If you know DJs, then you’ve probably heard or read their complaints about requests. At the very least, you’ve seen a meme or two floating around on Instagram. It’s not necessarily a faux pas to request a song at a club, but there’s a way to do it politely. Unfortunately, plenty of people don’t know how to do that, so I’ll break down how to request a song step-by-step.
Step one: Take in the scene and listen to the DJ before approaching.
Before you request a song, take in the scene and see if it’s even appropriate to do so. Are you at a club where the DJ is on a stage or in a booth above the crowd? If so, don’t even try to request a song. Don’t climb on the stage or creep up the staircase to the booth. That’s not a good look.
Don’t shout your request from the side of the stage. Don’t even write your request on your phone and wave it in front of the stage. The DJ probably can’t hear you or read your screen and doesn’t care. Stay on the dance floor or at the bar and try to enjoy yourself.
If the DJ is accessible, listen to what they’re playing before you request a song. Too often, people treat DJs like Siri, expecting them to play whatever they want, whenever they want.
You should know the vibe or theme of the night before you head into the club, but maybe you don’t. That’s where listening comes in handy. If you hear that the DJs are only playing ‘80s songs, don’t request a song from 2005.
When a DJ plays a request, it’s because the song fits the set. So, hang out for a bit, hit the dance floor and listen. Then ask yourself, will the DJ actually want to play my request, or am I being a pest? A little self-awareness goes a long way.
Step Two: Wait until the DJ has a spare moment before you request a song
DJs are multitaskers. We’re listening to two songs at the same time. We’re watching your reaction to the song on the dance floor while cueing and mixing in the next one. Meanwhile, we’re thinking about what we’ll play after that.
It’s fast-paced work in the booth, so if the DJ motions for you to hold on a second, don’t get discouraged. Be patient. Wait until the DJ takes off their headphones. That’s usually the sign that they can talk. Now is your chance to request a song.
Step Three: Compliment the DJ before you request a song
The person who says, “I love these house vibes, think you can play some Beyoncé?” might get to dance to something off of Renaissance. At least, that was the case at one of my recent gigs. But, it’s not just the ass-kissing that will make your request stand out.
If I see you dancing or head-bobbing before you come up to the booth, I know your compliment is legit. If you tell me that you’re already into the music and your request shows it, I’ll do my best to play it.
In this case, filling the request was easy because, since Renaissance was released, I’ve had tracks on my flash drive in anticipation of Beyoncé requests. In other instances, people requested specific songs that I didn’t have on hand. Still, since they were genuinely cool people, I worked in another song by the same artist or in a similar vein to the initial request for them.
Step Four: Request a song quickly.
Be sure you know the artist and title when you request a song. We’re in a loud space and are short on time, so don’t expect the DJ to listen to you hum a melody and know what you’re talking about.
Make one request. The DJ’s job is the get the crowd dancing, not to play the ten songs that you Google while standing at the booth. (Yes, people do that. No, I don’t know why.) Be mindful of how much time you’re demanding from the DJ.
Step Five: If the DJ says no to a request, respect that
There are a lot of reasons why a DJ will say no to your request. Maybe they didn’t bring the song to this gig. Maybe it doesn’t fit in with the set. I’m not just talking about genre here. You might have requested a banger at 10 p.m. or a song that will clear the floor at midnight. If you’re at a birthday party or wedding, your song request might be on the host’s “do not play” list.
Or, perhaps the DJ isn’t taking requests. That’s entirely their prerogative. The DJ doesn’t need to give you a reason for saying no. Just respect the response and don’t hassle them.
Often, I think people make requests because they don’t know the music. It’s that whole, “if I don’t know it, it must not be good” mentality. At the very least, that’s probably why we get so many requests for “something I can dance to” when everyone but the requester is on the floor.
The thing is, it’s okay to not know what the DJ is playing. Dance to a song that’s new to you. Pull out your phone, open Shazam and expand your horizons.
Step Six: If the DJ plays your request, say thank you and consider leaving a tip.
If the DJ plays your request, say thank you. Mouth it to them from the dance floor or wait until they’ve finished their set and tell them thanks.
Some people offer to get the DJ a drink after hearing their request. I don’t accept drinks from people I don’t know and suspect many other DJs have the same rule. An alternative is to tell the bartender to put the DJ’s next drink on your tab. If the DJ booth is next to the bar, the bartender can deliver the drink. If not, the DJ can pick it up when they’re off the decks.
Tipping a DJ at a club isn’t standard etiquette, like it is for bartenders. However, tips are a nice gesture, especially when the DJ plays your request. Someone went above and beyond their job duties and a few bucks will show that you appreciate that effort.
When it comes to tips, play it cool. If someone approaches me, flashes cash and then makes a request, I’ll roll my eyes. That’s very off-putting. It’s better to discretely tip after you hear the request.
Remember: drinks and tips aren’t mandatory. What should be mandatory, though, is the thank you.
Catch Los Angeles-based DJ Liz O. at one of her upcoming gigs.