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What Is a DJ?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 23, 2024
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A DJ, or disc jockey, is a person who plays musical recordings for a living. This may take place in a variety of venues. Therefore, the person's exact role may vary, depending on the setting or the purpose of the music.

One career path for a DJ is to work for a radio station. In this capacity, he or she is responsible for playing musical selections from a playlist that has been provided by the management of the station. This playlist is developed to reach the target audience of the station. Generally, the target audience is determined by the genre of music the station chooses to play, or vice versa.

what is a DJ?

Common genres of music played by a DJ include heavy metal, classic rock, light rock, adult contemporary, hip hop, gangsta rap, rhythm & blues, jazz, and country western. Most radio stations do not cross over into different genres, though genres that are similar may enjoy some cross over play. For example, the DJ of an adult contemporary station may play some country western songs and light rock songs. In addition to playing music in accordance with the playlist, the DJ for a radio station may also be responsible for answering calls from listeners, conducting interviews with musicians, and announcing commercials as directed by the radio station. Typically, he or she has little authority over what music is played.

A DJ may also provide music at a wedding reception. In this case, he or she may receive a playlist form the bride and groom. Alternatively, the bride and groom may select a particular genre and leave it up to the DJ to select the songs to be played. Often, this person also takes requests from those in attendance. The wedding DJ may also be called upon to act as an emcee at the wedding and announce when special events are about to take place, such as the throwing of the bouquet. In addition, he or she generally interacts with the audience in order to encourage guests to dance and have fun.

Another type of DJ is one who plays music at a bar or a club. This person often has duties similar to someone who works a wedding. A club DJ, however, may not take musical requests. In addition, many mix tracks beforehand in order to create recognizable songs with fun beats that encourage dancing.

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Discussion Comments

By anon926040 — On Jan 16, 2014

I have been a dj for many years and I have attended sound school as well as broadcasting. The problem with most Djs today is the lack of audio knowledge. Anyone can hook up speakers and play of a computer and call them self a Dj. Yes they are playing music for an audience, but why just do it poorly. By going to school you will learn how to properly use a microphone, how to set up and tune speakers to a room, why you get phase issues and much more. Number one complaint about djs, (I do almost 100% weddings ) is they are too loud and the guest can't understand them when they talk. This is because they are only a Dj who just plays music not a person who wants to be the best at what they do.

By anon345465 — On Aug 19, 2013

Thanks for all the great advice. I need to find a DJ for my wedding. If the music isn't good, nobody is going to dance.

By anon124456 — On Nov 05, 2010

Yes I agree a dj is one who plays music for a crowd in a creative way. One doesn't have to just pick and drop tunes randomly. There is to be a smooth flow of beats making it easy and encouraging for the crowd to keep dancing without stopping.

When even the old music is played properly and systematically, it sounds like yesterdays and the crowd enjoy it. All this doesn't need any tutorials, all you need to do is know your music well and practice a lot, you still get there. My secret is playing one tune and singing over it, then I know which tune blends well with which one. DjShingoman.

By anon123591 — On Nov 02, 2010

I have been working in the entertainment industry for 30 years and quite frankly i find some of the comments here totally laughable.

A DJ is a person who plays musical recordings to entertain an audience, whether that audience is right there in front of him/her or maybe at home listening on a radio.

This is divided into categories: radio, club, wedding, mobile, etc. but they all remain DJs.

As for going to "school" to take a course, that is utter rubbish, as are all the online tutorials. They are all a waste of time.

The best way to learn, is by getting to know a well established entertainer, one who is popular and always busy. Most will gladly give you a bit of their time.

By anon110670 — On Sep 12, 2010

I have been a Deejay for five years now. I am booked every weekend. What you could do is work with some one who is a deejay. I will give you some free tips. 1. Have lots of energy, and be upbeat. 2. Learn how to read a crowd, and watch what they are doing. If they are siting with their hands resting on their faces, they are bored to death. In order to be a good deejay you must know how to do this.

By anon106070 — On Aug 23, 2010

Sorry to break it to all the club folks, but while it is true that the people who mix music in clubs are called "DJ's," you cannot take the term away from those who it was originally applied to.

Radio station folks are DJs, as for the most part they are who the term was invented for. They may not be what you associate with DJs, but the term is still correct for them. Are we next going to be told that a doctor is not a doctor because they don't perform plastic surgery?

By anon91418 — On Jun 21, 2010

I think you mean MC which stands for master of ceremonies. der

By anon85638 — On May 21, 2010

Whoever wrote this article is obviously *not* a DJ. Well written - but flat and not totally correct (sorry!)

A club DJ is totally different than a wedding or "mobile" DJ. There's also a difference between radio DJs and personalities. They don't really call them DJs anymore. The mixers are the DJs, the personality is the one who interacts with the listeners, voices promos or spot copy, etc.

I have been a club/radio DJ and personality for 15 years and I also manage club DJs.

And you don't need to go to school and if you're trying to be a real DJ. lol. Learn the "old school" way and then you can call yourself a DJ -- Lysa D.

By anon82013 — On May 04, 2010

pbc123: You don't need to go to school for it, just learn free hand. That's what i did. i learned everything within a year because I'm dedicated to this i really like being a DJ and i really want to make it big like this. my stage name is dj skip.

By anon56652 — On Dec 16, 2009

well, personally i find this article quite confusing. the role of the club dj is here heavily underestimated. since "big" radio stations don't actually have a "personal selection" by someone who could be recognized as a dj (in the mainstream programs, at least) but usually simply take and play hits and new releases by majors without the kind of research and selection proper of a real dj, i'd say that clubbing is the only situation where a real dj comes out.

wedding djs and such don't have to shame, but playing what people is asking you to play just like a jukebox is far from the role of a disc jockey. A DJ is someone that should be able to understand the mood of the crowd he's facing and choose the right tracks and find the right way to present them in order to make people dance and have a good good night.

A good DJ is technically capable of doing so in the smoothest way and still surprise you, moving out of the "popular and commercial" path.

A great DJ is someone that makes you laugh and cry and go nuts, and gives you the greatest time of your life by just selecting and playing and manipulating music. that's how i see it.

first of all you'd better understand what a dj is. it takes more than you'd expect, and probably neither have I understood this really. :) Also, keep care of your musical culture! that's fundamental! listen to new things, buy new records, both new and very old -- that should be a good beginning!

Plus: "many club DJs mix tracks beforehand in order to create recognizable songs with fun beats" doesn't mean much to me. actually O_O. if you mix tracks together before a gig, you're making what's called a mashup (but then you mix the mashup with other songs as a regular song..) or you're cheating just like singing in playback.


By anon45270 — On Sep 15, 2009

pcb123 try downloading virtual dj. that may help you and as anon33132 said, look at tutorials online. ;)

By anon33132 — On Jun 01, 2009

pbc123 you could see tutorials online.

By pbc123 — On Feb 07, 2009

i am interested becoming a dj, but i can't afford to take a course in school. what can i do?

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