How DJs Read The Crowd
How DJs Read The Crowd
The ability to read the crowd and play the right music is one of the most important skills that DJs learn when they start performing live. Being able to gauge what tracks the audience are enjoying and which styles of music they appreciate will help you generate the perfect atmosphere and keep the dancefloor full all night.
DJs who fail to read the crowd and react to the mood will find their dancefloor empty very quickly which can really take an effect on the DJs confidence. It's such a critical skill that it's worth outlining the reasons why it's important to read the crowd and how to do it successfully.
Make sure you bookmark this guide and share it with your DJ friends and learn about all the ways DJs can read the crowd explored in this article. When you are creating your setlists and playlists make sure you have enough music so you can play it by ear on the night and switch the genre or style when needed. Being prepared and having a great setlist is fundamental.
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Why DJs need to read the crowd
Before we discuss the different ways you can read the crowd, we need to understand why it's important. Your job as a DJ is to keep the crowd dancing. If you don't pay attention to the crowd's energy and mood, you risk playing music that isn't suited for the moment. This can cause an empty dance floor. You can adjust your music selection and body language accordingly by reading the crowd.
To make sure you're playing the right music
Fundamentally, the main skill of reading a crowd is so that the DJ can make sure they are playing the music they enjoy. Sometimes you are booked for a DJ gig and given a list of genres by the venue but when you actually start playing them the crowd just don't react! In these cases, you can try to switch the genre or playlist to find something that works for your audience.
This is especially important in multi-room venues where the crowd can move in herds from one arena to the next. Once they like the music in a certain room they will stay there which has the knock-on effect of encouraging more people to come in the room.
Make sure they are enjoying the performance
You want to make sure your audience are really enjoying themselves. In turn, this will make you have a good time and that synergy is infectious. If the crowd sees the DJ rocking it and having a great time they will be encouraged to let loose and enjoy themselves. If you see they are looking a bit bored change the music or the vibe and remember the DJ is the leader of the pack.
The DJ really is in control of the whole atmosphere and mood of the night to make sure you work hard to make it a happy time for your patrons.
If the audience enjoy themsevles it's great promotion for you as a DJ. If you want to get booked again make sure they have a great time!
Make sure you keep the energy level appropriate for the set time
Ever gone to a gig and the warmup DJ is playing peak time bangers to an empty room scaring everyone off? This is a common mistake made by amateur DJs. As a DJ, you need to play music that is correct for the time of night you are playing. If it's a warmup slot you need to gradually build the BPM and energy so there is a nice increase over time. The highest energy should be reserved for the headliner.
To create memorable moments
DJing is about creating happy memorable moments of unity and joy. There are certain peaks and troughs in a DJ set and the DJ can control the ups and downs creating a story or journey. It's important for the DJ to read the crowd so that they can see when to push to the next level or when to drop that magical track. The aim is to create that moment everyone will remember for years to come.
Do you have some memorable tracks or mixes ready to create this moment?
To keep everyone safe
Let's not forget that DJs are part of the safety team at a venue. DJs occupy the best vantage point in the venue to view over the whole crowd. DJs should be looking after their audiences safety at all time. If you see something unusual or dangerous you need to inform security.
A good example of this is making sure dance floor is not over capacity which could result in a stampede or crush injuries. Another example is to watch out for any rogue customers who are flaunting the rules in a way that may harm other people or themselves. Let's be sensible DJs and look after our audience while they enjoy themselves.
How To Read The Crowd
There are many techniques that help a DJ read a crowd and a lot of them boil down to body language. If you're good at picking up body language signals you'll easily be able to read your crowd and react accordingly. There are also other cues to look out for. In all cases, DJs need to look up from the DJ booth and be aware of their surroundings. Avoid looking down at the DJ equipment or at some screen and instead face the audience eye-to-eye.
First reactions when they walk in
If you're the warm-up DJ you'll be able to see the first customers walking in. Make sure you observe their reaction at this critical moment.
