Why Crossover Tunes Are A Smart DJ’s Secret Weapon

Phil Morse | Read time: 4 mins
crossover tunes music collection
Last updated 27 November, 2017


Find the tunes that appeal to more than one tribe on your dancefloor, and you’ll be able to unite everyone for a wilder night.

There are special tunes that have greater power than most. Tunes that have that extra, magic something that means that a far greater number of people than normal will dance to them. Tunes that will raise a smile with people who wouldn’t normally tolerate even listening to that style of music.

At the same time, these tunes are credible. They still appeal to those in the specialist scenes they belong in. Smart DJs know that these tunes are the holy grail of a music collection. Have enough of these in your virtual DJ box, and you’re more likely to get your dancefloor rocking faster, and for longer, and with more people on it.

What are crossover tunes?

Crossover tunes are tunes that, for whatever reason, not only appeal to a narrow, specialised crowd, but which “cross over” to other crowds too. They may only “cross over” to one other crowd, or they may cross over to many.

Because of this, they’re like “super tunes” for DJs, because they can be used as secret weapons to energise difficult dancefloors, to allay people requesting a completely different type of music to that which the DJ has been booked to play, or to change genres within a set smoothly.

Here are five types of crossover tune to look out for:

  1. Underground records that have become hits – This is one of the most usual sources of crossover records. A big tune in a particular scene suddenly becomes a hit record. Now it’s being played on pop radio, and it gains a wider audience. Familiarity means that if you play such a tune, even those who don’t particularly like it will probably have heard it – and people dance to things they know, even if they don’t particularly like them
  2. Tunes that contain elements of more than one genre – Pop music is constantly mutating, and there are always records that contain elements of different musical styles. For instance, a hip hop record that samples a rock riff is going to have appeal to both hip hop and rock lovers. A badass dubstep tune but with a great vocal could appeal to both pop and bass music fans. Smart DJs hone in on these types of tune because they know they will unite different “tribes” on their dancefloors. If you listen to your city’s dance, urban, pop and rock radio stations, there will always be tunes that most, if not all, of them seem to be playing. More often than not, these are those tunes. Mashups and radical cover versions belong in this category too
  3. Remixes of pop records in your particular style – All records come with myriad different remixes nowadays. A rich source of crossover material is, and always has been, these remixes. Grab a pop record that you think is OK but not suitable for your DJ sets, check out the remixes, and find one with the right beats, bass or groove to work for you. This is point 1 in reverse – people will dance because they like the record, even if they don’t particularly like the version
  4. Tunes starring an artist from a different genre – If you have an instantly recognisable rapper or singer guesting on a tune in another style (rock singer on a hip hop record, rapper on a dance tune), fans of the vocalist or rapper are more likely to dance to that song even though the underlying style isn’t what they normally enjoy
  5. Tunes that are big in one place – Tunes can make it big in a particular town, city, state or other enclosed geographical area, for whatever reason. In Ibiza, there are always one or two big “Ibiza” tunes every season that you almost expect to hear everywhere, for instance. Tagging on to tunes that for whatever reason are resonating in a certain zone can give you one or two extra crossover records for your box

Crossover tunes keep you open-minded

Crossover tunes are good because they show you’re an open-minded DJ. DJs who only play one style because they think it’s the only style worth knowing about can do well, in the strict confines of their own underground scenes, but unless the crowd is full of people who only like one type of music (and even in “underground” clubs, there are a lot of “secret” tastes you can play on to get that floor wilder than the next DJ) such DJs will bore everyone else.

Once a certain section of the crowd has decided you’re boring, you’ve lost them. Crossover tunes can give them the feeling that even if you’re not going to play their particular style, at least you’ve acknowledged their existence. Also on this point, as we highlighted last week in Why Smart DJs Play More Than One Style Of Music, scenes change, music change, and DJs who want to keep getting bookings as this continually happens need to always have their minds open to new sounds and styles. Using crossover records to introduce elements of different sounds into your sets while remaining true to your current basic style is a great way of slowly developing your sound over time, while still being recognisably “you” when you play.


Don’t think that crossover tunes are necessarily commercial. Crossover tunes aren’t always tunes that have to be familiar to your crowd – new crossover tunes are great because if you think you’ve found one, you can be more gung-ho about trying it out on your audience. If you’re pretty sure your bomb of a new tune is going to appeal to two types of dancer, then you’ll be less nervous about testing it out on your dancefloor, and if you’re right about it and it does become a hit – well, at least you had it first for a few weeks or months.

Do you make use of “crossover” records in your sets? How do you identify tunes that you think are going to have broad appeal on your dancefloors? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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