As DJing becomes more and more popular with the younger generations, a lot of corners are being cut on the road to success. It’s easy to watch a few YouTube tutorials, buy some equipment, and call yourself a DJ, but there’s definitely more to it than that. Knowing your role as the DJ is extremely important and is one of the most ignored aspects of today’s DJ dream-chasers.
French DJ/producer Teki Latex (Sound Pellegrino) spoke on this topic during the recent Red Bull Music Academy Seminar in Seoul. He’s a DJ in the truest sense of the word, and according to him, the DJ’s role is not only to showcase their style and taste, but also to “make the people dance” and “be at the service of the people.” His description places the focus on “the people,” while many DJs are too busy putting the focus on themselves instead.
For DJs that consider themselves tastemakers, focusing on the crowd is an especially important thing to remember. Obviously you want to push the boundaries and introduce your audience to new music, but that can’t be the only thing you do. Teki put it wonderfully:
This is golden advice for all DJs, regardless of how much experience you have.
The seminar had a very interesting concept where Teki played the first few minutes of a set in various scenarios. He bounced around from a warehouse rave in Berlin, to an Atlanta club, to the main stage of Ultra Music Festival, and more. The point of this exercise was to show that it’s possible to play a variety of situations while keeping your style and integrity intact.
Applying all of his own advice (see quote above), it was incredible to watch Teki Latex perform for these “simulated” audiences. After most of the mini-sets, he explained a little more about why he chose certain songs. What I found really neat was the fact that even if he had never performed in a city, he was aware of each locale and able to play to the crowd. He knew his music library frontwards and backwards, and that paid off big time. It really showed the passion and amazing dedication he’s given to the art of DJing.
Knowing everything about your tracks takes time, but it will be time well spent. You’ll find that the more you research artists, genres, scenes, etc., the faster you’ll make connections between them that you can use to your advantage. If a crowd reacts positively to a certain track, you’ll immediately be able to draw on your knowledge and choose tracks that take your set in that direction.
This brings me to the last thing I want to mention. DJs that plan their sets beforehand and leave no room for deviation are missing the point of this article completely. A planned-out set automatically limits your options, and 9 times out of 10, your set will fall short on the dancefloor. While you may have done your research and think you know what the audience will like to hear, you have to be ready to adjust your set if your predictions weren’t spot on.