What Makes a DJ Mix Popular?


I’ve been thinking about what makes a virtual DJ mix popular. When I say “virtual” I mean one put up on line rather than played out at a live event. The two are quite different animals. For a start, if you play live it’s never wise to plan too far ahead. Some DJ’s claim to have their whole set worked out in advance – those DJ’s end up with an empty dance floor. In a live situation you need to respond to the feel of the crowd. Playing live I have had people go mad for a track one week and the next week the same track leaves the dance-floor empty. Playing live is all about tempo, style and structure. Keeping a constant groove going, but easing people into the more up tempo tracks. But putting a DJ mix up on Mixcloud is a whole different ball game. For starters, you can’t see your audience and they can’t see you.  And, most importantly, you are not playing live. Your audience on line, listens to your mix over days, weeks, years even. So there is complete lack of feedback. Admittedly, people can love your mix or leave a comment, but that is not the same as a crowd baying when you select a track they don’t like or going crazy when you play an anthem.

So I try to envisage my invisible audience. What the hell are they doing when they listen to my mix? Having a bath? Reading the paper? Making love? Dancing? Doing press-ups? Ironing a shirt? Cooking? Maybe all of those, but probably not all at the same time. So in the end, all you can do is create a mix that suits all those pursuits. And to be honest, a mix that suits your own mood as you put the tracks together. Over the last couple of years I have tended to go for key matching rather than beat matching. As I tend to play jazz rather than dance music it is by far the better option. Mixing music harmonically by key allows you to create a mix which doesn’t jar, which flows together smoothly. The segues, if handled properly, can create new stretches of music where diverse artists “play together”. All well and good, I am nowadays able to craft pleasing mixes that flow. But here’s the rub! I basically have absolutely no idea which mix will be popular and which will moulder in the archive. Sometime a bit of luck helps. For one mix I got a re-tweet by Us3 – that went (relatively) ballistic. But for most I don’t get that kind of boost. I am reliant on my own Twitter and Mixcloud following.

So here’s the thing – my least popular mix was one called “Cookin”. Why you ask – was it unpopular? I really have no inkling. As far as I’m concerned it’s got loads of great tracks which follow a food theme. Has it been tainted by the celebrity chef phenomenon? God knows! This is where you come in, if you click on the picture above you can access the mix. Give it a listen – see what you think. Admittedly if you are not a jazz fan this might not work. But who knows – maybe I can convert you! Then, please come back to this blog and leave me a comment or leave me one on Mixcloud. If it works for you let me know. If you hate it let me know (gently please!). This is just an experiment – perhaps you could check out a popular mix and tell me why that works for you. All contributions warmly received.


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