A lot of DJ’s are good at beat matching but are not be able to keep people excited and on the dance floor. Over half of DJing is finding the right songs to play. In this article I’ll explain how I pick songs to play throughout the night at a nightclub. Many people think you have to create a playlist before the event. I disagree. You have to be able to read the crowd and know your music well. Song selection is going to greatly depend on the genre of music I will be playing.
Genre of Music
At nightclubs you are generally not going to be straying too far from one genre of music to the next. For example, if I’m DJing at a house music nightclub, then I’m basically going to be playing music around 128 beats per minute throughout most of the night. If I’m playing at a hip hop club, then the beat per minute range is going to range from 75 to 140. Immediately you might be thinking house music is easy to DJ since most of it is in the 126 to 130 beats per minute range. Not the case.
All music has a certain level of energy. For example, fist pumping house music compared to a mellow type of house music. Both generally stay in the 128 beat per minute range, but I have to skillfully and artistically mix seamless transitions between them because it would sound funny to jump back and forth. Hip hop on the other hand ranges greatly in beats per minute. This adds another element of complexity to live mixing. I now have to take into consideration the beats per minute “and” the energy. This might sound crazy, but I could have an 80 beat per minute song that has more energy than a 130 beat per minute song. So how do I figure all of this out? Through years of live performance experience with a variety of dance audience and most importantly daily mixing practice in my studio.
At a nightclub I’m going to be sticking with mostly high energy and some medium energy music. Hardly ever do I play low energy music with the exception of lounges. When I DJ nightclubs, I normally play a combination of five high energy songs and two medium energy songs, then repeat. People need some time to breathe and get drinks during the medium energy songs. This could change though based on reactions by the crowd. If people are responding well to a certain beat per minute range or energy, I keep it going. If I notice people running off the dance floor, I switch up the beat per minute. If that doesn’t work, I try switching up the energy. I cycle the energy so people can anticipate another high in the music. You can’t be at the top all night with high energy fist pumping music or else people will be exhausted and have nothing to look forward to.
I’m very careful about taking requests. You always get that drunk girl or guy that wants to hear something borderline that doesn’t fit into the genre of music being played. If it doesn’t fit, I just politely tell them I don’t have the song. They might get mad, but at least I don’t have a nightclub full of upset people. Besides, they won’t remember the next day anyway!