For many decades, asking a DJ to play a song was a practice reserved for school dances, weddings, family reunions or other specialized gatherings. In the age of the smartphone and instant access to media, people have grown accustomed to getting what they want when they want it. These new freedoms have encouraged a rise in song requests in every domain where DJs can be found.
There is a time and a place for everything, and that concept can (and should) be applied to requesting a song.
We asked a few of the hardest working DJs in town for their input, and although Hampton Mills put it to us simply (do: not make requests, don't: make requests), we got some informative feedback.
"Be respectful of their space. The booth is the DJ’s work area and is composed of costly electronic equipment ... . Spilling a beverage or bumping the wrong cable can have serious consequences." — Brian Holbrook
"Do be respectful of their space. The booth is the DJ’s work area and is composed of costly electronic equipment and components responsible for the evening’s entertainment. Spilling a beverage or bumping the wrong cable can have serious consequences." — Brian Holbrook
"Do be prepared to be denied. A request is a request, after all, not a mandatory demand." — DJ Titan
"If you feel the need to request a track, maybe ask if they can play a song that isn't completely different from what genre/style they have set for the night." — Eric "Bigesoul" Quintero
"Be respectful of vinyl DJs and understand they can only play what they brought. Be patient and embrace the moment rather than making it about yourself. The DJ is there for a reason, was hired to do a job and is not your own personal jukebox. And be mindful of the type of music that’s being played. Don’t expect the DJ to stop what they’re doing and radically change the trajectory of the night’s music just for you." — Gavin Guthrie
"Don’t argue with the DJ over his reply. If the DJ is able to accommodate your request, they will generally try to do so. If they can’t for whatever reason, debating with them will not change things. There are many reasons they are not able to accommodate your requests — technical, professional and artistic. They may not have the song at that time, they may have a 'do not play' list from whomever is paying them or there may not be a good way to make your request fit with the dance floor." — Brian Holbrook
"If the venue or the DJ has a "No Requests" sign, then that means no requests." — Flash 45s
"Never request Pitbull or something cliche. This happened recently, and I strictly never honor Pitbull requests, and I told her that, and she didn't like me much after that." — Red Sean
"Don't send up your more attractive friend to ask for the same thing you've asked for. We can see you. We know who you came with. It doesn't work. And never use the 'I know the owner' angle." — DJ Red Eye
"Never request Pitbull or something cliche. ... I strictly never honor Pitbull requests." — Red Sean
"I usually say, 'Yeah, I might! Let me see if I can find it,' then continue to play what I came to play." – Aaron Hensley
"I think context is important. Obviously, if you are a wedding DJ or working a corporate event, you'd be expected to be the human jukebox. But if you are working your regular gig, where presumably you are hired to perform, why do people think its appropriate to tell you what to play? If I am telling my story and mixing in music in the way that I choose to with the artistic license that I expect to enjoy, I don't appreciate being asked (demanded, most commonly) to play this song you love that's on your iPhone? Have an open mind and sit back and listen. Maybe you'll hear a song that becomes a favorite that you never knew existed." — Chris Houlihan
"Unlike a lot of DJs, I welcome requests. Whether it's a digital wedding party or vinyl club gig, don't be intimidated or afraid to ask for something you think sounds completely out of the ordinary from what I'm spinning. If I don't have it or even something like it, it usually inspires an interesting left turn on my part that hopefully adds to the mix." — Mark Ridlen