Editorial: Don’t be a “stale” Resident!!

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!

—-Spring—-

11 comments

  1. great post… there’s a very thin line between switching it up w/ diff stuff and veering too far off from the usual new stuff people wanna hear but if you can maintain that balance then you’re golden!

  2. very good topic to discuss.. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that a lot of residents dislike playing the same old crap, but a lot of times, have to spoon-feed to get a reaction from the crowd. I think most of us that have been in the game for over 5 years or so can play a different set every night if we had the freedom to, but it’s not always feasible in the age of instant gratification. Stray from the norm for two long, and you’ll have 15 girls leaning against the wall furiously pecking away at their blackberries as if Andy Warhol himself posed them that way..

  3. great post–

    here’s the way i look at it.

    its a job, like any other job, co workers will complain.

    before when i use to do a shows, ( skating shows ) u go to work, you do your routine, etc 5 shows a day, then you get bored, you started to throw in extra tricks and such..then you get hurt.

    or you can play it safe and do the choreography .

    the stage staff sees the shows 5 times a day..i know they wanna see a different backflip variations not the same boring tricks..but, its a job

    – staff jobs is to bartend, host or bounce or whatever.

    our job is for the patrons..we know what works on certain tracks, time and what not.

    so, if a staff member says ” dj so and so sux coz he does the same thing over and over..”

    ask them how many variations is there to pour a JACK and COKE !!

  4. Always on point here at remixreport. LOL at Serafin’s comments about the staff, great point! Never thought about it that way before.

  5. LOL at serafin’s post…..im gonna drop that line next time i hear one of those bar wenches bitch…

  6. Great post. Coming from some long time residences in SF where I had to play 6-7 hours nonstop with no breaks, Ive always been on my toes about how to keep things fresh without sounding the same week after week. At peak hour, Every DJ in the universe will sound the same, one way or another. Its all about the opening and closing. Your relationship with the venue owners, bartenders, hostesses should be one of friendship. They know you, You know them. I know when I play a quick hitter of “Give It Up” by Twista & Pharrell, Im basically shouting out the bar manager and she knows it. Most of the time, What you play is what the venue likes. Play for the crowd, Play for the females, Thats your core audience right there. There are so many ways to stay fresh. I always tell my DJ colleagues, DJing is trial and error. Sometimes dropping La Bamba in your set will work, Sometimes dropping Bohemian Rhapsody wont. If we dont ever take chances, We wont ever set ourselves apart.

  7. I go back and forth on this in my head all the time. My early and late night sets are always different and I just vibe off the mood and how I’m feeling that night… but the peak hour sets I tend to play a lot of tracks the same way week in and week out. Part of me wants to agree with Serafin, because I know that there is a good reason I play the hits the same way… that’s how I figured out (through trial and error) to get the best energy and reactions from them, so why mess with that. Playing them that way is how I sound my best. But at the same time, yeah I think bringing some fresh air into your sets is really important when playing the same venues weekly or even monthly. The staff and some regulars really do notice that stuff.

    Here’s one of my methods to switch things up (hopefully this helps somebody) –

    when I’m playing early night I’m usually just playing from my “ALL CRATE” in Serato. I’ll play a couple of tracks that will get me thinking of how I could use them in a peak hour situation. I’ll drag those tracks into a new crate (which I have titled “FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT BITCH”, haha). During the week I’ll go through that crate and think about how to most effectively use those older or more left-field tracks in a peak hour set to accent the new and classic hits. Sometimes that means making an edit, sometimes it means setting cue points, sometimes it’s about thinking of word play or other ways to bridge the gap to a newer or more common banger. For example (don’t bite my mix, please, this is just an example) I never used to play “Put It On Me” by Ja Rule. Wouldn’t work real well in a peak hour hip hop set. Well, I played it one night early on and wanted to figure out how to use it to create energy during that primetime hip hop part of the night. Tried it in a few combinations and found it works really well when I just play the hook (no verse) and quick mix right into the hook of “Say Ah”. Boom, new life for an old track, freshen my set up with something I don’t typically play, and I keep the sing along party rocking vibe going while setting up one of the biggest records in that BPM range now. The trick is being conscious of not doing that mix every week at the same spots. But then again, there’s only a small handful of people who would even notice anyway.

  8. TOMMYDIZ – I swear you are I do the same thing, but on opposite coasts… LOL

  9. AUDIO1 – Yeah seriously! Seems that way.

  10. Wow, just got to reading the comments today. Serafin… HAHAHAHA. Seriously never thought about it that way and it’s great food for thought. I agree with Audio1 and Tommy Diz in that DJ’s do sound the same during peak and you gotta show love to the staff by playing their jams here and there. Usually is easiest to fit in during your opening set. They def notice. There’s one bartender in particular at Shrine that I connect with. Always asking what song it was I played at such and such a time or had this lyric. The next time I play that song I’ll look over at the bar they they’ve got their hands up pointing at me with a big smile. While I agree with Serafins point to an extent, that the staff should know we’re all there to do a job, they are our biggest advocates/adversaries. Their opinion can make or break your reputation at a club. I’ve seen it happen to a very well known DJ. I, for one, am gonna do my best not to let that happen to me.

  11. I have to say that I love this post. Serafin brings it home tho. It’s hard to change your set up when you know what works, I think that adding new songs to your set and different remixes of songs is probably the best way to keep it fresh. But it’s always a political game, I honestly don’t think that a bartender or manager would know the difference if you played Mo Money Mo Problems with a different verse depending on the week. And most of the time the staff will try and tell you something that they want to see happen but can’t relay the message correctly. Because most of the time they don’t know what they want, but you do how ever have to take their thoughts in consideration because they pay you. Anyway if you love what you do then just take their suggestions with a grain of salt have them get you a drink and carry on.

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