Archive for the ‘ DJ Competencies ’ Category

Hi! We need this instead

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There will be a time where you will face the unexpected “Hi! We need this instead”. If you’ve already encountered this, great you muscled through! Or did you? Without knowing how you handled it I can venture a guess of what it caused. But let me back up and define what I mean by HWNTI. It’s the day before or of your gig and a last minute change in the lineup, or the party, has caused a situation where you need to adjust your set to fit said change in situation. Any DJ worth their salt looks at it like a challenge, but deep down inside rest assured there’s a bit of concern <panic>. Never fear, you can handle this. All it takes is a count to 10 and get to work attitude! You don’t have time to resist it or complain about it. If you happen to be a DJ in the position of pushing back then I say do it, but carefully. Most really good DJ’s have already sussed out whether a gig is right for them or have an arsenal that can accommodate but, shit happens (too much in my opinion). If you’re dealing with a major shift in genre, figure out the common thread musically that can transition into what you want and you’ll be fine. Believe it or not, things never play out the way your anxiety thinks it will.  How many times have you dealt with an unknown and it all ended up ok. So keep in mind that it’s a party, you want to make people happy, and they’re usually amenable to deviations in musical expectations. Your job is finding the fine line of connecting between what is expected and what they don’t know they desire. There can be a big enough difference in the two for you to play with. Be comfortable with the unknown and the challenge, that’s usually where the magic lies.

HOW TO HANDLE PRESSURE

Pressure is not something to be taken lightly.  Well, let me back up.   There’s different kinds of pressure.  Pressure you put on yourself and pressure others put on you.   The pressure I want you to pay attention to first is the pressure you put on yourself.  That you don’t take lightly.  For a second, forget about everyone else, doesn’t matter who they are.  One thing I know about DJs is that you will obsess to no end on the littlest details and efforts, you are perfectionists and your own worst critics.  Sometimes it can be a vortex you get sucked into, a never ending loop of questioning and doubt and that’s just what can happen in your own studio!  Pressure can manifest itself in many ways, from obsessing to full blown anxiety.  Guess what, that’s ok!  It’s ok to have standards and push yourself, it’s ok to get a little nervous before a gig.   The problem is when the pressure is so paralyzing you are not moving forward, getting out of your own head, or being relaxed enough to get into the flow.  You have to maintain perspective in the face of pressure.  Some DJs go into things thinking ok, I know something is going to happen – it always does!  Then somehow they magically chill out.  It’s a quick fix though and doesn’t help with the long term grind of being a DJ.

Handling pressure is one of the biggest tools in your DJ arsenal.  Remember the openness of your mind and your heart directly affects your creativity.  The point is to pre-empt pressure before it becomes so acute you get twisted up and tangled in your own situation.  You need to stay ahead of pressure.  That means not procrastinating, knowing what you’re doing, working out ideas as soon as you have them, being organized, and reducing distractions (do you really need to be the 39th comment on a Facebook post?).  If you have your internal pressure valve on balance you will be able to handle the other kind of pressure, the pressure from others.

Everyone has a stake in your game at some point – regardless of your level.  Venue owners, promoters, agents, producers, labels, other DJs, to name a few.  All of them have expectations and in a lot of cases rightfully so.  How you handle pressure from others is nothing short of knowing what your priorities are at every turn.  You may want to consider the agent a priority because you’re at a certain level and want to be part of an agency, so making sure you’re responsive to them is your priority for the moment.  Venue owners, have to get above that bar guarantee!, may need some extra assurance so promoting may be your priority.  It all depends on your situation and what is most important to you.  I didn’t mention the audience or your music (your music can be an entity in of itself) because those will always be your priority depending on your DJ philosophy.  I’m just talking about the extra chatter and needs of others that you may perceive as contributing to pressure filled situations.

Above anything else you need to get to a state of comfort and confidence.   If you are on top of the noise inside your head first then anything else should be a breeze.  Pressure will always be there whether it’s internal or external, it’s part of the DJ vocation.  The thing to remember is that you can’t be everything to everyone, including yourself.

HOW TO FIND YOUR DJ STYLE

Credit: John Matthew Photography Flickr

I’ve posted some DJ exercises in the past that hinted on developing your style as a DJ.  I’d like to write a more comprehensive piece for you.  Hopefully this will provide you the mindset to think more broadly about your style.

