Working with Student Request Lists

by Matt Ryan

As I reflect back on what is wrapping up to be another successful Prom season, I am reminded of what a challenge it can be to delicately balance honoring student submitted request lists at school dances.

I think it is important for DJs to be willing to consider student requests at events. For High School events, where the students are involved in the hiring process of their DJ, it could even break the deal.

Of course, students may come up during the dance to request music on the spot, but frequently a student or a group of students will prepare an extensive list of music they’d like played at their dance.

If the student submitted list is consistent with what you normally play, there’s no problem at all. But what do you do if the list is filled with music that you deem unsuccessful, or worse, in appropriate, for at a school event?

Here are four suggestions for handling this type of situation:

  1. If you are contacted directly by a student, be sure to involve the advisor to make sure the list has been approved by the administration. (Just because the music has been “approved”, I still don’t recommend playing music that is clearly questionable. Ultimately, you will be on the hook for the music you play – approved or not – and it can cost you business in the future.)
  2. Agree to play some selections from the list, but not necessarily in the order they are listed, and not necessarily all of them will be played.
  3. NEVER play music provided by a student on CD, iPod, flash drive, etc. without previewing it first!
  4. Insist that all music requests must be submitted at least 5 days prior to the event. I include this in my contract language. You cannot make any guarantees on anything submitted after that date.

As with any event, I encourage DJs to do everything possible to accommodate client needs and requests. By using a bit of caution when doing so when it comes to student requests, you can be certain everyone has a great time, the school dance organizers are happy, and you can count on repeat business for years to come.

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 To contact Matt, email