The art of the aux: How to properly DJ for a crowd

Being in charge of the aux cord can be tricky.  One must consider the occasion, who the the audience is and their mood, and minor things like the time of day and season in order to play the perfect song to please everyone.  (Seniju/Flickr Creative Commons) 

Anyone who has ever been passed the aux is all too familiar with the immense pressure associated with being the DD (designated DJ). As DJ, your friends will hold you to impossibly high standards; to exceed their expectations is unimaginable, yet any good DJ will do it every time.

In order to succeed as DJ, it is necessary to analyze and assess the situation. Creating the perfect playlist is similar to writing a persuasive speech or essay: you are trying to convince your audience to have a good time. With this in mind, as DJ you must first consider your audience. How old are they? Are they men or women? Are they in the small minority of people who love country music? Or do they hate it like the rest of us? These questions are essential, especially when first determining the direction and most prominent genre on your playlist. You won’t be playing Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” for the nine year olds you babysit, and your guy friends don’t want to listen to the “High School Musical 2” soundtrack.

Next, you must consider the occasion, and use the music to set the mood accordingly. Chance the Rapper’s “All Night” is just as much of a jam as Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” but only one of them should be played at a frat party. Most people don’t prefer only one type of music exclusively, but this is not to say they like all types of music at all hours of the day. Your “night in” playlist may vary significantly from your “night out” playlist, which will in turn vary significantly from your “9 a.m. road trip to the beach” playlist.

However, determining the genre or artist to fit the mood is not enough. As DJ, it is up to you to perfect the mix between throwbacks, popular radio hits and newly discovered jams. It is easy to rely on a few key songs that you know are crowd favorites. But with this strategy, you risk overplaying something, and ruining it for everyone. Instead, you need to work in unexpected songs that people didn’t even realize they wanted to hear. This is usually an underplayed throwback, but it could also be something you like that most other people don’t know, like a lit Spanish song from your Zumba class, or a new remix you heard on SoundCloud. It can also be a song that you heard someone mention liking that one time a few months ago. Noticing these subtle preferences is key to standing out as a DJ.

To wield the power of the aux is clearly no easy task, and it isn’t for everyone. But for anyone that likes a challenge or craves the praise of others, the reward is worth the risk. Like juggling or physics or knitting, perfecting the art of the aux takes time, patience and experience. But the knowledge of music and how to have a good time is well worth the immense effort and high expectations.


Katherine O’Shea is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at katherine.o'shea@uconn.edu. She tweets at @koshea527