Tools For Interacting With The Crowd During A DJ Set

Mixing music for a room is a dialogue – but what if you want to go beyond track choice and start interacting with the crowd on another level? Ask them questions, solicit requests, tell them more about the playing track, and more with the tools and techniques that we share in today’s article.

GET ON THE MIC

This is the traditional method of talking to a crowd: jumping on the microphone and saying hello. Despite what a lot of novice DJs might think, this is an acquired skill – just ask any drum and bass fan about the difference between a mediocre MC and a fantastic one.

The type and frequency of microphone use is highly variable based on the event – at a mobile gig you might call people onto the dance floor or even remind them that you take requests, where as in a large club show you might only get on to thank the crowd at the end of a set.

Read More: Our article on Microphone Essentials for DJs

OLD SCHOOL: CALL AND RESPONSE

The ultimate call-and-response secret weapon.

Obviously a big part of how you interact with the crowd during a set are the tracks that you play – and some of them lend themselves more to audience participation and interaction than others. In lots of genres, there are tracks that elicit a specific response from the audience – from singing along, to vocal callouts, to dance routines. Vetran wedding DJs often do this incredibly well – mainly because they can get away with playing tracks like The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” in almost every single set.

Collect these tracks and keep them in their own playlist. Deploy sparingly, but use them effectively to keep the audience interested, engaged, and dancing.

TYPE TO THE CROWD

Probably one of the simplest – but most effective – visual displays ever.

Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way – as proven by Above and Beyond’s simple technique. During their “Group Therapy” shows, the duo spells out messages to their audience using a pretty simple technique – a dynamic text box that has input controls in the DJ booth. You don’t need to buy Resolume Arena to emulate this, just a projector and Microsoft Word would do the trick, or even a large dry erase board.

Watch how it works and how “real” it feels in the above fan video. They type messages about songs, show pictures of their children, complement the crowd – and generally have a direct conversation with the audience without ever interrupting the music. DJTT commenter OrderedChaos noted that Dash Berlin also employs a similar tactic with just an scrolling iPad marquee:

Photo credit: EDMNeverStops.com

TWEET ABOUT IT: USE TWITTER / RADR.DJ / TWEET SHOW

Richie’s live Twitter account, connected to Radr.DJ

Richie Hawtin’s Radr.DJ (formerly Twitter.DJ, but they received a cease & desist notice from Twitter) service allows DJs to connect their DJ software to a Twitter account via the software’s streaming settings. The service then checks every 60 seconds for a new playing track and sends out a tweet with the artist and track name.

Radr.DJ is a pretty basic service, but it lets anyone see how a DJ constructs and builds a set – not only for people on the dance floor, but for DJs around the world who want to see what their favorite artist is playing in regular rotation. It could be even more power if used in conjunction with another app that projects tweets with a certain hashtag, like Tweet Show. Just enter a hashtag, and anyone who sends a tweet with that hashtag shows up on the projection.

You don’t have to do anything fancy to interact with audience members on Twitter during a set, but they’ll need to know that you’re actually keeping an eye on the service for anyone to actually use it.

REQUEST NOW: TAKE REQUESTS DIGITALLY

Users can send messages and request tracks with Request Now

The most interesting new solution we’ve seen for DJs to handle requests and messages came from a service called RequestNow, which sets up a text message number for each event and shows requests from the crowd. They handle all the interaction – meaning that no one is shouting in your ear during a set. If you aren’t a fan of requests, the appeal comes in that you’re able to send out messages to anyone after a set and let them know that you uploaded the mix, or when your next show is. They’ve even got an iPad app for placing around venues as interaction terminals – watch it in action:

The catch is that the RequestNow service does cost the DJ money-  $10 per event if you “Pay As You Go”, or sign up for a reoccurring plan. Learn more about the options on their official site.

Or there’s always simpler, more old-school solutions:

@DJTechTools Saw a great one recently. A girl used an LED scroller on her smart phone to ask for a request! #smart

— Robbie Dunbar (@RobbieDunbar) January 7, 2014

FROM THE BEDROOM TO THE WORLD: CHAT WITH THE CROWD

A crowd chatting with DJs From Mars on Mixify

90% of the DJ sets played every day aren’t on a stage or with any audience members in attendance. They’re bedroom or radio sets, and aside from  housemates walking by and complimenting you on the mix (or telling you to turn it down), the level of audience interaction is incredibly low.

