1. Most partygoers won’t shake it to tracks that they don’t know. Have a lot of classics on hand from different styles.
Try a few different kinds of songs when the dancing starts. Make sure every one has a strong beat. Go with the type of music that gets the most people on the floor. Then explore similar genres.
2. If the dance floor clears fade immediately and throw on either a slow dance set or an undeniable percolator like Young MC’s “Bust a Move.”
3. When in doubt spin “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson or “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown. For most crowds these songs act as dance floor magnets.
The most important thing is to come in strong. When the track you’re playing’s about to end, fade it down just a bit, almost imperceptibly without losing the energy. Move the volume up high on the new track and ‘bam’ come in with the hit.
Community events, weddings and parties with lots of different ages are the most difficult to choose dance music for. I do very few of these events these days, but will step up for the right situation.
Finding songs that will please a bride, her nephew and grandmother can throw any DJ for a loop.
I say go with the music you love and make sure the crowd knows you’re into it.
On the other hand, if you are asked to play music you don’t know for the length of a party, turn the gig down.
You’ve got to respect the fact that if they’re asking for 90s hip-hop, and you’re a vintage soul, alternative rock, electronic dance type person, there is someone better for the job.
For an alternative crowd LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk is Playing At My House” is a favorite.
If you’re doing live events, you have to be prepared for anything. They’ll want you to start early, go late and let them use the microphone for horrifying karaoke performances. My advice is to go with the flow, it’s their party.
Equipment is the most important concern for any DJ working on location. I always say “What you brought is what you got,” meaning that if you don’t have backups with you, you are out of luck.
For all live events I have two additional full systems ready in case the equipment goes down. Three pairs of headphones, three of each cord I need, three flashlights…you get the idea.
For each gig I bring about 800 tracks. Much of it in alphabetical compilations. Plus a seemingly infinite amount of songs on my computer. The very first song in my collection of dance floor anthems is 2 Bears “Be Strong.”
Sneak these lesser-known-but-great songs in between more familiar tracks. This personalizes the mix and spices it up.
DJ Michele Myers will be spinning dance sets from 9pm-1:30am at KEXP’s party this New Year’s Eve at Seattle’s Space Needle.
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, kexp.org. Music historian & producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s written scripts, lesson plans & features for the Smithsonian, Experience Music Project, the University of Washington & NPR.