This is a quick intro to being your own DJ for an event or party, with tips and tricks to make it a successful evening full of dancing, booty shaking, and singing along to your favorite songs at the top of your lungs! Some people might tell you that without a live DJ DJing your event, nobody will dance, you won't have a good flow to fit the crowd, or you will end up working the entire night, well, let me tell you, that is a dirty little sales pitch. All you've got to do is set aside some time in advance to prepare with these quick and easy recommendations, nothing more than you'd already do when hiring and preparing with a live DJ. If you do, I can assure you that your night will be stress-free, have your own personal touch, be loads of fun, full of positive organic memories, and save you a bunch of money in the process.
The Venue for a Dance Off. Space & location can be a significant influence on what equipment you need and the floor plan to get the results you want. Unsurprisingly a giant room with only a few people will lead to very little dancing, and a cramped room with dining tables and no designated dance space will render the same poor results. The principal balance is a cozy enough room to be intimate and energetic but not so tightly packed that people can't clear a circle for a show of some spontaneous b-boy footwork.
Equipment & Application. Probably the most important choice you'll have to make when preparing for your event is to select the sound system and lighting that fits your desired outcome. For example, if you are planning only to make a few announcements or toasts with some light background music to set the mood you won't want an overly loud bass-thumping sound system and crazy lighting to distract and disrupt the mingling and social aspect of the party. Instead, choose a smaller more discrete package that is not only cheaper but not over the top. On the flip side, if you want people to get up off their seats and dance like it's 1999 then you need VOLUME, bass to pulse through their bones, and colorful dancing lights! Nothing will kill the dance party's vibe like sub-standard weak audio and bright nasty fluorescent venue lighting will. It might cost a bit more upfront, but the payoff for a party with all your guests simultaneously jumping around, head-banging, and performing their signature dance moves is priceless.
Dead air = Dead Party. Just like any radio show or dance club just 2 seconds of pure silence is enough time to lose the moment. There are a couple of ways you can prevent this from occurring. First, if you plan to use a music subscription service or media player like Itunes, most provide an option to adjust your crossfade settings. Each song will vary with intro and outro times so giving yourself an 8+ second fade is a decent buffer, however, if you can it's best to preview your playlist before the event to ensure you won't have any gaps in the transition. The second way to avoid a dead air moment is to have your playlist on two separate devices, while this approach is much more hands-on sometimes a manual slide of the fader can be your ticket to success. Additionally, it's a good practice to have a backup device on standby to fade to just in case you have a device failure or midway through Macklemore's "Downtown" you realize it isn't quite as wholesome as your sweet granny would appreciate. Another dead air moment you want to avoid can happen if you are using a streaming music service when all of a sudden you run out of data minutes. Don't make this rookie error, ensure that you have downloaded your playlist for offline playback!
Music Selection for the Masses. Another category where it is best first to think of what your desired outcome is then work your way back into designing a playlist. There is a good chance you believe your favorite music tracks are second to none, and for you, they probably are. However, if you play only the songs you know and love, you might just be the only one on the dance floor. The easiest place to start is by considering the age of the majority of your attendees, then look at the "Top 40" charts for when those people were in High School. Most people connect emotionally and nostalgically with the songs they listened to in their prime. Once you have figured that out, begin to filter through the songs, a good rule of thumb is "Upbeat puts people on their feet, deep groove and people won't move." Try to mix it up a bit with music that spans multiple decades, maybe throw in a group line dance or two, something that requires a little group participation might draw in a few wallflowers. A slow dance song is a big win with the hopeless romantics and the perfect bathroom break opportunity for shy singles, just be sure to follow it with something that is upbeat and irresistible. No matter what you do, never play two slow songs back to back. Keep a timeline in mind too, as the night goes on, the elders will start to filter out, and people will either succumb to the effects of alcohol or peer pressure, that's the perfect time to get more creative and daring with your music selection gradually. Flow is uber important, so in your preparation try to follow a pattern of building up the energy, then easing off, building it up higher, then backing it down, and finally, going berserk near the end to finish off in near riot status. The key to all of this is to know your crowd and plan accordingly. It's a good idea to have plan B on standby, a second or third playlist focused on particular genres of music can be a real party saver if your original setlist is falling on its face crossfade over to a backup playlist in a style that has been trending for the night.
Crowd Control and People Management. Like most things in life, too many hands in the cookie jar means nobody gets cookies. Don't let your guests adjust the playlist. This can take a turn for the worst quickly, being the DJ means discriminating against certain songs and holding true to everyone, not anyone. Don't be afraid to delegate someone tasked with making sure unauthorized adults and children aren't messing with your stuff. If "that one guy/gal" is overly persistent about how badly they need to hear their favorite ICP song it might be time to kindly remind them that you hand-picked these songs for the enjoyment of everyone, and it would mean a lot to you if you could play through them all.
Lighting. I can't stress the importance of lighting enough. It is figuratively a night and day difference as to the outcome of your event. Bright lights and fluorescent ceiling lighting instantly make people uncomfortable. It will single-handedly set the tone for your entire evening because if there is one thing nervous people won't do, it is dance in front of another human being in broad daylight with a crowd of complete strangers watching and judging their every move. Instead give them the illusion of nobody watching, under the cloak of darkness, only then will people let their freak flag fly to songs like "Baby Got Back". Your goal should be a very dimly lit room if any light at all if that is too dark and people are falling over the top of each other try turning on an adjacent hall light or leave an exit door open. Never turn on any lights directly overhead of the dance floor.
It's YOUR Party. You can do what you want to. Remember these are only tips and suggestions, unfortunately, there is no "one size fits all" magical formula for DJ success, even the best and highest-paid DJs get dealt a stick in the mud crowd now and again. If things aren't going as planned, don't stress, roll with it, be flexible, and try something else. If you have prepared yourself with a few backup strategies and know what songs you have at your disposal, your solution could be a finger swipe away from turning it around. Just like a stand-up comedian having a plant or two in the crowd who can laugh on command, knowing who your party people are and setting an example yourself is contagious. So get out there, grab your party peeps, and have yourself a good time, others will surely follow.
Original Content By Gavin Bohne