How to Read the Crowd as a DJ (Everything Has Been Covered)

Crowd plays an important role in a DJ’s performances. When the crowd doesn’t respond to your music then it is an issue. This article is here to address all your crowd related issues.

In order to become a successful DJ, you have to control the crowd/audience and learn how to engage with them. This is applicable for all kinds of DJ performances including club, bar, YouTube and mobile DJ performances.

We all have heard of stories where the audience didn’t like a part of the performance and abandoned the show and stopped their dance.

For some DJ’s this could result into being jobless. You repeat this few times and you gather bad reviews and thus career comes to a halt.

On the other hand, if you do it the right way and keep your audience entertained then you get rewarded many folds. Your name as DJ will also spread with word of mouth.

1. Ways in Which You Can Engage the Audience and Keep Them Entertained

Reading the crowd means you engage with the audience and know specifically what is the crowd looking for.

You won’t be able to know every individual’s taste but a general overview is good enough to set the path for your music.

Once you and the crowd are on the same wavelength, it becomes so easy to complete the show and people will keep asking for more. This also gives you more ideas about what music to play next and thus makes your DJing job easy.

There are some points which you can look out for before your performance. These include the venue, occasion, age group of the crowd. Half of the work about tracks selection is done when you have done your homework.

Even more, experienced DJ’s would ask questions about the audience to the organizers.

The timing of your performance also plays an important role. Late-night youth parties require different music than a party where married couples are coming.

It is also important to know if you are the first DJ of the night. For the first performance, you need to play some music that invites the audience to hit the dance floor.

On the other hand, if you are 3rd DJ of the night then the audience will already be charged up and you can start playing the dance music without the need for warming up the crowd.

If you are the latter DJ then you also need to know what kind of music the DJ before you have played so that you pick up the tones from that point. 

It is always advisable to reach the venue beforehand and have a look at the faces of the audience. This will tell you the mood of the crowd.

When the DJ before you is keeping the audience engaged then you can pick up his music and change it after some time. This gives you more time to adjust yourself with the vibe of the crowd.

A bored crowd will be distracted. They would be attending phone calls, drinking/eating in groups and chatting in each other’s ears. This is a signal for you to switch up the music and play something else which is inviting for them to dance floor.

Maybe the bass is a problem with the crowd. You may need to play music in higher frequencies and choose tracks that are not meant for dancing till being tired.

The bass should be increased once approximately 80% of the crowd is already on the dance floor. Before that keep playing light music and keep inviting the crowd to engage with you.

If you have a helper in the crowd then it is the best thing for you.

All of this comes slowly to the new DJ’s. Even intermediate-level DJ’s mess up in reading the crowd quite often. The better a DJ can read the crowd, the better his performance will be.

2. How to Read the Crowd When You are the First DJ

When You are the First DJ

For the first DJ of the night, it is important to understand that people will come to the club or party to get socialize first and then they will think about hitting the dance floor. They would be resistant to start dancing before they see few bodies already shaking it up on the dance floor.

In such cases, it is best to keep playing your tracks along with observing the body language and facial expressions of the crowd. It is essential to warm the audience before playing the heavy bass tracks.

Don’t be discouraged on seeing the empty dance floor, the first DJ of the night has this responsibility of engaging the audience, make them shaking their bodies even when sitting on their chairs.

Just one trigger is required for a few people to come to the dance floor. Others would automatically come when they see a few people dancing.

Some people may give you requests for specific tracks, you can also play those tracks so that they engage with you and then you can also speak back to them.

The above tips will help you as the first DJ of the night and should make your job easy. The size of the crowd also matters and things will change into your favor if the crowd is large and consists of a lot of youth.

3. Keep Variety of Tracks Handy with Yourself

The bigger the selection of music you have, the better it is. You can bound to fulfill the crowd’s demand for music tracks when you have a good selection. Don’t even ignore the recently popular tracks and all-time favorites.

I have seen that new DJ’s don’t know this and experience DJ’s are too over-confident so as to not have a good selection of tracks with them.

For new DJ’s you have to select the tracks that you want to take with yourself and for advanced DJ’s, they can hire someone for music selection.

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A good selection of music from various genres helps in switching up too. Maybe the crowd is not showing interest in a specific genre of music and in that case, you can always play some other genre of music.

However, if you switch genres 3-4 times and still crowd is not excited, then you have high chances of getting a bad show and bad reputation.

When the crowd is large, they are bound to have different music tastes. By deliberately switching the music tracks, you can make sure that everyone gets their taste of music and hence you keep boredom away.

