How do I go about choosing music for the club?

Selecting music for a club is called programming. To program music, you’re going to need to identify the club’s primary and secondary target audience. Next, you’ll have to identify the main source of income for the dancers: table dances or stage tips. After that, you’ll want to determine the club’s current music format. Finally, you’ll have to choose the best music to appeal to your club’s guests as well as the dancers.

How do I determine the club’s target audience?

In choosing music for a gentleman’s club, you face a unique situation. Unlike radio or dance clubs that target a single demographic (specific segment of the population like say 13-25 year old males or 25-35 year old housewives), you’re really playing music for two different audiences. First, there are your club’s guests, which will be predominantly males between 21-60+ and your 18-25+ year-old dancers. You won’t find many radio stations these days catering to both of those audiences.

The first thing you need to do is to find out what demographic the club is targeting. Is it 35-50+ white collar professionals? Or maybe 18-45 year-old blue-collar workers? Or does your club target African-American males 21-50? Once the club lets you know what segment of the population it is targeting, you need to take a look at the audience and see if that’s the demographic that the club is actually attracting.

Ask your manager or the owner what type of guests they want to cater to. You may also find that your club has a secondary audience as well. For example, let’s say your club’s primary target audience is businessmen but your club also draws a lot of students from a nearby college campus. Most of the students don’t spend a lot of money in the club but they do help add energy to the room by applauding loudly between songs and filling up the room a bit. The students would be your secondary target audience.

If you look out into the crowd on a weeknight and see that half of the crowd is made up of 30-40 year old businessmen (the club’s stated target audience) and the other half are 21-25 year-old college students, you need to program your music to appeal to the businessmen.

There’s nothing wrong with having a group of students in the audience but they won’t have near the spending power of the businessmen so the businessmen come first. You’ll want to add in the occasional song that keeps your secondary audience involved in the show but, if possible, you should avoid playing anything that’s going to turn-off the primary audience.

By the way, check to make sure that your club is actually drawing the audience it intends to. If the club owner tells you that the primary audience should be 40-year-old businessmen and 80% of the weeknight crowd is younger guys, you’ve got some work to do. If you want more businessmen and less young guys, you’re going to have to increase the classic rock and adult contemporary music while cutting down on what’s popular with the younger guys.

Usually if a club makes a conscious effort to change their crowd, the music format will be only part of the changes that are made. The club will probably institute a new dress code at the door and it may raise its cover charge and drink prices.

IDENTIFYING THE MAIN SOURCE OF INCOME FOR THE DANCERS

You need to be aware of how the girls make their money in your club. Does it mostly come from tips onstage or does the majority come from table dances? In some cities, table dances are $5 to $10; in others they run $20-25 or more. Still other cities don’t have table dances at all. (Note: some clubs will call these dances lap dances, couch dances or private dances). In one club, a girl may go onstage half a dozen times during the night and only do one or two table dances while in another club, she’ll dance onstage only once or not at all and do twenty table dances.

If your club focuses more on tips, then try to stay with high-energy music with the occasional slow song for table dancing. For the table dance oriented club, you’re going to have to walk a bit of a tightrope. You want to keep the energy up in the room while still slowing things down enough for table dances.

Some guys will want to wait for a slow song before they get a dance and if you make them wait half an hour for one, you’re probably costing your girls money. On the other hand, if you make every other song a slow song, you’re going to drag down the room and you can be assured that the manager is probably going to come up and complain. The trick is to find popular mid-tempo to slow songs that keep the crowd energized and generate a lot of dances.

If you keep an eye on your room, you’ll know when you’ve found the right song because you’ll suddenly see half your dancers start doing table dances. If the manager comes up to ask why you’re playing a slow song, just point to all the table dances going on around the room.

THE CLUB’S MUSIC FORMAT

Have a talk with the club’s DJs, general manager or club owner and find out if the club has a set music format. If the club already has set guidelines for music then you’ll pick music that fits those guidelines. Also, be sure and check to see if there are any music formats that the club doesn’t allow. Some strip clubs have a no-rap, no-metal policy. Other clubs make decisions on individual artists or songs.

