-     PROGRAMMING 101
aka IT'S ABOUT THEM, NOT YOU.
These are some basic suggestions for how to work a crowd. There are no absolute rules, but these have worked well for me over the years.
PLAY FOR THE WOMEN
As a rule, always play for the WOMEN in the crowd. If women are happy and dancing, men are happy and dancing. If women enjoy themselves, they will come back next week. And where there are women, there are men, which results in you having a packed club. If you’re playing to a house music crowd, I would augment this rule to be: always play for the WOMEN and the GAY MEN in the room (props to Lil’ Ray for this). Women and gay men are not inhibited losers like most men, and they will fill a dance floor and have a good fucking time, which makes the party infinitely better. You scratch their back, they scratch yours. Everybody’s happy.
STFU AND STOP BEINGING SUCH A NERDY DJ SNOB
In general, people come to nightclubs to get drunk, get their dance on, and get laid. Usually in that order. They did not come to get an education on obscure music that you find fascinating. If you can work that in, and still keep them happy, more power to you. Simply remember that you are there to make them have a good time. It’s about them, not you. Obvious, right?
MY LOVELY LADY LUMPS
Just because a song is overplayed to you, does not mean that is the case for your crowd. You may work in a club 5 nights a week, hearing the same song over and over again. And on your nights off, you’re in another club listening to your boy play the same shit you do. However, keep in mind that the chick who paid $20 at the door may only go out once a month. Her clock radio might be broken and her car stereo got stolen. She may NEVER hear that song that you are so sick of. She may be dying to hear it, and it will make her night, and she will be so happy that she heard her favorite song that she’ll concede to having rip-roaring drunken anal sex with someone she just met at 3:45am. Think about it. Again, it’s about them, not you.
ROTATE YOUR CRATES
If you have a weekly gig, NEVER bring the exact same records two weeks in a row. You've got way too many great records to keep playing the same shit week after week. Your crowd deserves a little basic effort on your part, ya lazy bastard. Again, it’s about them, not you.
PLAY SOME "FUCK MUSIC"
Always end your night with a song that couples can dance to. Doesn't have to be a slow jam, though something slow and sexy is ideal. This simple gesture on your part can make the difference between people getting laid and people going home lonely and sad. Brothers are spitting game all night. Casting a wide net. The last song is their last chance to bring it all home. Don’t cock block them by playing “Where My Dogs At”. The girls will break out, and the dudes will look at you like “gee thanks asshole, you just fucked up my whole pimp game”. Not cool. Again, it’s about them, not you.
-     DJing 101
Know your craft. Every DJ on planet earth should be able to hook up mixers, turntables, monitors, FX boxes, etc. It ain't rocket science. It is simply a left and a right channel, and the cable is either an RCA, XLR, or ?. A monkey can do it, and so can you. This way, when something goes wrong, you aren't relying on the club soundman who is nowhere to be found.
Always try to check out the DJ booth BEFORE the night of your gig. This way you will be better prepared. Maybe they have bad equipment. Maybe the booth has no monitor. Maybe there are issues which you can prepare for ahead of time (bring your own monitor, etc.). Do whatever is in your power to ensure a good night for yourself.
Figure out where it is and how it works BEFORE you start playing. If you are like me, and you hate giving shout-outs to every birthday girl in the house or Pooky who just got out of Riker's or Ray Ray's cousin that died 30 years ago tonight or whatever, put the mic somewhere out of plain sight and say "you know, I'd love to give a shout out to your sister who just got a promotion at Verizon but, alas, there is no mic"
Always find out what crowd you are playing for. You are getting paid to make them dance, so you need to be prepared to do so. If at all possible, attend an event with the same crowd prior to your gig, so you know what you are in for.
Sometimes events have several promoters, and the person that hires you may be a complete fucking moron who is booking you for an event you are not really suited for. Much better to determine this ahead of time, and either decline the gig or adjust your play-list accordingly. Because when the event actually happens, and your Polka loving crowd ain't feeling the dancehall reggae set you brought, they won't be complaining to the person that booked you, they will be bitching to you directly.