 
Your style starts at birth, I really believe that.  If you think about your entire life, everything you have done, everything you have seen, everything you are contributes to your style as a DJ.  For better or worse everything in your past and present directly contributes to who you are as a DJ.
Considering though that DJs love tips and lists, I have compiled a series of questions to ask yourself.  Dig deep I always say!

 
1) Growing up, what did your parents listen to?  Whether you liked it or not, you absorbed that in some way.  How is it manifesting in your musical choices?  This includes if you played a musical instrument.  Based on my research most DJs played a musical instrument at some point in their life. Get back in touch with all of that.

2) What is your role in a group or social setting?  Are you the quiet observer or the instigator (hopefully in a good way!)?  Are you the confidante, do people automatically tell you their life stories?  Figure out the role you play when you are with people and chances are that’s the type of presence or vibe you should have behind the decks.

3) Obvious! Who are your DJ and musical heroes? It’s more than that though.  Really study and experiment with different techniques and equipment.  Stretch yourself to the max.  Don’t be lazy and find what you’re really good at (are you good at drops, cuts, long blends, creating music on the fly, empathy with the crowd) – that should point you in the right direction.

4) Who are the people around you? Are you in touch with an artist community aside from other DJs? Understand that inspiration and style can come from many different places.

This is about finding your uniqueness and if it’s one thing about DJ’ing, you need to stand out and be authentic.

If you haven’t seen the DJ exercises I mentioned check these out:
The Zen DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/01/26/the-zen-dj-challenge/

The What’s My Sound DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/06/28/the-whats-my-sound-dj-challenge/

The Out Of My Element DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/04/06/out-of-my-element-dj-challenge/

WHOSE OPINION MATTERS?

I get insights from the strangest places.  Case in point Seth Godin, who is a marketing and publishing guru.  He wrote a brutally honest article called “Is Everyone Entitled To Their Opinion?“.  As a DJ, you have a huge circle of people that believe they are entitled to have an opinion about you: the audience on the floor, promoters, family/friends, other DJs, fans, record labels, the outside world, even Simon Cowell to name a few.  So I can understand why it’s hard to be authentic and true to yourself with all this noise.  Turns out, there is a way to cut through the crap – read the following.  Enjoy!

The most important opinion of all is YOURS, don’t forget that.

Is everyone entitled to their opinion?

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean we need to pay the slightest bit of attention.

There are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to:

1. Lack of Standing. If you are not a customer, a stakeholder or someone with significant leverage in spreading the word, we will ignore you. And we should. When you walk up to an artist and tell her you don’t like her painting style, you should probably be ignored. If you’ve never purchased expensive original art, don’t own a gallery and don’t write an influential column in ArtNews, then by all means, you must be ignored.

If you’re working in Accounts Payable and you hate the company’s new logo, the people who created it should and must ignore your opinion. It just doesn’t matter to anyone but you.

I’m being deliberately harsh here for a reason. If we’re going to do great work, it means that some people aren’t going to like it. And if the people who don’t like it don’t have an impact on what happens to the work after it’s complete, the only recourse of someone doing great work is to ignore their opinion.

2. No Credibility. An opinion needs to be based on experience and expertise. I know you don’t like cilantro, but whether or not you like it is not extensible to the population at large. On the other hand, if you have a track record of matching the taste sensibility of my target market, then I very much want to hear what you think. People with a history of bad judgment, people who are quick to jump to conclusions or believe in unicorns or who have limited experience in the market–these people are entitled to opinions, but it’s not clear that the creator of the work needs to hear them. They’ve disqualified themselves because the method they use for forming opinions about how the market will respond is suspect. The scientific method works, and if you’re willing to suspend it at will and just go with your angry gut, we don’t need to hear from you.

IS THE FILLER TRACK AN EXCUSE?

