Familiar vs. unfamiliar music?

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Roy
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Familiar vs. unfamiliar music?

#1 Post by Roy » Thu May 08, 2003 9:02 am

I'm curious what is the percentage of familar songs to the crowd you are DJing to vs. unfamiliar songs to that same crowd. And why?

I noticed some DJ's really tip the scale 100% one way or the other.

For me I try and go 50/50. The reason is most places I DJ have dancers who have been dancing 4+ years and don't want to hear the same old stuff. But I try to put in about half of the same old stuff because that is the stuff that kept the old schoolers coming back in the first place. My hope is that it keeps more of the new dancers coming back.

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Ron
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#2 Post by Ron » Thu May 08, 2003 11:19 am

That's really a key question. How much variety is too much variety? Most people like dancing to songs they know and like. But advanced dancers also want songs they haven't heard before to keep them interested and to challenge them. And if you have been doing this a while you've heard most of the standard songs many times and its easy to get sick of them.

I don't know what the right answer is, but of course it depends on the crowd.

In general, I'm probably biased towards repeating a lot of time-worn classics for a number of reasons. I want to keep new people coming back and the time-worn songs are time-worn because they are fundamentally good. Also, a lot of people aren't as aware as we think, some of them barely notice repetition. I say "are you sick of this song yet?" and they respond "Have you played this before?" Also, not everyone comes to every night I DJ, so they hear songs repeated by me more than I do. So I probably get sick of songs faster than they do.

Ya gotta love variety, too. I don't know how you can possibly put a number on it, though. 50-50? What does that mean? 50% songs I've never played before ever? I couldn't keep that up very long.

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#3 Post by GemZombie » Thu May 08, 2003 11:29 am

I posted this on Jive Junction, but it's obviously relevant here (even more so now).
GemZombie on Jive Junction wrote: Quite a while ago some of us talked about the desire to play more music that isn't "played out", and perhaps expand the "playlist" as it were, getting outside of the standard songs that are always played.

Lately I had become a very boring DJ at my local night here in SLO, and playing the same old stuff... stuff that felt comfortable. But last night I played almost an entire night of "new" music.

I started the night off with a few standards to get things going, and then after about 4 songs went into about 2 hours straight (with the exception of a birthday Jam, playing "Minor Swing") of "unheard" music.

Some had speculated that this wouldn't go over well, but the night was a huge success. I ended the night with a few requests as well, which totally killed the momentum and mood I had going, so in the future I'm not sure how I'll handle that.

Anyway, just noting that it works. More DJ's should try it, it's very fun.

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#4 Post by Nate Dogg » Thu May 08, 2003 2:22 pm

Some DJs pool of "familar" music is smaller/larger than others.

As for me, I am always working to make the pool bigger. Right now, I have about 1,000 recordings that I am apt to play on any set (songs deemed playable enough to get on one of the compilations I DJ from). On average, 40-80 recordings a month get added to the list. The new songs each month come from new acquisitions, as well as, uncovered gems from existing CDs.

I get bored playing the really overplayed songs, so I try to only play them when requested (which usually means 1-3 slip in per 2 hour set).

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#5 Post by SirScratchAlot » Fri May 09, 2003 4:28 am

well, I'll tell ya, The talk on the dance floor is NEW is good....same ol shit is bad. I'm guessing a percentage of 50/50 to 80/20 will keep em calling you for jobs....

hearing the different DJ's play the same songs reflects badly upon the DJ's individual creativety. Obviously some is sacrificed, whihc isn;t too bad, as long as it's just "some".
\\\"Jazz Musicians have dance in them, and Jazz dancers have music in them, or Jazz doesn''''t happen.\\\" Sidney Bechet

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#6 Post by Roy » Fri May 09, 2003 7:26 am

I'm not talking about playing the same songs every week. I'm talking about something familiar. A different version of a familiar song would be familiar sounding. Tuxedo Junction would be a familiar song for everyone I believe. But there are a ton versions out there, all of them would be familiar, but different. And even at that I would only play it once every 3/4 times I DJ. In a Mellow tone would be another example of a familiar song that everyone knows but there is a huge difference between the Count Basie version or the Erenstine Anderson version or the Natalie Cole version, yet they are all familar to anyone who's danced more then a few months.

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#7 Post by BryanC » Fri May 09, 2003 9:12 am

I try to play lots of "familiar" stuff, mixed in with stuff that most people haven't heard and some "same" stuff (because here in Calgary, people still need their stand-bys and don't seem to get tired of them). If I have "familiar" alternatives to the "same", I'll play that instead, just to throw people off a bit. I would like to play a lot less "same", and not as much "familiar", but what the crowd wants is what the crowd gets. 'snot fun to DJ to an empty floor.

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#8 Post by GemZombie » Fri May 09, 2003 3:04 pm

Not to be bitchy about it, but I'm rather tired of hearing 10 different versions of the same song. Occasionally it's cool, but this has become, for many Swing DJ's, a benchmark... how many new versions of the same old stuff can we find?

The real problem is that most of these new versions, well, let's face it... suck. Often times it doesn't get better than the "original", or the "most popular version".