Always find out what this person has done previously and what his/her crowd is like (see above). Try to find out as much information as you possibly can, so that you are well-informed before accepting a booking. Speak to other DJs that they have worked with to make sure they are known for paying on time, etc.
Whenever possible, try to get paid up front, at the beginning of the night, either by the club or the promoter. This is the only way to ensure that they are not simply hoping to make enough cash at the door to pay you. If you demand this from the outset, and they really want to book you, they will make it happen. Trust me.
THE CLUB STAFF
Always make friends with the club staff. The bouncers are gonna be the ones saving your ass when some drunk dude takes a swing at you. The bartenders and waitresses are the ones who can get you and your friends drunk for free. Also, ALWAYS TIP the person that brings you a drink. Making friends with the staff is also a good way to keep a club gig, because the staff can say good things about you when you're not around.
THE CLUB MANAGER
Find out at the beginning of your gig exactly who on the staff, if anybody, has the authority to dictate the volume level of the club and or request a change in the music. Doing this will avoid numerous headaches and arguments with prima donna employees or patrons who feel like they know your job better than you.
-     10 THINGS YOU SHOULD BRING TO EVERY GIG
Some of these things listed below are obvious. Some may be irrelevant if you're a laptop DJ. Others clearly fall under the duties of the club sound man. However, you quickly learn that most clubs don't keep a sound man on staff full time. They are quite often absent at night, during the hours of operation, and are hence no where to be found during the technical problems that can ruin your entire night. Things will invariably go wrong occasionally. It is always best to be as prepared as you reasonably can be.
YOUR OWN CARTRIDGES/NEEDLES
Never, and I do mean NEVER go to a gig without needles. Clubs may have them already. Clubs may not let you use theirs because they have tuned the system to a particular brand. Still, you cannot work without them, so bring them. Ideally, get a set for gigs and an set for your home set up.
ONE EXTRA NEEDLE
Needles go bad. Sometimes gradually, sometimes in a split second. Or maybe some drunk chick you let in to the booth grabs the tone-arm and breaks your needle in the process. Happened to me more than once. Always have a spare.
Never leave home without them, even if you are simply doing a guest spot and playing 5 records. You cannot work without them, so bring them
Business 101. If you want more gigs, people need to be able to contact you, and they are going to lose that napkin you just wrote your number on.
THREE SLIP MATS
The club may not have them. The DJ from the previous night may have stolen them. You cannot play without them so always bring them. Why three? One time I was DJing on an Air craft carrier in the Hudson river. I took off a record, and a gust of wind literally blew my slip mat out to sea. I spent the rest of the gig using a torn dust sleeve as a slip mat, and it was slipping every other song. Not fun. Moral of the story: you never know...
ONE RCA mono to RCA stereo Y-SPLITTER
Just in case one channel of a turntable craps out, which is quite common, due to a lack of maintenance on the part of nightclubs. Some clubs run in mono, but most doe run in stereo. Once the Y-splitter is connected, you will be playing in mono on that turntable, but at least sound will come out of all the speakers. Also, if this happens, you may want to use the mono switch that many mixers have (either on the face or the back) to even out the sound between both turntables.
SMALL SCREWDRIVER (PHILLIPS and FLATHEAD)
Small screw drivers can be used to attach wayward Turntable ground wires to the screws on the face of the mixer if you cannot reach the back. Also, many clubs screw protective covers over their racks to prevent tampering. A wise move on their part, but there has been occasions in my experience where I needed access.
For getting behind the turntables and mixers in the case of an emergency.
If you play 45s, bring your own, as most clubs lost theirs long ago.
CDs TO SELL
People are going to ask you if they can buy a CD. This is easy extra cash, tax free. They cost about 50 cents and you can sell them for $10 or more. You do the math.
SOME SIMPLE ADVICE FROM A REALLY OLD DJ