Preparing the Dish the Client Ordered? by Jay Maxwell

July 15, 2012 by Jay Maxwell

Not long ago, while my wife and I were eating at one of the finest restaurants in our fair city, I overheard the conversation between the waiter and a lady who was ordering the meal for her guests to enjoy. Though this venue offered some of the finest cuisine in town, instead of ordering from the menu, she gave the waiter a long list of food for the chef to prepare.This particular eatery had a reputation for catering to a client’s wishes, so I was wondering what the response from the chef would be with such an exquisite array of requested dishes that he was asked to prepare.

The waiter returned shortly and explained to the lady that the chef would have every dish prepared exactly like she had ordered. Some of the ingredients were not currently in the kitchen, but the chef had already sent someone to secure all the necessary meats, fruits, and spices to delight everyone’s taste buds for the evening. I thought to myself, this is truly a business that caters to a customer’s desires. My wife and I even ordered dessert, something that we rarely do, just to be able to stay longer to see the lady’s expression when the meal arrived for all her guests.

It was at the exact moment that my wife let me have the last bite of chocolate cake that the specially prepared meal was served to the table next to ours. The moment of truth was at hand and I anxiously awaited the “oohs and aahs” from the table to express their appreciation to the waiter and chef for their extra service. Instead I was shocked at what happened next. The guests did not like what the lady had ordered for them and in fact the lady was extremely upset that her guests were not happy. Just as I was lay- ing the tip on our table for the fine service, I heard the lady call the waiter over to tell him that she was very disappointed. When he asked what dish was not prepared to her exact specification (thinking that must be the issue), she explained in great detail that if she had actually wanted what she ordered, she would have stayed home and cooked it herself. As a professional waiter, it was his job to tell her what her guests would have liked, that the long list of special food that she had requested were only suggestions. What he should have brought to her guests were meals that they would have enjoyed.

After reading the last two paragraphs, you are probably finding that scenario hard to believe and wanting to call me to ask if that really happened. Well, no need to call me, because it did NOT happen. At least it did not happen at a restaurant. But this HAS happened on several occasions recently with our clients and their long music lists containing an exquisite menu of requested songs. We pride ourselves, as all mobile DJs should, on catering to the client’s requests. However, the trend lately has been customers, mainly wedding couples, who are creating long lists of their favorite songs. Nothing wrong with that of course, but too often the list contains music that is very obscure (i.e. no one but the bride or groom has heard the song before) or is not danceable.

The most recent issue we had with such an extensive list happened almost exactly like the fictional restaurant story. A bride gave us nearly four pages of music not found in our song list booklet (our booklet contains nearly 2000 “tried and true” dance classics) that she requested. Most of these songs I did not have, so I bought them to make sure that we satisfied her tastes. When her guests did not dance to her requests, she was upset. When she called me after the event, her chief complaint was that the DJ should have known what to play for her guests, that her list was only a “suggestion” and had she actually wanted those songs played she would have simply put them on an i-pod and avoided the cost of a professional DJ.

While every client, and especially every bride, wants their guests to have an unprecedented experience, and though each client’s input is valuable, at times their requests are not conducive to creating a festive atmosphere. Thus the dilemma is how to give the client exactly what she wants. Every reader of this article has enough experience to offer a client their advice on what works. For twenty years, I have had the pleasure of writing this article and creating lists based on what songs work to get a party started and the dance floor packed. But with this recent phenomenon of receiving song lists that are not crowd pleasers, we must cautiously advise the client that if she wants her guests to enjoy themselves, we recommend the following: 1) Give the DJ a list of all of her requests, both from our song booklet and tunes that she wants played from her specially created list. 2) Let us take guests’ requests during the event. Of course if the client has listed certain songs or categories of music not to play, that will take precedence over the guests’ requests. 3) Allow the DJ to use his or her own knowledge based on years of experience to mix her requests, her guests’ requests, and a few of his own song choices that always get the crowd on their feet.

Still, it is a fine line to walk—you want to please the client, but what do they really want? One hopes that the reason we are hired as professional disc jockeys is that we have the ability to create a party. We are like an artist with a palette of paint. Regardless of how many colors the artist may have access to, each artist must use his or her own creativity to design a masterpiece. If a client told an artist to use only certain colors and perhaps said not to use the color blue, then when the artist finished the painting the

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client may question why the sky looked unnatural. The artist would simply reply that he was limited in his choices, thus the sky is a dull shade of brown rather than the brilliant blue that was expected. This issue’s list gives five “surefire” songs from several categories to help every DJ who is serious about preparing a tasty musical dish with a beat that makes everybody want to move their feet. Remember to explain to your client well in advance that you will do everything to make her party the event of the year and that you want and value her input. However, try to have her give you the reigns to the party so you can mix the right ingredients to really get the party cooking. After all, you want to be ready to serve up some real fun when someone shouts, “Play Something We Can Dance To!”

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Jay Maxwell Jay Maxwell (29 Posts)

Mobile Beat’s resident musicologist since 1992 (issue #11), Jay Maxwell runs the multi-talent entertainment company, Jay Maxwell’s Music by Request, LLC, in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also a professor of Business at Charleston Southern University. His passion for detail and continuous research of clients’ requests can be found not only in this column, but also in his annually updated music guide, Play Something We Can Dance To.


Filed Under: Events, Issue #143, Performing