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Disc Jockeys Play the Records--and the Crowds

December 11, 1987

Think it's easy to spin those discs? Guess again. Sure, any chimp can handle the basics, but mastery of the art involves more than just playing records.

A good disc jockey can make anywhere from $40 to $600 a night. But "you really have to know how to read a crowd," said Robert M. Fisher, a record spinner for Onion International, which owns more than a dozen Red Onions throughout Southern California. Fisher cites the disco craze of the late '70s and early '80s as the beginning of the era of artistry among disco deejays. Until then, he said, it was pretty much a matter of fading down one song and fading up another.

Today, a skilled disc jockey can employ an amazing repertoire of mixes--the segues from song to song. "There are really about 100 different, tiny little ways you can slam or pop one record into another," he said.

Do most dancers appreciate the subtleties of these segues? "Some of them are very conscious of it," Fisher said. "But all of them are subconsciously affected."

A good disc jockey can keep the audience on the dance floor, "up" but not tired, and--most important of all--drinking for hours on end.

And that is really why disc jockeys in clubs make so much money. "The feedback is immediate," Fisher said. "It has a direct impact on liquor sales. If you've got a deejay who is really cooking the floor, and is reliable, and the crowd trusts him, then they will stay there, and they will drink. And that is really the bottom line. The name of the business is to sell alcohol."

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