Whether you’re a dabbler or a dedicated pro, Berlin-based Scott Binder (international DJ, Billboard charting artist, former Banger Bros. member and author) gives you his experienced spin on the do’s and don’ts of DJ behavior.
Let’s first touch on the topic of music requests. No matter what kind of DJ you decide to become, you will be confronted with this issue more than once. If you decide to be a mobile DJ, who plays at weddings, private parties and for friends, then taking requests is going to be part of the job description.
If, however, you go the route of being a club DJ/artist, you do not have to take requests if you don’t want to. If you go for the latter, the best way to go about dealing with requests is to be kind, and politely tell the person asking for a particular track that you don’t have it. It’s as easy as that. There’s no need to get all pissed off, because that doesn’t do anybody good, and you simply don’t have to play whatever it is they would like you to. Don’t take it personally.
I’ve mentioned that it’s important to be flexible about what you play as a DJ. But I want to make sure I am clear on this. I’m not saying that you should never play tracks you don’t want to. My point is that if you are one of those DJs who likes a variety of electronic music, then it’s in your best interest to be flexible within that context. If you are planning on being a DJ who plays only techno, then by all means play only techno.
Whatever your perspective is on the subject, just be aware of the situations you put yourself in. If you are going to be a techno DJ, don’t say yes to a booking where the promoter wants you to play some funky house. Even though I have a wide range of music I enjoy, if there is a promoter who wants to fly me out for a show, but the music the club wants is not something I’m particularly excited about, I’m not going to do that show.
As a DJ/artist, you are going to face choices about what kind of music you want to create and DJ, and what kind of overall style you will put out into the world. A lot of people are concerned about being a sellout and ditching the music they really like for mainstream music. I believe that you should always create and DJ the kind of music that you like the most.
If you are following your musical bliss, you will be in alignment with your true desires. There are going to be times when you might have to shift your style to certain crowds. For example, when I play in different countries, I always find out what kind of style of dance music is going over best at the moment. In fact, I had a conversation with a promoter recently who told me that right now deep house is big in his country, and he asked if it would be a problem if I played some the next time they brought me out. Was it a problem? Of course not, I love deep house. Now, if he asked me to play country music, I wouldn’t do the show. I love a wide range of electronic music, so expanding my scope in that context isn’t a problem for me.
There are certain styles that I enjoy more than others, but sometimes I am in the minority on a certain genre. For instance, I love electro house, but it’s not a style that goes over well here in Berlin. If I am playing a show and am playing only music that I love most, then I am missing the point. Again, it’s a fine line because you definitely want to stick to what you love—it’s just that sometimes you have to be flexible within that context. We are entertainers, and the point is that people who come to the show have a great time. If I am playing music for only my enjoyment, then I should just stay home in the basement.
If you want mainstream success, you are going to have to make whatever it is that you are doing mainstream. In other words, if you create a glitch-hop track that takes the world by storm, perhaps this genre will become the new pop music. Because what’s the definition of pop? Popular music. I recommend following your heart and creating what you want. You can’t lose if you stay true to what you love most. If that’s creating and DJing underground music––stay with that. If you like the idea of creating pop music––go for it.
A lot of people complain about the mainstream, yet these are the same people who are not buying underground or indie music. They say that the mainstream has no soul, but it’s that kind of attitude of judgment that creates a lack of soul. My advice here is to pay no attention to what people think about this topic. It all comes down to what you want to do.
Be mindful of every situation you are in, though. If you are into underground music and try to mix in a current pop tune at a show, it’s probably not going to work! And if you are like man of my DJ/producer friends, you will not only enjoy music but you will also want to create a wide range of it. Music makers have respect for what it takes to produce music, and a lot of us like to experiment with creating many different kinds of it.