This past weekend, I played for a small corporate party of around 70 people. It was one of those gigs where I came away full of inspiration and ideas and where, by being forced out of my comfort zone, I came away realising a few things that hadn’t been clear to me before. I would like to share a couple of those takeaways with you, hoping that they might help you when playing this type of show.
4 Tips For DJing Functions
1. Prepare your playlists, but don’t worry too much
I used to spend a lot of time making a detailed playlist before gigs, working on transitions to keep the DJing smooth, but I realised that if you need to play music for a specific crowd that you can’t 100% predict, you just can’t stick to a single playlist. You may find yourself needing to constantly switch vibes and genres depending on the mood of the crowd and the event’s atmosphere. You won’t know everything about your crowd until the moment you get behind the decks, that’s why it’s more important to know your music inside and out, rather than worry too much about transitions and creating seamless mixes. At this type of event, people don’t care much about transitions – what they care is about the music and dancing to it!
2. Don’t let party-poopers bring you down
I have noticed that at every gig I’ve played there is at least one individual who – if you let them – will dampen your spirits and interfere with your positive energy. Don’t let him or her upset you. In the end, if everyone is dancing and that one person doesn’t like your music, so be it. You have to accept the fact that there will be a few people who won’t be enjoying as much as everyone else, and in some cases they might even complain. Remember: you are there for the greater crowd as a whole, not to please every single individual in the room. This is why crowd reading is an essential DJ skill, and really is one of the things that takes a long time to master.
3. It’s OK to use a “mini-mix” when necessary
My set lasted for around eight hours, and during that period I had to take a few short breaks for various reasons (eg bathroom breaks, hydrating myself). By having pre-prepared “mini-sets” of a handful of tunes that I’d done myself, I was able to step away occasionally. This type of event is about more than an intense synergy between DJ and crowd: there are speeches, meals and other things on the programme, and there are times when it’s appropriate to do this.
4. Don’t be afraid to drop the odd, crazy song
These little moments can turn out to be the highlights of the night. You want your performance to be memorable, and one way to do that is to play a crazy / novelty song: Zorba the Greek, the Ghostbusters Theme (if it’s Halloween)… basically just some silly song that will boost the entertainment (and shock!) value of the night.
Once you’ve got the crowd eating at the palm of your hand with your well-selected tunes and programming, drop that surprise at the least expected moment. If properly executed, your dancefloor will go wild. Who cares if it’s a cheesy moment? The important thing is that you played it at right time for the crowd.
(Assistant Editor’s note: I’ve done this at an exclusive ballroom function attended by United Nations delegates. I had just ended my set but they craved for more, chanting “one more song” as I walked away from the booth. I relented, and told them I’d play my “favourite song ever”, so I dropped Aqua’s Barbie Girl! Super risky, but the floor went absolutely bonkers, and now I’ve got bookings for their events next year.)
Of course, the above would also apply to other types of gigs: the crucial thing here is that they are functions where the event consists of a varied programme, and where the attendees are people from different age ranges, backgrounds, and music preferences. This type of spinning probably won’t work in an underground techno club, for instance, where technical mixing and a mesmerising vibe are more important than creating an “all-appealing, hands-in-the-air” affair.
• Diego Tiozzo is a mobile DJ based in the Costa del Sol in Spain. He enjoys playing weddings, corporate events and beach parties. Find out more on his Facebook Page.
Any tips you’d like to share when it comes to playing long corporate events? Share them with us below.