AHEAD OF THE CURVE
HAVE CLIENT PLAY LISTS GOTTEN OUT OF HAND?
I was wondering to myself the other day: At what point in time did our clients take over control of our music choices? Over the past 30 years, our customers have always given us general musical guidelines and a few special requests, but within the few years, the lists we tend to get in advance are often several pages long even after we’ve politely explained before they hired us that we need flexibility to read the crowd, honor their viable requests and use our own judgement. They nod, smile, agree, sign the contract and then still send a six-page list of “must plays.”
Some of you are probably in denial right now; especially if you thought to yourself, “I don’t let my clients tell me what to play!” News flash: In today’s world of online reviews and social media’s viral reach, many potential clients will pass you by and look for a different DJ as soon as they read a review about you that says, “We sent in a long list
of songs, but the DJ didn’t play most of the music we asked for.” The review won’t mention that because you didn’t play all of their non-danceable, semi-recognizable personal favorites, you managed to pack the dance floor all night by reading the crowd and playing the music needed to make their event a huge success. No, they only remember that you didn’t play their long list of lame requests. Clearly, clients like this are mainly interested in “control.” With more and more clients demonstrating this mindset every year, one might think mobile DJs are destined to become little
more than pre-formatted human jukeboxes.
It wasn’t always like this. How did this change happen, and why? One possibility is an insidious side effect of the
already damaging “iPod DJ” problem and the rise of “me too” DJs fueled by huge, illegal MP3 libraries. When our future clients attend an event ruined by one of these characters, they start to think, “Uh oh, we’d never hire this guy…we really need to tell our next DJ what we want to hear, so our party doesn’t tank like this one.” Thus, I believe, the amateurs have undermined the public’s faith in a DJ’s ability to make the party happen without their help.
But why do pro DJs allow this? Perhaps playing from a long playlist from the client is seen by some DJs as a way of
serving their clients wishes. I’d argue that the client also wants a great party where everyone stays until the end. Which would you prefer I do? Playing from a client’s long playlist seemingly relieves that DJ of responsibility for the success or failure of the event. Complacent DJs have decided that it’s much easier to play what the paying client asks for and then simply let the chips fall where they may. You still got paid, right?
If that?s your attitude, respectfully, you should probably think about changing professions. It?s a crying shame
to know that you could have pumped the crowd and turned a mediocre function completely around, but instead, you dutifully followed the clueless client?s instructions to the letter, and watched as nobody danced and everyone
left early. (And by the way, they all left your business cards behind too.) No DJ can survive by letting the client be the DJ, any more than a master chef will allow a paying restaurant patron to dictate the ingredients in menu dishes that are being served to everyone else in the restaurant.
We need to stand up as an industry and make some basic “request” rules that every real pro DJ follows. I am seriously thinking about handing each client a simple genre checklist (Top 40, Dance, Urban/Hip Hop, 90s, 80s, Rock,
Disco/70s, Funk, etc.) so that they can let us know their favorite music styles by category only. We’ll choose the songs from each category they’ve selected and we’ll also choose when to play them. We’ll let the clients add up to six “must plays” and up to three “don’t plays,” then leave the rest to the professionals. If that doesn’t work for the client, they can certainly find an abundance of out-of-work, human iPod “yes men” with sound systems and a lower price, who’ll be happy to play four hours of Megadeth or John Denver. They’ll both get exactly what they deserve! MB
Filed Under: Issue #147
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