No matter what genre of music you play or how big the venue is from a house party to a 100 000 person stadium, being able to read the crowd and play off of them is integral skill in any DJs repertoire.

Before I get into reading the crowd, you should read our post on 5 essential tips preparing for a DJ set.

What do I mean playing by playing for the crowd ? Reading off cues the crowd puts out in order to tailor your musical selection towards what the majority of them are really getting into.

Reading the crowd isnít something you can pick up overnight, but if itís something you’re new to, Iíll do my best to give you some cues to look out for in the next couple posts. This is an important skill to any genre of music but Iíll mostly speak to open format DJs since itís what I play the most. The thing to focus on is finding music of a similar mood, or style to what people are moving to.

Opening the night:
As the title suggest, with this post Iíll focus on the beginning of the night, Iíll talk about other elements of playing for the crowd in other posts but I figured this is a good place to start.

Whether you are an opening DJ or starting off a long set for the night, what do you want to be doing as those first few people come in the door?

The first thing to do is look at the first people coming in, especially groups. What are they wearing ? Is it a group of mostly girls, or mostly guys ? A group of girls in nice dresses are going to want to hear something very different than a group of guys wearing baggy pants. If you see some girls come wearing raver boots, chances are theyíre going to be into electro, or something more house oriented. Now keep in mind, this is by no means always true, but it gives you a starting point to feel out the crowd.

Once youíve scoped out the people coming into the room a little bit, spend the very start of the night feeling them out a bit. If youíre playing hip hop and the girls are just standing their try something a bit different. Even if girls aren’t out on the dance floor they will still give you lots of cues as to whether they are liking the music. They might dance a bit at the bar, do they react when you put a new track on ? Keep an eye on different groups in the room, what songs make people move their hips a bit, even if theyíre not on the dance floor.

When you start to feel out what mood of music, or what type of music people are moving too, play a good mixture of stuff to get people out on the dance floor. Remember at the beginning of the night youíre not trying to blow the lid off the place yet, just build a good party mood and play what kind of music people want to hear.

At this point you can have a bit of an idea of what kind of music people are into, play a classic from that genre to get people out there, and just build from their, making sure not burn whoever’s playing later in the night (make sure to not burn yourself included !), next time Iíll talk about what to look out for in the middle of the night !

Part #1 – Two Deck Djing fundamentals

Part #2 – DJ Mixing Techniques

Part #4 – How to organize your tracks in iTunes

Part #5 – Playing for the crowd, how to play a middle of the night set