Successfully Read a Crowd Like a DJ!

Successfully Read a Crowd Like a DJ!

Do you not know how to read a crowd like a DJ?  Are you having trouble reading a crowd when you’re DJing?  Do you not know how to get out of this stump?  Well, I’ll help you.  Reading a crowd like a DJ does can be difficult, but once you get the skill down, you’ll be able to rock any crowd.  The problem with reading a crowd is most people over think it.  But it still requires practice, Frankie Knuckles didn’t learn how to successfully read a crowd like a DJ overnight, neither will you.  However, as long as you play good music (i.e., music that fits the crowd for that particular event), then you’ll rock the crowd.  This is the problem most DJs have and don’t understand.  They try to play the latest and greatest remix they like.  The last two words there are the problem, “they like.”  You DJ for the party, not for yourself.  Unless you like the music they like too, the it’s perfect!  However, sometimes you have to play a song you don’t like than others.  For me I liked all the music I played, this is because I liked a lot of popular music on the radio.  Some DJs try to be “underground” and play their music that no one knows.  Funny thing is, I like most the music these types of DJs play… however, most crowds I have experienced won’t like it.  If the crowd doesn’t like it, they don’t dance.  If they don’t dance, they don’t stay at the venue/party.  If they don’t stay at the venue/party, then the manager/host gets pissed.  If the manager/host gets pissed, then you get fired.  Keep this in mind as it is a primer for knowing how to read a crowd.

Successfully Read a Crow Like a DJ

These are the 3 pieces you need to successfully read a crowd like a DJ:

  1.       Knowing what music the crowd likes
  2.       Playing good music for the crowd
  3.       Keeping the crowd’s energy up

Knowing the crowd

If you want to successfully read a crowd like a DJ, you need to know the crowd you are going to perform for.  I am from the Metro Detroit area.  I have DJ’ed a lot of house parties and can definitely tell you different crowds like different types of music.  Same goes for different clubs.  Same goes for different regions!  For example, Detroit likes when the vocals of the track are turned up to a higher pitch.  Southern regions like a slower tempo in music.  Chicago area loves remixes, while Detroit likes more original tracks.  Keep this in mind.  Although you will most likely DJ at a local party or event first, I wanted to paint the picture that each crowd can be vastly different, and knowing what they like before you DJ the event is extremely important.  This is essential to reading the crowd.  If you do your research beforehand you will know how they respond.  For example, if you want to play at local nightclub, pick out a particular night you want to DJ.  Before you try to land the gig, go and take note of what the DJ is playing.  Get this in your mind.  You need to capture this and start building a list of songs similar to the same groove in which the DJ plays.  Also, remember that different DJ positions (i.e., opener/headliner) play different music.  The opener usually starts up with lower energy music and builds it up for the headliner, while the headliner plays all the hits.  Since you’ll probably be an opener at the club before DJing a whole night, you need to notice what the opener plays and how the crowd responds to it.  Typically the opener will play music with less energy and build up to music with higher energy.  Right before the headliner goes on, the opener will play a few hit songs at the end of the set to allow a smooth transition to the headliner DJ.  Watch how he does this and structure your playlist or tracklist similar to this.  I know this doesn’t seem like one of the criteria for how to successfully read a crowd like a DJ, but it is!

Successfully Read a Crow Like a DJWherever you go, get to know the crowd first.  Know how different regions react.  College parties usually like all the radio hits with an occasional hit of progressive house or a dubstep song here and there.  Weddings like a wide variety of music from all sorts of genres, you will need to consult with the host of the party to figure out what they want at their party as they’ll know their crowd the best.  Same with graduation parties, however you can more likely play music that is on the radio as, on average, there will be a younger crowd than weddings.  Still consult with the host on what to play for every party!  This will set you up to successfully read a crowd like a DJ!

Playing good music for the crowd

Now that you know your crowd and the type of music they like, you need to play GOOD music for them.  Just because you’re playing a dubstep show doesn’t mean that every dubstep song is good, in fact there are far more bad ones than good ones.  The trick to this is to go on music charts for that particular genre and find the ones that are the highest on the charts.  You don’t successfully read a crowd like a DJ without research.  These songs are the most popular songs for a reason… it’s because they are GOOD!  So use this to your advantage and stock up on them.  It makes you job much easier when reading the crowd.  You know what music genre they want, you chose good music of that genre, and now you need to know the last part of the equation – keeping the energy up.

