Making Sure Your Music Taste Fits the Venue

Guest Post by Greg Davis

In 2012 a number of well-known DJs were “kicked off the decks” at a couple different high class night clubs.


Big names like DJ Shadow, Tommie Sunshine, Dennis Ferrer, and Mark Farina to name a few were all asked to leave for one reason or another but the main theme was that someone didn’t think their music fit the venue. Although the vast majority of us would side with the DJs in each of these cases their experiences bring up the opportunity to learn a good lesson. While the main job of a DJ is typically defined as playing music or running the decks, an equally important responsibly is to play music in such a way that you enhance the club atmosphere. Here are a few tips I’ve come up with to help any aspiring DJ better fit their set to the club or venue they intend to play.

Play the right venue, on the right night.

Understanding the type of venue you’re going to play and the crowds that venue attracts on any given night is absolutely critical to your success as a DJ. Become familiar with the club you’re going to play. If you’re able to try attending a few weeks in advance on the nights you’re going to play. This will give you an idea what type of music you should play. Also inquire about how the gig will be advertised. If you’re not down to play some commercial top 40 songs then you shouldn’t take a gig that is advertised as being. Catering your music to the feel of the club or the audience is your number one priority as a DJ.


Act friendly towards club staff, managers, and owners.

Before you book a date at a club or venue it’d be in your best interested to communicate with the clubs owner or booking staff. Learn their names and get to know them as best you can. The friendlier you are the better chance these same staff members will be on your side if anything goes down. This will help prevent you from getting kicked off the decks, at least without ample warning. The nicer you are with the staff the more likely they will be to help you out and inform you of any issues before they become a serious problem.

Don’t be afraid to change things up.

No one likes static so if the set you planned isn’t working out the way you thought it would, change things up. Whether you want to or not you will get feedback from club owners, VIPs, and regular audience members.  Like water off a duck’s back you should be ready to roll with the punches. Use positive feedback to reinforce the vision you had for your set, but don’t let negative feedback derail your beat train. If you have a good feel for the type of club and audience you’re going to be playing for you should bring an ample amount of reserve tracks. If something experimental isn’t going over so well migrate towards music that’s more commercial, and vice versa. The lesson here is to learn from crowd feedback.


If kicked off the decks stay cooler than ice.

As a DJ your reputation is the most important asset. Once you tarnish that it will take ten times more work to rebuild what you’ve broken. If an overstepping manager or hot headed club owner kicks you off the decks don’t fret. It is okay to say goodnight to the crowd but don’t make a scene. And remember the club goers or audience may not be cool with the fact that you’ve been asked to step down. Handling it with a cool head, in a mature manner is the best way to motivate your crowd to defend you.

Try, try, try again!

Don’t let one bad performance be your last. Whether a bad performance is due to not being on you’re a-game, equipment malfunction, or a crowd that simply wants something different. Don’t let that be the end of your career. Learn from your experience and determine to make your next gig better. Employ the lessons you’ve learned and use each experience to better your skillset as a DJ. Like water a DJ needs to know how to flow. So flow with whatever you’re handed and make the best of it!

Greg Davis is highly interested in all aspects of music. He’s a more than casual listener who enjoys working in the music industry as a writer and stage hand at various events. When not working or writing about music he can be found dancing at local concerts and shows hosted by the best  DJ in San Diego.

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