If you’re not sure about a song, ask your manager before playing it. Never take a dancers word that the song is okay. Some dancers are little angels and would never lie to you except when they’ll tell you anything to hear a song even if they know it is banned.

Find out if there are any songs your club’s owner or manager particularly dislike and don’t play them. The time to discover this is not when they storm into the booth screaming. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen. By the same token, find out their favorites, too. Managers, bartenders, waitresses and other staff have songs that always cheer them up. Oblige them when you can.

If your club doesn’t have a set music format or only has loose guidelines based on what you can’t play, you’ll need to choose the format for your shift. So now that you’ve determined the club’s target audience and observed how the girls make money, what’s the next step?

You need to find out what type of music appeals to your target market. If the target market is a 35-60 year old white-collar businessman, then we’re talking classic rock and R&B from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s along with what’s called adult contemporary and modern rock. If the target market is a blue-collar guy from 31-50, then look at classic rock from the 70’s through 90’s, blues and country.

If a large percentage of your target audience is African- American businessmen, then you want to play more 60’s to 90’s R&B, mainstream rap and current R&B hits. If a big segment of the guests happen to be from another segment of the population, adjust your music according to that group’s listening preferences. Also, jazz and blues usually go over well with the ’40+’ crowd.

Now that I know the music format, how do I
pick the right songs?

When you identify the format or formats your target audience prefers, look for songs that are danceable and not too slow. You need to know what songs to play to wake the crowd up if the energy is down as well as which songs are the best for table dances. If you’ve been paying close attention to the crowd when you go out to clubs, you’ll already have an idea of what types of music work well in different situations.

After you get a clear idea of what the guests want to hear, take a closer look at what your dancers want to hear. Some of your girls are going to be into modern or alternative rock, others will want to dance to nothing but rap, others will dig Latin music, R&B, disco and hip-hop while another group will ask for pop and current dance music. You’ll have girls into metal, techno, trance country and everything in between. The trick is to develop a nice balance.

I can’t think of many regular nightclub environments where you’re likely to hear Nickelback, Garth Brooks, Britney Spears, The Black Eyed Peas, Bob Seger, T-Pain, Depeche mode and 50 Cent back to back but it happens all the time in a gentleman’s club. Try to mix things up when you choose your dancer list so that you avoid having too many girls back to back doing the same kind of music.

If your target audience is white 30-60 year-old businessmen, then you don’t want to do three rap or hardcore metal songs in a row. With the same crowd, an up tempo country set will often pick the crowd up but two back to back country sets will hurt your table dances because many girls won’t want to dance to a country song.

One of your biggest challenges as a DJ is to keep both the girls and the crowd happy when it comes to music. If you’ve got a girl that only wants to dance to Metallica, Korn and Megadeth when the crowd is made up of businessmen, you’re going to have to stay with the small number of radio-friendly hits from those bands.

Do your best to explain to the girl that although you think she’s got great taste in music, the older guys that will be tipping her and getting dances from her don’t really like that kind of music and it will hurt her money. That will work with some dancers and with others it won’t. If it doesn’t, try to convince them to mix in a new song from time to time. If she likes metal, you might convince her to try something like ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ by Steppenwolf, ‘No More Tears’ by Ozzy Osborne, ‘Hair of the Dog’ by Nazareth or a similar classic hard rock song that will fit her image and please the crowd.

You’ll also want to have a list of classic rock songs, country songs, old disco hits, modern dance songs and current hits that will get the crowd to react the way you want them to.

When I was working clubs, songs like Billy Idol’s ‘Mony, Mony’, AC-DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’, ‘Start Me Up’ by the Rolling Stones, ‘Bad to the Bone’ by George Thorogood, Garth Brooks ‘Friends In Low Places’, ‘Brick House’ by the Commodores, ‘Super Freak’ by Rick James, ‘Bust a Move’ by Young MC, ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’ by C&C Music Factory always got a crowd going and most of them still will.

