How I work or programme a song request into my set at a wedding or any function?

How I work or programme a song request into my set at a wedding or any function?

I have written before in a previous blog about ‘Playlists and music requests for your wedding, event or family function’. In this blog I would like to explain how I would work and programme in a special request.

Don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t care, I could just throw any songs in anywhere just to get them played and to tick it off the list when played, but at what cost to the night, the dance floor and to the overall atmosphere of the party? Many DJ’s are robotic and haven’t got a clue or the experience to understand about music programming or ensuring the flow of music from one genre to another whilst keeping up the momentum on the dancefloor and therefore the atmosphere and therefore the enjoyment of the bride & groom and all the guests at any function or party anywhere in Wales.

Here’s a scenario and please bear in mind that the average song is around 4 minutes.

So, I’ve been playing for around an hour, the floor is packed and I’m currently playing, say for example, a classic Motown set (yes, I know that Motown is a record label and not a music genre as such, but such is the popularity and quality of the music released from this label in the 60’s, that most DJ’s and people know how to respond to a request for ‘some Motown’ and therefore this iconic label has now become a genre, quite unique!). Now, the bride comes up to me and asks for ‘Oh Pretty Woman’ by Roy Orbison for Auntie Jean as she is going soon and it’s important. Normally I can’t be dictated to as to when to play a request as I need to work it and programme it in, but because it’s the bride, I need to prioritise her without compromising the flow of the night and I need to prioritise that focus on keeping the dance floor bouncing. Well, I am already playing Sixties music in the format of Motown, but I know that it’s not quite what is being asked for and this song is a classic Sixties song, but it doesn’t dovetail and programme too well with Motown for a few reasons.

Number one is that at a wedding or any function there are many people there of many varying music tastes and preferences. Music is, of course, subjective and personal, so we should never refer to a track as ‘rubbish’, or whatever, just because we do not like it. Someone else will always like what you may deem as rubbish. As a DJ, I always strive to try to keep as many people as possible happy and enjoying what I play. So, having just played a few 70’s disco classics, I am now playing a Motown set. I’ve played 3 tracks, which equates to about 11 minutes, plus the previous 70’s ‘set’ which could have been another 11 minutes and we need a change of musical direction to change the atmosphere and keep another group of people happy who may not be enjoying the Motown, or ‘classic music’ as much as, for this scenario, current chart music. 

Therefore, I need to change things a bit and play some current music, otherwise if I go straight into the bride’s request of ‘Oh Pretty Woman’, I would then need to follow it up with a couple more songs from the same era or genre. This would be another 11 or 12 minutes and the, let’s say, ‘younger people’ waiting for me to play more current tunes would by then become disgruntled and maybe go off to the bar and maybe I’ve lost them for the rest of the night. Yes, it can work like that. So, I’ll ‘hit the charts’, or play more current music for 12 minutes or so, but then need to programme my set to work in ‘Oh Pretty Woman’. I can’t just crash in from a chart/dance set to Roy Orbison. Some DJ’s would because they don’t understand or really care, but to do this would not be smooth music programming and would really annoy those that are currently on the floor dancing to chart/dance/recent music.

Obviously if the dance floor has cleared a bit, then it’s not really a problem because a change is clearly due. But, if not, I need to play a good song to subtly link from what I am playing to be able to work in the all-important request from the bride for her Auntie Jean. I may therefore drop in a couple of up-tempo 80’s classics that I know will keep the current floor going and then work it back again to that request, ‘Oh Pretty Woman’.

By this time, nearly half an hour has passed from the initial bride’s request and that’s with me trying to ‘force play’ her request and this is only for one song. Now, imagine a DJ getting even a number as low as 10 requests and if he really knows what he is doing as a DJ, then it can cause problems as it’s sometimes awkward to programme in requests as the above has highlighted.

I appreciate that, many requests are easy to programme in and usually they would be played anyway, but it’s useful for people to bear in mind that it’s not as easy as 95% of people seem to think when they ask a DJ for a specific song request and then get upset or disgruntled if he doesn’t play it straight away or ’next’ as most people ask when making a request. This also explains why many requests may not even be played by the DJ as he simply cannot fit it in. Do guests at a wedding or event under the influence of alcohol care? Usually not and they can become quite selfish, aggressive or abusive even if the DJ is polite with them.  So please understand that the job of a good DJ is to try to keep everyone happy. By default, this is virtually impossible, but on a personal level, I always try to do just that and in doing that I need to programme the music that I play to appeal to as many as possible at any given time and not to just one person who wants a certain song played that may just upset the flow and dynamics of the night.

On another note, never ask a DJ to ‘play some 80’s music’, or generalise a genre with a decade. Yes, that’s 10 years. My response to this is usually something like, ‘Can you be specific please?’ response: ‘What do you mean?’ My response is usually something like: ’Well, you have just asked me for a song request that covers 10 years’ worth of music. That means literally thousands and thousands of songs. In the 80’s we had rock from bands like, like Bon Jovi & Guns n Roses etc., new romantic from the likes of Depeche Mode, Soft Cell etc., disco and soul from artistes like Alexander O’Neil and Michael Jackson, Rockabilly from bands such as Stray Cats and Matchbox, pop from the likes of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and A-ha etc., ballads from artistes including Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Paul Mc Cartney etc. and so it goes on. You are asking me to choose for you from thousands of songs and many genres? Please be specific. If I play something from the 80’s and you don’t like it, you will then come up and say something like. I didn’t want this song, I don’t like it!!’

Again, give the DJ a fighting chance of playing your request by being specific, knowing what you want and not standing there for half an hour trying to think what you like. Don’t force a request for the sake of it. Go with the flow and let the DJ play what he thinks is best as it is his job and he knows what he is doing.

So next time you are at a wedding, party or birthday party or corporate event, please give the DJ plenty of time to programme in any request that you may have and if he doesn’t or can’t play it, then there is probably a good reason and it’s not personal.

  • 25 Nov 2017