I'm guilty of it too... so I'm a hypocrite.

However, when I did my night mostly of "new" stuff... (which was roughly 80% "unheard" music in my scene), 90% of *that* was just plain new, not a new version. I really enjoyed that night. I tried to take myself outside of the DJ "booth" and really listen to what I was playing. I danced and listened, and enjoyed myself more than I have in ages.

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#9 Post by BryanC » Fri May 09, 2003 3:28 pm

I'd probably feel similarly if everyone did it over here. But it doesn't happen very often.

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#10 Post by mark0tz » Fri May 09, 2003 3:29 pm

Definitely. I've tried putting in more songs that I haven't heard before on the dance floor that are good enough to be played. Sometimes, the song flops and is rejected, but more often than not it works out a-ok.

The thing is, with 90% of dancers, they don't know what the heck they're listening to. Sure, there are some songs that they may hear day in and day out. There are also the songs with words that they have heard before and can begin to place. However, you take a standard like 9:20 Special -- hell even One O'Clock Jump -- and the majority of the dancers won't be able to tell you what song it is.

That said, I'm still trying to do 50% stuff I KNOW is unfamiliar for the dancers. Maybe 25% stuff that is fairly familiar for knowledgeable dancers. 20% music that is pretty familiar for most of the dancers. And about 5% songs that are softballs, and hopefully aren't too overplayed. (Y does this one person -- nice guy mind you -- keep asking me for Splanky from Basie in Sweden?!? Every time he sees me dj! rawr).
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#11 Post by Roy » Fri May 09, 2003 4:49 pm

GemZombie wrote:Not to be bitchy about it, but I'm rather tired of hearing 10 different versions of the same song. Occasionally it's cool, but this has become, for many Swing DJ's, a benchmark... how many new versions of the same old stuff can we find?

The real problem is that most of these new versions, well, let's face it... suck. Often times it doesn't get better than the "original", or the "most popular version".

I'm guilty of it too... so I'm a hypocrite.

However, when I did my night mostly of "new" stuff... (which was roughly 80% "unheard" music in my scene), 90% of *that* was just plain new, not a new version. I really enjoyed that night. I tried to take myself outside of the DJ "booth" and really listen to what I was playing. I danced and listened, and enjoyed myself more than I have in ages.
Really what about songs that you made popular yourself for dancers at the venues in your city? For example I play a few different versions of Centerpiece and Moonglow. I don't know very many DJs who play those. but they are familiar songs for dancers here, cause I play them a lot, so there is no popular or common version that is overplayed.

Some songs can have a number of good versions, I will use In a Mellow tone as an example, I really like both the Erestine Anderson version and the Count Basie version of BBQ dance, I also like the peter Davis version. Which one of those is the most popular.

Or what dancers like here in Chicago is the Gene Ammons version of Exactly Like you, the carmen Mcrae version is well overplayed, tired and usually clears the dance floor.

But I do agree with you to a point it's the DJ's job to not play crappy versions of songs.

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#12 Post by GemZombie » Sat May 10, 2003 6:01 am

I think it's my anti slow/groovy jazz stance anyway. I find too many "groovy" versions of classics being played by DJ's lately. I spent a horrid night at the 9:20 a while ago, where this behavior was overused.

So some of those versions of In a mellowtone you're talking about would probably make me puke at a dance event. It's no secret that I dig original swing artists... and fortunately I've conditioned my local scene to appreciate my DJ style.

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#13 Post by yedancer » Sat May 10, 2003 12:14 pm

GemZombie wrote:... fortunately I've conditioned my local scene to appreciate my DJ style.
HAHAHA! Cool. That's what I've been trying to do lately in SD. It seems to be working, slowly, but surely.
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#14 Post by GemZombie » Sat May 10, 2003 5:33 pm

I'm the only one, either they come to my night, or they have to dance at home. I don't get any complaints, and i only get a few requests... so I think I'm doing ok, despite being swing-dictator ;)

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#15 Post by Toon Town Dave » Wed Mar 10, 2004 12:33 am

I figured I'd bump this topic to the top with my recent experience.

A new swing dance club just started in January University (College for the U.S. folks) with bi-weekly lesson/dance and practice sessions on alternate weeks (basically no lesson, less ambiance). Our local scene was practically dead (partly venue problems, partly people problems) so most of the people comming out are/were newbies. This club was/is intended to be a fresh start (organized by different people).

I was asked to DJ the first dance and have subsequently become the defacto house DJ. My sets tend to be heavy on real swing (stuff Reuben, Falty, et. al. would approve of) and classic RnB with a little groovy/bluesey/soul stuff and the odd pop/hip hop to placate a few people that demand it.

When I started I figured most of the newbies would want mostly neo and RnR sort of stuff. I've been surprised almost every week that most of the newbies are our dancing to all the classic stuff, most of it they have probably never heard before. It's been common for me to spin over 50% "New" material and it's very well received.

I asked the organizers if there is anything they would like me to play that would make the evening even better, only one expressed an interest in a little more of what we would call neo. Other than that, every one seems to be digging what I've been playing.

My conclusion is GOOD music is more important than familiar music.

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