It's impossible to play any song from across the world instantly...
We’ve all been in that situation before. A crowded dance floor, late or early in the evening. As the DJ has a moment to breathe between songs, someone goes up to the decks and asks, politely or rudely, the DJ to play their mate's favourite song because it’s their birthday.
The usual interaction will go something like this.
“Have you got _____.”
“Don’t think so sorry mate.”
“But it’s my friend's birthday.”
“I’ll do my best to fit it in.”
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The DJ will usually then go on to pretend to scroll through their library before completely ignoring the request. I’ve been there before, playing music at a bar, where the venue asked me to strictly play chilled out, lounge music while punters enjoyed dinner and a cocktail. A member of the dancefloor came up to me and aggressively requested Snoop Dogg’s, Drop It Like It’s Hot. While starting polite, they became quickly disappointed in me not being able to play the request. Most of the time, (bar a wedding or house party situation), DJs aren’t there to take requests. DJing is not as easy as queuing songs on Spotify.
To spell it out abit, here are a few reasons that DJ’s hate taking requests.
Music Libraries Aren’t Infinite
When DJs prepare to perform on stage, they need to arrange a collection of songs onto an external hard drive or USB. This means that any song that is expected to be played out must be purchased as .wav or .mp3 and downloaded, then most often placed onto a USB through DJing software Rekordbox. So 99% of the time a DJ won’t actually have your request.
Aux Cords Aren’t The Vibe
If the DJ doesn’t have the song and they are brave enough to tell you so, the next common step is, “do you have an AUX cord? I can plug my phone in.” Rarely will a venue have an aux chord plugged into the back of the decks, but on the slight chance they do, it’s still super inconvenient. A DJs job is to make sure that the music doesn’t dip in energy and volume. Swapping from the decks to a random song will almost always come across as messy and ugly, or worst case a delay in the music.
It Ruins The Entire Flow Of The Evening
DJs meticulously plan out their sets in terms of energy and vibe throughout the evening. If a DJ is performing for a long time, they’ll need to save certain songs for peak times and save the dinner set, cocktail worthy hour tracks for a certain time too. This is the ultimate skill of a DJ, knowing when to utilise the crowd's energy and when to bring it back, while captivating the attention of the crowd. It’s rare that the request will fit perfectly with the tempo and key that the DJ is currently playing. For that reason, not every song can blend with every song, so a request most likely will cut the flow of the night.
Your Request Is Probably Too Niche
Surprisingly, DJs are often playing to an entire dancefloor, venue or room and not just you and your group of friends. Their literal job is to make sure that everyone is having a good time and is not fleeing the dance floor, so a request that is super niche or specific to your friends might only appeal to you. If the floor becomes disinterested with your request, it’s a nightmare for the DJ. Even if you think that you know the perfect song that will get the dance floor heaving, the DJ is a professional who is meant to be an expert in keeping bodies moving. Trust them with that.
The Venue/Party Wants The DJ To Play To A Certain Genre/Vibe
At some venues, the DJ does not have a whole lot of power over what to play, often they’ll take a gig at a venue and rather than be artistically free and creative provide a service to that dancefloor. Whether they’re required to play throwback tracks for an older crowd or EDM to a younger audience, requesting a song that is completely left field and not respecting the vibe of the venue will leave the DJ in hot water.