Norman Cook, better known as Fatboy Slim, recently spoke about what he thinks it takes to make a great performer as well as an engaging DJ at the Ibiza IMS Conference. At this industry event, Cook shared some unconventional wisdom with 18 aspiring DJ’s: “It’s one of the basic rules of DJing. Always make sure you’re 20 percent more drunk than your crowd. Or you can be 20 percent more high than your crowd. Or just having 20 per cent more fun than your crowd. You have to lead by example.”
Despite quitting drinking several years ago Cook‘s advice is applicable across the board. In today’s day and age, artists are characterized as much by their stage personas and quirks as their actual mix. Rusko‘s ridiculous dance moves or Aoki‘s cake flinging, crowd-rafting tomfoolery, for example, have without a doubt helped define their brand and aided in their successes. A
As well as focusing on stage presence, Cook also emphasized the importance of actively reading the crowd, “Some DJs spend the whole evening completely focused on the decks, which might be great for what they’re doing technically, but if you’re not actually making eye contact with your audience, you can’t judge whether they’re going for it or not.” This bit of advice has helped countless DJ’s over the years, but as of late, thanks in large part to preplanned (sometimes pre-recorded) festival level sets, the art of crowd-reading is vastly under emphasized. A lot of performers should take heed to this advice, especially Avicii who said in his GQ feature-view that this sort of crowd-reading was a thing of the past (we all know how that one turned out for him).
DJs of all levels, from bedroom to main-stage Ultra, can take something away from Cook‘s words. Success as a DJ cannot come from a good mix alone. The ability to lead and read the party on the fly is a often under-appreciated aspect of DJing that when fine tuned can propel artists further. Or, you could just roll with the 20 percent drunker than the crowd strategy.