Saying anyone playing recorded music is a DJ is like saying anyone cooking is a chef. A DJ enhances the soul of music by playing the right parts of songs in the right order. Mixing, scratching, and MCing are all ways to add to an overall experience for the party guests. DJ's intentionally manipulate a party's energy by playing music to tap into what is happening in the venue. From guests drinking, dancing, or chatting with each other, a DJ has to know the audience and enhance their experience.
This is one of the most important times of a party. This is the first few hours when guests are still arriving and they aren't quite ready to hit the dance floor yet. During the opening people want to hear familiar tunes, but not the current hits. A DJ doesn't want to play out that one Top 40 hits that the guests heard on the way over. This is when the DJ sets the pace and style of music that the DJ is going to play. It could be all one genre like Hip-Hop or House music, but it could also be open format which means spanning from hits to classics in every genre. For the clubs with only one DJ, this is where the DJ wins the trust of the audience. Being too constrained with the music can ruin a night and on the other end of the spectrum, the DJ should know the musical limits of the guests.
This might be the point where there are some people starting to dance or bounce to the beat. They've been drinking a little and they're done catching up with their friends. It's now time for the DJ to kick the party into the next gear. I have destinations I like to hit and places I plan on going with my mix, but I can't just jump into their favorite song just yet, it is all about the journey. People are looking for a familiar beat or a sing-along; something that they can engage with. Once a DJ has that hook, they know they can launch into the next phase of the night.
Now it is up to the DJ to read the crowd. I ask myself: Will they appreciate something they don't know? Do they want to hear Top 40? How far back can I dig for classics?
A new DJ often times gets nervous and will just take off like a rocket. This can be great for a short set or a private party, but has its limitations. So long as the DJ isn't stepping on a headliner's set, this can really add energy and the crowd will have a great time. The number #1 problem is running out of hot tracks to play. Most people only are listening to current hits that are on the radio and that can be limited to only 10 tracks. Also, if you are playing a place that makes money from alcohol sales, a DJ needs to give the people time to buy drinks.
A more experienced DJ will play both hit music, classic music, and new music to not only play what is expected, but also, venture into new territory. I will take a hip-hop fans through the classics and I will travel through the samples that are the roots of today's hit music.
The Turn Down
No matter how great the night is people will either start heading for the door or local laws will force them to. The last feeling people have while leaving the party will be their lasting feelings about the DJ. If they leave angry or bored then that reflects badly on the DJ. It is important to play some well known slow jams to end the night. Hopefully, everyone will leave feeling lucky.
Play it cool,