It’s easy to fall into the single-genre trap when DJing. I’m a funky house DJ, so I play funky house. I got into dance music through dubstep, so that’s the style I’m going to play. I am a pop DJ, so I’m not going to play rock or hip hop. And so on.
That’s fine to a degree, and I certainly encourage you to go with what you love. But you should also put some time into making sure you can at least play a passable multi-genre DJ set when you choose to. Here’s five reasons why:
- It will expand your tastes – There’s a lot of good music being made outside of your comfort zone. Don’t fall into the snobbery trap of thinking only your scene, style or genre is worth your attention. Your audience may publicly admit to only liking deep house or hip-hop, but I can assure you they sing into their hairbrushes to Lady Gaga behind closed doors. Accept that good music comes from all angles and that picking the best of it for your collection, then trying to incorporate it into your DJ sets, will help you to get even the coolest people’s hearts singing and their feel dancing before their heads say “no!” – if you do it well enough, that is
- It will expand your skills – Yup, “if you do it well enough”. It’s easy to feel like the hero mixing 125BPM electro house all night flawlessly. It’s an absolute other game entirely mixing house, pop, rock, hip hop, dubstep, oldies and funk (for instance), into a skilful, coherent set that wows people and keeps them on the dancefloor. Next week we’ll look at ways you can begin to learn the skills to do just this, but for now realise that stepping up to this plate means you have to polish your skills considerably
- You’ll get to DJ out more – I understand that you want to play raves, or cool alternative bars, or private parties playing just your style to just your crowd. But so do your DJing peers, and there are never enough slots. If you can play normal bars, lounges, student hangouts, mobile or wedding gigs, all the way up to pro gigs like in back rooms in big clubs (where the music policy may be more open-minded) or festival sets (where “anything goes” often wins the day), you’ll simply get to play more
- You’ll learn to read crowds better – As I said above, people are a lot less “cool” behind closed doors than they admit to, having all kinds of guilty pleasures in their private musical lives. A good DJ can tease these tendencies out of a crowd, by playing across the board and watching carefully. If you’re playing EDM to an EDM crowd, you’re frankly less likely to need to read your crowd well, because they’ve come for what they’re getting. But uniting a disparate crowd into a single, throbbing mass on the dancefloor takes a lot more DJ interaction and observation, a lot more give and take. It’s more exciting, more risky, and it’ll make you a better DJ
- You’ll get more longevity as a DJ – Your scene will die, period. I’ve been DJing 20 years and seen scene after scene rise and fall. If you don’t move on, you’ll fade away too. But instead of jumping from sinking ship to new scene every now and then, it’s much better to always be adding new music to your palette from all over the place. Sure, let a style dominate, but trying to take gigs where you can play “across the board” every now and then will keep your interest up, challenge you, and extend your career as a DJ, if only because it’ll keep you fresher and having more fun than the next guy!
Are you a DJ who likes to take gigs outside of your comfort zone every now and then? What issues have you come up against when playing gigs to people who are into all different styles? Please let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.