The most frequently asked question that DJs hear is..."Do you take requests?" In general...the typical answer that everyone normally receives is..."Yes!" Most DJs are usually open to suggestions from their audience, because ultimately they want the majority of the people in attendance to enjoy themselves and remember their names. Obviously, the more popular a DJ becomes...the more successful they will be in their career as an entertainer.
Ironically, the number one complaint that most people have about DJs is that..."They didn't play my requests!" This is the eternal conundrum that DJs and their audiences are confronted with. How could this be? If the DJ's goal is for everyone to dance and have a good time, why would they not consider playing someone's request? The answer to this baffling question will soon be revealed, but first...let's explore the definition of a "request".
re-quest (noun) 1. An act of asking politely or formally for something.
There are many factors that determine whether or not a DJ will play a song, but treating the DJ rudely is guaranteed to get you dismissed for the rest of the evening. This is the Golden Rule...treat other people the way you would like to be treated...with respect. Unfortunately, in this day and age of technology, immediate gratification is often expected and people confuse the word request with the word demand.
de-mand (noun) 1. An insistent and peremptory request, made as if by right. (verb) 1. To ask authoritatively or brusquely.
If you take a moment to compare the two definitions, you can see, there's a difference. Fielding requests is definitely part of the DJ's job description, but when a person becomes rude, condescending, or even threatening when making a request, they've crossed the line of what's socially acceptable. If you've been invited to attend a party, paid a cover charge to enter a nightclub, or bought a drink at a bar...that does not give you the right to be verbally abusive towards the DJ. The negative effects of alcohol probably have a lot to do with this type of behavior, but that's really not an excuse. The best way to approach a DJ with a request is to simply be nice. It really doesn't hurt to smile and say "please" or "thank you". An even better solution would be to write the song(s) down and leave it at the DJ booth for review. Most likely the DJ is "working" and trying to transition into the next song (which actually might be someone else's request). A prolonged discussion will become a distraction and there may be other requests that were submitted before you. Writing the request down will ensure the DJ will not forget about your song. If you're in a bar or nightclub environment and really want to hear a song right away...consider giving the DJ a gratuity. Most people won't think twice about tipping the bartender for popping a bottle cap or mixing a drink or even the person in the coat check for hanging up their jacket. DJs perform the same type of customer service and are often overlooked by the customers...even when complying with their non-stop requests throughout the night.
Ok, now that we've identified the primary reason why DJs won't play a song request, let's explore some other variables that may affect the DJ's decision to bypass a music suggestion from someone who is always super polite and tips well...
1. The DJ is Following Orders
Contrary to popular belief, the DJ is actually doing their job and working when they're at an event. Somebody hired the DJ to play music at this particular venue or event for the night and that person is the boss. The DJ may have very specific orders to "play" or "not play" a specific genre or certain artists by the person hiring them for that evening. Explaining this to someone who wants to hear something that's not on the playlist is a very difficult situation to be in. In general, most people don't question their boss about how they want a particular job done...even if they don't always agree. The DJ accepted the gig with this understanding and really doesn't want to debate with anyone on why a particular song should be played. The person being turned down obviously wants an explanation, but the DJ is trying to do his job and now this person is becoming a distraction. This is usually the point where the conversation takes a turn for the worse. If the initial explanation is not satisfactory to the person making the request, the DJ will undoubtedly be criticized. Bottom Line: Don't take it personal if a DJ tells you they can't play a particular song...they're only doing their job.
2. The DJ Doesn't Have the Song
Back in the day this was more of an issue, because DJs had to purchase and bring their music collection to every event. If a particular DJ is working with only vinyl records or CDs, this will definitely be an issue. Today, with the internet, people are used to being able to stream any song they want. Almost all of today's DJs have the ability to stream music, but there's always that possibility of WiFi not being available at a remote location. A more plausible explanation for not having a song in today's world is not having the necessary connections to playback the streaming music on the available sound system. In any event, this will not be viewed as an acceptable explanation, because a professional DJ is expected to be prepared for any such contingencies.
3. The Song is Inappropriate
This really shouldn't require an explanation, but sometimes a a particular song is just inappropriate because of the lyrical content and the audience that it's being requested for. High School and Middle School students are the worst at understanding this concept. It has become normal for kids to listen to explicit lyrics, because everyone can buy and listen to any type of music on the internet. A lot of DJs like to listen to these types of songs too, but playing a song like this at a school dance doesn't usually go over very well with the faculty. If the most popular song doesn't have a radio playable version available, the DJ again has a difficult choice: endure the complaints and insults of the kids... or making the the teachers, parents, and chaperones really, really mad and never being able to DJ again at that particular school.
Another example of this would be playing songs about relationship break ups at wedding reception or an engagement party. It's just not appropriate.
4. It's The Wrong Time To Play the Song
Every song has a tempo or BPM (beats per minute). If the dance floor is packed with people dancing, the DJ will be reluctant to abruptly change the tempo. You don't really want to jump from a 96 BPM to a 130 BPM, but people make requests like this all the time. The DJ may really want to play the song that's being asked for, but it's simply not the right time. Perhaps the song is really popular and the DJ is waiting for more people to arrive...perhaps the DJ is planning to play the song at the end of the evening for the maximum effect...or perhaps it just wouldn't sound right to mix "Shook You All Night Long" by AC DC with "In My Feelings" by Drake. You think? Whatever the reasons... the DJ is responsible for building the energy of the party and abrupt tempo changes usually don't help accomplish that. Professional DJs will group their music sets together by genre and tempo. If those two things are conflicted...the DJ isn't going to play a request and ruin the chemistry or vibe of the party at that particular time. This doesn't mean, however, that the DJ won't play the song later, when it may flow more with what's going on. The inherent problem with most requests are that a lot of people are impatient and have a sense of entitlement (see the definition of demand). It's really hard for some people to realize they aren't the only person at the party. They're very quick to criticize the DJ for playing a particular genre because "It Sucks..." without realizing that perhaps somebody else in the room actually requested that song and really likes that type of music. If the DJ doesn't immediately play your song and says they'll get to it...be patient. Otherwise, if you absolutely must hear your requested song next...strongly consider tipping the DJ. Don't hover around the DJ booth and become a pest, this will become annoying and may result in further delays. Remember: There's other people in attendance and there may be several requests that have already been made ahead of you. The DJ will play your song when the time is right!
5. The Song Doesn't Mesh With the Theme
This is eerily similar to numbers 1 and 4, but if you go to an EDM club, don't expect to hear Hip Hop. If it's a Throwback 70's Disco Party and everyone is in costume...don't ask for Rock & Roll. If there's a dance instructor giving Salsa lessons...don't ask for Country Music. Although this is painfully obvious, you would be surprised by how often this happens. Too often people confuse the DJ with being a jukebox that operates for free. Perhaps one day technology will ultimately replace the DJ, but until then...the only people who have the right to ask for whatever they want....whenever they want...is the person paying the check.
The DJ really wants to make everyone happy, but sometimes that's a difficult task. The very best DJs have an understanding and an appreciation for all types of music and are able to connect with their audience. Members of the audience, however, don't always see things from the DJ's perspective...which is focussing on the overall success of the party. Music requests are always taken into consideration, but the easiest way to get your song played by the DJ is just treat them like anyone else and be polite.