It’s Christmas season and many DJs are in full party mode — and exhausted. But there are plenty more days to go in the Holiday Party season. Here are some tips to help navigate DJIng the holiday party and the particulars of work-related social interactions that can prove challenging.
For example, for many a company Christmas party, a client will ask for some low-volume music while awards are handed out and the director or VP or CEO makes the announcements.
What do you do?
Jodi Ransom from Columbus, Ohio, advises that when the boss is talking — play no background music at all. At other times, play music softly in the background, and when someone is walking up to receive an award, you can play at a louder volume (think literal walk up music like at a ball game).
This past weekend, Philly-based Mark Alcantara did a holiday party for retirees (65-80+). “Dinner was mainly Christmas music as requested, but heavily influenced by Swing/Big Band tracks,” he said. “Dancing time was more Doo Wop, Motown and Northern Soul going off well, along with 50s, 60s, 70s, and popular Funk tracks. The only odd part was they wanted a good amount of ballroom-style dancing to occur…slower paced and way more than I’d normally play, but they dug it.”
For these older parties, DJ vet Glen LaBlanc says in the first half-hour he plays upbeat/tap-your-foot/easily recognizable music to keep the energy going, and during that half-hour he goes from table to table to get requests. “I find it imperative for the insight,” he said, adding that you should never prejudge a crowd. “You’ll probably be amazed at the flavor/styles of requests you’ll get. It never fails to present some of those great dance/party nuggets that you may have forgotten.”
London-based Russell Frost says don’t be frightened of playing the modern stuff for older crowds. “You can get away with Rihanna if you stick to the middle ground, play the radio edits and they will surprise you,” he said, adding “you’re a DJ — go with your gut and you’ll do great.”
Making Office Parties Unique
On a separate holiday party note, George Gray from George Gray Productions in Chester, PA, asks “What do you play to not sound like every other DJ at an office/company holiday party?”
Brian Graham from Knoxville-based Brian S. Graham Entertainment suggests playing songs in a way that nobody has ever heard. “People are going to respond to songs they know. It’s not about playing different songs — it’s about playing songs different.”
To Graham’s point, Johnee Wong-Smedley at Pez Productions in Calgary uses a capella and instrumentals together — “sometimes the same song but vocals in a different order, 12-inch and extended versions during cocktails, and the most peculiar covers during dinner.”
Wong-Smedley uses Eminem’s “Believe” as an example.
“Play the instrumental and have cue points for the a capella set to 1st verse, chorus, 2nd verse, 3rd verse, etc. Instead of letting the a capella run straight through I sometimes alter the order of the verses via cue points and scratch a particular word or phrase in the lyrics. I may also shorten the track and only use the chorus while playing the a capella of a different track for verses to create a very different version (sort of like a mash-up).”
Some more tips tips here:
1. Do the homework: Who are the most important people at the company? Find out how to correctly pronounce their names, find out the timeline and order of introductions.
2. Eyes on the dancefloor: After you’ve mixed in your next track, look at your dancefloor. Before loading up your next tune, observe who’s walking off the floor: What age are they? Are they looking bored? Or are they merely getting a drink? This is the key to rotating the floor.
3. Use classic sound effects: Put an impact on the events if there are awards or announcements: Use drum rolls, Wah-Wah sounds for losers and fanfare (i.e. – victory trumpets) for winners.
4. Treat it like a club night: Make sure your final 40 minutes is strong: They’ll only remember the last 30 or 40 minutes — especially if there’s alcohol. Use some singalong songs that’ll bring people together in the shared experience.
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