What Song Are You Playing Next? – By Jim Cerone

December 19, 2011 by Dan Walsh

The dream is always the same. You’re trying to run, but you’re not sure why. You can’t seem to get control of your arms and legs. The harder you try, the slower you go. At the same time that you realize you’re not running very fast, it also occurs to you that you’re hearing…nothing. Total, complete, deafening…silence.
That’s about the time you sit bolt upright in your bed, drenched in sweat, knowing you’re going to get fired by your boss because you’re in the middle of a radio show and you’ve just allowed—DEAD AIR!

Anyone who has ever worked in radio has had the same “dead air” dream. It’s drilled into you from the beginning, even before they ever let you sit behind a control board, that allowing dead air is the deadliest sin you can commit in radio.

In a radio station, everyone, from the general manager to the sales staff to the secretaries, has highly developed ears like radar dishes that immediately zero in on the smallest millisecond of silence. When that silence stretches from 1 second to 2, people begin to rise up out of their chairs in unison. If the silence reaches 3 seconds, the crowd will gallop toward the studio door like a pack of wild dogs unleashed from their pens—the leanest, strongest animals out front—the lame, the old, the sickly left behind to howl “Dead air!” while simultaneously disparaging your mother’s good name.

As mobile DJs, we feel a similar sensation but in a slightly different way. While watching the needle go around the last grooves of a vinyl record, or seeing the spool of cassette tape reach the very end, or witnessing the CD player clock countdown to the last seconds, we may experience “brain freeze” because we’re simply unable to figure out what song to play next!

A radio DJ may not get immediate feedback from their listeners. But when we’re playing music “live” at someone’s wedding, party or corporate event as a mobile DJ, and we accidentally allow dead air, the reaction from the crowd is instantaneous. We see, feel and hear it all at once. All conversation stops and you can hear a pin drop. People who were dancing suddenly freeze in place like statues. Every head in the crowd whips our way and we can feel every eye fall upon us.


How do you decide what song to play after this one? What thought-process do you go through to narrow down your choices? Where can you learn the tips and tricks that will prevent you from having a mobile DJ brain freeze nightmare?

Thankfully, we can adapt many of the rules of radio programming to improve our mobile DJ music selections. For the longest time, I didn’t realize that I was unconsciously using all of the techniques I learned in my 20-year career as a radio Music Director to pick the songs at my mobile DJ events. The formal training I received became so ingrained that during a wedding I would automatically put songs in a certain order based on the combination of art and science that I was taught.

At my seminars for Mobile Beat Vegas in 2012, you’ll learn these Top 10 secrets to creating “Perfect Music Programming.” Whether you’re playing music for cocktails, dinner or dancing—at a wedding, birthday party or corporate event—these concepts will help you easily look at a stack of music and quickly put it into a logical play list that flows smoothly and keeps every guest involved and entertained. See you in Vegas!

Jim Cerone is a professional wedding DJ and master of ceremonies primarily serving Indianapolis and Central Indiana. Since 1982, Jim has been making incredible events all over Indiana and throughout the Midwest. He is Indiana’s first and only Wedding Entertainment Director™ as part of the Wedding Entertainment Directors Guild™. Jim has shared his successful techniques in seminars on music programming, becoming the “Perfect Host” and much more, at conferences across the nation. 

Dan Walsh Dan Walsh (104 Posts)

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