Dealing with Unwanted People in the DJ Booth

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 2 December, 2017

Keeping a dancefloor busy and happy is not as easy as it looks

Ever got frustrated at people interrupting you, falling into you, trying to borrow a lighter or cadge a cigarette from you, wanting to look through your music (even on the laptop you’re DJing on!), thinking now is the time to have an in-depth conversation with you about something completely unconnected to what you’re doing, or just in any way, shape or form hassling you when you’re DJing? If so, this is the post for you.

So many people don’t understand that DJing is just the same as being on a stage (in a band, say). Would anyone wander onto a stage and try and chat to a singer while they were mid-set? Of course not. Yet DJs, it seems, are different.

What REALLY goes on in a DJs mind…

Here’s the first 10 I could think of of about 5,000 random things that may or may not be going through my mind when I’m DJing (once I’ve got over wishing nobody will turn up because I’m so nervous, then the panic when they start to, then the relief when the first people start dancing…)

  • “Is this the right mix of this record? It sounds different to when I heard it at home…”
  • “Shit, 30 seconds left on this tune!”
  • “Is it time to ramp it up a bit?”
  • “This next tune is weird, but I LOVE it. Should I risk it?”
  • “Is it too loud? Or not loud enough?”
  • “I wonder if the next DJ will try and hassle me off early.”
  • “God, I’m REALLY nervous here. Better smile and move a bit and look like I’m having fun.”
  • “Finally, got those girls dancing. What shall I play next to keep them there?”
  • “Bollocks, left the key lock on. Wondered why it was sounding a bit shit. Better do some adjusting…”
  • “Manager doesn’t look too happy. Is he going to come and hassle me again to ‘play something I know’?”

And on and on and on. It’s a constant stream of tweaks and improvements as you try to do the very best you can.

Working madly to keep the night going well, while smiling and generally trying to look relaxed and “one of the crowd”, is hard enough… but the trouble is, when you do it well, people believe you’re a natural, you’re relaxed, DJing is simple, and they feel very comfortable hassling you. That includes girlfriends and best mates who really should know better – after all, it’s not as if you haven’t tried to explain to them often enough!

Time to put your foot down…

So, how to deal with it. Here are some methods that have worked for me over the years:

1. Ignore them politely – This is easy. Nod, smile, and block them out. Just don’t listen! People have had a couple of drinks anyway, the music’s loud, you’d be amazed how many people go away when you grin and agree blindly.
2. Do what they want quickly and ask them politely to go away – Give them the cigarette/lighter/money, then say “catch you later” and physically (buy playfully) shove them away.
3. Explain to them that to you, this is a place of work and they’re getting in the way – Not so easy to pull this one off, but if you’ve got guest DJs in the box and expensive equipment, especially digital DJ equipment that’s perched precariously on any available spaces etc, you have to put your foot down. It IS a place of work, after all.
4. Be a prima donna and say “I’m performing!” – maybe using the DJ/singer parallel I mentioned above. Make yourself smile by going well over the top with “I’m an artist, you know!” etc.
5. Here’s my favourite (doesn’t work with your girlfriend, though): Lock the bloody DJ box door. One of the clubs I used to DJ at was rife for 20-people-in-the DJ-box syndrome, with hangers-on getting up to all sorts. I used to literally get in there at the start of my set and manhandle everyone out, locking the door behind the sorry ass of every last one. Job done.

You’re not going win any friends with some of the above methods, but look at it this way: You dreamed about DJing for who-knows-how-long before you started getting gigs; you spend all week listening to, buying and practising mixing your tunes; and this 1, 2, 3 or more hours is your ONE CHANCE to express yourself, to show what you’ve got, to fill your head with enough real experience of playing out as you can to give you something chew over for the time between now and your next gig. And your girlfriend wants to talk about the pair of you maybe going to her gran’s next week?! NO! 😉

Be firm but fair (as much as you can) with everyone, and force of will should get your point of view on this into their heads in the end – and you can always buy your mates / wife / brother a drink afterwards and tell them you love them really!

Have you go any horror stories of randoms coming into your DJ booth and interrupting your flow, spilling a drink on your equipment, flicking through your music when you’re mid-set, or trying to get off with your girlfriend/boyfriend while you’re in the mix? Let us know!

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