Tips for Mobile DJs

As I mentioned before, we were at a party on Saturday night. The venue had a dancefloor, and the hosts had hired a mobile DJ to come and play some tunes for us to dance to. It was a good evening! However, the DJ did do one or two things which annoyed me slightly, and it put me in mind to write a post about mobile DJing.

Now, I should say before I begin that – although I’ve done my share of DJing, mobile and otherwise – I’m not a professional mobile DJ. However, I’m not writing this as a DJ – I’m writing this as a punter: someone who comes on these nights out and just wants to have a good time. I’m writing this because generally people might moan about a bad DJ to their friends, but they would never actually say anything to the DJ. So, the DJ just goes away believing he (or she) has done a good job and never actually realising that, well, they could improve.

So, this list here isn’t comprehensive, but it will help with some of the more common errors that I’ve seen DJs make in my time. Remember that this list is composed from the point of view of one of the punters, not as a DJ!

  1. GET OFF THE MIC. Seriously. I don’t want to hear someone talking over my favourite song, especially not when I’m in the middle of dancing to it. The only time you should be on the mic are when you’re announcing a request, or giving out some other information (e.g. “The bar is now open”, or “ten minutes until last orders” – that kind of thing). Let the music speak for itself.
  2. DON’T CUT SONGS SHORT. There is nothing more annoying then having a great time dancing to a song, only to find the DJ cuts it short. It’s especially bad if they then (a) start talking on the mic (see point 1), or (b) cut to a really awful song. This is especially important if a song is getting a good reaction.
  3. DON’T PLAY MEDLEYS / MEGAMIXES. They are the spawn of the Devil. I’m not joking here: they should be banned, and the people who created them lined up and shot! I’ve heard a Beatles megamix before which took a load of Beatles songs you would never dance to, and strung them all together in quite a soulless way with a beat underneath. Not surprisingly, no-one danced to it. If you’re going to play an artist, play the original version – not a megamix!
  4. LEARN TO MIX (BEATMATCH). This one is only important if you’re going to be play ‘dance’ music – house, trance etc – and you want to try and mix it ‘properly’. To be honest I thought this one would be self-evident, but at the party on Saturday night the DJ played a couple of songs back to back and tried to mix them together without beatmatching – i.e. getting them running at the same tempo – first. The end result was that the people on the dancefloor didn’t know which beat they were dancing to. Now, you could probably get away with this once or twice so it’s not the most important element on the list, but I’d still recommend avoiding mixing songs until you know how to mix them properly.
  5. DON’T ‘GO RANDOM’ WITH SONGS. What I mean by this is playing lots of different genres consecutively, with nothing in between. So, for example, playing a rock song, followed by an rnb song, followed by an 80s song, followed by a 60s style song, etc… now I’m not saying this would always be a wrong move, but I would say in general it’s good to try and ensure a smooth flow from one genre to another, rather than jumping erratically. That’s not to say you should never change genre suddenly, but I would suggest maybe doing 3-4 songs of one genre (at least) before moving to another one.
  6. THERE IS A VOLUME LEVEL BELOW ‘EAR-BLEEDINGLY LOUD’. Speaking as someone who suffers from tinnitus – volume is important. As in, low volume. Just because you have the capacity to turn the volume up to an incredible volume, doesn’t mean you should! I’d say as a general rule, if after two minutes of listening to music at a particular volume you feel the need to go outside and get away from it, it’s probably too loud. I should point out that a decent sound system will help here – a decent system will give you decent bass and highs without the need to crank the volume. If you cut corners with your sound system, you will run into these kind of problems.

Phew. I don’t think I’ve ever been so preachy! Even when I’m preaching… I hope I don’t come across as too much of an idiot here: I genuinely want to try and help, and sometimes these things are not obvious.

That’s all for now. Maybe one day I will create a new page specifically with this kind of information!

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2 thoughts on “Tips for Mobile DJs

  1. I had the misfortune to witness a truly awful mobile DJ a few weeks back. I began to get a bad feeling as he was setting up; his booth was branded with his DJ name, which, in this case, was something along the lines of ‘DJ Christopher Harrison’. Catchy.

    Having set up, it was a good forty five minutes or so before anyone ventured anywhere near the dance floor. Shocking music from DJ Christopher Harrison (‘in da house’) ensured the floor remained empty, but he seemed happy enough, dancing away to his own music behind the decks. He also would-not-shut-up. I have no idea what he was saying, though, since he had perfected the DJ mumble, and configured the sound system so that all we got was a bassy rumble whenever he opened his mouth.

    Eventually, two brave people (Claire and me if I remember rightly!) ventured onto the dance floor. Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, the DJ managed to entice people onto the floor by playing a sequence of ’70s disco classics. At one point, there must have been a good thirty or so people up dancing. Then he felt it was an appropriate moment to liven things up a bit by sticking on The Prodigy. The dance floor emptied instantly, and for the next fifteen minutes the only one dancing as the DJ himself.

    I suspect he was making an impassioned plea for us to come back to the dance floor, but all we got was that bassy rumble again.

    This pattern repeated itself pretty constantly throughout the night. At one point he excelled himself, however, He’d literally just got people up on the floor again, and about a minute into the track which had lured people up, he dropped it in favour of some hardcore rubbish. The floor cleared once more.

    At one point, Claire ventured up and asked for a request, Kharma Chameleon by Culture Club. The DJ responded that this was not an appropriate moment to play that particular track.

    He was truly, truly awful.

    Why do DJs think that parties revolve around them? They need to realise that they should remain in the background, feeling the vibe, and playing the music that people want to dance to. They shouldn’t be thrusting themselves to the fore, they shouldn’t be playing the music that they want to listen to, and ignoring the tastes of the crowd, and they certainly shouldn’t be telling people to go away when they ask for a request!

    And that’s why we didn’t have a DJ at our wedding….

  2. The problem with mobile DJs is that it’s very difficult to find a good one without having heard them first. I guess if you can’t get someone you’ve heard before to do it, it’s almost better not to have anyone!

    Just ignoring what people want to dance to and playing stuff you like is a recipe for disaster. That said, I think I’d have a hard time DJing at an event where people wanted lots of music I know virtually nothing about (say, RnB) but that’s why I’m not a ‘professional’ DJ!

    I DJd at my sister-in-law’s wedding in June and I think that went down pretty well though. Weddings are usually not too bad because you’ve got a variety of people there so you just kind of have to play a variety.

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