Wednesday, October 14, 2009

additional chapter.

attitudes towards etiquette divide people, but i fall into the category of individuals who appreciate and enjoy codes of social conduct. i love browsing books on etiquette, from emily post's early editions to current finnish ones. dress codes do not cause anxiety on my part, but offer relief. parties that follow a strict etiquette are a charming play of subtle elevation from everyday tumble and jumble.

i know a few people who find etiquette a nuisance: their view is based roughly on the idea that rules of conduct are pretension and an unfortunate trace of class society that is used to separate between rich snobs and honest, down-to-earth people. dress codes create insecurity, uncertainty and an unnecessary pressure to dress up or against one's personality. behavior guided by etiquette feels like a theater play, all pretense and charade. i can see where they're coming from, although i do not agree.

the codes of etiquette differ very little from common courtesy most of us take for granted. the reason many are unfamiliar with party etiquette is because celebration is such a minor part of life, as are other formal events where the people gathered are loosely tied to each other. thus, etiquette is something that requires learning. for example, dress codes demand some thought, but help in comfort because once realized properly one does not have to pay attention to fitting in although there is plenty of room for personality expression. moreover, courteous speech is one of the easiest way to display admiration and respect. internalized codes create stability in situations where uncertainty would easily rule. the constancy and predictability appeal to me.

nevertheless, there is another side to etiquette, namely breaking it. as with all kinds of rebellion, it seems futile if there is no comprehensible background. breaking rules because one deems rules unfounded or unjust is very different from opposing rules just because learning them would take time and effort. it is the same with scientific critique: i've lost count of the times i've asked a student who writes about opposing a Grand Narrative or wants to renounce the use of the term 'individual' whether they know what is wrong with Grand Narratives or why 'individual' is such a problematic concept.

without an understanding of the history and background of concepts and codes, critique echoes emptiness. for example, supporting a postmodern stance without understanding how it differs from a modern one is all too common among social scientists today and it shows as haphazard theorizing full of inexplicable gaps. in another context, behaving badly because of ignorance is not an efficient way to show elderly societé ladies that sometimes their stiff rules need some freshening up or upgrading.

through work i have realized that even among people who believe to know etiquette, novel situations sometimes provide behavioral dilemmas. while dj'ing at museum openings i have been exposed to incomprehensible verbal abuse, always from middle-aged ladies and older gentlemen who, presumably, believe to know their way around social situations. nevertheless, they are not the only ones who are uncomfortable or clueless in the presence of the dj.

therefore, based on my experiences, here's an addition i propose emily post publishes in her next edition: a short list of rules on "how to treat the disc jockey".

1. remember that the dj is working, i.e. performing a task they are paid for. do not unnecessarily intrude or disturb their ability to do their duty.

2. the dj has been asked to play because the organizer of the event in question has wanted them there. the situation is comparable to an event where a wagner soprano or a jazz quartet is performing. act with appropriate respect. the dj wants you to enjoy your event.

3. the dj is not a jukebox. their selection of music is not unlimited. nevertheless, they may accept requests for songs. there are some considerations:
a) stick to the genre the dj is playing in your requests. if you cannot differentiate between genres, pose your questions delicately. a dj playing electro will probably not have red hot chili peppers or flamenco.
b) have your request ready when you approach the dj. if the song is not available for any reason, do not start to think of another one. there is very little time between song changes.
c) if asking for certain genres (like trance, punk, rock), remember that the dj probably understands niches of music differently depending on their own interests. therefore, it is preferable to stick to individual bands or songs in your requests.
d) if you rather listened only or predominantly to your favorite music, stay at home or start dj'ing yourself. the point of a dj is to have someone choose the music for you. allow them to do that.

4. if you do not like the music, your options are as follows:
a) ask for a song you like (as above)
b) leave the dancefloor
c) tell the organizer of the event that you do not like the performer s/he booked
d) leave the event
e) all of the above.

5. do not ever complain, protest, sign offensively or make faces at the dj if you do not like what they're playing – as you would not the jazz quartet or the wagner soprano, now would you?

6. if the volume seems off, tell the staff or the organizer. the dj usually has strict guidelines for volume levels and cannot alter them to your personal preferences.

7. as a general rule, if the music at the event is not suitable, the problem is not the dj, but the booking; that is, someone has asked the dj to perform. dj's have a repertoire just like any other performer and they are selected according to it.

8. a few remarks that should never pass your lips (and their snarky responses):
-"could you play something good?" (yeah, please be a little more subjective...)
-after asking for several songs "well, what do you have?" (around a thousand songs that i have no time to list for you...)
-"i hate this song!" (bummer, i love it, i'm playing, i win!)
-"you ruined my night!" (nah, you did it all by yourself by staying and complaining...)

9. finally, remember that there isn't a dj that does not wish you love the music they play. if you do, let them know. it will make you both happy!

anything else you may want to add from the point of view of the audience or dj? i'm listening.


Sugar Kane said...

In total agreement with everything you said! Mind yr manners, even when dealing with deejays, is all I'm saying.

Anna said...

Aivan HURMAAVA teksti - kiitoskiitos!! Mä luin tän monta kertaa peräkkäin kun niin tykkäsin! :)

Mä olen käytösoppaiden (erityisesti vanhojen sellaisten!) suurin ystävä (ihanaa että sielunsiskoja tässä asiassa löytyy: olen luullut ettei kukaan jaa kiinnostustani! pus!) ja arvostan tosi paljon sitä, että jollakulla on etiketti hallussa.

