How to Piss Off a DJ in 5 Easy Steps
You have the most amazing taste in music. You know it, I know it, hell even the Feds know it! This clown behind the ones and twos needs to get with the program. Lucky for them you just got to the club. Let’s get to work!
Walk into the venue like you just listened to the Spotify Viral 50 and Googled the Billboard Hot 100. After back to back Vegas Bombs, quickly scan the venue for the DJ booth. If you can’t quickly locate it, just look for the sneaky spot where the waitress keeps disappearing with drinks.
Make a bee-line for the booth. If there is a doorman in your way, use your “charm” and drop a couple “bros” and ask if you saw him at the gym the other day. Compliment his incredible gains. You should be in by now.
Try to get eye contact with the DJ even if he looks busy. Just by interrupting him in the middle of his performance you’ll have already irritated him before you’ve even opened your mouth. Maybe he just started his set and the place is just starting to pop; perfect. Now it’s time for you to grab those language skills and really shine!
Now, you could start off saying something (gasp!) friendly and polite like, “Hey, love what you’re playing so far! If I slide you a twenty could you find room to fit in __________? If not, no worries.” Yes, you could say something like that, but….
THIS IS NOT WHAT WE’RE HERE FOR!!
There are several different routes you can go, but these are some tried and tested phrases that are sure to accomplish your goal.
- “This song sucks. Change it!”
You can’t lose with this one because it’s literally at the core of their job. They’re gonna have to change the song eventually and usually do something like that every two minutes. In less than one round of boxing your influence is being felt.
- “Can you play something good?”
You are really gonna hit this selector with an existential crisis with this particular phrase. Can they play something good? Do they even know what is good music to you? Are they even aware of how much more important and amazing your taste in music is out of the hundreds or thousands of attendees? Do they even care?
- “It’s my friend’s birthday and…”
Whoa!!!! Did you say birthday!!! Inserting this first thing into a conversation with a perfect stranger you are interrupting mid-performance and looking for a favor from is a sure-fire way to get things going. Immediately this person is going to realize that they owe you something. Your power move does not go unnoticed. Don’t try and tip them and politely ask for a specific song. Saying it is you or a friend’s birthday is practically a license to print cash. It’s like Experience Dollars or Exposure Bucks, which most musicians will agree is better than money. Like I said….
THIS IS NOT WHAT WE’RE HERE FOR!!
- “Can you play Bamboo Sunflower Matrix by PandaTron 3562?”
Now, the key to this isn’t so much in the specific question. That is something that may actually be preferred by the DJ. It’s the obscurity of it and your facial expression after you ask it. Make sure it is something nowhere near the genre they are currently playing and when they say they haven’t heard of that particular song, make sure you do your best Tucker Carlson impression and look at them like they don’t know how a front door works. Then say, “You HAVEN’T heard that song?!!!!” and, “Isn’t that your job?” Or something to that effect. Make the face again. Now we’re cookin’.
Try and draw out this conversation for as long as possible. A little back story doesn’t hurt and make sure you don’t quickly ask for a specific artist and song (if this cat even takes requests). If you can hum a couple lines of a melody or mumble some undecipherable lyrics (great for mumble rap enthusiasts btw), then you are well on your way. As long as they are listening to you talk as opposed to doing whatever they do with those headphones, then you’ve made an impact.
If by this point you are not seeing a red face or smoke coming out of one ear (the other ear probably has a headphone on it), then perhaps this particular music curator went to yoga earlier that day and is taking a Zen approach to this whole interaction. If all else fails, leave them with this.
“This looks fun and really easy to do. What’s your real job?”
After slathering you with a generous portion of sarcasm, let me provide a counterpoint. At some point in a DJ’s career they will have to deal with rude people. And even those acts that have household names and 9-digit bank accounts occasionally have to set an overzealous show attendee in their place (check out Calvin Harris do it here and this is another good one here).
If dealing with the occasional ignorant or rude person is one of the cons of DJing, then it is far out-weighed by the great number of pros that go along with the job. Half the time people do know how to talk to a performer (the other half, not so much), and sometimes you can get a decent suggestion you may have not been aware of or have forgotten about. I don’t need to talk to people at most of my gigs (thanks security) if I don’t want to, but I sometimes do just for the sake of market research. Also, to try out some zippy responses I have prepared for those annoying questions we tend to get over and over again (stay tuned for a piece on this in the near future).
If I can convey one sentiment from this piece is that you should let the DJ play. They’ve been hired for their expertise and your suggestions are probably not going to help. They can tell when things are working and when they’re not. Your desire to talk to them mid-performance is annoying from the get up, so be super polite and brief if you decide to approach them and expect any sort of positive response. They may listen to you but never play your song because it doesn’t fit the format, venue or vibe, they aren’t familiar with it, or they just don’t like it. Honestly, if you really want to hear your jam (trusting it fits the format), there is only one approach that works 95% of the time if you understand the night’s music style.
JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. He has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova.