Let the Music Play

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by Mr. LeN

As the weekend wraps up, I'd be remiss if I didn't speak up for my brothers in arms...THE DJs. When I speak of DJ's I mean the real DJ's, not the model playing off their iPod, or the actor train-wrecking for an hour on Serato. I mean the people who set the tone for the night, the ones who blend songs together so well you thought the same beat played for 30 minutes, the crowd-manipulators, the record-breakers, the people who make walls sweat! Yes, party people, the real DJs!

In today's scene we are taken for granted, abused, and clowned. Mainly because when a good DJ spins everyone thinks they can do it. I know some of you think "How hard can it be? You play what's popular and leave!" If it were only that easy. The lack of respect for the DJ has cornered a lot of us who do this for a living to play things we know aren't good. Some take it in stride and find a balance, others make themselves content playing in smaller venues where they are free to play whatever they like. No matter where we are we have to put up with people that don't "GET IT". So here are just a few things we talk about as well as some hints to get the most fun out of your night. Club owners, promoters, party goers, friends, country men, lend me your ears...eyes.


Hey Mr. Club Owner: I'm not a promoter. If I was, I wouldn't spend my time practicing and finding music to play. I'd do promoting things, like getting flyers made, and email blasts to more than just my friends. For years now club owners try to have nights at their establishments with only the DJ's name to get a crowd. If no one knows we're there, they won't come. It doesn't matter that you're only charging $5 or not charging at all. DJs provide the tunes and regulate the mood. If you want big booty pumping music you'll hear everything that is played in strip/go-go bars, if you want an old school night then MJ and Prince will blast through your speakers. We work with the concept of the night and play the appropriate music. We also have to make sure that there is enough played and timed right to keep it interesting all night and for however many weeks or months the particular party lasts. Keep in mind this is what actual DJs do. 

Hey Mr Promoter: PAY ME!!! You and the club owner need to have your budget worked out. Don't quote fees to me that are subject to change because a fight ended the party early or the bar didn't "make what you thought it would". In the immortal words spoken in the movie Goodfellas, "FUCK YOU PAY ME!" Also, people are not stupid, they can read. Promote the kind of night that it's supposed to be and those people will show up. If you tell me its an '80s night, don't run up to the booth and ask me to play Usher because five girls in the back that you know aren't dancing. Tell those broads to have a Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper dance battle and keep the night the way it was intended to be. One more thing, you get what you pay for. I know there are some crackhead dudes that will try and undercut our deal. If you want to pay that little I'll play for a shorter time and DJ All Thumbs can bat clean-up. Parties in NYC fell off hard because of undercutting rookies.

Hey Party Goer: I love you...but, I need you to use a little discretion when approaching me. First, I'm not your iPod. Yes the album cut I played is your favorite song but the follow up song may be foreign to you. DO NOT ask me to play the rest of the album that you like because you didn't recognize the song I played after it. When I say I don't have the rest of the album on my computer its a nice way of saying, "Beat it weirdo!" While I'm playing is not a good time to introduce me to new music that you and the one other person you came in with like. No, I don't want you to get the CD or iPod from your car so I can play it.

Second, to the pretty, flirty, girl that asks, "Are you going to play this all night?" You were cute right up until you opened your mouth and let the Cloverfield out. Usually, right after that girl comes to the booth, her semi-inebriated boyfriend or escort for the night follows up with "Bro can you play the new [whatever song] for us?" Understand, it's 11:30 p.m., the room isn't full yet, and people are just getting their second drink. NO!!!! I'm not going to play the "NEW [whatever]" until people are actually here. (That scenario was for DJs who have to do commercial/mainstream parties) Same scenario with a themed night. It's cool, I know you wandered in off the street, but before you automatically think the DJ doesn't know what he's doing, just ask, "What's going on here tonight?" See? Not difficult, and polite.

DJs: Good luck, rock the house, and I'll scream on you guys later.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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