Confessions of an Agency DJ
As part of the JWT guest edit, DJ Jonny Santos takes us behind the decks & compiles an exclusive shots playlist.
The agency DJ life is not one of glitz and glamour. No one’s flying me business class out to Berlin just to play my favorite tech-house set for three hours then sending me back to NY. Nope, you’re more likely to find me playing on a six-foot banquet table somewhere between a kegerator and the kitchen sink. Sometimes you’ll find me precariously placed on top of a barn dressed in a yeti costume or playing the hits in whatever conference room people are hiding in this week. What can I say? It’s a living.
One of the best parts about DJing is successfully reading a room and figuring out what will bring everyone together on the dance floor. People like to think of themselves as experts in this field so they constantly try and tell me what to play − this, of course, is widely recognised as the most annoying part of a DJ’s job − but honestly, for every cool guy I have to endure mid transition as he tries to talk to me about Kendrick Lamar or old dude who insists on staring over my shoulder while slowly sipping his beer for an hour, there’s the high pitched squeals and drunken fist bumps that make the job worthwhile.
As you can imagine, each agency I’ve spun for parties differently and a lot of that depends on size and overall stuffiness. Lucky for me, regardless of where you work, you all like to party ... a lot. Half of agency offices have full scale bars hidden somewhere, I’ve even been to one where they had beer taps at the reception area and the one I’m currently at has a fully staffed bar with more sound equipment than half the clubs in Brooklyn.
They all have their particular tastes as well. Experiential or production agencies just want to escape, so I lean heavy on Rihanna with a few choice Whitneys and unexpected 90s jams for the long haired dudes longing for their days as Lollapalooza roadies. It’s important to take care of that crowd first, not just because they’ll probably leave early, but if I can get them moving, usually the rest of the company follows along. Smaller boutique agencies love to show off how cool and current they are so of course, the latest Kendrick, Kanye and Migos are in order. That usually gets the skinny jean, cool hat guys loose enough to start tapping the kegs themselves, at which point it’s just a matter of figuring out whether I end with an LCD Soundsystem All My Friends make out session or throw in R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly for maximum sing-along effect.
The larger agencies get a bit tricky. The size alone means I’m gonna have to deal with one too many producers who, let’s be honest, would much rather be on their third chardonnay than talking to me about XLR cables. Also, if the agency is really big they put you on stage so it’s a bit nerve wracking having that many drunks, I mean creatives, staring at you. Anyway, I’ll usually start out with something semi obscure like SBTRKT or Kaytranada just to see people’s reactions. I’ll then scan the room for the loudest clique I can find (project managers) and concentrate on making them dance, sometimes that means some throwback Madonna or if they’re really feeling it, some old school Selena. Either way, fast-forward 45 minutes and six ill-advised tequila shots into the future and the party turns into a Super Bowl halftime show with enough Drake, Future, Twista, Kanye, Whitney and Robyn to convince the finance guy it’s a good idea to hire all the interns he’s been dancing with all night.
Regardless of the size of your agency, your creative director will come and ask me to play some Biggie and/or Tupac. When that happens I will feign amazement at his/her creative direction and throw it in the mix. Gotta stay paid after all.
So with that in mind, let this be your guide and enjoy.
Dr. Shiver feat. Candi Staton: You Got the Love
Solange: Losing You
George Michael: Careless Whisper
Sade: By Your Side - Remastered
Outkast: So Fresh, So Clean
Ma$e: Feel So Good
The Notorious B.I.G.: Mo Money Mo Problems (feat. Ma$e & Puff Daddy)
Drake: Get It Together
R. Kelly: Lay Me Down
Kanye West: Power
Bag Raiders: Shooting Stars
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Maps
Dolly Parton: 9 to 5
Kendrick Lamar: HUMBLE.
The Fugees: Killing Me Softly
Missy Elliot: Get Your Freak On
Khia: My Neck, My Back
Drake: Fake Love
Roy Ayres: Everybody Loves the Sunshine
Tom Scott: Never My Love
Boots Randolph: Yakety Sax
Caribou: Can’t Do Without You
Meidtation Beats: Binaural
Future: Mask Off
Missy Elliot: Work It
Rihanna: Bitch Better Have My Money
Big Sean: I Don’t Fuck With You
R. Kelly: Step in the Name of Love - Remix - Radio Edit
Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On