There are some DJs who can play whatever the fuck they want. And most of them have earned that right. I’m talking about the guys who play festivals. The guys, who when they play, perform in front of a concert-like atmosphere. When people see these guys play, they want to hear new, crazy stuff. They expect to see a show unique to that DJ. And they would be honored and feel special if the DJ played some of his new, never-yet-heard material for them during that show.
But now let me tell you who can’t play whatever they want for the entire night. Me. And Digital Dave. And about 99% of the other DJs in this world. Yeah Dave and I can usually put our own personal touch on our club set. Yeah we can sneak in some of our favorites. We can play a few brand new tunes that the crowd might not be familiar with. And because we are fortunate enough to play at some of the trendier spots, we probably have the luxury to do these things more often than most DJs. However, that luxury only extends so far.
There are a lot of DJs who think we are WAAAAAY more important than we really are. Please understand, most of us are really not that important. You know why? Because we are very replaceable. And also understand this: If your replacement is 3-5% worse than you, it WILL NOT ruin that club that got rid of you. It just won’t. Not many people take this as serious as us. And the majority of the crowd won’t even know the difference between you and your replacement, or probably even that you got replaced in the first place. I’ve been DJing at two of my residencies for close to 5 years now. Another for almost 7. I consider myself extremely, extremely lucky. They all make me feel very loved and appreciated. I know most of the staff at these venues, and many are people who have become good friends. But despite all that, I know that if I ever lost my job for any reason, life WOULD go on at these venues. I’d hope a few people would say, “Wow, what happened to Spring?”, “Oh that’s too bad!” but I wouldn’t expect more than that. And those venues would be just as successful after I left. I understand I’m not the star of the show. (NOTE: I’m not giving up on my DJ career, and I do have aspirations to grow as a DJ. I’m just talking about this current moment in time.)
However, I do get this though: WE ARE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO THE SUCCESS OF ANY PARTICULAR NIGHT. That I do believe. Being a DJ at a large night club is a pretty big responsibility. We are in essence, a type of manager at the club. At most businesses, a manager has to be a mature, responsible person, and to give a DJ this type of responsibility at a club, I’d expect them to have those same traits. In some sense, our job is part event planner, part customer service. We have the task of selecting all the music for a 3-4 hour period of the night, and using those tunes to make the crowd happy.
Let me state the obvious again: We are in charge of playing music that will make the crowd happy.
So yeah, we’ve been deemed as responsible by the club owners/management, and now we are in charge of regulating what gets played through out the night. And we do that when we get requests. We process customers’ requests and right away decide if they are realistic or not. And by that, I mean we decide whether the majority of the crowd will enjoy the request, or whether it was just something that only appeals to the person who asked. If you haven’t noticed, some people are selfish. Some 60 year olds will request music “more their age” even though they are the only person close to that age at the club. Some people will request music of their nationality, even though they are a minority at the club and will be the only one into that type of music. It’s our job to quickly dismiss those type of requests, as they would not benefit the overall happiness inside the club. Many times, the Hip-Hop heads get upset when we play House, and the House heads get upset when we play Hip-Hop. It’s our job to keep them both happy (within reason), and to try to find a good balance to please everyone. There are some good requests through out a night, but also many unreasonable ones. And we have to be responsible to sort through which is which. When talking about General Managers and Owners of sports franchises, the popular saying is, “If you listen to the fans, you’ll soon be sitting with them.” Think about that for a second, and think about how that applies to DJing.
With that said, imagine what would happen if one of those wackos making off the wall requests was to suddenly have our job — If they were in charge of choosing the music at a large nightclub. Obviously, we can understand that being biased, selfish, and unrealistic would be terrible qualities for a DJ to have, and they would surely not play the most optimal set for the crowd. So now take a step back, and look at the qualities we would be showing by refusing to play the most popular song out….even if we didn’t like it. Wouldn’t that make us just as bad as those dopes who ask for silly requests?
Sorry for the long novel above, but I really plan on murdering Digital Dave in this post….like no mercy at all…and I had to set this up right.
“Timber” is every girls favorite song right now, and contrary to what people read in Laidback Luke’s editorial the other day, the #1 Rule Of DJing is “Play for the females”, not “Play 50% what the crowd wants, and 50% what you want.” And judging by Luke’s tweet yesterday, I think he realized that rule he made didn’t apply to everyone.
Yes, I do have a slight advantage here since I have an idea of what some of Dave’s arguments will be. Relax though, I was gonna destroy Dave here either way. Now let me just answer some of these ridiculous statements I’ve heard Dave (and other DJs) make about why they won’t play this track.
1) “I don’t play country.” As we’ve discussed, your own personal bias shouldn’t get in the way of you playing the hottest song of the moment, but let me indulge you here nonetheless. First of all, if you do play “Wake Me Up”, then I don’t wanna hear this excuse. Second of all, I get that the original beat is corny, but there are some great remixes that have wiped pretty much all traces of country off the track. I love the tribal feel of Riddler’s remix. Panic City has an awesome progressive house version that goes well towards the end of the night along with tracks like the dBerrie remix of “Roar”. The Bassanova remix does have a trace of the original beat, but also gets super hard during the drops. R3hab and Jumpsmokers also made dope non-country remixes of this. So please don’t let me hear this excuse again.