As the first dance man/woman invites others to join the dance floor, so as the first bored person can make others feel bored.

On the other hand, if the audience is small in size then you can ask for direct feedback from the crowd. People like it when their requested tracks are played by the DJ.

One important point to note is the difference between Mobile DJ’s and club performances. For Mobile DJ’s, I would highly recommend that they play the popular tracks.

For club DJ’s, different genres of music tracks can be played as the crowd is more engaged and open to listening newer kinds of tracks.

4. Body Language is the Single Most Important Signal

There are a lot of things that come under body language. The dresses (both men and women), holding of cigar sticks, the age group and even hairstyles tell a lot about what music a DJ should play.

You read it wrong and play the wrong music and you will get cold eyes from the crowd and people would be least interested in the music being played.

Some other things that you can look out for are the crowd’s mood, occasion and who’s the host of the party.

If a company is throwing a DJ party from its employees then expect a different mood crowd versus the same people coming to a party organized for the birthday of a senior citizen couple.

5. When You are Unable to Read the Crowd

Even after using the tips given in this article, it may so happen that you fail to get the vibe of the crowd. This usually happens when the crowd is not giving any response and is busy in themselves and that too in small groups.

One solution is to keep switching the music genre as we discussed above. The other solution is to ask a few people from the crowd for their music track requests.

Even when you have done everything that you have learned about DJ and the crowd is not responding then its best to stop trying too much and assume that the crowd is just like that.

Switching it up too much will cause stress on you and could hamper your performance as such. In such cases, you can ask for feedback from the organizers and venue owners.

If the crowd at that place has always been like that then it makes sense to avoid such places for your performances.

6. How Exactly to Read the Crowd: Engaging with the Crowd

When You are the First DJ

Focusing too much on the music tracks is bad for you. As a DJ, keep saying a few words during the performance and keep making some eye contacts.

If your head is down and always looking at the DJ equipment, lighting and your helpers then crowd will feel disconnected. There will always be people who want to interact with the DJ.

Bring your mood to the same level as the crowd. When you ask them to raise their hands or raise their mobiles, its best to raise your hands too. The crowd needs a leader whom they can follow and you can become that leader.

Personally, I have seen many DJ’s who fail at doing this and hence their performance is not at par as compared to the effort they have put into playing the tracks.

If you have access to a mic, then use it to your advantage and speak to the crowd about a few words in track. They can repeat that word behind you. Use the same word for this repetition and the crowd will get that energy easily.

The feedback you get from the crowd is exactly the thing you should be looking at. Play the track, look at their body language and facial expressions. If you see faces moving up and down on the beats of the tracks then you are doing good.

An important to take care of here is that while you are looking for feedback, your face doesn’t show the crowd that you are searching for something.

7. The DJ’s Who Learn to Read the Crowd become Pro and Earn Fame

Reading the crowd should come naturally to you. This takes time and a lot of performances. The benefit for you when playing the tracks is that if you read the crowd correctly then you need not put extra effort in thinking about next track to play.

The crowd will guide you with what you should be playing next. The ideas will flow naturally in your brain.

DJ’s who completely understand their crowd also know about:

  1. The echo
  2. How is the crowd spread out in the club/party hall.
  3. Genre of tracks to play
  4. Engaging crowd with mic.
  5. What other DJ’s are going to play
  6. At what number is your turn as a DJ

Thus, reading the crowd is a wholistic thing which involves all of the above.

Music creates feelings. Using the music to guide the emotions of listener is an art. The crowd can give you feedback about a specific track but the exact track to play will have to come from you.

Think yourself as a sailor who is taking the crowd through a mixture of feelings apt for the occasion.

One tip that I can give here regarding the arousal of feelings is to play music and build up the hype and then suddenly let the music go off.

This is known as the pattern break or push/pull technique. I have seen this being used by so many DJ’s and it works everywhere and every time.

It’s all putting in the effort. The more unique you make the music experience; the more crowd will get attracted and will ask for repetition of your performances.

Even when you have done 100’s of performances then also do make sure to do your homework about the crowd, music selection, venue, and occasion, etc.

A DJ has aptly said that the more you take care of the crowd, the more care and love you get from the crowd.

All that is possible to learn about how to read the crowd has been discussed in this article. I would recommend you to go over this article multiple times before you learn this art.

If you have learned this art already then there is always a chance of improvement.

Learning all of the above tips and paying extra attention to the above 6 bullet points will give you a lot of head start. The actual perfection will come when you start to perform live.

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