I was having a conversation with Mustapha Louafi from Dope Underground Beats about his trip to WMC.  In between filming and spinning he caught some parties and was filling me in on his experience.  He was explaining to me how he was blown away by some of the sets he saw but that there were other sets in the same line up that weren’t as impactful.  I thought this was interesting.  So I decided to probe deeper and I asked how can you tell the difference between the DJs that brought it and the ones that didn’t?   His take on it was preparation and focus was the deciding factor.  That he could tell the DJ who really took the time to put together a killer set (knowing the DJ they were spinning after, time of the set, etc) and a DJ who just got up there banking that they had something to play.  I still felt there was more to understand so I asked what made one set different from the other? And he said something I hadn’t thought about for a long time.  He said, the DJ’s sets that were just ok used a lot of “filler tracks”.  Eureka! My definition of a filler track is it’s basically a neutral track in relation to the set style as a whole.

Some DJs feel filler tracks are necessary and some feel they are the mark of an unimaginative DJ.

I have backed myself into a corner musically in the middle of a set with no idea how to get out of it.  I am a multiple genre DJ.  It really is a sickness that I am compelled (read: stubborn) to spin tech house, breaks, electro, and deep house all in one set.  When I am adamant that the next mood match has to be breaks and I’m in the middle of deep deep house flow, I know I need something to bridge that vibe.  I have used a filler track to transition from one genre to another or from one mood to another.  It’s a way to reset and clear the slate to launch into another direction.  I also have spun 6+ hour sets and let me tell you, if you spin that long you will need to balance out peaks and valleys with filler tracks.  DJs also feel that filler tracks are a great blank canvas on which to do other things – lay over vocals, synths, effects – it really allows them to play around.

Now, there is an opinion that filler tracks are a thing of the past simply because way back when there was a low level of production and you had to use what was out there the best way you could and the big name DJs were the only ones who had the storming tracks.  Nowadays there is tons and tons of music because we have decades of it and because the production process is more accessible and people are producing and distributing music at an accelerated rate.  So is the question, is the filler track an excuse, a legitimate one?  The fact that now DJs maybe spin for a couple of hours also influences the answer to this question.  If you only spin for a short amount of time do you even need to use filler tracks?  I think it depends on your situation but it seems to me that no, you really shouldn’t have to use filler tracks – if you’ve prepared yourself well and brought your A game.  In that respect, it is your duty to spin the best music you can.

So I think really it depends on how you look at filler tracks and make sure you’re not hiding behind them.  All in moderation and use the filler track for a purpose and not as an excuse for your lack of pushing your imagination and preparation – you are more creative than that!

THE ZEN DJ CHALLENGE

The DJ Exercise series on BTD is meant to challenge and inspire DJs to get out of a rut, try something new, get the synapses firing (and create new ones), teach you about yourself and overall something to have fun with! 

Inspired by the blind kung-fu master, I came up with . . .

THE ZEN DJ CHALLENGE

Close your eyes, open your discography in a way that you can point your finger/grab and choose tracks WITHOUT looking. Pick 5 tracks, fire up the decks, and mix ONLY those tracks. No cheating – work with what you have  – sharpen those creative skills. Post your Zen DJ Mixes in the comments section within this post and talk about the experience if you’d like. Good luck – you can do it!

Fail At Interesting

Dave Pinter

I was watching a program ( one of those Iron Chef cooking competitions – don’t ask ) and one of the judges, Simon Majumdar a world renowned food critic, said when critiquing a dish “I would rather someone fail at interesting than achieve mediocrity.”  Something about this struck me enough to share it.  If you think about this statement, a number of things can be revealed to you as a DJ.

We all want to be interesting artists, re-envision a genre, make epic transitions and mixes, laser focus your performance so that when someone hears you they know without a doubt it’s a set from you.  It’s a journey to get there.  But how? And what are the risks?

I think failing at interesting can yield a lot of valuable information about yourself and is critical in your DJ journey.  Of course, you don’t want to be mediocre and yet sometimes you make concessions one way or another – whether it’s modeling too closely to your DJ idol thinking that’s a fast track somewhere, completely losing your voice and approach letting the audience completely dominate you, chasing the top 10 ( see Getting To Know Your Tracks ), and many more.  This is what I think leads someone to be mediocre – making too many concessions.

Here is an interesting example of failing at interesting.  I read this article about The Bunker party’s ninth anniversary and Bryan Kasenic aka DJ Spinoza talks about how he incorporated different elements in his party aside from The Bunker’s usual techno format.  He admits it wasn’t a complete success ( there weren’t as many people as he had hoped ) but I would say based on the feedback he got – he did something really interesting.

