Top Ten Don’ts of DJing Etiquette

Posted on June 26, 2012


I’ve been DJing for a number of years mostly in London and sometimes across the country. I meet a number of interesting characters and it’s also at times made me gather a large amount of hate I have for mankind. Why? Because I’m convinced that people congregated in one space in a small room make up for what is the opinion of the general public personified.

It’s with this in mind that I’ve threatened for quite some time to write a few rules on what and what not to do when approaching DJ’s when they’re going about their spinning on the wheels of steel/laptop. And also a few tips to other DJ’s I’ve observed when out getting my groove on.

In fact here’s a Top Ten of sorts.


Top of the list and for a good reason. Fellow DJ’s: how many times have you been looking down at your decks concentrating on what song to play next when a flailing drunken pair of arms tries to grab your attention, shouting in your ear on what to play next? We’ve all been there. And you might think you’re being cool being the life and soul by requesting a song that’ll make the party rock. Trust me, you’re not. That’s OUR job and don’t you forget it.

2. No Stupid Requests

We’ve heard them all – from the weird to the downright stupid. Though alcohol might have something to do with it. From German songs, the Baywatch theme to INXS and the Libertines: you name it, we’ve heard them all. I just wish they could hear themselves the next morning that’s all as I play back verbatim the incriminating evidence from the night before.

3. Don’t keep requesting song after song

It’s one thing to make a request for a tune as it is. It’s another when you keep returning to the DJ booth and ask over and over for different tunes. Who gave you a golden ticket to ask as and when you want for your track to be played upon your request exactly? It certainly wasn’t me. And how arrogant does that make you look on top on of that?

I remember a punk set I once played as the gig suited it. And there was a guy who kept requesting Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks and pretty much every punk band he could name from the late 70’s. I played what I wanted and succumbed with John Lydon’s other outfit Public Image Limited at the same time. Just to massage his ego.

4. Don’t request a tune out of step with genre/style being played

I’ve been called a boy scout DJ just because I didn’t play ‘Breathe’ by Prodigy when most of the tracks I played that night were 80’s 12″ remixes. The ultimate in foolish requests. Have you not been listening throughout the night what I’ve been playing? It’s a bit like asking for steak at a seafood restaurant. Listen next time and think before you speak. Think even harder about requesting as they won’t be met too kindly by the fraternity of DJ’s.
Oh, and no requests for Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Olly Murs, Libertines, LMFAO, Drake, Rizzle Kicks or Top 40 pap as they often offend. Ta.

5. Absolutely no laptops, unless you have Serato

Personally, I find that laptops playing tracks straight from iTunes cheapens DJing in the same way as playing a track following another does when sat casually at home. Call me a philistine or old fashioned, but I like the idea of carrying my bag of records across town to play to a crowd who are going to hang on my every track played. The two aren’t the same and unless you have Serato, which basically means you can work in tandem with your decks and laptop as your steering wheel or control centre if you like, then leave the job of proper DJing to someone who knows what they’re doing.

6. No whining or complaining if I don’t have your song

I only have so many records to carry. I only have so many tunes to play in an alloted period of time. So don’t be an ungrateful so and so and throw your toys out of your pram if you don’t have what you are asking for. And no whinging ‘What for’s at my direction when I play something that’s not to your liking. You’re not the centre of attention and you’re not the only person in the room either. Unless you slip me some notes or offer other ‘favours’, then I’ll see what I can do.

7. Don’t criticise what we do just because I’m not as good a DJ as you

I once had a guy stand opposite my booth with his arms folded and looking dead into my direction, with a look of being not too impressed with my set. He was also the same guy as the number 3 rule who kept asking for songs throughout the night. He stood with a icy glare at me for about 20 minutes until I asked him what was up. He replied by saying that my set sucked, I didn’t beat match enough and that I didn’t play whatever he requested.

What I do isn’t easy and you can’t impress everyone. If you try to do so, you end up failing miserably. Quite frankly, it’s not as easy as it looks to beatmatch Ray Charles to Luther Vandross.

8. Don’t put your drinks on the table of the DJ area

It’s a fundamental error that many of you plebs make, that because there’s space in around the table where I operate that it’s carte blanche for somewhere to put your drinks momentarily. Oh no mon amis. Look what happens when I pour water on an electrical socket. The risk of a similar thing spilling over decks or on my records won’t end nicely for me or the venue who paid a lot of money for all that equipment that’s responsible for your dependence of a good night out. The DJ booth is a dry zone. Unless they’re my drinks.

9. I’m not going on the microphone just because you leave tomorrow morning

Do I look like Tim Westwood? Shouting over the top of tracks looking and sounding like a complete twat, knowing that I’m over fifty, look out of place in a club, knowing full well that if I weren’t such a big name in the hip-hop game, I look like I would work in an insurance company for a living. And don’t assume that because there’s a microphone socket on my mixer that I have an accompanying mike in my possession. I don’t. And I never will. And what with it being your last night before you jet off home back to the States isn’t going to matter a jot. I still don’t have one.

10. Don’t use effects to show off, it just masks your inability to DJ

DJing over the years (and in especially the last few) has made it relatively easy for anyone to think they’re the next Erol Alkan or Judge Jules. But using effects more than what is necessary, sampling too many filters or flangers over a track is not DJing. Less is more. And knowing when to do so is an art in itself. Learn from the professional kid. Not that I’m one exactly, but timing is everything.

Posted in: Music, Social