How to DJ a Church Dance

So you’ve been called on to DJ a dance and think that all you need to do is push play on your 1990’s playlist?  Before you plug in and turn on, this post should give you some basics to get you through that first dance.

Here is a list of action items for you that will be covered in this post:

  • Go to the place a week in advance to walk through all of the equipment and how to set it up
  • Arrange for internet access to check lyrics
  • Arrive at least an hour early
  • Have paper and pencil for requests
  • Work off of a play list
  • Know who is in charge (it is not you)
  • End the songs they don’t dance to and end the songs they dance the wrong way to
  • End on time

Go to the place a week in advance to walk through all of the equipment and how to set it up.  The last thing you need is equipment failure on your first event.  Take the time and hook up everything.  If you have children, take them with you and have a family dance.  A dry run ensures you can make everything work.  After the dry run, put everything up where you can find it and make sure it is locked up.

Arrange for internet access to check lyrics.  You don’t know all of the songs that will be requested – and chances are, you will be buying songs at the event to fulfill requests.  I never buy a song and play it at the same event unless the host directs it or I already know the song.  The most important thing you can do is not play that song.  

I was performing at an event when I played a song by Lincoln Park without checking the lyrics.  By the time the song’s first few lyrics cracked through the speakers, the damage was already done.  I will never play that group again, and I have since screened every song.

Arrive at least an hour early.  You will do yourself a favor.  If someone moved your equipment, or you have a failure – you will have time to get things corrected before the young men and young women arrive.  If you plan on showing up and just plugging in – good luck.
Have paper and pencil for requests.  If you read How to Handle a Music Request, you get it.  Having supplies to put in front of participants is a big deal.  It keeps you free from distractions and allows the dancers to give input.  While you are at it, make sure it is on a table that is not the same table your gear is on.  Best to keep those separate.

Work off of a play list.  This is not your playlist.  This is a well thought out playlist of songs you know the kids will dance to.  In my playlist, I make sure there is a slow song every 2-3 songs.  I make sure there is a latin song every 5-7 songs.  I make sure there is a swing, line, country, pop, you name it in there.  The word work is correct.  It takes work to build and more work to stick to.  Read What to play and when to play it if you still need help here.

Know who is in charge (it is not you).   You really don’t want to be in charge – and if you are, you need to assign the task of DJ-ing to someone else.  When done correctly, the job of a DJ is constant and you cannot pay enough mind to all of the other elements of the event.  To test this theory, think of a fight on the floor – you can handle that right up until the cops arrive.  What about something happening in the parking lot?  Or a fire alarm gets pulled.  Someone needs to be in charge of the event that you can support or turn to for heavy lifting when the scope of your job is exceeded.

End the songs they don’t dance to and end the songs they dance the wrong way to.  Yep, it is that simple.  Obviously, you should play at least 75 seconds of the song to see if they are going to dance.  And the moment a mosh pit (mainly boys hitting each other), chicken fights, shoulder rides, crowd surfing, grinding or anything like this starts, end the song.  I have a line dance or slow song ready for these dead songs.  This probably should be two separate items – but they really are the same.  One says “no activity, end song” and the other “too much activity, end song.”  They came to dance – you just need to manage the floor.  So pick a different type of song and move on.  If you find that no one dances to anything you play or they continue inappropriate dancing – get the chaperons involved.  Consult with your leadership about having dance instruction and suggest they start with swing songs or line dances.

End on time.  You have no reason to go over.  You will benefit no parent by playing one more slow song.  Slow songs take 4 minutes.  At 8 minutes till, I announce “two slow songs left” and then I go find the guy/girl in charge to get the closing prayer/instructions.

This should put you in a better spot then you were before.  I have had the privileged of performing for the past 20 plus years.  If you need some help, post a reply and thanks for reading.

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