“I was trying to experiment on that night,” Kasenic says. “I’ve been getting into this new wave of synthesizer experimental music where they seem to be going for this meditative yet super-psychedelic sound. It’s rooted in the super-DIY noise scene: Somebody playing this beautiful old synthesizer, with a broad spectrum of sound, out of a guitar amp. It’s really brightly lit, and there’s somebody DJing punk rock songs between bands. I really wanted to see that music presented properly in New York, just to see what happened. There weren’t as many people as I’d hoped for, but the people who did show up [said]: ‘This is amazing. This is what needs to be happening in New York.”

For more about The Bunker’s history and future go here:

http://www.villagevoice.com/2012-01-04/music/the-bunker-turns-nine/

Now, I’m sure Bryan learned a lot from this experiment but most importantly he gave it a try.  Expecting to be perfect all the time is a fool’s pursuit.  So if you know that nothing is perfect why not at least make it interesting during the process!  The point is that we need more DJ’s who are different, who are pushing the boundaries, who are interesting and the only way to get there is to try even though failure is a genuine risk.  What Bryan did was contribute energy, uniqueness and new ideas to the New York scene – will he do it again, yes, even though his last endeavor there weren’t as many people as he hoped ( which is a minimal consequence in relation to the accomplishment ).

So remember: would you rather fail at interesting? Or would you rather achieve mediocrity? If the answer is the latter – than you are DJ’ing for all the wrong reasons.

A Brief Introduction to How Music Works

I came across this great series called “How Music Works“.  Analyzing the main aspects of melody, harmony, rhythm and bass it is a great antidote to the feelings that some DJs have that they do not have a good foundation or understanding of musical structure.  DJs have varying opinions on whether it’s important to have any sort of musical education.  Some believe that the only thing a DJ needs is a deep understanding of music as a listener.  Other DJs feel it is helpful at least to have a basic understanding of how music is composed.  I hear a lot of DJs talk about key clashing and that if you do not understand how melodies and rhythms work you may be key clashing and your work sounds “off”.  In my research I have noticed that a lot of DJs have had some early musical education if it was playing an instrument or an upbringing that encouraged musical listening.   If for no other reason than to give yourself a break and learn something new ( or reinforce what you already know ), I highly recommend spending some time with this series and learn about the building blocks of a DJs lifeblood: music.

Composer Howard Goodall hosts “How Music Works” and some of his thoughts on melody, harmony, rhythm and bass are noted below.

Melody: “Melody is music’s most powerful tool when it comes to touching our emotions. Our mothers sing lullabies to us when we’re infants and tests have shown that we can even, as babies, recognize tunes that we heard in he womb. Every music system in the world shares these five notes in common. Indeed, they’re so fundamental to every note composed or performed anywhere on the planet that it seems, like our instinct for language, that they were pre-installed in us when we were born. These five notes a human genetic inheritance, like the fingers on our hands.”

Rhythm: “Rhythm is the part of music that interacts most immediately and spontaneously with our bodies. Without it, music would be pleasant enough, but it would be brain food. With rhythm, though, music becomes hypnotic and sensuous.”

Harmony: “Unlike rhythm and melody, harmony wasn’t part of music from the beginning. It’s an upstart. It came into life gradually during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. But what an upstart!”

Bass: “One of [the] most distinguishing features [of the opening theme from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey] — and one that’s been imitated by thousands of science fiction, thriller and horror movie scores — is the long-held bass note that begins it. It’s awesome: Bottom C. It’s big, it’s deep and it’s powerful. And it came to stand in our minds for a sense of menace, or wonder, or infinity. Just this one note. But there are loads of examples of bass lines that give a piece of music its style and its shape.”
BBC4‘s How Music Works:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnbOWi6f_IM&list=PLC720D5DC4468B9B1&feature=plpp

Source: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2010/12/09/how-music-works/

Contracts, Divas, and the Dancefloor: Things that can go wrong

Things happen and then things can go stupendously wrong.   This post is about protecting your sanity and the sanctity of the gig.   This is only the tip of the iceberg – share with me your stories ( I’m opening the comment thread on this post ) so others can learn from you.  The point is that there are many things you can do to avoid some of the problems that occur at a gig BEFORE they happen.

