We all know every DJ’s goal is to someday become a traveling DJ. Who wouldn’t love to be paid good $$ to be flown to the hottest clubs in the world just for doing what you enjoy?? However, unless you’re in the small and fortunate group of DJ’s who ever achieve this goal, when you work, it is likely that you have a residency at a local spot. JD and I both have residencies, and many DJs who do lots of traveling have residencies in different places too.
There is definitely a bright side to being a resident somewhere. If you have been at a place for a while, you tend to get a feeling of comfort. Once you have built a reputation as a DJ who’s on time, can hold the crowd, and know what you’re doing – you can breathe a small sigh of relief. You know if you accidentally run late to your 200th gig, or if your computer crashes at gig #373, you probably won’t lose your job. You have earned the owners trust, and he/she will likely understand that accidents happen. It’s not nearly the same thing as if you’re flown out to NYC and something goes wrong your first time there. In that case, you likely won’t be asked back. Residencies are also fun because the workers can seem like family. Over time, you’ll build relationships with the bouncers and bartenders, and going to work could even seem like hanging out with friends. With that said, there is one BIG danger of being a resident DJ: you likely are playing for the same group of people over and over again!! How can you avoid sounding STALE??
As a resident, I’ve discussed this topic before with different owners and staff at some of my clubs. I’ve actually heard conflicting statements. Some owners have told me, “Oh, don’t worry, just play what the people want to hear. You’re the only one who keeps track of the order of songs, no one else knows.” I’ve also heard other workers say, “DJ SoAndSo is awful. Always playing the same stuff!! It’s at the point where I know exactly what time it is just because a certain song is on. I always know exactly what’s coming next!”
I can definitely see both sides of these arguments. As DJs, we definitely put 1000x more thought into what we play than anyone else does. Think about when you have a night off and you go out. Even if you are going to check out the DJ at another club, you usually can’t remember much of his/her exactly playlist after its all over, especially if you have been drinking. However, to the staff who hears you play all the time, it may be different. They likely aren’t drinking, and it may be slow towards the beginning of the night, so good chance they give you pretty good attention. So does it all come down to this: Is it worth putting in a lot of effort just to change up you sets for the staff?? If it were that simple, I would still say YES. You definitely want to win over the workers, as the owners will always get a sense of what they think. But, I DON’T think that’s the only reason to play different stuff. You never know who IS actually paying attention to you, and who has heard you spin twice. Club owners do get nights off every once in a while, and maybe another owner is checking you out. So what can you do to avoid becoming stale?
The obvious answer is to add new songs to your playlist. As a resident, I’m always searching for older songs I may have forgotten about. I highly recommend DJs check out our lists we provided in our opening DJ segments, as well as the comments left by our viewers. A lot of these “opening” songs might also work well during prime-time if played right! I also spend a lot of time scouring the remix sites for good transitions. (Not a big fan of song-song transitions, as I always make a point to mention, but I do love BPM transitions of the same song) DJ Scooter recently dropped a dope mix of Jigga’s “On To The Next One” that goes up to 120 BPM after the first verse. Now I can follow it up with The JumpSmokers mix of “You’re A Jerk” instead of being limited to something like TI’s “Swing Ya Rag”. Just an example, but you get the point. Finding a dope remix on the sites can also help you sound “new”. I mentioned in the last editorial that I recently purchased Victor Menegaux’s blend of “Bad Romance” over “I Gotta Feeling”. Remixes like this can help you switch up your set, as long as you don’t go overboard with them!
Edits are also another important way to sound different! Now that we are in an age where everyone is making their own remixes, we also have the ability to alter the regular songs we are going to play! I recently had a good talk with my friend DJ Digital Dave from Pittsburgh about this topic. While he makes an effort to add at least one new song to his playlist every night he spins, he also relies heavily on edits to sound fresh. He said that although he tends to play “Mo Money, Mo Problems” just about every night, he does have three different edits of the song — three quick hitters, each with a different verse (Mase, Diddy, or BIG). This way, he is really only playing the SAME song ONCE every three weeks instead of every week! As always, this is just an example, and there are many other songs you could do this to. Definitely a wise tip!
My own advice, is to simply plan ahead if you have to — especially the beginning and end of your night. While you will likely be playing many of the same songs in the middle of your night for the next couple months (The hottest BEP, Pitbull, Kesha, Gaga, as well as classics like Be Faithful and In Da Club), use the beginning and ends of your night to get creative. As mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, there are ways to switch up what versions of new songs you are playing during primetime, BUT early and late in the night, you can actually draw for different songs altogether from week to week!! Make sure to check out next week’s Playlist Wednesday where JD and I will discuss this concept in detail!
In conclusion, it definitely is important to sound somewhat different night to night at your residency. While it isn’t an easy task, and does take preparation, it will set you apart from other residents, and at the least, the club’s staff will appreciate it! If you don’t make any effort to please the staff, the comfort you feel at your gig will wear off real quick!