Do You Take Request!
If a venue is small enough, a DJ can usually spot a request coming. There’s a very clear sequence. Someone in the venue begins searching though their phone before giving their nearby friend a “wink and a gun”. Suddenly, they’re walking to the booth faster than a kid in a Candy Store,
I would hate to give people the impression I’m a jukebox. I believe a DJ absolutely shouldn’t take every request and will have to learn to say no to a lot of people. But a “soft” no gets the same message across without burning a bridge.
In many cases, we are doing private events and the direction of the music is already been decided. If the bride and groom gives an okay prior to the event to accept request, we can try to play the song that is requested. As a DJ I know that certain songs won’t have the same impact if it’s played at the wrong time. Most of us wait until the climax of the party to drop the biggest songs, because they’re guaranteed to get the best reaction at this point. Playing a song too early will not incite the same reaction, and we always prefer playing these songs once we know that the party has the peak number of occupants
There are countless ways to handle this situation, but here is how I approach request:
In a lot scenarios, as a DJ I can give a somewhat neutral response to a requester and still get that guest back on the dance floor. In these cases, you likely haven't said "No" but you also didn't make any promises. The trick is to set honest expectations.
“I love that song, but I have to play records when the time is right. I can’t make any promises.”
“The vibe isn't quite there right now, but I’ll keep that one in mind!”
“That song is great but it doesn’t really fit with the set I prepared. If I find a spot where it could work, I’ll make sure you’re still around.”
Some songs that are requested just don’t fit the direction we are headed for the night, even when they are great, classic songs. There are songs that we personally love, yet we realize that they aren’t meant to be played at the specific party or event.
Also, when I DJ for a private event, many clients actually tell us not to play certain songs. Whether it’s a Wedding, Birthday Party, or whatever it may be…many clients just don’t want us to play certain songs that might actually work great for the crowd. Surprisingly, one of my clients demanded that I didn’t play “The Wobble” at their Wedding. This can make it challenging for the DJ, especially when we know all the aunties/friends are going to hate us for not playing it.
Requests are always going to feel weird, there’s no way around it. But DJs are hired to deliver a service, and sometimes that means dealing with criticism.
Different scenarios will call for different responses, but remaining respectful is a rule of thumb that will always help your case, no matter what route you decide to take.