Me ollaan tästä dj-problematiikasta joskus juteltukin: tosi kiinnostavia nää sun huomiot. Aiheeseen liittyvä etiketillinen kontribuutiosi on kerrassaan mainio. Ottakee opiksi, ihmiset!

stellagee said...

sugar kane, yup. i never thought people were so rude to deejays before i started playing. it's mind-boggling, really.

anna, kiitos ja mahtavaa, että meitä käytösoppaita ihastelevia on muitakin! mä pidän vanhoista erityisesti siksi, että niitä lukemalla aukeaa hyvin monella tasolla yhteiskunnalliset nyanssit. käytösohjeissa selvennetään asioita, jotka tuntuvat ihmisistä kiusallisilta ja kohteliailta – monet näistä avautuvat aivan toisin kuin esimerkiksi elämäkerroista tai muista ajankuvista.

tietysti etiketin hallussa oleminen ei poista sitä tosiasiaa, että mä mokailen jatkuvasti ja olen oma tumpelo itseni. siitä voi sitten vain syyttää huonoa tilannetajua, tyhmyyttä ja sosiaalista kyvyttömyyttä. mutta ainakin periaatteessa tiedän, kun olen mokannut. pare myöhään kuin ei sillonkaan, sano.

ja toivoisin kovasti, että otettaisiin opiksi. olen ihan riittävän monta kertaa kuullut jonkun kännisen suusta, että "mitä sulla sit oikeen on, mä kyl osaisin soittaa sellasta musaa että ihmiset tietää..." ja joo, mä olen indie-dj, ihan avoimesti.

Anna-Maria said...

I must go to really good clubs or know the nicest DJs because if they don't have a song I'm asking, they let me make as many suggestions as I can think of or browse their records. :D I always win. :D

stellagee said...

anna-maria, it's quite rare to have a dj that would let a total stranger browse their records. i might let someone do it, but starting with a long list of totally unrelated songs and a frustrated face won't give access to my collection. people have also tried to steal my records and i am not alone with this. so you must be asking very nicely.

i personally love playing a request given i have it. it sometimes sucks that i don't have one that is great and that i'd love to play. naturally, i always listen to request exactly as long as anyone wants to list them...

as i was writing from the point of view of the person on the other side of the decks, i understand that from an individual club goer's point of view the fact that you could take as much time as you want listing your requests or even browse records as "nice" or "good". of course, why wouldn't you?

the reason i wrote this was because many club goers are not considerate at all. therefore, i do slightly resent the assumption that in order to be a "nice" dj or the club "good" my records should be considered publicly accessible or that i shouldn't be given the time and space i need to work.

Sugar Kane said...

Although I spent most of the nineties hangin in the dj booth when friends played, and had the priviledge of going through their records and make KIND requests, I wouldn't expect dj's to start acting my personal jukeboxes. Granted, it's nice to get your favourite song plaued, but it's even more pleasant to be surprised.

Having dj'ed a bit myself, I understand the dj wants to "choreograph" the set and playlist herself, build the drama if you will. It's nice, when someone asks for just the right song at the right time and shows s/he understands your scene, but most constant requesters bug the hell out of me!

I'll make my grand return to the dj booth in a cpl of weeks, and I already have a very tight set cooking. I hope people let themselves be entertained even if I'm NOT open to suggestions!

stellagee said...

sugar kane, i can relate. after hanging out for years in dj booths and having a circle of friends many of whom dj, the expectations of the audience and the djs themselves do not often meet. there isn't one i know who thinks suggestions are great, but the attitudes vary from nonchalance to feeling insulted.

it seems that the more dance-clubbey and stiff genre playing the dj is, the less they appreciate getting requests. yes, many plan their sets to the tee and do not want to change anything. the set is an entertainment package. actually, just wednesday night i talked to a friend who spins drum'n'bass and he lamented on one night when a well-known producer handed him a new track and he felt extremely uncomfortable adding it without ever hearing it before.

i know a few djs who consider the night a failure if they get requests: they interpret it as meaning they failed to keep the audience happy because their mind wandered off towards other music. i know some who have almost a hostile attitude towards suggestions. many listen to them and just ignore them. all in all, it is a common joke among djs that booths should have a sign that says "the dj laughs at your requests."

the fact that i don't stick to one genre and do change the type of music (to a certain extent) if it seems the crowd is not enjoying does not mean i do not plan my gigs. choreographing is just the right term. having someone stand and talk to me for any reason disturbs my ability to concentrate on what is happening musically.

as i also try to mix properly (although i often cannot...) it is pretty obvious that listening to lengthy requests means i am bound to fail in the process. and yes, it also bugs the hell out of me, but it's not something that i think gives me the right to be rude to the person asking.

since i usually play at indie clubs where the crowd is fairly savvy and the requests reasonable, many of these issues never come up. because part of indie music "being" is having knowledge of the most obscure bands (i listen to bands that do not even exist yet), an interesting phenomenon at indie nights is the audience trying to impress/baffle the dj by asking for marginal stuff. sometimes it works, sometimes it fails.

that said, i really, really look forward to yer return to the dj-booth.