Topic of The Week: Requests

Back with another TOTW!   This time, it’s the topic that DJs never get tired of complaining about — Requests.  Maybe you don’t mind them, but if you do….just how bad are they and how much do they annoy you?

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  1. As an open format DJ, there are three types of requests that we usually get.  First, the song that we’re obviously gonna play.  Second, the song that we’ll never play. Third, the song that slipped our mind, that will totally work.  I’ve ranked these according to the frequency in which I get them, but I won’t say that I hate taking requests because sometimes (rare as it is) someone will point out a valid song that we didn’t even think to play. There is an infinite amount of music out there and it is easy to overlook some tunes that could be completely relevant to the party. Not necessarily the current bangers, but the throwbacks and re-currents. 

    I’ve become so numb to the first two types of requests that they don’t even phase me anymore. Taking requests is part of understanding your crowd. It’s a necessary evil. My suggestion to any DJ who loathes taking requests is to have another DJ, either your opener or your friend who isn’t working, stand there and act as a filter for the first two types of requests, but actually pass along those which he think might be valid.  That lets you focus on your party and not get flustered by the obnoxious drunk girl who wants to hear the “That Shit Cray” song at 10pm and feels the need to remind you every 15 minutes that you haven’t played it yet.

    I think a lot of DJs view requests as a personal insult in that we have no idea what we’re doing when it comes to selecting music because we haven’t played that person’s favorite song yet. No doubt it’s frustrating, but remember this is the iPod generation who has the ability to hear whatever song they want, whenever they want it, and just as easily switch to the next track when they’re bored with it. They’re the epitome of A.D.D. and have the expectation of instant gratification via requesting a song. They’re not insulting us as much as they’re acting spoiled. They can throw a temper tantrum all they want when they don’t get exactly what they want, but at the end of the day, as stupid as we make them out to be, they do understand that the DJ is in control of the music and if they don’t like it, they can leave.

  2. I hate when people type the request into their phone and hold the screen up and then expect me to read it

  3. In radio, we were taught with the good old pie chart(not sure if they teach using this method anymore) Within each section of the chart, there was specific parts of it reserved for the most current hits, heavy rotation songs, etc, and towards the end of an hour was space to play a request(s), if time allotted. We were also taught by our instructors from day 1, verbatim, “There are no such things as requests” This was in radio a while back. In actuality, what they were really saying is, the majority of requests that come in to a station will most likely be songs that are already currently in rotation on the radio station playlist, and if it was a request for a current hit, most likely that current hit was going to be played several times thru out a couple hour block of radio air time. We were taught the old school way, as an on air DJ who would multitask running the board and handling most calls to the request line. When called for a request, we were taught to say stuff like, “Its coming up! Stay tuned to (radio station ID) or “We got that for ya, just tell me who is your favorite station that plays all of your hits.”  Basically, like I’ve said on this site numerous times in the past, DJing takes a little bit of reversed psychology if you don’t want the crowd to get at you. In radio this was handled by making the caller feel like they are a part of the station, and we are catering to “you”. I mean in a way they are, but the request thing, especially now in corporate radio would get a little bit out of hand if left to run rampid.

    How did I take what I learned in radio, and transfer that into handling requests at my night spots? Well, like many others I was far from perfect in handling them starting out, as we all have our limits and sayings, and only so much we can say to some people who constantly nag us thru out the night. Spring, a couple of episodes back mentioned some good stuff regarding how he handles certain requests, and the nagging that comes along with it. My true opinion on this is, do what works for you, as everyone has their own personality to throw into the mix, weather its in the form of a DJ booth sign, an actual other person in the booth to handle them(request taker), or a shirt that sort of says it all sarcastically, so maybe one who is going to nag a DJ will think twice, as from the signage, that person knows that particular DJ isn’t going to tolerate nonsense. 

    Being a mobile DJ since 1989, requests at those gigs were as expected. Weddings, and other events had the usual nagging drunk crowd asking you every second to put their track on with the “Are you going to play it now?….now?….now?” And we’ve all been there with those…lol…I was hoping that I was handling them in the correct manner, however who knows if I really did then, although when I started doing club gigs in 97′, I knew that it was a different scene, and the crowd + alcohol all the time might really have requests run wild. I really didn’t have a game plan at that time, just thought I would wing it per request situation. 

    It was that year I also was vacationing in Wildwood, and I went to this club, which as I remember was pretty epic in those days to me, and the DJ had someone at the booth door taking requests, however very nicely yet strongly voiced the DJ would be getting to that song as the night progressed and is playing for everyone in the club, or to combat the all to familiar request, “Can you play this song now? Everyone wants to hear it, I just asked all my friends, and even strangers, they all want to hear it now” phrase.  If it was a song that was going to be played within the next hour or even couple of songs, being it was a primetime song request, he would use reversed pshycology, and very boldly say, “Yeah, I know, everyone is requesting that song, that’s why were going to be playing it soon, don’t miss it!” and he would walk away from the door while saying “don’t miss it” and be involved with the lighting guy or something. And this was just one example of what would take place, however we always had a request taker, for 2 reasons, if a person who was upset their song wasn’t played “NOW!” they might go to management, complain, and if it was a guest spot, who knows how management will side or view the situation verbally, between the DJ and patron, after all they don’t want to lose patrons(their monetary weekly business regulars) So not to use the request guy as a fall guy for taking the nonsense, but to have a witness to something, if a patron complained to management. But the real main reason to have a request taker who was bold and serious was as I saw at many clubs, was to condition the weekly regulars, not get the crowd used to taking advantage of coming up to the DJ rudely while they are trying to mix, trying to put their hand up saying wait one minute, and still the people don’t care and keep talking to you, the request taker handled it. And I’ve used this approach here and there, and even in small bar gigs I had, if a patron walked right up to me in the middle of me mixing and just started talking, not caring, I never said a word, just pointed to my request taker, and they got paid to handle the plethora of requests. This method though only worked best when their was a semi enclosed DJ booth, or a booth high up, where the request taker can be at the front lines, and a person couldnt reach the DJ. 

    The above approach is basically something famous tour DJs who play clubs have done from day one. A celeb DJ, that spins open format spots has “his or her people” handle any interactions from club goers, and the crowd learns to respect the distance of a celeb DJ while “in the mix” and if a patron does interact with the celeb DJ at some point during the night, its def not while they are performing/djing, its before or after for autographs and other stuff! As DJs, having a request taker if we are able to, conditions the crowd at your venue IMO.

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