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72 • January 2014
Instructors who DJ at their own club socials can chill and have informal fun with their dancing friends but if hired for an event a DJ should always give a professional performance.. That is what I believe. The truth is simple...a DJ can make or break an event.
DJ’s are all different but just like hosts, choreographers, instructors and artistes their success or failure often depends on their personalities and the amount of preparation put in as well as the level of professionalism they show. An event however is rarely about the DJ. That is another fact and a key factor to consider has to be how well a DJ can blend
into the background whilst doing his/her job. This can sometimes be forgotten. Events are about and for dancers.
Today, I want to share those dilemmas as headlines and I would love you to contribute to this regular column. Contact me if you want to air a point of view. My email is email@example.com and I would love to open a debate or two in 2014. And your point of view IS important at any level.... dancer, organiser or another DJ like me.
1. Key Principles I have fi ve key principles that always help me focus and allow
me a head start in giving dancers a good time. For example my fi rst aim is always to try and ensure that I have every track that will be requested. What do you think are the most important principles for a DJ?
2. Getting The Basics Right Good quality equipment, sound mix/level tested just like a band
almost goes without saying - Likewise ample backup cover too, so that not only does it sound good but any unexpected equipment failure is covered – The show must go on. What do you consider to be the basic requirements for a DJ?
Should your DJ be seen or just heard? How important is your DJ to your event? Dave Baycroft, one of the most respected DJ’s in the community, has his very own ten dilemmas that he intends to share with you all the way through 2014 in this new regular column.
Hey Mister Deejay... put a record on
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3. Keeping Everyone Happy Request Slips are a valuable way of gaining insight into
knowing what dances will be asked for but what else could be done to ensure that a DJ keeps dancers happy? Requests can be a double-edged sword of course because once a dancer puts a favourite request in, there are huge expectations (almost certainties) for the DJ to play that request. It is never possible to play every request. And should a DJ be a slave to requests or use his/her own discretion in introducing other tracks? Ultimately the question is...Can a DJ please all of the dancers all of the time? And should he/she play the same dance more than once in an evening?
4. Helping The Dancers Counting a dance in can be a big help at times, as can calling
the fi rst wall of steps if folk are struggling to get started. It is also helpful to give dancers ample notice of upcoming dances and also to allow a little extra time for dancers to be in place on the fl oor in order to start the dance correctly. I like to keep an eye on dance fl oor etiquette too and I will even occasionally restart a dance if too many dancers are confused with the beginning. What kind of help would you appreciate most from your DJ?
5. Filling The Floor Everybody loves to see a full fl oor and yet some requested
dances can actually “clear” the fl oor depending on the mix of dance levels and tastes in the room at that particular event. How full does a fl oor need to be and how important are fl oor-splits?
6. Playing Alternative Tracks Sometimes a change is as good as a rest and sometimes it just
fi ts the occasion – For example during a theme night or particularly
at a Christmas event. How do you feel about alternative tracks, especially to the classic dances?
7. Entertaining The Dancers An interesting debate is what more could a DJ offer in addition
to simply introducing a track and playing it? Do you value banter or information or dancing gossip along the way? And how about a dancing DJ?
8. Playlist Isn’t there more to DJing than randomly playing the tracks?
Working with live bands and choreographers requires thought and planning for sure. What do you think the DJ should bear in mind when deciding the order of play?
9. Bonus Equipment A DJ must focus foremost on the dancing but how about lighting,
projectors, decorations and bonus extras? What extras do you appreciate over and above the basic set up and sound system?
10. Bonus Work The role of a DJ can be much much more than simply playing
the music. The possibilities are endless - What is the role of a DJ to you?
So what makes a great DJ? Don’t forget to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m really waiting to hear from you, this is as much about DJ’s as it is about you. This column could be your chance to change certain things if we say it loud enough.... and who knows? With your help we may make it even more fun out there on the dance fl oor.
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72 • February 2014
1. Always have every track requested I never want to say that I don’t have a particular track.
So although it is an impossible goal, I do really still try to have every track that is requested. Internet access and single track downloading makes this much easier now. The number of dances released and the speed with which they are taken up makes this an ever increasing challenge, likewise the national and regional variations as to which dances become popular. I do try my hardest though and I am always disappointed with myself if I have to admit defeat by not having a requested piece of music. I spend many hours scanning various online dance resources to look out
for new releases and ensure I have the track, I also subscribe to various DJ pop and country pre-release services and other compilation albums so I have as much as possible in advance anyway. Another very important reason for being prepared in advance is that I check the rhythm so I can call a fl oor-split if needed and the beginning so I can count it in.
There is of course no shame however in asking the dancers if they can help me with a track, many carry their favourite music with them on memory sticks or iPhones these days and I’m not too proud to ask!
2. Assume that everyone is NOT happy out there I try my hardest to please all of the people all of the time even
though I know that I can’t but if I try I know I’m doing my best. It adds some unnecessary stress maybe but it works for me. Some events are more diverse than others but whatever the crowd there will almost always be many more requests than there is time for! I’m constantly shuffl ing the requests and looking around the room to check on dancers on and off the fl oor to ensure that all have as fair an amount of dancing time as possible. There are lots of ways of getting requests which I’ll explore another time, but for now enough to say that what I do is look out for who might not be happy and look after them as best I can. And as one track goes on, the challenge is on for what to play next! So I never relax and just assume that everyone is okay and happy, even though I hope that they are of course!
I am also always aware and careful that I must not be biased towards any one group of dancers because I want everyone present at an event to feel that they are getting a fair and good
First up in any job you need some basic operating principles? Some golden rules to follow. Here are fi ve of DJ Dave Baycroft’s important principles to him, “These make me tick, DJ’s all have their own and it is these principles that make us all different - for better or for worse!
Hey Mister Deejay... Keep Em Dancin’
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deal, so I keep reminding myself too that it’s not all about those that request the most or shout the loudest. I must also always be fl exible, for example, changing the next track if needed to bring back any lost equilibrium, rather than carry on regardless and most importantly I always welcome and encourage continuous feedback or advice from dancers, choreographers and hosts to keep me on the right track.
3. Never stop working from... beginning to end As long as there is still a dancer in sight I use my time to make
sure that everyone is happy. I will work on during offi cial breaks too if anyone wants to carry on and I also like to play as long and as late as I can. The requests never run out, only the time...
DJing is not a union job for me it’s a vocation and I am lucky that I do it for fun in retirement from my life-long job as an Accountant for National Grid for 30 years. So it’s easy for me to commit, from the moment the equipment is all set up until the time it is packed away again my constant aim is to keep the dancers as happy as possible. Sometimes you can use off-schedule slots to play things for the minority, so I personally love to start a session early if I can, even playing through breaks and fi nishing as late as possible in order to maximise the number of people that I can keep happy on the dance fl oor.
Of course I must be on top fl oor-fi lling form during the prime time slot of an event but now and then it must be okay to have only a few dancers on the fl oor for their request. The trick is anticipating this, timing it well, maybe having a fl oor-sp