Five Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years of DJing

One of the people I admire and respect most in the industry, Danny Tenagalia –recently posted up his Top 5 things he learned in 30+ years of DJing. And with my third decade on the decks quickly approaching – I thought I would add my own take on the same subject.

5) DJing Is All About Give and Take

Respecting your crowd is vital to being able to move them. Many DJs want to play their own music all night, but this will never do – especially if you haven’t already won them over by gaining their trust, but DJing isn’t about being a human jukebox and playing nothing but the hits all night either. There is a back and forth, a give and take that the best DJs develop with a crowd that guides their decisions. As one of the all time greats, David Mancuso once said – “A DJ must have one foot in the booth and one on the dance floor.”

4) More Sociology than Mixology

While becoming technically proficient is important, understanding people and how to read them is the primary skill a DJ needs to master. Playing a good set one night in no way means that you have “figured it out” and if you plan on playing different types of events – you need to learn about music from many different eras and understand that reading the crowd is an ever-evolving process that only comes with experience.

3) You are the Facilitator, not the Star

With all the articles about Calvin Harris making 400K a night and Steve Aoki throwing cakes into the crowd, it is easy to forget the central roll of the DJ is to be the party facilitator. Back in the day, the DJ booth was a dark spot in the back of a club where the DJ went about his business, creating the vibe for a room full of people – helping them to unwind from a hard week, celebrate a birthday, or pick up that cute boy or girl across the room. DJs used to be PART of the party, not the center of attention. Try and keep that in mind and put more effort into your mixing and music selection, than your Jesus pose.

2) Believe In Yourself

As a DJ, it is essential that you believe in your choices and stand behind them. It takes a lot of confidence to play a song that no one knows and stick with it even when the dance floor doesn’t immediately respond. The only way you can become a confident selector is by working hard and mastering your craft. And when you have finally reached that point, do us all a favor and don’t allow promoters and club owners to disrespect you and those who have come before you by agreeing to play for free.

1) Love Is The Key

DJing for me truly was love at first listen. From the moment I bought my first 12” (You Stepped Into My Life by Melba Moore in 1978), I was excited by the idea of taking records that made me smile, laugh, and cry – and playing them for a crowd, hoping I could get them to feel that same way along with me. I truly believe from the moment people walk into a club, even if they can’t see you smiling and dancing in the booth – they can FEEL it in your music and they can tell your set is coming from the heart. That is the central point – if your set comes from the heart, people will respond. Love your job, love your crowd and they will love you back.

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