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For those who don’t know me, my first love is schools. We’re involved enough in schools that we have its own division, located at Most weddings cannot match the setups, energy, and overall production. (Notice I said most, more on that later!)
Today’s article will be simple and to the point as I explain 10 tips to a successful homecoming or prom. I’m not going to cover equipment or preparation. If you need help with equipment, you should start there before even getting involved in school dances. These events are beasts if you’re doing them right. To be candid, our average dance this homecoming season was roughly $4,500. There is profit to be made if you do these dances right!
So let’s talk talk tips on performance:
1) Energy! If you’re polished, keep speaking to a minimum, or don’t do much hyping, you need to step up your game. While you can get away with playing music the entire time sans any hyping, your performance will really stand out when you do energize the students. This is much more than just “put your hands up!” Proper hyping involves a deep level of call and response. Watch some rap concerts and see what the hype men do. Their job is to keep the crowd’s energy pumping as the artist performs. My favorite entertainer has been Lil’ Jon. Watch him live on YouTube. He commands the crowd and the levels of call and responses are out of this world.
2) Know the music. No.. don’t just memorize the Top40s, but also throwbacks. What are the songs that they will scream “OHHHH” to? What song peaked #1 in the charts as they entered high school? These “OHHH!!” moments are KEY to keeping the crowd energized.
3) Working solo? Knock it off! You NEED an assistant to take requests and handle the massive number of students who want to talk to you. Are you setting up barriers to keep them at a distance? Then school dances aren’t for you. Mr. DJ, take down this wall!
4) Wearing a suit? When’s the last time you saw the hip, cool DJ wear one? That’s right– NEVER! My schools expect me to come in looking like a DJ… this means a dress shirt and designer jeans. It’s comfy AND fits the motif!
5) GIVEAWAYS! We give out anywhere from 500 to 2000 glowsticks a dance. Students love them and it allows you to be a lot more interactive with them! Remember: the more rapport/trust you build with them, the more your music will be a big hit!
6) Slow songs? I always make a few call and responses for single people VS those who brought someone special. Why? Because it lets me gauge how many slow songs to play. My average dance is so high-energy that students boo at slow songs, thus I play 2-3. Yes, only 2-3 TOTAL in four hours. No complaints, ever.
7) If you’re not on a stage.. get some platform. Personally, I stand on my subs. You cannot build energy to its maximum potential unless the crowd can see you!
8) You must work with your lighting designer; he/she needs to know the music and your performance well enough to sync the lights perfectly. If you’re going to build suspense during the build up of Sandstorm, your lights need to match that energy level.
9) I’ve heard stories from DJs that at school dances you get at least one student who says “YOU SUCK.” This may happen once or twice in your career, but if it happens at every dance, you need to check your skill set. Always walk around when the dance ends and talk to students to see how you did.
10) NEVER END WITH A SLOW SONG! A high-energy song will keep the energy level up as they leave. Students will be so pumped up they will talk about what a great dance it was. Administration will hear these comments and help your chances for next year!
Remember, 800 students screaming the songs at the top of their lungs is a different type of energy than 100 close family and friends witnessing a first dance. You MUST employ a different level of interaction and utilize it to the max!!