So I did a gig in the Summer of Fleetwood Mac (That is, my 2015) for the first time in yonks, in Walsall. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s weird to think that I thought of it so as something so novel, so exciting… and when I cast my mind back to a time when it was something I did week in, week out for years, I remember that I used to feel that way at the beginning. Over time, especially throwing the day job and other commitments into the mix, the eager gettin’ ready to do the biz sometimes turned into ‘Ughhh I’m tired’ and the eventual realization that even the super cool jobs can turn into a chore sometimes, if you aren’t in the right mindset. When my games blogging came along, I knew I had to choose or burn out, and I took a break from regular DJing for a while. Not being in the thick of it gave me some perspective, and allowed me to realize some things:
It can be a lot of pressure in the booth.
As I pointed out previously, you are catering for their night out. People choose clubs based on the atmosphere, and that in turn has to match what they are selling on the box. Music is the main part of that. You not only have to play music from the genres that they are advertising but you have to play what the crowd deems as good music. And sometimes that doesn’t match what you deem as good music. You may hear a new song on the radio and think ‘Wow! I love it! Everyone else will love it!’ only to receive the complete opposite reaction. People will tell you if they don’t like what you’re playing. You will get repeat requests, you will get asked to play something by the band that is currently playing, and you will get asked to play something that makes no sense because the person asking for it got the band name all muddled up. It happens. I once, loudly to a friend, mistook an Alice Cooper song for a Bon Jovi song and kicked myself for weeks about it because of how embarrassed I was because y’know, it’s very uncool to do that or something.
A good tip, if you aren’t the first DJ on, is to walk around, introduce yourself to maybe a group of people or two, and ask them if there’s anything they want to hear before you go on. This will help you later on, because the more approachable you are, the more likely others will come up to you when you are at work. Taking requests is always a good thing; however, I have learnt that you should always tell somebody if you haven’t got the song that they want. With technology advancing the way that it is, though, this is not as much of a problem as it used to be. If there’s no way to play the request, though, jot it down and ask them to try the next DJ, or that you’ll have it next time. Sometimes they’ll accept, and sometimes they won’t be happy. The point is, during your set, you have to line up songs, find your music, make sure everything mixes together nicely, and on top of it deal with requests and people that want to come jump behind the booth/get you to take their photo/have a nice long friendly albeit random chat because what better time… This is how it should be, though. Certainly preferable to nobody wanting to approach you. They’re merry. They’re having fun. You did your job right.
Make sure your equipment works.
Some of this may be out of your hands. You may have to do the best with what you have. Still, it always pays off to do sound checks before the club opens. It is always best to check your most played CDs as often as you can, certainly before a gig if you haven’t done one for a while. The unforgettable jeer that the crowd makes when you scramble to play another song while that song is stuck on a loop at 01.43 can be quite unnerving. I always used to have an emergency track to hand. One I knew always worked, one I checked more often than the others. I knew where it was at all times and if the worst happened and there was nothing lined up (pop punk songs are very quick and sometimes I got distracted with requests and the occasional drunken drink order), on it went.
Being aware of your surroundings is another thing. Some of the booths I’ve been in were tiny, and most are quite dark. It’d be no good to accidentally switch everything off in the middle of a set (See aforementioned jeer – only prolonged with possible chants), and usually there are plenty of mystery wires of which the only purpose seems to be to trip you up. You also need to be sure of the sound levels. What sounds good to you in the booth may not be the case in other parts of the room. You sort of get an ear for it when you are in your regular haven, even though it is always best to walk around and listen out, especially if the equipment you are using has seen better days.
The main thing is at the end of it all, though. to enjoy yourself. It seems so very predictable for me to end the article with that, but seriously… most nights, even the nights where I was tired and grumpy prior to getting there, were a lot of fun overall. By the end of my sets, my mood lifted. I have gained some fantastic memories over the years. My music taste was broadened significantly too, and I made a lot of friends. If you have a passion for music, it’s a good avenue to go down. I’m glad that I got to do it.