By DJ Rachel Lynch
With technology at the forefront of our industry, the term “button-pusher” DJ has become quite the buzzword. While some may feel that technology has cheapened the art of being a DJ, I say being a button pusher has little to do with using the sync button or available technology. What separates a button-pusher DJ from a great DJ is understanding the “why” behind pushing play.
Music is an extremely personal and powerful thing. It is how we communicate, reminisce, pay tribute, cope, grieve, show love, have fun and connect with others. Humans are naturally social creatures, and our purpose as a DJ is to create meaningful interactions that link these experiences. Truthfully, our job has more to do with being a social scientist than being a DJ. Fundamentally, we aren’t in the business of music; we are in the business of people. This is true for sales, marketing, and our dancefloor.
In our search to become a “great DJ,” we often focus on gear, technology, scratching, and software. However, hype dancefloors and amazing parties are not created by just dropping bangers, mixing by ear or infusing technical scratch patterns into our sets. They are created by intelligently and consciously using tempo, volume, timing, mood, and social science to entice the audience.
The goal? Create a shared experience: Understanding why and how people are influenced by sound is what is going to set you apart from the button pushers. A successful event is not just about what you played; it’s about why you played it. The purpose of this piece is to encourage DJs to be more conscious of their music soundscapes and changeup predicable formula driven sets.
It has been scientifically proven that music can change how fast we walk, influence what we buy or drink, dictate how long we hang around, alter our general attitude, and how we interact in groups. When a DJ is conscious of how their soundscape is affecting the emotional and physical actions of their audience they have tapped into the social science of being a DJ. Some may call it “reading a crowd,” but it is much deeper than that. You may look at the audience and gauge what to play based on their age, gender, or common stereotypes, but this is only scratching the surface to creating a compelling set.
A skill I developed to be more influential with music is to focus less on recipe based elements of mixing like BPM, key signature, and genre and focus more on creating anticipation with the mood and overall vibe of my track selection. A song might technically fit the current style being played or blend well with the BPM and key signature, but the spirit can be entirely off base and trash the dancefloor.
Experienced DJs will not just stick to technically compatible songs in their sets but will rather focus on influencing what the audience will do and feel. Does this song sound aggressive? Soulful? Happy? Romantic? Sad? Sexual? Is this making it easier to socialize? Will people feel energized by hearing this?
This strategy is about creating thoughtful arcs of energy. I have found greater success in pushing and pulling my audience by motivating with mood instead of being locked into recipe-like based elements such as BPM, key signature, and genre. I’m not dismissing these fundamentals but rather permitting myself to deviate from technically based sets to be more unique and creative.
Being a button pusher DJ is not defined with or without the use of the sync button. It’s about the ability to adapt, observe and yes, understand the social psychology of your audience. Ultimately this is why great DJs will not be replaced by streaming apps or “intelligent” automix programs anytime soon. There are too many considerations that artificial intelligence isn’t capable of processing.
Good DJs are experts of empathy. The next time you play, do so with purpose, intent, and temptation.
Fun, creative, and ambitious, DJ Rachel is making her mark as one of the top mobile DJs in the tri-state area. Her diversity as a DJ allows her to play at events that include MetLife Stadium (for the New York Jets) and serve as opening act for George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic and Gloria Gaynor. For more info visit: facebook.com/DJRachelRLynch