series:

What are your views on our fourth commandment? Do you think a DJ should only play music he or she likes, and never nid the crowd? Or just play to the crowd, regardless of his or her own taste? Or find a happy medium? Do you think digital has made this harder or easier? Please let us know in the comments.

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