The Contracting Process:

When you sign up for a gig, aside from the usual who-what-when-where-why, it’s really important to know the unspoken details – they’re unspoken for a reason.  Check out the venue the week before on the same night or previous night you are spinning.  Read the reviews on the venue.  It’s important to know your venue.  What are the management’s expectations? Do they promote their venue at all? Of course you need to bring people but get a sense of how many. Some venues have a bar guarantee – in other words if the bar doesn’t make a certain amount of money, you are on the hook to pay the difference if the bar doesn’t make it.  Even if they don’t, it’s important to ask on average how much the bar makes on that night.  Do not delude yourself on the numbers.  Even in NYC a $4000 bar minimum is nothing to mess around with – you would be surprised how hard it is to reach a number like that.  I’ve seen packed floors not even reach $2K. You also should probably know by now that management may not always be honest with the numbers so as not to have to pay your rightful percentage – it’s tough economic times for venues and fuzzy math is commonplace. Make sure you ask questions – if the venue has multiple bars, for example, do they all factor into your minimum or only the one you are directly spinning near?  Very important: get something in writing!  I know it’s scary to present a venue with a contract or agreement of some kind but when you are dealing with money, especially if you are getting paid or on the hook for a certain number, you need something in writing.  At the very least, make sure communications with the management are emailed.  You also need an agreement with the management regarding music and gear.  Too many times I have seen DJs assume they can play their usual only to find out the management was expecting something else or worse, promoted the night as that something else.  I have seen DJs that were told there is a set up and walk in to find things missing or the system in shoddy condition.  IMPORTANT: Arrive as early as you can to a gig to check out the situation in case there is a problem – you have time to rectify it.

Promoters:

There are good promoters and there are not so good promoters.  Do not take what promoters (or anyone for that matter) say at face value.  Do your homework. See if anyone has worked with them.  Look at their site, social network, etc.  Really understand who you’re dealing with.  Do not agree to pay them a flat fee – if that’s what they ask for, run do not walk.  They should be paid by the number of people they bring in – not people on a list, people who actually show up.  I’ve seen DJs agree to a flat fee and sign on promoters who basically just blasted out an event on Facebook ( to mostly fake Facebook profiles or people not even in the country of the gig ).  Make sure that promoter runs in a similar circle as yours and also ask them what their promotion schedule is, if they are promoting another gig close to the date of yours chances are they will promote heavily the gig that enhances their reputation best ( which is understandable ) – hopefully that is your gig, but if it’s not you’re out of luck as they are not going to burn out their main resource, their people.

Menacing on the Dancefloor:

I love great dancers I really do.  But sometimes floor hoggers can clear a floor faster then you can blink your eye.   Most people enjoy watching them for fifteen minutes or so but then they want to get back on the floor.  If the dancers do not oblige you have a potential problem on your hands.  There is a certain danger people feel when there are dancers doing windmills and back flips in a small space – no one wants to get hit.  So people leave never to come back.  Also, be mindful of bad energy on the dancefloor – overall menacing can also effect things ( you or your DJ partner should always be walking through the floor checking on the energy ).  Alert staff – don’t try to deal with it on your own.  Remember you are the protector and nurturer of a good time ( See Building the Foundation of a Dance Floor ) and if there is an element that is negatively affecting the floor you must do something about it.  It is your job to keep that floor filled and happy, your success is judged on it – don’t let some bad apples ruin it for you.

Check the party schedule in your area:

This is obvious but often a forgotten detail.  It’s very important to know what parties are going on at the same time you are considering your date.  If a superstar DJ is in town or there are three huge warehouse parties going on at the same time you may want to reconsider the date of your party.

The lineup:

Another obvious and overlooked detail.  Know who you’re spinning with.  Listen to their mixes, see them play out.  I’ve seen DJs put other DJs in the lineup having never heard a mix only to find out too late that the DJ isn’t a good fit or worse, too junior to be up there. Also, it used to be that you could have a lineup where you have different styles of music all in one night ( ah, those were the days! ).  Now you have to really think about how to put your line up together.  Make sure you create your lineup based on the kind of DJ a person is – warmup, peak, 2am, closer.  Do not put someone who is a good warmup DJ in the 2am slot even if you are feeling pressure from that DJ.  You know your lineup, you know your vision for the party.  If they don’t like it – get someone else, you don’t need the headache of a diva.

