A Valuable DJ Lesson Learned by Mastermix Label Manager Richard Lee!
I have been a professional DJ for over 20 years now and in that time I have done almost every type of DJing there is! Youth Clubs, Kids Parties, Weddings, Birthdays, Retirements, Anniversaries, Nightclubs, Theme Nights, Awards, Stadium Announcing, Radio…you name it…I’ve probably done it!
Of all the work that I have done it is probably theme nights that I enjoy the most. Why? Because most people attending are coming to enjoy that specific genre of music so you don’t have to worry about different age groups wanting different styles of music so you can be more experimental with your song selection and create a really exciting playlist which the audience will lap up as each track takes them back to their youth. There can be nothing more fulfilling for a DJ then watching their audience enjoy a rollercoaster ride of musical memories created from the music they are playing.
My particular favourite theme nights are the 50s/60s & 70s nights. Many years ago I started DJing for a group of people who arranged a Golden Oldies night to raise money for a local charity. The music was mainly 60s with a few 50s classics & Rock & Roll tracks thrown in as well as the occasional 70s tune to keep the night flowing. 20 years later and that same night is still going strong!
This night is so unique! The audience hasn’t changed much in all those years and we have become like one big family. I know exactly what tracks will work and when. They will dance to whatever I play and work with me to ensure the most amazing night is had by all and that each event pushes the boundary set by the previous one.
A recent event though caused me to realise that you never stop learning in this game…even after 20 years! It was a 60s night with a few 50s & 70s thrown in…perfect! I’ll give them a similar show to my tried & tested one as I know that gets them dancing all night. Once the guests had arrived and settled themselves I decided the time was right to start playing a few tracks to get them dancing before the pie & pea’s supper!
All the big hits were coming out – ‘Baby Love’, ‘Oh! Pretty Woman’, ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’, ‘Hold Back The Night’, ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’, ‘Move It’, ‘Runaround Sue’, ‘I’m Into Something Good’, ‘From Me To You’…and did they dance? As they say in Yorkshire “Did they eckers like!”.
What was going on? This was the same set that I played only a few weeks ago and they were dancing from the first track. Was it too loud? No! I always check that people are able to hold conversations around the room, especially when it’s an older audience! Were the lights in their eyes? No! I’d used subtle LED lighting to create a colour wash that was bothering no-one…so what was the problem?
I played some of the biggest hits of the 50s, 60s & 70s and no-one danced. Right…that’s it! I texted the wife to inform her that this would be the last time I would DJ at this event due to no-one responding to the music I’m playing. I was officially having a ‘showbiz strop’.
My first set ended and the lights went up in the room to signal the start of the pie & peas supper. The guests were out of the blocks in order to be amongst the first to get their food. So they are all still alive then…I was beginning to worry!
I slumped off the stage and headed for the exit in order to get some fresh air and clear my mind, especially as I had another 2 hour set to come.
As I approached the exit I was confronted by an elderly gentleman and his wife. “Are you the DJ?” he asked. “Yes…yes I am” came the nervous reply as I waited for the barrage of comments telling me that ‘I’m not very good as no-one danced’ or ‘It was too loud which is why no-one danced’…but I couldn’t have been further from the truth. The couple wanted to congratulate me on playing “the best selection of 50s & 60s they have heard in a long time”. They commented on the level of the music and that the lights were perfect as they don’t really like “all those flashing lights”.
I was shocked but before I could soak up what the couple had said I was approached by another gentleman who also wanted to congratulate me on some wonderful music and wanted to apologise for him and his wife not dancing as they had both “recently had hip replacements”.
A third man also wanted to comment on my music and also offered an apology for not dancing but he “fell of his bike recently and his back still hurts”.
Suddenly the penny dropped and the light bulb above my head glowed into life! I wasn’t a rubbish DJ after all…I was still ok! The reason no-one had danced was simple. In the words of the organiser “We are all getting older!”.
So my ‘showbiz tantrum’ was all for nothing. I wasn’t a bad DJ – but I still needed to learn a valuable lesson! Just because people aren’t packing a dancefloor doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoying themselves. By taking care with the music, sound level & lighting, I had managed to create the perfect environment for many of the guests who were content to sit and enjoy the music whilst still being allowed to engage in conversation with their fellow guests…often to reminisce about one of the songs being played.
Even after 20 years of experience I was still able to receive a lesson in life and DJing!
I texted my wife to inform her that I wasn’t retiring from DJing just yet and would probably be performing at their event next year after all…which prompted the simple reply…’x’