How Aaron Smet Became the Hottest DJ at the University of Oregon
Aaron Smet’s emergence into the college party scene felt especially swift. He went from average college student one day to a campus DJ the next. It’s a question spawned not only by Smet’s sudden ubiquity but also by his blossoming into a bonafide DJ who draws hundreds in attendance.
The story of how Smet decided to become a DJ is an interesting one. Back in college, while attending a fraternity party, Smet noticed that music had a big effect on the outcome of a party. The potential for a great party depended heavily on song selection and the cadence at which each song was played.
“There were gaps in the musical experience. That’s when I saw an opportunity”
Smet understood that every party was a chance for new people to interact with his fraternity. “Depending on how that interaction went, influenced people’s perception of us” he explained. “Music plays a major role in that interaction… If I could increase the quality of the music then I could simultaneously build the fraternity’s brand and popularity. That’s when I decided to become the house DJ.”
“Spotify playlists weren’t gonna cut it.”
In January 2019, I was invited to Eugene where Smet was having his 23rd birthday party. Over 300 people were invited. I had heard stories but now was my chance to see it in person. When we arrived, he gave me a tour of the multi-million dollar fraternity house he helped establish during his time as a student. An airy space-filled basement served as the venue for that night.
A little after 10:00 pm, Smet checked his phone. He was in the basement, putting the finishing touches on his DJ booth. The party was about to commence: college girls were congregating in circles on the dance floor. He looked at me with a smirk and said, “You ready?” while pressing play on Nelly Furtado’s song Promiscuous.
This was just another Saturday night for Smet, who DJs every single weekend. DJing is pretty close to his official job in the fraternity. “At this point, it’s pretty much a given,” he says, referring to whether or not the fraternity asks him to DJ for upcoming events. At 21, Smet had established himself as the premier DJ on campus attracting droves of students every weekend.
When asked about how he got so good at DJing he replied “I perfected the mix… I figured out what songs are universally liked and linked them all together”. It was undeniable that what he said was true. From the moment he pressed play, it was nonstop hit after hit, classic after classic, without a moment of dead space. All of the songs perfectly transitioned into one another.
“A great DJ will make it damn near impossible for anyone to leave the dance floor.”
Smet had an uncanny ability to manipulate the crowd. He spent little time looking at the controller — he already knew what song he was going to play next. DJing is akin to a sport: the more you practice, the better you perform. Smet had clearly put in the necessary hours to perform at a very high level.
“A good DJ knows a song should be played, but a great DJ will know exactly when the song should be played.”
Around 12:30 am, Smet decided to take it up a notch with songs like Yeah, Get Low, and Crazy In Love. He told me that DJing is about taking your audience on a musical journey. Your set should follow a dramatic structure: there should be a rising action, a climax, and falling action.
As the night wore on, the songs progressively got raunchier and raunchier. According to Smet, that was by design. Smet, of course, relished in the atmosphere he had created. The party didn’t last long after that. Cops were called to the residence.
“Those are the best parties… the ones that get cut short.”
The night was still young. We made our way over to the Hilton Hotel. I tried to find Smet to bid him goodnight. Smet was at the bar toasting with his friends like a rockstar after a concert.
I asked him how he was able to DJ at the hottest bars off-campus?
He told me he would sit at the bar and watch the crowds every night. When 2:00 am rolled around Smet would make his way up to the DJ booth and make conversation with the house DJ. “It’s about building a relationship with the person who can give you what you seek… Once you establish yourself as a knowledgeable resource, then you go in for the ask.” “It took me 4 months to get my first gig.”
And that’s how Smet inserted himself into the rotation of DJs to perform at Taylor’s Bar and Grill.
I asked him what he would say to those who are looking to follow in his footsteps. He thought for a moment and said the following:
Patience and execution. Seek out opportunities and be ready when it’s time. Do your research and watch the crowds. Transitions are nice but song selection is most important.
Any weird song requests?
Not really. One girl came up to me and asked me if I DJ every day.
I told her often.