While surfing online, I stumbled upon a somewhat negative review of another DJ company’s performance at a wedding. I like to read these, trying to keep an open mind, but in this instance it seems that the DJ clearly had very little experience in diverse crowds, and perhaps even less knowledge of music. Or worse, perhaps it was simply that the DJ did not listen or care. Here is an excerpt from that review.
During our phone conversation we told [the DJ] that we liked music people could dance to – some top 40, and a good mix of older stuff. We told him the that the mean age of our guests was probably around 45-50. He didn’t play anything from their era. Multiple times the dance floor cleared. Multiple times myself and my husband had to go up to him and ask him to play different music. The worst part of it all, was that he wouldn’t take instruction from us. I gave him specific songs to play – classic wedding songs – he decided to play some horrible dance remix version. I verbatim told him – “play original music, play original songs, no remixes.” But then he would just play another remix.
Working as a DJ for almost three decades, I’ve learned a thing or two about the right and wrong version to play at a party where the objective is to maintain energy and keep people on the dance floor. Many moons ago, before I launched my own DJ company, I worked for another DJ company for several years. The owner of this company and my former boss was a great DJ, and a very wise mentor, who, for the sake of the story and in the spirit of the Quentin Tarentino film Reservoir Dogs I will call “Mr. Black”. Mr. Black’s lesson was this; Although there are many songs with multiple versions, there is typically one that exceeds the rest both in energy and, so often as of late, recognizability.
An experienced DJ will adhere to this rule, taking it a step further – again a Cardinal Rule of Mr. Black – “Most people want to hear the version they are familiar with from the radio”. Sure, if you’re a house, trance, or dubstep DJ at a club or rave, some “trippy” remix of a song might be really cool, but at a wedding, sweet 16, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah – or any sort of party where regular folks get together – unfamiliar music will likely tank the dance floor and result in confused looks on guests faces as they try to process what they are hearing. This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, yet playing the more familiar tune, rhythm and melody will likely result in greater success.