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5 tips how to prepare for a DJ gig.

Kono Vidovic May 28, 2022 330 15

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For a novice DJ, spinning in front of an audience for the first time can be pretty exciting. Do you have the right tracks with you? Is the DJ gear working the way you’re used to? Does your hair look right? What kind of audience is actually coming? Who’s playing for me? These are all legitimate questions! In this article I’m going to give you 5 tips to perfectly prepare for a DJ gig.

What kind of event / party is it?

This is the first step when we prepare for a DJ gig. Every event is different and requires you to adapt, for example, the audience and the theme. If you play at a dance event or festival you might think you know exactly what to expect. Yet it is also smart to look for information and, for example, videos about the event. What kind of audience you can expect is the most important information. It is also useful to know which DJs will be playing before and after you. With this information you can adjust your DJ-set to fit perfectly into the timetable.

TIP: don’t play tracks from the DJ who plays after you! There was once a DJ who played the last track of his set, ‘Epic’ by Quintino & Sandro Silva. He just didn’t know that Quintino would be playing after him. You can imagine that Quintino was not very happy about this. So make sure you know at least the following things about the event where you will be performing:

  • What kind of audience is there?
  • Who is playing before and after me?
  • What is the theme of the event?
how to prepare for a dj gig

Event themes.

In the case of a wedding, the preparation is slightly different. You will most likely be the only DJ at the party and you are expected to play great music all evening. The choice of music is of course even more important! To prepare yourself properly, it is wise to visit the bride and groom a few days before the party to discuss their wishes. To find out what is expected of you, you can ask the couple these questions:

  • What are your favorite artists?
  • What kind of music do you absolutely not want to hear?
  • Do you have a special song you both like?
  • Is there an opening dance?
  • How many people will be attending the party?
  • Is there a theme and if so, are there any dress codes?

If the bride and groom are having trouble answering the music questions, it is smart to play different types of music. So bring your DJ laptop! You will see that when they hear music they will automatically come up with suggestions!

Prepare your music collection / selection.

Okay, so we know what kind of event we are going to play. Great! Now it’s time to prepare your music collection. This is perhaps the most important tip, because without the right music, your gig is going to fail anyway. By now you probably have quite a collection of great tracks and you could play them all day if you wanted to. But every performance is different, so it’s smart to have your music collection in order beforehand.

In the past, DJs had to carry a suitcase full of records to every gig, but nowadays a well-stocked USB stick or SD card is enough. But how do you put music on your USB stick and where can you download this music? In the article we explain some of the best places to buy music. And here we tell you the best places to download free music, but besides these free options, these are the best websites to download DJ music:

  • Apple’s iTunes (All genres, including complete compilation albums)
  • Beatport (All electronic genres)
  • Traxsource (Lots of House and Techno)
  • Juno.

Playlists & DJ software.

Nowadays you manage your music collection on your laptop. The software you use depends on the DJ-controller you practice with at home (but more about that later) In general you will find Pioneer DJ Gear in a club or at a festival (check this out in advance!) To play on a Pioneer DJ set you need a USB stick equipped with Rekordbox playlists. Rekordbox is free software, which allows you to organize your music on a laptop and then export it to a USB stick or connect it to the available pioneer set. 

In this article we will not go into detail about how exactly Rekordbox works, but we would like to point out that it is smart to create a number of logical playlists within Rekordbox. For example, you can create a playlist for each gig with the tracks you want to play there. But best of all you can create a folder per genre and within these folders then playlists with sub-genres or energy levels. 

For example: a folder called ‘HOUSE’ containing playlists for ‘DEEP HOUSE’, ‘TECH HOUSE’, ‘FUNKY HOUSE’, ‘CLASSIC HOUSE’, etc. Cleverly organizing your music collection makes it much easier to find the right tracks during a performance. So spend a lot of time and attention on this.

If you are going to play with your own DJ controller (and therefore your own laptop), it is obviously not necessary to export your music to a USB stick, but even then it is smart to create playlists in the software of the DJ controller in advance. Also make sure to check out my weekly updated Spotify playlist here to get inspired with new music.

Prepare for a DJ gig & practice at home on your DJ controller.

This tip is a bit of an open door. Of course you should practice regularly to maintain or improve your DJ skills. As a beginner DJ you probably don’t have the budget to set up a complete DJ set at home, but fortunately this is not necessary. For less than € 300 you can buy a very good digital DJ controller. It’s a good idea to do some extra practice with the new tracks you plan to play in the days before your performance. This way you can get to know the tracks better and figure out which tracks go well together and how you can mix them best. 

Will you be using your own DJ controller during the performance? Great! Then it doesn’t matter which controller you have and you can prepare yourself perfectly for your gig! Will you be playing in a club with a Pioneer DJ set? Then it’s a good idea to practice with it. That’s why we recommend getting a Pioneer DJ controller, like the DDJ 400 or the standalone XDJ-RR (which can even be used without a laptop!) TIP: Don’t have a DJ controller at home or do your neighbors regularly complain about loud music? Then you can also rent a DJ studio including DJ gear. 

dj controller dj gear

Make sure your DJ gear works good.

Information about the event: check! Music collection in order: check! Your DJ skills have improved: check! Then you’re perfectly prepared for your upcoming gig! Did we forget anything? Yes we are! Before we head off to the gig, we want to make sure all our DJ gear is working properly. Are your headphones okay? Did you bring a 6.3 mm headphone jack? Do you have all the new music on your USB stick? Great! 

USB Stick and back-up.

We recommend bringing a second USB stick with the exact same playlists, just to be sure. This has a number of advantages. It could be that the players of the DJ set are not properly “linked”. It is then not possible to use 1 USB stick to control both players. Of course it can also happen that one of your sticks gets broken or lost (better not!!!) A backup is then of course very nice! It can also be smart to bring your laptop and an extra USB-stick, so that in the worst case you can make a new stick.

Are you going to play on your own Dj-controller? Before you leave, check if everything is still working properly and make sure you have all the necessary cables with you, like USB, power supply (including your laptop!) etc.

Be (well) in time!

The last tip when we prepare for a DJ gig. We don’t need to tell you that it is important to be on time for a gig, this goes for every (business) appointment of course. But as a DJ, it’s smart to take a little extra time before you actually have to start playing. If you are playing at an event with various DJs, it is important that you know what the DJ played for you. There’s nothing like opening with a track that the DJ before you has just played. But also tasting the atmosphere and assessing the audience are things that can ensure that you can better prepare your set. What works, what doesn’t, how is the sound, do the people want to bang or should you take it easy? All questions that will be answered if you arrive on time. 

Great tip! For company events or weddings it is also smart to arrive on time. That way you can go over the final instructions with the client and check that all the equipment is present and working properly.

Hopefully these 5 tips to prepare for a DJ gig helped you. If you are still in the phase of starting to learn the craft of DJ’ing and or producing your own music. The Tomorrowland Academy might be a good tip.

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Kono Vidovic at Dirty Disco

Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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