DJ and founder of Melbourne dance music label Vicious Recordings John Course was getting a lot of requests. Not for Dancing Queen, but to play parties that required musical skills beyond that of your run-of-the-mill wedding DJ. It made him realise just how hard it is to book a suitable DJ for an event.
“I’d always be saying to people, ‘I’m open to doing your event, but what sort of music do you like? I’m not the kind of DJ who’s going to go there and play Dolly Parton, ABBA and YMCA. So if you want that DJ, you should go somewhere else’,” Course tells Broadsheet.
Course thought there was a better way for DJs and event hosts to work together. So, along with marketing specialist John Curtin and DJ, producer, event coordinator and owner of audio-visual company Night Grooves, Piero Giovannini, he started online DJ and party production booking site Request Artists.
At a time when it’s quick and easy to compile a playlist in Spotify, or even simply let the algorithm do it for you, it could be easy to skip the expense of a professional DJ. But Course knows from experience a DJ’s ability to read a room can’t be replaced so easily.
“It always makes a difference when you’ve got a DJ programming music live. You might play a Prince record and it could go crazy. So then you’ll go and start to think about other music that relates to that sort of artist, in real time. You might play three songs like that, and the dance floor might start to drop off, so you’ll change it up. It’s very hard to program that sort of stuff in a pre-arranged way.”
On the Request Artists site you can book DJs three different ways. The first is to browse the profiles of the DJs on the site. There’s also a nightclub filter, meaning if you’ve been to venues such as Chinese Laundry, Club 23 or nights such as Glitterbox, you can select them and then see a list of Request Artist DJs who’ve played there. Finally, you can pick from genre descriptors ranging from Top 40 to disco and funk, to underground club – the DJ will bring a set to suit your tastes.
Prices vary depending on the profile of the DJ and production requirements, but generally start from about $1000 per event for a DJ. Among the 33 bookable acts are R’n’B DJ Khanh, house music DJ Claire Elliot or Madison Avenue member Andy Van. The sky’s the limit though when it comes to your budget. After receiving your quote, you finalise payment through the site. Packages range from parties catering to 100 people up to about 500.
“We want it to be a one-stop shop. One of the things that’s a pain in the booking process is that you have to go here for this, and there for that,” says Course. “With us, you literally can say ‘I want four LED screens and stage production that looks like I’m at Stereosonic’, and we can just about do it.”
Course has had a long career as a DJ, first getting into it as a kid through hip-hop and breakdancing. After seeing the film Beat Street, he got into scratching and turntablism. And while you can book a DJ set from Course himself, he’s left his breakdancing days behind him.
“They could try [to book me to breakdance], but they’re not going to get a very good result these days,” says Course jokingly. “It’d be more like me broken while dancing.”