Managing Song Requests

By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”

Our clients hire us for our expertise. A big part of that is our ability to “read” an audience’s mood and know what to songs to play because of our music knowledge.

This isn’t done by magic and it’s also not some mysterious Amazing Kreskin-like mentalist ability. In fact, everyone walking into a room full of people they don’t know does this unconsciously.

The Difference Between “People” and “DJs”

People automatically take notice of who and what is in a room when they walk in, noting ages, genders, races, environment, “vibes,” etc.

DJs do the same thing, but more deliberately. We also talk with guests, asking them subtle questions, like “what radio station do you listen to most?” Or not-so-subtle ones, like, “Who is your favorite artist” or “Can I play something for you tonight?”

With wedding receptions, we often have specific special dance songs to play and requests from the bride and groom as well as the wedding party.

Sometimes a song that’s requested is one that you know through experience will fill the dance floor and other times you know that a requested song will produce the opposite effect if play during open dancing versus cocktail hour or dinner.

Then there’s the on-the-spot guest requests we have to field; the ones that begin with “Everyone will dance if you play it!”

Preparation is Your Greatest Ally

I like to take any pre-submitted requests and print two lists; one by alphabetical song title and the other by genre and beats per minute (BPM). This might sound a little “over the top” but it’s actually really helpful.

I use the alphabetical list to have guests pick songs from. Obviously if someone requests a song that’s not in the list and it fits in the musical flow, I’ll fit it in for them.

The Genre/BPM list allows me to put together amazing sets with pre-requested music and on-the-spot requests, as well.

Not All Requests Are Created Equal

People walking up with requests aren’t a nuisance. They’re a valuable resource! As a group, they’ll give you real time feedback. Individually, they’ll let you know what might get them on your dance floor. Yet not all requests are created equal. Sometimes, you’ll just have to “not have that song with you.”

Some guests will try to push you to play their song through various tactics. One is that of authority. (“I’m the bride’s sister” or “the groom sent me over to ask..”) Another is of urgency. (“We’re leaving in the next five minutes…”) Then there’s the guest who thinks that, if he drops a dollar or two on you, you’re now obligated to play whatever he wanted. I usually diffuse that one by refusing any money.

The bottom-line with music programming is that a good DJ always makes choices that will appeal to the dancing majority! This in combination with proper preparation and request response savoirfaire will make you a real crowd pleaser every time!


  • Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

    He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

    Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

    To contact him, email You can grab Stu’s book at

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