Successfully Read a Crow Like a DJ

Keeping the crowd’s energy up

This part is the most part of “reading the crowd” you will usually do.  Keep in mind it is essential if you want to successfully read a crowd like a DJ.  It will take time and practice to get good at this, but once you have it, you will feel it.  It is a transcendental feeling when you read a crowd correctly.  Feeling what they feel, playing want they want to hear, and moving with their energy is indescribable – one of my most favorite aspects of DJing.  It’s amazing because they love you, and you love them.  It cannot be put into words how wonderful it is, and I can’t wait for you to experience that moment.

Some of the aspects on how to do this correctly is to watch your crowd.  Are people moving?  Are people coming on the dance floor or leaving?  Are people looking at their phones?  Watch their faces… are they looking at you or their friends?  If they are looking at you, then try something new.  That’s them asking you to put on a different track because they want to hear something else.  Unless of course they are smiling, dancing, and fist bumping while looking at you… that just means you’re doing a great job, and closer to being able to successfully read a crowd like a DJ 😉 .  But watch these patterns.  Ask yourself, if I were at this party would it feel awkward for me to be here?  If I were a guest would people be leaning over to me saying, “man, this DJ sucks!”  If yes, then play music to break the awkwardness and allow the group to successfully coincide with one another.  Knowing what music to play is done in your research.  It’s all a cycle, folks!  Furthermore, this aspect of DJing is about feeling.  You need to feel what the crowd feels.

There are a few “key hints” to keeping the energy up as well.

  1. Don’t play a song for more than 4-5 minutes
    • People will get bored.  You can see this when they start to stand and not dance.  When they look at their phones, and when they leave the dance floor.
  2. Don’t play the breakdown of the song for too long
    • This will decrease the energy of the crowd.  Maybe throw a beat over the breakdown if it goes on for too long.  As you can tell, if you want to successfully read a crowd like a DJ, you’ll need to come up with stuff on the stop at times.  This is a perfect time for you to use what fits with your style.
  3. Don’t have too long of an intro or outro playing
    • These segments of the track are for people to mix a track into or use to mix out of while DJing.  Playing it without anything else will lead to the crowd being bored if it is too long.  16 beats is OK, 32 beats is pushing it, and anything over 32 beats is not good.

#1 Rule for DJ EffectsUse these key tips to make sure you don’t lose the energy of the crowd.  But remember, these are just rules of thumb.  You may want to have a long break down or extended intro play – that’s fine.  Do whatever fits your style of DJing!  Just remember, these tips have been used by many pro DJs who can  successfully read a crowd like a DJ!

If you want more information on this, I created a formula which will help you understand how to do this, better.  Check it out: Pro DJs’ Top Secret Formula To Increasing Crowd Energy.

Once you successfully know how to read a crowd, you will enjoy every minute of it.  This is the aspect of DJing where people love you for your DJing.  You feel them, they feel you… it’s all through music, so research, perform, and connect!  Then you too can successfully read a crowd like a DJ!

DJ Whrr
DJ Whrr
Starting at the ripe age of 15, I (DJ Whrr) started my DJ career. After buying up high quality equipment and teaching myself how to mix, I soon hit the DJ scene. From DJing graduations and weddings, to clubs and house parties, I tried it all! I have performed at many venues including the Filmore in Detroit, MI the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, MI and 5th Quarter in Ann Arbor, MI (if you want me to connect you with any of these venues, I’ll do my best – just shoot me an email in the lower right-hand corner). Finally, I also taught DJing at the University of Michigan for a little while. All these things inspired me to create How to DJ Quickly for DJs to learn online. However, aside from DJing, I am passionate about teaching others. This is why I created How to DJ Quickly. Starting out DJing can be tough (trust me, I know). Whether you are confused about DJ Equipment, How To Mix, How To Mix Like A DJ, Getting DJ gigs, or just need General DJ News, Tips, and Tricks and information about the DJ Lifestyle, I will help you! I know what it is like to be a each skill level and I want to help all! This is why beginners, novices, and experts can use How to DJ Quickly to learn more about DJing! Like I said, I am here to help, so if you have any questions, please email me using my email which you can find on my: "Questions? Contact Me." page. Check out How to DJ Quickly for more!
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