Which leads me to . . .

Divas

If you have a diva on your hands – suck it up.  There is enough information out there and word of mouth that is known about DJs reputations so you should have known about them before you engaged them.  If a DJ is that important enough that you need to deal with it then you have accepted the responsibility.  Do your best to accommodate them and hope they bring it.  If they don’t then you have every right to call them out on it after the gig.  If you have a wasted DJ on your hands, keep an eye on them, if they are barely functional keep the previous DJ on or get the next DJ in the lineup ready.  DO NOT PUT A WASTED DJ UP THERE – they will effectively screw up and ruin the floor.  You are also protecting their reputation – it’s better they don’t go up there than do go up there and ruin their name.  They may curse you that night, but will thank you for it in the morning. Oh, and it’s up to you if you want to pay them anyway – it may be a good idea just to keep the peace and not cause a scene but totally understandable if you don’t want to because they have a personal issue with self control. Your call.

Do not expect DJs in the lineup to bring anyone:

You have to operate as if you are the only one bringing people.  Do not rest until you have done everything in your power to get the word out.  Do not factor anyone else’s people into the number you are expecting to show up ( that includes promoters ).  If people show up for other DJs/promoters – consider that a bonus.  Too many times I have seen DJs counting on other people to bring a crowd only to have that DJ/promoter not bring a single person.   It’s a cruel disappointment.

The Door

Make sure the person at the door and the bouncers know your entrance policy and the name of your party.  Make sure they are aware of what the guest list means – is it a reduced list or is it a free entrance list.  Make sure the bouncers/door person have a way to reach you in case there’s an issue at the door.  The best thing to do is have someone be responsible for all the non-DJ things that go on at your party – a trusted friend/organizer.  If you don’t have that person then you need to work out with your DJ partner monitoring the situation when not spinning.

Like I said this is just the tip of the iceberg of things to be mindful of, I would love to hear your stories as well.  You can’t control everything that happens but you can do your best to try and avoid these issues in the first place.

Recap: DON’T sign on for a gig and ask questions later.  Know your venue ( and your DJs! ).  Watch the floor, have ownership of it. Don’t assume anything.  If you want things done right, you have to take it upon yourself to make sure it gets done right ( or do it yourself ).

Building a Dancefloor

Photo by: Lightwerk (Ray Weitzenberg)

DJs are the architects of a dance floor. Before I got behind the decks, I was one of those crazy dancers you find in the middle of the floor with a circle around me. I would get so lost in the music that I could feel my body echoing every note, every beat. When I got behind the decks something happened. I stopped dancing. I listened to music in a different way. I began to THINK in music as opposed to MOVE in music.

I recently decided to experiment with how I listened to music and wanted to get back to a dancer’s perspective. I highly recommend for DJs to dance either in the privacy of your home or out on a dancefloor – forget that you’re a DJ for a second and just be a person who needs to move. If you do not boogie to music how can you truly understand how someone is going to hear it with their bodies.

Aside from feeling woefully out of shape, I’m learning a few things about what makes for a proper dancefloor. I recently went to a very unconventional dance class called 5Rhythms. The model of the class is that it’s not really a class. There’s a facilitator who plays music ( electronically based ) that starts off ambient and gradually builds to a crescendo of tempo and energy over the period of an hour. There are no steps being taught, it’s just do what your body is telling you to do. In the second hour, the facilitator walks you through certain movements and encourages the participants to experiment with how their bodies would express concepts like Chaos, Staccato, Lyrical, etc. When I tell you it’s the best dance floor I have experienced, I’m not kidding. Imagine 40 people just letting go, letting it all out, meditating and totally focused on the music and expanding their bodies to it. The silhouettes, the energy, the movements I saw were just mindblowing. The crazy thing is – this dancefloor was not made up of professional dancers – just regular people who have an appreciation for how therapeutic and spiritual dancing can be.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that the best dance floors have to have the following:

1) Focused participants – everyone is there for the same goal. It is understood why everyone is there and there is also a commitment on the part of the dancers to help everyone achieve the goal of dancing and having a good time. I believe successful dancefloors are a unit, an organism made of mini-systems of like minded individuals.

