Marilyn Monroe once said, “If I’m a star, then the people made me a star.” While not every DJ aspires to become a star, you have to ask yourself, “What good is a DJ without people to hear their amazing music?” Building a loyal following should be the top priority for anyone wanting to take his or her DJing career to a professional level. It shows club owners and promoters that you can pull in regular clientele (thus making you more valuable), and the passion of your crowds will make you be the best DJ you can be. In this article, we’ll talk about effective methods to build a solid, loyal following that you can accomplish as you win over the crowd with more than just your music …
ONE HANDSHAKE IS WORTH 100 VOTES
The inspiration for my approach came from reading Ean’s article about what to carry in your DJ bag. He recommended carrying a notebook with you and getting a person’s contact info while giving them a demo CD.
I immediately adopted this method and found it was very effective. After playing around with different ideas and building on this concept, I came across a method that not only developed very loyal followers but also handled the issue of dealing with requests – not to mention, helped me build my music collection all at the same time.
When passing out a CD, don’t just pass it to anyone. Try to find those people who have been dancing to my entire set or who look really interesting to get to know. Go up to them and say, “Hey, I just want you to know that I’ve been watching you dance to every song tonight , and I want to thank you for coming out.”
Personally, I then give them a free CD and follow up with my notebook. On the notebook is a sticker with instructions for them to write their name, phone number, email, and birth date. (The sticker is necessary because the club environment is loud and they usually can’t hear instructions.) They write the information; I thank them once more, and get back to the mixing.
The following day, email or text them, thanking them once more (you might not want to text them if you don’t want to share your private number). I personally let them know that I really am glad they were there last night, and that I hope to see them the next time. I also ask if they could leave some feedback about my work either in a text or on my website.
This whole process may seem obvious and basic but you’d be surprised how few DJs even do this and, more importantly, how effective it can be. The reason is that you are making the individual feel special. You aren’t seeing them as just another fan. Don’t underestimate this! What you will do next with their info is put it in the address book on your laptop.
Do this after every gig, and you will have officially started a mailing list. Try to get a picture of them if you can. This is valuable because a visual reminder can help when you’re trying to decide who to invite to a particular party.
Periodically send them texts and emails about your upcoming shows, but make it sound personal – never spam them. Use their names, avoid mass mailings, and make it sound informal. When their birthday comes, call them and invite them personally to your club for a free drink, give them a shout out, and play their favorite song. They will never forget this. It’s like a domino effect: They’ll tell two friends, and those friends will tell two friends … you get the picture.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MAKE EYE CONTACT
Some of the best DJs in the world are known for their ability to read a crowd and give them what they want. It should be no surprise that the secret to their crowd reading success is that they never take their eyes off their crowd!
According to Ezine @rticles.com, “Researchers who study relationships have discovered that a big difference between those people who make new friends easily, and those who don’t, is that socially successful people tend to make eye contact with their conversation partners much more frequently than those who are less successful socially.”
That’s a big problem I see with a lot of club DJs in my city: they never give their audience the time of day. Their eyes are glued to the equipment in front of them and they are in their own world.
To build a healthy dance floor requires trust between the DJ and this crowd. From the information above, we can clearly see that there’s actually a connection between eye contact and people dancing to your music. In a way, you are building temporary relationships with your audience. Making eye contact with a person in the club and smiling at them tells that person, “I’m glad to see you here and I want you to trust me, so I can take you where you want to be taken.”
Eye contact is especially important for digital DJs who use a laptop, and not so much for DJs who use traditional media (CDJs and turntables), because the laptop can create a barrier between the DJ and the crowd. Laptop DJs can also fall victim to the “checking email” syndrome and get lost in their screen. I combat this barrier by actually placing my laptop at an angle to the right or the left, depending on the booth I’m playing in. Either way, you should step away from the laptop every so often and let the crowd see yo grill.
You can win the crowd over simply by paying attention to them! You can also build your following while you mix because all this technique requires is looking at your audience. Lack of eye contact is probably the reason why the DJs who never look at their crowds put on the poorest performances.
A FRESH TWIST ON DEALING WITH REQUESTS
As a working DJ you will get many requests throughout the night. I’ve seen many other DJs not know how to deal with requests simply because they don’t have the song and feel that they aren’t a good DJ. On the other hand, I’ve seen DJs get offended and cuss out the person, simply because they’re making a request!
One night, I got a request for some Kelly Rowland B-side and felt really bad I didn’t have it. I saw the sadness in that person’s face and I really didn’t want to disappoint them. Before the person left I stopped them and said, “I sorry I didn’t have your song, but do me a favor: write the name of the song and the artist down for me and I guarantee that next time you come, I’ll have it.” They wrote it down and were actually satisfied because at least I seemed to be making an effort.
The following week, that person did come back and sure enough, I had their song. This action instantly created a regular customer and I decided to handle all the requests of songs I didn’t have this way. You may consider purchasing a separate notebook for just this purpose because it accomplishes a few things:
1. It helps prevent the person whose song you don’t have from getting disappointed;
2. The person is more likely to come back to see you play; and
3. Your music collection builds without you having to devote all your time to it.
The first two reasons are self-explanatory, but let’s look at the last one. I found that people were actually building my music collection for me. The next day, I’d find and download the songs they had written down. If it was a song I didn’t like, I’d try to find a remix of that song that I did like and started to see my collection build into a list of crowd driven tracks.
The truth is, that if one person really likes a track- the chances are high that many others also do. This only adds to your following and generates a kind of loyalty most DJs would kill for.
These ideas may not be entirely original, but I do believe they are a fresh and progressive approach to establishing a following. Being a good person really does have its rewards. Here are some things to remember:
- Be sure the notebooks are not so small you have difficulty writing in them, but not too big, so you can carry them with you;
- Make sure they are made out of durable materials (the notebooks I use are made out of plastic), as they have to survive in harsh club environments;
- Keep two separate notebooks: one for your mailing list and one for requests. I made the mistake of using one notebook at the beginning and it was all crazy unorganized!;
- Update your list daily and don’t let it fall behind! The more organized it is, the more effective you are and the larger your crowds will be;
- When meeting people, don’t be a DJ. Win them over by being you. I often ask myself, “Would I be just as interesting as a person if I didn’t DJ?”; and
- Always smile (but not all Hannibal Lecter-style) and be sure to make eye contact.
There’s nothing like an appreciative and energetic crowd. Start a following today!