Have you ever been at a party and just hated the music? 

man playing music mixer and dj mixer
Photo by Isabella Mendes on Pexels.com

Nothing the DJ plays makes you want to move? 
How do you usually describe that party to friends? 

Maybe like this?
“The music sucked.”
“The DJ is so terrible.”

I recently discussed this in Episode 106 of my podcast, Naked and Counting, with my co-host, Leon Rose and I think it warrants further discussion.

There are definitely some objective ways to measure the quality of a DJ. These are a few that come to mind. Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

  • Playing songs with poor audio quality
  • Poor control of sound quality
  • Mixing songs (works for other genres, but with Salsa, not so much)
  • Too many identical songs in a row (tempo, mood, etc)
  • Inability to read the room
  • Emptying the dance floor

However, on many occasions, I’ve heard people say a DJ sucked just because the music wasn’t to their liking.

Have you heard this or read social posts like this? I know I have. Hell, even I used to say this, until I corrected my approach to reflect the truth.

Just because I don’t like what you do, doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job. 

When I started dancing, I danced to everything because all I was listening for was a beat. Over time, I started to hear the music differently. Some songs inspire me to give it my all on the dance floor, others are neither here nor there, and then there are some that make me wish I stayed home.

But, whether I dance or not, whether I’m inspired by the music or not, doesn’t necessarily mean that the song sucks, nor does it mean that the DJ sucks. Even when we’re not enjoying the music at a party, we can still find the dance floor packed with plenty of people saying they’re having a great time.

Why is this topic important?

There are two main reasons, one internal and one external.

Dislike vs Judgment

We’re often very quick to find external justifications for our personal dissatisfactions. Instead of acknowledging that we’re not satisfied due to a matter of personal preference, we say someone else is performing poorly because they are not catering to our personal preferences. This is not to say that you can’t dislike something or someone, but try not to equate your dislike with the actual quality of that thing or person.

“I don’t like this DJs music” is more accurate than “This DJ sucks.”

a person typing on a laptop
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

Public Expression

Saying either of the statements above amongst your close friends isn’t a big deal. Though it would be better if we spoke accurately, the effects of the conversation usually end when the conversation does. 

However, when we decide to publicly post our dissatisfaction on social media, the effects are longer lasting and it’s extremely important to watch our words. 

Why? Because DJing is a profession that depends on reputation and word of mouth. Expressing your personal preferences in music as if it’s a matter of performance on behalf of the DJ could damage that reputation and affect how often they get booked. 

It’s not always easy but the more aware we are of our thoughts and our words, the more responsible we can be with our expression of those thoughts. This is something we should all strive for, especially if that expression is posted across social media and could impact someone’s livelihood.

Mpowered Reflections

  • What do you think constitutes a “good/bad” DJ?
  • Do you think your criteria is objective or subjective?
  • Have you ever miscommunicated your personal preferences as someone else’s performance?

SHARING IS CARING!

If you enjoyed this or know someone who could benefit from this information, please share! Tag me so we can continue the discussion. 🙂 You can also show your support through Ko-Fi.

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16 Comments

  1. Angel

    A very good article. I like how you mentioned your personal change of perspective and the importance of understanding how subjectivity and other factors can play into one’s unfair or inconsiderate judgement. In fact, I think it’s important, like in many areas, to assume some patience, empathy, and understanding so as not to be too quick to pass judgement. One could be wasting an opportunity to grow and learn.

    Sometimes deejaying can be a very challenging task. Besides, a set can last one or two hours… the DJ shouldn’t be judged after just 2-3 songs. To me a good DJ plays what’s appropriate considering the context—while adding their own character little by little, in such a way that patience and awareness by the listener/dancer is awarded.

    I like a DJ who builds a story of sorts. I like to hear the peaks and valleys within that story and want to conclude how the whole feels greater than the sum of its parts. Some people don’t think this way, though, and that’s fine, of course.

    Naturally, it’s impossible to please all the people all the time, so on the dance floor there’s an opportunity to explore one’s tastes (likes and dislikes) and perhaps broaden horizons. I think I’ve had quite a few good experiences where I gave the DJ time to breathe and express themselves and then I learned something or just simply enjoyed myself better (than otherwise) in the process….

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Excellent point, Angel. I always try to approach all interactions with a sense of empathy and patience. Makes it a lot easier to deal.

      You just made me realize another factor in how we approach the music. Perhaps the DJ is in fact creating a journey, however our arrival time doesn’t line up with the beginning of their set and so it might feel chaotic or misplaced as a result. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Reply
      • Angel

        Thank you for acknowledging my comment. It’s great too that your got my point about the “journey”… I think many good DJs feel that their construction of a “journey” is essential, and it would be ideal (although perhaps unrealistic) for an audience to hear a DJ from start to finish. I think good DJs would love their audience to carefully listen to the whole set and get a sense of their complete vision of their time slot. I once listened to John Digweed (a house DJ) performing live from the very beginning until the very end (4.5 hours) and I thought it was truly the only way to appreciate him fully! It was amazingly good.

