Ask a kj
Ask a kj
By “Dangerous” Dan McKay
Seattle KJ, DJ, Blogger,
President of the Seattle Disc Jockey Assn.
Recently I went to see some hyped-up new KJs at a popular Seattle karaoke spot. With all due respect, I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to do.
The pair worked in tandem, one ran the gear while the other acted as MC. The latter had tons of energy in pumping up the crowd, but I couldn’t understand why they would play 3 to 5 minutes of music between songs. The place wasn’t packed, though busy, yet there was a two hour wait to sing.
As a KJ, I know first and foremost we’re in the entertainment business, but when people come to a bar which advertises “Karaoke Night”, I personally think it’s a crime to play so much dance music when there are already 15-20 people waiting to sing.
People want to dance – there are clubs for that. My take is that by trying to straddle the line, the KJ ends up pissing off the partiers who begrudgingly wait through karaoke singers to dance, and singers who have to endure full dance tracks before they can sing.
So this month we asked area KJs how they incorporate dance music into their shows. Do they play a snippet of bumper music? A full song? An entire dance set? Here’s what they had to say…
Angela DeLand-Calhoun, Spunky Monkey, Auburn, WA
“Oh yeah! I burn discs of bumper music at home; always high energy music that people like to sing along to.
All summer long we did ‘YMCA’ during the night, lately it’s been the ‘Cupid Shuffle’. I play it at least once a night. Otherwise I’ll usually play just portions of songs. Occasionally the crowd is having so much fun dancing, someone will come up and say, ‘Hey let this song play out.’
I watch the crowd and see how they are reacting. It’s difficult on crowded nights when it’s a karaoke bar to keep hearing: ‘When’s my turn, when’s my turn?’ and you have people there who probably can’t stand karaoke. The way I do my show, we always have people come back who really don’t like karaoke.”
Scotty B., O’Finnigan’s Pub, Everett, WA
“I play music between singers; how long I play it depends on the crowd and how many singers I have. If the crowd starts dancing I could end up playing a couple of dance songs. Sometimes in the middle or toward the end of the show, I break away from the karaoke and go all dancing.
It’s never written in stone, it’s the feel of the room, sometimes they would rather dance than sing. A lot of people like to breakup the monotony of karaoke songs, so I don’t just appeal to people who come to sing, but people who come to have fun.
If there are all new singers, I let them sing. If it’s the same people and the same rotation, then they don’t get to sing, and I play dance music. I want everybody to have a really good time whether they sing or not.”
Candy Lynn, Johnny’s at Fife, Fife, WA
“Yes, I play dance music and turn it up to the same level as the singers. If you have dead air between singers it sort of brings the energy level down, so I like to keep music going at all times. I’ll fade it in and fade it out because I don’t like to do anything insulting to the ear. I let the music play until my singer comes up and is ready. I know that there are some there who aren’t there to sing. If they ask me then I’ll play a whole song for them and then go back to the singers.”
Eric Turnbow, ET’s Cosmic Karaoke, 2 Mile House Pub & Eatery, Olympia, WA
“I always play dance music between singers. I keep a six-disc player loaded with discs full of hit music that is constantly running. I’ll turn it up and let it play until the next singer gets up. I hate when there’s a lull or quiet spots where you can hear birds tweeting in the background! If it’s a good song, and people get up to dance, I’ll always let the song finish. On those occasions when I’ve cut the music before it’s over because the singer is ready to sing, the crowd will yell out ‘Heyyyy!’ The boss doesn’t like that.
I don’t care if the people have to wait to sing. I think it’s rude to cut off the song if people are still dancing. In fact, once an hour I take a break and play several songs in a row and everyone jumps out on the dance floor.”
Karen Knapp, Star Lounge, Collector’s Choice Restaurant, Snohomish, WA
“I do not play music specifically to get people up to dance. I have some pretty serious singers who come to my show and my goal is to get them up as quickly as I can. Because I use a computer program that displays upcoming singers, they’re usually scrambling to get up. Between singers I basically play background music at a lower volume because singers want to hear what I’m saying or bar announcements. I’ll go on Rhapsody to get new music and put playlists on my laptop that correspond to the venue, and just hit the fader between singers. If I see that people are responding to a different kind of music then I’ll change it up. There have been gigs where I’ve played dance music because it was more like a weekend place to go and be entertained but that’s not the show I do now.”