CANADIAN PROFESSIONAL DISC JOCKEY ASSOCIATION

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What It Means To Read A Crowd

February 18, 2020 8:08 PM | Dave Ternier (Administrator)

As some couples think about the entertainment for their wedding, they may consider using their own music on an iPod or iPhone. After all, we’ve all had friends over at the house and entertained them with an iTunes or Spotify playlist that we created, so how much harder could it be to rock a wedding?

The answer: Much harder.

There’s a huge difference between a few friends singing along at a dinner party or barbecue and trying to get multiple generations up on the dance floor to celebrate a wedding. That’s where a professional DJ comes in. He or she has the experience to curate a playlist (most often with the couple’s input) and then program the night to maximize the dancing time. An experienced DJ will have the music knowledge to know which songs match well with other songs and they’ll know when to change the direction of the music to satisfy as many of the guests as possible. This is where “reading the crowd” comes in.


A DJ never goes into an event with songs laid out in the order that they’ll be played in. There are just too many factors involved to be that rigid. Rather, they have a general idea of what songs they’ll play throughout the night but they are always observing the crowd and responding to what they see. An experienced DJ can tell when a crowd is tiring, when they want to hear a different genre and when they’re about to erupt. They look for clues from the people on the dance floor as well as the people who are sitting. And they pivot and change course throughout the party based on the feedback (both spoken and unspoken) they receive. These are things that a pre-set playlist can’t do, and it’s the difference between technology and an actual human being controlling the music.

What are some of the clues a crowd gives off? Starting from the beginning of the event, it can be things like singing along to cocktail hour music or bopping in their seats during dinner. If and when the guests move rooms, how do they walk? Are they sauntering in with their heads down looking at their phones or are they sashaying in to the music? When they’re dancing, are they barely moving or are they amped up? Has the energy on the dance floor plateaued or is it still rising? If the guests are sitting down, are they singing along or are they oblivious to the music? These (and many other things) are signs that an experienced DJ is looking for and reacting to. Maybe it means it’s time to slow things down and give the crowd a break. Maybe it means it’s time to change genres and try a different style of music. Maybe it means the crowd is ready for some hardcore bangers to take the party to an eleven. Whatever it means, a great DJ is there to respond and keep things flowing throughout the party.

Special thanks to DJ and MC, Michael Walter of Elite Entertainment for contributing this article.

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