As a DJ, one of the main challenges you’ll face is handling requests from your audience.
While requests can be a great way to engage with your crowd, it’s essential to manage them effectively to maintain the flow and integrity of the selection.
With this in mind, without any fluff or B.S., I thought we’d explore some practical tips on how to deal with requests and some of the etiquette involved.
So, let’s get straight into it.
1. Bring a notepad or clipboard
My number one tip for taking requests is undoubtedly the old-school pen & paper.
Suitable for a vast variety of gigs, simply leaving a notepad at the decks is a fantastic way to divert the attention from you as the DJ. That is, if it’s not a good time to lend your ear, you can politely direct them to the notepad to look at when you’re ready.
I like to think of it more as a diversionary tool rather than a regimental process to follow!
Advising punters to text requests has a similar result. For this, you can simply have the instruction written down on paper at the booth, or even create a pre-prepared sign. One tool that can help with this is Request Now.
If you want to make more of an effort, then creating a dedicated request list or form for event guests will obviously look more professional, particularly for weddings and upmarket parties!
2. Use a streaming platform
Much more widely used nowadays, particularly by open-format DJs, are of course streaming platforms.
Aside from having a well-rounded music collection that you’ve spent countless hours curating (and that you own!), these undoubtedly provide the best ‘catch-all’ solution for taking song requests.
Whilst you should never completely rely on them due to the internet issue, having a subscription to a relevant streaming platform such as TIDAL or Beatsource will be your best friend at weddings, private parties, club-orientated bars, and the like.
If it’s not available directly through your DJ controller/DJ software, you can simply turn your mobile phone into a hotspot and connect it to your controller with a special audio cable.
3. Divert the blame
General rule of thumb: if the person that hired you—the bride/groom or the birthday boy/girl—requests a track then you should probably play it!
However, in this instance, if you feel that the request is going to bomb and empty the dancefloor, it’s good to have a go-to strategy up your sleeve.
The classic tip here is to divert the blame!
To do this, quickly turn the music down and make sure everybody knows the next track isn’t coming from you, announcing it and identifying the requester over the mic right before you play it (like a song dedication, basically). As well as sharing the blame, if the track does sour the mood, it will hopefully deter others from requesting incongruent or outright crappy songs in the process.
Obviously this doesn’t work so well if the venue manager or promoter insists on a track or abrupt genre change. In this case, you’ll just have to suck up the blame yourself.
👉 Read this next: How to engage an audience using a mic.
4. If you don’t have it, just be honest
If you don’t have the track in question (or, for whatever reason, you have ZERO intention of playing it), the simplest thing is to politely tell them you don’t have it, or that you ‘’don’t have access to it’’.
The modern-day excuse here is, of course, to blame it on the lack of internet and/or access to a streaming platform!
Assuming their first request wasn’t ridiculous, then consider offering another suggestion in the same vein or ask them for another request.
Simply being polite & courteous, telling them you don’t have it will work most of the time.
5. Respectfully decline
As we’ve briefly touched on, the requested track might be flat-out inappropriate for the current vibe. Or maybe you played it earlier in the evening.
If you do choose to say NO, explain your decision politely, mentioning factors like genre compatibility or the current mood of the crowd, perhaps asking them for an alternative suggestion.
Certainly never bow down to rood or drunken punters who demand to ‘’play this next’’, or to ‘’play it now’’. Whilst these situations can be tough, it’s important to keep your cool and remain professional whilst still standing your ground.
Remember, unless you’ve openly agreed to take requests ahead of time, you’re under no obligation to do so. In the end, you’re the one in charge of the music!
Whilst I’ve personally never found myself in a situation where it would be considered acceptable etiquette, some DJs even put up a No Requests sign., although I’m not recommending it.
👉 Read this next: How to read a crowd as a DJ.
6. Leverage social media
Social media can be leveraged in a number of ways to help with requests. Pre-event can be good on Facebook if the night has a dedicated page. Here you can ask the attendees what they want to hear and generally gauge their musical tastes.
Using Twitter or Instagram polls can also be effective as a real-time solution, or similarly, Twitter hashtags relevant to the night/occasion. These allow your followers to vote for the tracks during your set and can be advertised via a banner or sign at the DJ booth.
You could even allow your audience to actively participate in curating your setlist. I’ve seen this work for specialist parties with a pre-designated theme for a particular demographic, such as a classic trance or disco night, for example.
7. Assuming it’s a good request
Assuming the person is polite and the song request is a viable option, then of course you’ll want to play it! However, if you receive a request at a bad time, it’s best to politely let them know you’ll consider the request a bit later on in the evening.
If you do choose to play a request straight away, I’d suggest proceeding with caution. Whilst it can be just the right ‘’intel’’ you need at that particular moment, the person will sometimes take advantage of your willingness to oblige and potentially harass you for the rest of the night.
With the exception of underground club DJs and ‘’top-tier’’ names, whether you like it or not, the average working DJ will routinely have to take requests.
With the right approach, embracing the task with grace as best you can will enhance the connection between you and your audience, improving your people skills in the process.
Remember, finding the right balance is key, and a skilled DJ knows how to blend their expertise with the desires of the crowd, creating an unforgettable experience for all.