2) Permission – When people are given permission to be creative, to be themselves, without fear of judgement or reprisal – some amazing things happen. Feeling like you have permission to look however you want and dance however you want gives you the freedom to express your genius.

3) Safety – Getting anyone to dance is HARD. Why? Because very few people can get past their social anxiety and get up there and allow themselves to be watched. The best dancefloors offer safe space, unencumbered, to allow the person freedom of movement.

4) Progression – In order for a person to open themselves they need to go through a process of transitioning out of their day, their current situation, and into the moment and the beginning of their dance journey. People are not light switches that can just turn on at one track’s notice.

5) Zero Distractions – The construct of any venue is set up for people to spend money and therefor are set up for people to interact with each other on a number of planes. Sometimes the last consideration for interaction is the dancefloor. There’s the bar, there’s the lounge, there’s the owner’s crappy aesthetic/decor, there’s the people who are just there to be seen, there’s the people who are there just to take advantage of the drink specials. So the chances of finding a nucleus of dancers is tough and you are challenged in breaking past those distractions.

So what can DJs do to try and insure they create a proper dancefloor? It is your responsibility to be an architect so you need to lay a foundation. Remember, a real dance floor has a symbiotic relationship with the DJ. One cannot exist without the other. Here’s a few tips to get things started.

1) Moodmatch – for all that is good and holy please play music that is appropriate for the mood that is currently going on at the moment. Step out on the dancefloor and walk among your crowd and psychically reach out to get a sense of what is going on. Don’t play a raging tune if people are just getting warmed up – you will kill any chance you have of nurturing a dance floor. On the flip side if you are lucky enough to step up and you have a rager on your hands either give the dancers a break in the beat to set yourself up or keep the energy going. Do not drop the mood down, you will effectively clear your floor. (There are some advanced concepts about cleansing the floor but for the purposes of laying the foundation for your floor I won’t discuss them here). Bottomline, if you do not moodmatch you will ruin all trust the dancefloor has in you – and believe me it’s about trust- once you lose it, it is really hard to get it back.

2) Introduce yourself – I know that it’s hard to talk to people especially for us DJ nerds but you must try. Let people know who you are (besides you want to build a following right, well you need to TALK to people in order to do that). Stay away from asking what people want to hear unless you want to deal with requests all night. Just say “Hey, my name is . . . I’m the DJ, how are you feeling tonight?” Make small chit-chat and then move on. Remember you are the facilitator, if people don’t put a face to the name they won’t care about you. If you really don’t want to do that here’s an alternative – be the first person on the dancefloor. I know, I know, that’s just as tough but I swear all it takes is one brave soul to get up there and other’s will follow, trust me, I used to do this in my dancing days and it worked like a charm every time (I even had DJs thank me for doing that).

3) Take your time – let’s say you only have an hour, which is typical these days ( unfortunate in my opinion ). Try at least to introduce your set in two tracks that set the tone for what you are about to do. You need to lay the foundation of sound and tempo in people’s ears so they get acclimated – remember people are not light switches. DO NOT EXPECT TO COOK UP A DANCEFLOOR IN AN HOUR. Be happy you’re up there and do your best job with affecting people properly – you will be better served if you play good music for the moment ( see Moodmatching ).

4) Don’t posture – everything about you indicates to the dancefloor how accessible and open you are. Don’t big up your chest, don’t be glum (if you’re not happy with the situation don’t let on, be a pro about it), don’t hide yourself or ESPECIALLY your eyes behind a hat. A proper dancefloor needs permission and safety and people are looking to you to give them that. Also, don’t forget to thank people, especially if they were dancing for you – so simple and often forgotten etiquette by DJs.

If you can do things that reduce the social anxiety people feel, minimize the distractions to focus on the music, and create a connection to you the higher the chances you have of starting a dance floor. See you there!

Recap: Get in touch with your inner dancer. Study the room and the vibe. Moodmatch. Be open.

For more information on the 5Rhythms dance class go here: 5Rhythms