Do they wince at the volume level? Perhaps it's too loud for that time of night, you might want to turn it down. It's important to remember that volume really affects how patrons enjoy the music. At the early part of the night the volume should be lower and then gradually reach its peak by the time the headliner comes on.
This allows the audience to have a few drinks and become more relaxed around loud volumes. It also means it gives you time to fill the dance floor, the more people on the floor the more bodies there are to absorb the sound and the highest you can push the volume.
Another thing to think about is when customers come to the venue early they often want to socialise with their friends, have a chat and a catch up. If your room is too loud they will simply leave and probably go to the smoking area. If you bear that in mind and keep the volume level lower until the room is busy you can avoid people simply walking in and immediately out again because it's too loud.
It's also worth checking the balance of the sound in the room. Some sound systems are not that great and the sound might be too heavy on the high frequencies, making the sound sharp, piercing and unappealing. Have a quick walk around the dance floor and see if you can spot any issues with the sound and adjust your mixer levels accordingly.
Remember that the BPM (Beats Per Minute) of the music you decide to play also makes a big difference. Generally speaking, DJs will warm up the night with slower tracks of a slower BPM and progress to faster BPMs later on.
Eye contact and facial expressions
Make eye contact with your audience, let them know they are welcome in your room and that you're a fun, happy host. This positive vibe will be infectious! You might even gesture for them to come in to your room and enjoy the music you have for them.
You can easily see from their facial expressions if they are having a good time! If they aren't then try and switch the music style or genre until you happen across the right tracks.
When you've got a bouncing room and everyone is having fun try taking that energy to a higher level. Maintain eye contact especially with any ringleaders you identify in the crowd, you lead the way, bounce up and down, throw your hands around and be the conductor of the crowd. They will love it and your enthusiasm will inspire them to let loose their inner raver!
How do they dress?
Every dance music sub-culture has it's own fashion and styles. An experienced DJ will start to pick up on these clues. For example, if you saw that your audience were rocking Moschino, you might realise they are UKG fans! If they are adorned with neon glow sticks and cyberdog outfits they might be partial to a bit of EDM!
What music sub-cultures do you recognise? Perhaps its worth reading more about musical sub cultures and how fashion and music go hand-in-hand.
Hands in the air or bums on seats?
It's really not rocket science! People in clubs vote with their feet and hands! If you're not playing the right music or another room is playing better music they will simply leave. If your room is empty, you should change what you are playing.
A good tip is to play songs that everyone knows to encourage them back in. Once you've got a full dancefloor in the palm of you hand you'll have the luxury of playing more underground tracks.
If there are seats in your venue and everyone is sitting rather than dancing this is an obvious way to see if they are enjoying themselves or not.
If they are bouncing up and down, dancing like crazy, whooping and putting their hands in the air, you're onto a winner! Keep it up and see how far you can push the energy! Pull out some massive tracks and unique remixes to create those memorable moments DJs dream of!
Sometimes you're DJing and the room is quite busy and the energy is good but you wonder if you can take it to the next level. You should test the water with different tracks sandwiched between the style you're already playing to see their reaction.
If a new track is not working for the crowd you'll see that in the way they move. If they are liking it you might have found a new path to explore. Don't forget they might be nervous to explore new sounds so you'll have to guide them. Use your body to communicate how cool this new sound is, they will follow.
There are many reasons why DJs should learn how to read the crowd at their DJ performance. DJs will naturally build up this skill while performing and become better at reading the crowd over time. If you're a DJ interested in learning how to read the crowd we hope this guide helped raise some interesting points.
The best solution to these problems is to LOOK UP! So many new DJs are focused so much on the mixing that they never look up and communicate with their audience. This creates an uneasy vibe so make sure you're not that kind of DJ.
Look up, communicate and be enthusiastic.
If your room is emptying or you want to amp the energy to the next level make sure you have some killer tracks ready to drop. The best tracks to fill a dancefloor or take the energy to the next level are remixes of popular songs. If you play a classic but it's remixed it ticks many boxes. It will keep the classic fans engaged and also ignite some fire for the listeners who want something new.