Other songs like Vanity 6’s ‘Nasty Girl’, Gary Wright’s ‘Dream Weaver’, ‘This City Never Sleeps’ by Eurythmics will usually get a lot of girls up doing table dances. These are some of the older classics and you’ll want to add current songs to it that get a strong reaction.

Any time you play a song and notice a large amount of girls up doing table dances, make note of the song. The next time you play it, see if you get the same results. Current hits will sometimes lose their table dance appeal after a few weeks or months but the songs that don’t belong on your classics list.

DUPLICATE DANCER THEORY

Some girls will ask you to pick their music for them. There are dancers that will dance to whatever you want to play within reason and others are pickier. One thing i noticed after I had been working as a DJ for a while was that I seemed to have memorized hundreds of dancer’s song lists.

I’d have a new dancer at the club: let’s call her Sharon. Sharon names three or four songs that she likes and I’d recall a dancer from the past named Becky that danced to the same songs.

I worked with Becky for several months and I remembered 15 to 20 songs that I’d played for her. Now rather than always playing the same songs over and over again for Sharon, I’d try out some of Becky’s songs. 9 Times out of 10, Sharon would like those songs as well. Now Sharon, a girl I’ve worked with for only a few days, feels like I’m totally in tune with what she likes. She’ll trust me to pick out her music for her and she’ll probably tip me well.

I call this the duplicate dancer theory and sometimes it works totally on a subconcious level without me even recalling the original dancer. So you don’t have to rely on memory, be sure you keep track of your dancer’s index cards and old dance lists. If you spot a dancer that seems to have the same taste as another girl you’ve worked with, you can go back and review what the other girl used to dance to and try it out on the new girl. More often than not, the dancer will like your choice.

When you actually put this into practice, don’t reveal to the dancer how you seem to know her tastes so well. Remember, the key is always to make the girl feel special. If you tell her the truth, she may feel typecast rather than unique. If she asks, tell her you just had a feeling that she might like the songs you’ve recommended.

What’s the best way to keep up with new music?

To stay current and to find songs from the past that might work well in your music library, you need to spend at least an hour or two each week checking out new music. There are a number of ways to do this, here are a few:

RADIO

Listening to the radio in the car is a good way to spot new music but the drawback to radio has always been that radio DJs often don’t mention the artist and song title so unless you’ve got satellite radio, you may discover a new song but not be able to find it.

INTERNET

The Internet offers a solid alternative with a huge variety of formats available and, usually, you get artist and song title information along with the broadcast.

Pandora.com is a great resource for finding good music. You can listen online or use their iPhone app. The idea behind Pandora is you enter in a song or artist you like and Pandora creates a playlist of songs that match your choice. Try setting up a channel using songs you know go down well in the club and see if Pandora comes up with new songs you can use.

CABLE/SATELLITE MUSIC CHANNELS

Both digital cable and satellite dish networks featuring digital music channels, as are satellite radio networks. The number one benefit to these networks is that the artist, song title and album title are displayed along with the catalog number so you can order a copy if you hear something you like. The channels feature a big variety of music formats and unlike radio; you’re more likely to hear something besides the same 15 current hits over and over again.

A great way to find new music efficiently is using digital music channels included with your cable. If you have a Tivo or hard drive recorder with your cable box, program and record several hours of a channel or multiple channels. Later, using fast forward, you can scan several hours of programming in less than an hour. If you don’t have a hard disc recorder, a VCR set to it’s slowest record speed works, too.

TRADE PUBLICATIONS / ONLINE SOURCES

Billboard magazine is published weekly and features charts for all the major music formats. A subscription is expensive but you can access all the current charts at Billboard.com. All the current charts are included and you can listen to clips of each song. The site is free but to access previous charts; you’ll have to subscribe to the online edition of the magazine.

DJ Times is a magazine that is geared to the professional mobile and club DJ but you’ll find plenty of useful information like equipment and software reviews and dance charts. The magazine also has an online edition with articles from the current and past issues as well as marketplace, online music store and video interviews at DJTimes.com.

A source worth checking is Dancekings.com.On that site, you’ll find the Dixie Dance Kings, a record pool for DJs where you may be able to get free music from record companies. They also feature some useful music charts.