Using a great live streaming option like Mixify creates a direct dialogue with your crowd. You might not to get to see them jump up and down, dance, or call out when their favorite track drops, but you do get to be in a chatroom with them. They can ask you questions, identify your tracks, compliment your mixes – all without any risk of spilling a drink in the booth.

HIRE A MOBILE APP DEVELOPER

We’re mostly kidding with this one – but that’s exactly what electronic musician and crowd-interaction expert Dan Deacon did when he wanted to make use of his audience’s cellphones in a unique way. The application just listens for secret audio triggers in the playing audio files and then triggers a set routine of lights

The company who made Deacon’s application (Wham City Lights) are licensing the application out to various festivals and shows around the country – learn more about them here and even try your hand at making your own custom light show routine.

WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE: PIONEER KUVO

KUVO will share track metadata, notes, and messages between DJ and audience member.

Pioneer is hoping to really own the connection between DJ and audience member in the near future – developing a system called KUVO that detects metadata written to files that a DJ is playing and lets users on the dance floor read those messages and notes. The tracks played are all collected in an online interface, and help to track dance floor trends and hot tracks. While it’s still a very early project, we expect to see it start to roll out around WMC this year (Pioneer is usually pretty active during Miami).

Read More: How Pioneer’s KUVO System Works

OVER TO YOU: CROWD INTERACTION TOOLS?

What techniques and tools do you use (or have you seen used) to elicit an interaction between crowd and performer? Show us your favorites in the comments (with a video or photo of it in action if possible) and we’ll add some of the best ones to the article.

above and beyondcrowd interactiondan deacongroup therapylivestreamingmic usemixifyradr.djrequestsRichie Hawtintwitter.dj
Comments (43)
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  • Dj Sets Streaming | Computer DJ Midi

    […] Tools For Interacting With The Crowd … – Obviously a big part of how you interact with the crowd during a set are the tracks that you play – and some of them lend themselves more to audience … […]

  • KYRO

    Aren’t we trying to keep the audience away from their cellphones and social media so they can enjoy the show?!

    • John McCullough

      I thought so too for the longest time.. but as DJs aren’t we helping people have a good time? If getting them involved with technology increases that doesn’t that help us in the end?

  • Wormtongue

    Bring gogo dancers. That is all.

  • sebastian

  • jemmy button

    I once hooked up a MakeyMakey (check it out!) to a Traktor Sampler Deck. The audience had to close the circuit between two tinfoil-coated giant hands attached to the speakers. Every time they closed it (by holding hands), an airhorn, laser sound or a swell would sound. They loved it…I even had to turn it off every now & then because it got too anoying… Here’s the full description: http://www.makeymakey.com/forums/index.php?topic=1295.0
    Don’t know if you could call it DJ-crowd-interaction though – I didn’t really do anything but preparing it… 😉

    • colkerns

      Awesome man I came here for more ideas like this

  • Nayami

    –> Nayami, from Barcelona
    This is my metamorphosis, my performance.
    People ask “Who is that girl with that face and what’s she doing??”

    http://www.soundcloud.com/nayami-1

  • Danno

    Think I’m with Forever Now on this one…surely the beauty of the DJ-dancefloor relationship is that the DJ has to “feel” the vibe of the dancefloor and react to it in their own way. But it’s interesting for sure. Worth exploring just to see what results you would get.

  • Dazen

    What about throwing cakes at the crowd? I´ve heard it´s very common.

  • Martin

    in this four videos shows how to connect with the crowd

  • Martin

  • Martin

    Please, I ask you look at these videos. They are my old, but is the best time of electronic music in Argentina.

  • mxby7e

    I’ve written a Quartz Composer patch that searches Twitter for anything tagged with a specific hashtag, and then it goes into my video feed. I can adapt this for any of the events I run or VJ, so that we can always have crowd integration, and all I have to do is change a variable that is the hashtag in Resolume and relaunch the clip.

  • Palace One

    I ask some days before the gig on the Facebook-Event for any Songs that the crowd wants to hear and then I pick a small amount of them (depends on how long my set is)

  • jasonmd2020

    Maybe someone here knows: Can Traktor send out MIDI messages besides commands for LEDs? I have another older laptop that I hack Linux on with Pure Data for some real time grafix tomfoolery. I’d love to have vids triggered along with Traktor cuepoints at the same time. Easiest way to do that would just be MIDI…

    • Giorgos Kanoupakis

      Mostly Robot (an electronic band set up by Native Instruments) does that live.

