The Nature of Dance Crowds|
by Alex Cosper
Crowds need to be warmed up over time. Forcing a crowd to dance when they aren't ready to dance is a mistake and creates an awkward embarrassing atmosphere, causing the people to get the freak out early. Very few events begin with instant dance craze, unless it's a high school rally or some function of pre-charged up maniacs. Many mobile sound events begin with background or dinner music.
Usually the best music for this period is jazz, lounge music or some form of easy listening that allows conversation level of the people to dominate the atmosphere. Then as the event progresses the tempo picks up and people become more relaxed and warmed up to dance. Many dances begin with ballads, because ballads are the easiest songs for dancing that most people can relate to. Dancing at a wedding reception tends to start with the bride and groom's first dance as a married couple, which is always a love song.
After a few more ballads the dj breaks the ice either by gradually moving up the tempo or just jumping into a faster tune that seems right for the crowd based on demographics and energy level. Once the pulse is pumping the dj can either go the beatmix route and keep tempo steady while gradually shifting through peaks and valleys or just reading the crowd and taking requests.
Whatever it takes to keep people dancing is all that matters. Sometimes everyone will clear the floor unexpectedly, but the great dj knows from experience what the good comeback songs are. For an 80s crowd it might be something like "Super Freak" by Rick James and for a swing crowd it might be "In The Mood" by Glenn Miller. Whatever the case may be, it's up to the dj to keep the crowd on the dance floor. In cases where no one wants to dance the whole night, chances are it's just not a dancing crowd and more of a scene where people want to socialize.
In my experience I have done a lot of gigs where everyone was screaming at the end of night for "one more song." I love those gigs the most. But in cases where dancing is sporadic or even non-existent, I know it's still my job to play music that people in attendance like, and everybody likes music, no matter who they are. I find out what people like by talking with them. If they don't come up to me, I come up to them. Sometimes it turns out all they want to hear is good background music, and that's fine with me. But it's those raging crowds that raise the energy level to the maximum that get people talking how good of a dj you are. So always go for craze unless the situation demands otherwise, because you can always fall back on good listening music.
The idea is to outdo the radio, which is just an average presentation that people become conditioned to accept as average. Be the memorable event by playing what the crowd tells you to play either with their requests or body language. But also have your own treasure of surprises that they could have only heard from your mix. And let them know you are with them, not above them. Create a scene that makes everyone feel like a star. That is a great mobile dj.
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