How to Handle Requests as a DJ
Every DJ in this world has probably dealt with crowd requests at least once in their life. If you haven’t had the honour yet, picture the following: you’re behind the table, minding your own business at the decks, maybe sipping on a cocktail.
Before you know it, you see a pair of arms reach over the table to get your attention. If you’re in a smaller venue, you might be as lucky as to have someone literally come up to you during the set and ask you to play something. Best case scenario, they’ll ask you to play some bop that is currently topping the charts and you’d planned to play anyway. Worst case scenario, it will be ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ during a dance set. In any of these cases, you need to know how to politely handle requests from the crowd while still not compromising the quality of your own mix.
I will be extremely honest here and say that I don’t like dealing with crowd requests (for the most part,) and here is why: the venue is paying me to come in and set the mood with my mix. If they wanted to just have a random selection of the weekly hits playing, there are YouTube playlists out there. Whenever people come up with requests (especially the kind that have nothing to do with the genre or mood I’m going for), I feel a bit offended inside. Of course, I try to not let it show – and if the request is reasonable, I might even consider playing it after a few tracks – but only with the condition that it somewhat goes with the other songs in my playlist for the night.
I get it that not many people know what a DJ actually does behind those decks, but it does take a bit of knowledge and skill to create the right atmosphere and bring people to the dance floor. In most of the cases when someone comes up to me and requests a song, I know that it wouldn’t go well with my existing tracklist, and a lot of people in the club are going to notice that. However, you can’t really explain that politely to a girl who’s had one too many shots of tequila and really wants to hear ‘All the single ladies’ right now. So what is the most graceful approach to handling crowd requests as a DJ?
I find the easiest way to deny a request is to say something along the lines of ‘okay, I’ll play it after the next three/fours songs’. Chances are they will forget about it by then. Another one I found works is to act like you can’t hear them – no science here, the club is loud and you’re probably right next to a monitor. I’ve had some very persuasive people find a paper and pen to write down the request and handle it to me, but fortunately, that was a good song I actually intended to play later on. Lastly, you can’t go wrong with politely declining. Say something along the lines of ‘really sorry, but I can’t take any requests tonight, venue rules’ and proceed with your mix.