OTHER DJs

Other DJs in your club can help you find out about new songs as well as DJs in other clubs. If you discover a great new song, let the other DJs at your club as well as your DJ friends in other clubs know about it. You’ll find they’ll turn you onto some new songs as well as older classic cuts you might have overlooked.

Keep in mind you can also talk music with other DJs on this site in the Forum area.

DANCERS

Your dancers are a great source of new music, too. This is especially useful if they like a format that you normally don’t spend a lot of time listening to.

Where is the best place to buy music?

RETAIL SOURCES

Things have really changed in this area over the last several years. There was a time when I used to spend hours in record stores like Turtle’s, Sound Warehouse, Cactus Records, Tower Records and a number of smaller stores. These stores have all but disappeared now although there are still some shops around that specialize in used CD’s and vinyl. Use Google to see if there’s one in your area.

ONLINE SOURCES

There are a number of sources of inexpensive music online. Check out the major sites like Amazon, and CDbaby.com. Then there’s Itunes, Napster, Rhapsody, etc. for digital music files.

CLUB LIBRARY

Most clubs now have computerized music libraries that you’ll use instead of CD Players and turntables. The music is stored on the computer’s hard drive and you can program songs via an onscreen menu. Many have the list of dancers and their favorite songs already entered.

The software has an interface that resembles a dual CD player. Of course, using the computer means you can have instant access to hundreds of songs without having to load individual CDs each time you want to play a song. If you’d like to try a demo on your PC or Mac, check out Virtual DJ, they’ve got a fully functional trial version that’s good for 20 days.

What’s the best way to choose songs for a dancer’s set?

Most clubs use either two or three song sets. Topless clubs usually do a two-song set and nude clubs go with three song sets but there are exceptions. Some topless clubs will have the girls do three song sets when they’re low on girls like on a slow night or when the club first opens.

In a topless club, the dancer will do one song with clothes on and then take her top off for the second song. Some dancers will take it off onstage; others will go behind the curtain and then come back out topless. Either way, you don’t need to handle it differently unless the girl specifically asks you to talk a bit between songs to give her time to get out of her outfit. In the two-song set, the girl will usually do a faster song first and then slow it down a bit on her second song. Be sure and check the times on the songs when you or the girl picks the music.

You generally try to pick a shorter song first and a longer song second. Guys don’t usually tip on the first song because they want to wait until her top comes off so you don’t want a seven-minute first song. By the same token, you don’t want a three-minute second song because guys won’t have enough time to get up and tip the girl. In some markets, DJs will back up the song if the girl is still getting tipped.

To pull this off, you’ll quickly lower the volume on the mixer, hit the backward scan on the CD player or DJ software interface while watching the time remaining counter on the player (I always set my cd players to count down so I know how much time is left). Depending on how many guys are waiting to tip, skip back anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes. Now the way you cover the silence is to talk over the mic while you’re doing this. It will seem a bit tricky the first couple times you try it but with practice you’ll be able to do it automatically. While you’re scanning back, say something like this:

Let’s give (dancer’s name) a little more time out there”.

You can do this more than once if you need to and if there aren’t any more tippers, you can always fade the song out before it’s actually over. By the way, if you’re temporarily running three song sets in a topless club, the dancer should still get topless after the first song.

If you’re working in a nude club that does three song sets, you’ll start with an up tempo song and then the girl will get topless on the second song which will be either fast or medium and she’ll take her g-string off on the third song. Avoid letting the girl pick slow songs for both second and third songs or you’ll kill the room’s energy level.

In some nude clubs, there is a system where girls strip according to how much they’ve gotten in tips. For example, they may get topless when they’ve got $2 and nude when they’ve got $5. Check to see how it works in your club. If your club has a system like this, you’ll help out on the mic. If the club uses a five-dollar system and the dancer onstage has four dollars in her garter, you can let the guys know that you need only one more guy to come up and tip to get the girl all the way out of those clothes. Once she’s completely nude, you can now invite more tippers to come up.

This is the end of this Lesson. Click here to go to the next lesson.