        Thanks again for your great post and raising this issue for discussion. Excellent. Take care.

        BTW, not sure if you remember, but we met at the Taiwan Salsa Carnival a few years ago. Nice to connect with you again, fellow Canuck ;). Cheers.

        Reply
        • Magna Gopal

          Hi Angel! I agree about the set. I watched a house DJ from the beginning to the end of his set and I felt like I was taken on a magical journey.

          Again, thank you for contributing to the thread. My goal is to open the discussion and share how I try to find the positive in the hopes that I can Mpower others to do the same. I don’t have all the answers, so contributions like yours make a big difference in making that possible.

          Reply
  2. Cas Tuyn

    You forgot one other point of a bad DJ: Turning up the volume so loud that it physically damages the hearing of the dancers. I installed a Sound Meter app on my phone and when I think the music is too loud I read the decibels. If the level is 90 dB I show it to the DJ who a lot of times works behind the main speakers and does not get the full blast of noise.
    Good DJs will recognize 90 dB as too much and lower the volume, but I have spoken/shouted to DJs who advised me to hide in a far corner away from the speakers, or use ear plugs. So because one ego cannot play with responsible sound level of 87 dB, all visitors must wear ear protection?
    At that point I normally speak to the organizer of the party, and explain that I will take my money and friends elsewhere because loosing your hearing is not worth it.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Oh yes, volume control is a great factor to add to the list. It’s true that it’s difficult for DJs, who are often behind the speakers, to hear the volume the same way as the dancers. In small venues, I might say something to the DJ. In larger venues, I make sure I’m not in front of the speaker. Unfortunately, with larger venues, to be able to project through the entire space with the equipment at hand might result in it being a lot louder closer to the speakers.

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    Great questions Magna!

    I definitely own the fact that my music preferences are “subjective” rather than objective.

    My preferences for DJs goes to when I was an Assistant Organizer for multiple meetups and needed to negotiate with DJs beforehand so they would play enough Bachata songs in their set in exchange for bringing my members to their venue.
    I also love romantic Salsa, soulful Zouk and a smooth Kizomba.

    I knew all the resources at my disposal at the time – so I also made connections with other DJs and venue owners to get the results that I needed for my members.

    I consider someone to be a great DJ when:

    – they keep me on the dance floor song after song
    – when I’m exhausted and need to rest – they make me stay on the dancefloor to dance to just one more song
    – I desperately need to call it a night. I’m mean I am really leaving right now and that “mischievous” DJ plays yet another song that I have to dance to before I leave.

    There are DJs that are known for those delightful ANTICS and I flock to the venues they frequent.

    DJ Stephen Greene – I’m on to you Mr!

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Thanks for this very detailed and reflective comment! Glad it wasn’t difficult to share here too!

      Reply
  4. H Ramos

    Good DJ’s keep the mood going and I enjoy tempo changes and I enjoy hearing new or different songs. Bad DJ’s play the same songs not only week to week but in a row (ie. 3 pachanga type in a row). Also believe they need to be flexible and follow the mood of the crowd not just stick to a playlist. I will occasionally make a suggestion or song request but always defer to their judgement. I’ve heard bad or less danceable songs come on that were requested by a regular or friend of the DJ.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Thanks for the comment! I forgot about the week to week Playlist on repeat. If I was a DJ, that’s probably what would happen. Lol Great point about requests!

      Reply
  5. Valeria

    I hear this at almost every social I attend. I’ve def had moments where I’m not feeling the music and notice it’s personally me or a majority of us feel that way. Either way I try to enjoy myself and remind myself there’s always going to be more socials down the road.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Yup. As I mentioned in the article, I used to find myself projecting my personal preference on everyone else until I realized how picky I am, myself. Lol Like Vandusa said in another comment, now I try to use those non dance moments to socialize instead.

      Reply
  6. Wade Ramos

    A good Dj for me is aware of the flowing energy in the room or and manages the pace to keep the masses enjoying the ambiance. I’m holding them as professionals and I can separate my personal preference by stating “this is my personal opinion about it”, every Dj has their own style for mixing tracks. Most of my friends don’t like to dance to the music composed before the 80s and one of my favorites social was Abakuá by Frankie Martinez and the music being played there are variety of old rhythms, I’ve always had a blast there.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      Perfectly stated. It’s a personal preference and as long as the DJ is keeping the majority dancing and having fun, they’re doing their job.

      Reply
  7. Vandusa

    Cool speaking, when can’t catch the music, that may change the party goal from dance to chat.
    1. I will discuss how worse the music I’m dislike with someone close to me, ok, now we have two negative tickets here.
    2. When meet the really terrible music, may directly make me come out a No!! Come on!! Sorry, a neurological reflex show out, beyond the preference or judgement, just can’t stay any seconds.
    Bad DJ? Will depends on how terrible it was. case#1, give it 5~7 score in 10, case#2, give 2-3 score in 10.

    Reply
    • Magna Gopal

      I like how detailed your reply is and the way you would approach it, Vandusa! Thank you for commenting!

      Reply

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