How to read a crowd

Being able to pull off a successful DJ gig comes down to knowing how to read a crowd. This is one of the main factors when it comes to learning how to DJ at a high level. As a DJ, we must have great musical intuition and an inner knowledge of how we can engage the crowd with our music to keep people moving on the dance floor. In this blog I will identify some key takeaway points to expand your knowledge in this area.

Ferry Corsten at Studio 3 Crown, Melbourne

Ferry Corsten at Studio 3 Crown, Melbourne

Feel the vibe

Before the playing of any DJ set, it can be a great idea to be a part of the crowd. It is essential to put yourself in the punters’ shoes. How are they reacting and vibing to the other DJ’s playing? What is the environment usually like on any given night? Get a feel for it, the venue you will be playing at, and get a feel for the crowd and the music they like. Is it the same crowd each week? Or is it a different crowd each week?

This is why arriving early to nightclubs can be so important. Watching what the DJ before you plays can be a great indicator on how you can get a feel for the night, the music, the people, and where to take your set.

Look up and engage

Always be the DJ who looks at the crowd, makes eye contact, smiles, and engages consistently with the crowd. You need to be a DJ who is watching out for people moving their feet at the bar, watching their facial expressions and any minor body movement. These are small and important signs that are a great indicator that you are on track to eventually getting them to make an entrance on the dance floor.  

So become observant, engage frequently, and most importantly, look like you are having a great time and move your body onstage.

Pick a target

We live in a world of followers. Therefore, as soon as one patron goes to the dance floor, more will be soon to follow. Everyone is very hesitant to be the first one to make their way down. It can be a funny thing to watch, at times, because it can be so obvious. The best way to get them down on the dance floor is to pick your targets, in most cases picking women. They are normally always the first ones to make their move on the dance floor and love to dance, then the boys are always soon to follow.

It is like the icebreaker. They flow in numbers thereafter. Make more effort to engage, make eye contact with those one or two people, read facial expressions and any body movement, adjusting your music style to get a reaction. Remember, as soon as one is on the dance floor, the others will follow.

Be experimental

Always be experimental. Don't be afraid to change your style to surprise the crowd out of the blue. When you get people moving, you may have developed a particular routine that gets them dancing. Don't be a DJ who gets stuck on that routine or gets set in their ways to play it safe. Experiment and play a track you may be unsure will work. This will expand your comfort zone and have the potential to see what you can get away with when it comes to pushing the boundaries.

You don't want to become a predictable DJ. Keep them guessing.  

Thomas Hayes at Studio 3 Crown, Melbourne

Thomas Hayes at Studio 3 Crown, Melbourne

Don’t fall into the trap of crowd-pleasing

Try to become an educator of a DJ, not a crowd-pleaser, don't fall into the trap of letting the crowd dictate your set. Train them to be patient and don't give all the popular tracks away at once. Although people can have short attention spans when it comes to music tastes, and there is always a lot of wondering on and off the dance floor, learn to stand your ground and not give in to instant gratification.

People always want the top ten hits or popular music, but learn to draw the line and show them what different things you can bring to the table. Show them you are not just a chart hit jukebox that is replaceable. Try to take them on a journey, slipping in the crowd-pleasers on occasion. Be disciplined, experimental, patient, and learn to be the educator of your set.
Would love to know what has worked for you in the past.
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