2) “I have my own style of DJing and this song doesn’t fit.” Again, just silly. I promise with an ounce of effort, you could find a version to fit your style. If you aren’t willing to put in that effort, than just let me know what exactly your style is, and I’ll find you a version that will fit right in. I like to think I have a style too. I probably go just as hard with the electro remixes as you do. The Artistic Raw remix of “Sweet Nothing”, the Uberjakd remix of “Don’t You Worry Child”, and the Mysto and Pizzi remix of “Get Lucky”, have all been staples in my sets. As far as girly pop goes, the Gazzo and Kalkuta remix of Miley’s “We Can’t Stop”, the Funk3d remixes of “Pound The Alarm” and “Scream And Shout”, the FukkkOfff remix of “I Love It”, the Riddler remix of “Still Into You”, and even the Daddy’s Groove remix of Tegan and Sara’s “Closer” have all been played by me many times. I already mentioned all the good remixes of “Timber” in the paragraph above, and I assume at least one of those fits your style, no?
3) “Yeah a lot of people like ‘Timber’, but there’s a good amount that don’t.” As I mentioned earlier, there’s always a good amount of people who like Hip Hop and don’t want House…..and vice versa. Making sure every song we play pleases every single person in the club has never been a realistic concern of ours, so why start now? Besides, I really wouldn’t be too worried about offending people with this particular song. I promise you no one is gonna be saying, “OMG, that DJ was so bad tonight, I can’t believe he played ‘Timber’.” to their friends on the car ride home.
And now for the absolute worst excuse….
4) “My crowd still has fun without me playing it, and I still get great gigs without playing it.” I get that the club won’t blow up if you don’t play the song, but c’mon….it’s such a bullshit excuse. Imagine going to Subway and ordering a grinder with everything on it. Or imagine going to a pizza place and asking for a meatlover’s pizza. Better yet, imagine you go to an ice cream shop and ask for whip cream, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, and cherries on your sundae. Now you get what you ordered and take it to your seat ready to feast on whatever it is you got. But wait, the sandwich artist didn’t put any tomatoes on your sub. The dude making your pizza only put on ham and sausage — he didn’t add the pepperoni. The kid making your ice cream sundae didn’t put on any cherries! Yeah, you’ll probably still enjoy the food you got. You’ll still like it. And even without one of those ingredients, I’m sure it will still leave your taste buds happy. JUST NOT AS HAPPY AS THEY COULD HAVE BEEN WITH THAT EXTRA INGREDIENT YOU ASKED FOR. How mad would it make you to find out that the person in charge of your order purposely left off that ingredient. All because they themselves didn’t like tomatos. Or pepperoni. Or Cherries. Like even though you were happy overall, you didn’t get to reach your optimal level of happiness just because of that person’s bias. I’d be pretty pissed.
Listen, to anyone who wants to argue Dave’s point against me, please don’t get silly and start saying stuff like, “So what you think is that if a DJ plays 150 songs in a night, they should be the exact top 150 that the crowd wants to hear?” We all know that’s not what I’m saying. I already mentioned that we can put our own spin on a night. Of course we can use our own discretion on what minor hits we choose to play. I’m not sure exactly where the line is drawn on how popular a song is ,that it must get played, but I do know that “Timber” definitely makes the cut. DJs at most bars and clubs in this country should be making a strong effort to play it. Hands down. To admit that you take pride in not playing it, is just plain selfish and inconsiderate. It really makes you no different than the Hip-Hop head making the cut throat motion in the club because he doesn’t wanna hear any House.
*Bonus excuse that really shouldn’t even be addressed:
5) “People won’t even like/remember this song in a year or two”. I can’t believe I’m even responding to this one but I actually did hear someone use it to defend why they don’t play “Timber”. I don’t even know what to say here besides a simple “LOL”. I mean, is it really our job to determine what songs we play based on their predicted longevity and whether it’ll still be popular in the future? Like would you be cool if a cashier at a clothing store denied your purchase because you won’t be wearing that style in a couple years anyway. Of course I get it, Clubs and Restaurants and Clothing Stores are three different things. But the comparisons still work. 100%. They all deal in customer service and keeping people happy. And there is no reason personal bias from any worker should cause a business not to give the majority of customers what they want.
So I’m actually gonna wrap this up, not by recapping what I wrote above, but instead by saying this:
I understand a DJ can’t become a superstar by playing all Top 40. I see how every big DJ’s “Top 5 and 10 Track Picks” are full of songs even I never heard of. I saw how Paris Hilton was crucified when her list was full of popular songs. I don’t agree with all this, but I won’t deny it’s reality. It’s tough being a DJ trying to make it in the game and “keep it real”, while also pleasing the crowd you currently play for. But that’s not the club owner’s problem. He’s paying you to DJ TONIGHT. Nor is it the concern of the crowd, who want’s to have a good time TONIGHT. Your quest to become a big time DJ shouldn’t affect the job you currently have. And it definitely shouldn’t come at the expense of every girl in the club who want’s to hear “Timber”. Thinking otherwise is the type of selfish behavior that’s starting to give DJs a bad name. (As if we really needed more help with that.)