When You Can’t Play Your Biggest Request at a School Dance

by Matt Ryan

DJs playing school and teen events have the responsibility of not only making sure the event is fun, but also age-appropriate.

Naturally, “clean edit” versions of songs are a must, as is interacting professionally with the guests – both youngsters and adults. Some music titles are strictly off-limits for teen events based on the content of the song, even when it’s cleaned up for explicit lyrics.

Contemplating The Risk Factor

Based on the age of your audience, your client’s expectations, and your own personal comfort level, you may decide one of your biggest requests is simply not worth the risk of playing due to its content, even if the explicit lyrics have been edited out.

Do you completely avoid the title altogether? Is there a way you can safely give the impression you’ve played the song without the risk of potentially subjecting your audience to inappropriate content? I think there is!

A Good Analogy

Have you ever seen a movie trailer containing footage that never appears in the actual movie?

This may be a source of personal irritation but you probably understand that the trailer was made as a “teaser,” to entice you to go see the film. More than likely, the footage for the trailer wasn’t critical to telling the actually story.

As a DJ, if you can harness this notion with your music by “teasing” titles that you don’t play in their entirety.

A Creative Solution

At school and teen events, I use several pre-produced sweepers per hour to segue music. It gives our events a larger-than-life feel by having a quick, professionally-produced “hook” running over or in between music. I have developed several of these for our biggest requests that we do not normally play.

By running these music sweepers, we are giving the impression of playing the title but there is no inappropriate content. The kids instantly go crazy and will dance for to the entire twenty seconds or so of the hook. To hear what this sounds like, click here.

I think that this method works best when immediately followed by a big hit, or else you’re setting yourself up for a buzz kill!

I recommend that you use pre-produced musical elements sparingly; however, incorporating them into your programming is a great way to both please your audience as well as the school or adults who are sponsoring an event.

Do you have a different way of handling this issue? Let us know what it is!

Matt Ryan – “School Dance Pro”

Matt Ryan is a multi-op DJ business owner, radio personality, developer of School Dance Pros and educator. He has been entertaining at school and many other types of functions since 1996. Matt Ryan Mobile DJ Entertainment performs at approximately 250 events per year, nearly half of which are school and teen dances and proms. Matt is a well-known on-air personality at WNCI 97.9, a Top 40 radio station in Columbus, OH. He is also a middle school teacher and coach. Matt is able to provide unprecedented insight to other DJs about how school dances are organized. His “School Dance DJ Marketing Toolkit” is available at SchoolDancePros.com. To contact Matt, email Matt@SchoolDancePros.com. View posts by Matt.