      Logicaly you can set a Traktor Midi Device from Traktors Controlers Manager e.g. a usb to midi cable or a virtual midi port a.k.a. MidiOX to send midi out to your second computer and process it there.

  • JC

    Kuvo is still one of the dumbest money sucking creations Pioneer has come up with. I find it amazing that people that work with tech all day (You forum users here) are some how impressed with these simplistic and utterly idiotic ideas of “socializing” and “interaction”

  • Forevernow

    FFS.. Phones should be left in your pocket, listen to the music, the good artists fill there songs with messages to reconnect you with your soul.. Wakeywakeyeveryone.

  • Robert Wulfman

    Get creative, find special ways to interact with the audience on core tracks and just have fun with it

  • antifm

    i might be currently wrong on this one but the last time i checked ( Radr.DJ ) only worked if you were using a MAC. It does NOT work on Windows. There is even a Traktor Plugin which also does not work on Windows

    • JC

      When was the last time you checked? Because its always worked on windows for me…

      its a server.. you have traktor connect to the server and the small app does the work.,

      There is no “plug in”. You’re doing it wrong mate.

    • Chaser720

      Haha. I use this track too. I like playing the first verse of the original then dropping into this.

      Wierd though… all their pages were removed. This use to be a free download.

  • BiGMAc

    So this is my Idea To add a lot of these elements all into one show. I need an app dev. Who knows Rails? Big Ideas in 2014 You don’t even know working out of England. writing it all up on my dry erase mirror now 😛 Please HMU Find me @ http://www.DJMAC.co

  • Mike Graham

    Live screencasting from Ableton, Traktor, Serato ect. Would be a cool way for crowd/performer interaction in my opinion. Watching how your favorite artists perform in the software would be very intersting and entertaining in my opinion.

    • JC

      Yeah imagine all the Albeton DJs we would watch, Clicking their next track.

      How would all you wanna be “performers” get by then, theyd see you were actually doing jack shit just like DeadMau5

      • Mike Graham

        Some people are creative with the tools they use. Not everyone is a just press play perfomer. The guys who are wouldn’t have the coconuts to use it anyhow

        • antifm

          ive got a lovely bunch of coconuts (dee dee lee dee)

          I think this would only be a good thing to watch if it were a controllerist or something showing off a specific set but to watch a dj do an entire gig this way is just a bore.
          How many times i have come across websites wanting to do BETTER broadcasting by also doing video….. its great the first 2 songs, then the watchers turn off the video and just listen.
          Music is HEARD, not watched

  • OrderedChaos

    Dash Berlin typically goes similar to Above & Beyond, but with an iPad with a scrolling marquee, certainly effective for smaller venues like the Marquee Dayclub

    • Dan White

      Marquee at the Marquee!
      Looked up photos, this is a great example – I’ll add it to the article.

  • antifm

    one tool I use all the time is this one http://www.antifmradio.com/radio/community/lt
    it’s a tool called alive tweet via tweetbeam. http://www.tweetbeam.com people at my gigs send a tweet with a specific hashtag to @antifmradio and it shows up here. before the gig I setup a laptop to one or many flat screen tv’s in the club or lounge the have this page from my site loaded onto them. it works Really well to take requests and reduces the amounts of people coming to the booth to asks for the latest Britney Spears song.

    • John McCullough

      really like that idea.. could you explain more about how that works?

  • jacoblysgaard

    Where is the cowbell on this list?

  • chris

    tell the Songs of the set?
    that need to be lucky if they survive the gig,
    and afterwards on Facebook to get the recording with titles.

    btw: Smartphones Lightning is bit of wasted energy.

    • chris

      youtu.be/i9hsOMZroyU
      sorry folks. but i play in an other dimension

      • chris

        we play mostly against each other, and kill us with brilliant vibes.

    • Chaser720

      I think its pretty cool personally. Especially if a large crowd is all using it.

      If festival sized crowd was using it then you would actually be able to see the sound waves. Each phone would respond as it received the sound. That would be sweet.

      • chris

        with a good music system,
        and UV-light,
        you would have a very different picture

  • Sam

    Fatboy Slim used to write messages on the white label/dubplate sleeves and hold them up to a camera to be displayed

  • süperschlomo

    I toss a big bag of cocaine and a bag of pills into the audience… the show always gets so intense afterwards 😀

    • killmedj

      Expensive but effective.

  • marquee mark

    Haha didn’t know Above and Beyond did that, so simple and brilliant! good tips