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Your First DJ Gig – Tips and Expectations Part 2

Posted By — July 30, 2014

This week I want to talk a bit more about the first gig. This time, I want to approach it a bit differently and give you some sense of what’s going on around you and show you which other factors besides your performance will affect how well the gig goes.

Keep the Bar Happy

Bringing friends who drink is a big plus, but if you bring 20 friends who don’t tip and are rude to the bar staff, this will reflect poorly on you. If you’re playing the first opening slot and a bunch of people show up and are partying hard, the bar staff will assume that some of them are your friends. It’s of course good to bring people out, but make sure both you and they treat the bar staff well. This means being patient and polite. And of course tipping is always a huge plus.

Keep the Other Staff Happy

This means bouncers, managers, dancers and other DJs. For your first gig try to act like a professional, even if you don’t have much experience. Your attitude goes a long way and managers will notice if you’re a genuinely nice person. Don’t drink too much or argue with a bouncer. Also keep in mind that it’s good to network and talk to the headlining DJ or the manager, but understand that these people are all here to work; they have busy nights and a lot going on as well, so know when enough is enough, otherwise they’ll just end up being annoyed with you.

Keep the Promoter Happy

If a promoter has brought you in for your first show, they’re taking some degree of risk with you. The first thing that can put a promoter at ease is seeing that you’ve brought bodies to the club. Bring some friends out and ask them to come early. This gives you a chance to show your stuff and get people dancing instead of just playing an empty room.

Another way to put the promoter at ease is to show up early yourself. Know your gear setup, and if you have any questions for the promoter, try to think of them all at once. Again, the promoter is probably busy, so you want to make sure you’re prepared, but you also don’t want to bother them too much.

The final step is to make sure you’re comfortable with the music. Have some variety and some routes you can go in case what you planned isn’t working with the mood, venue or crowd. You want the promoter to be able to relax and be comfortable with the music you’re playing, instead of being stressed about getting the next DJ on. Play slow, take your time and really play to the crowd.

Hopefully this helps shed some light on the other factors at play at your first club gig. Next time we’ll focus more on what direction to go musically for your first gig.

Where to Find Music for Your DJ Sets – Part 3

Posted By — July 6, 2014

Today I want to take a more in depth look at using www.residentadvisor.net as a tool for finding new music. Resident Advisor is a really expansive site that provides a number of useful tools, such as tools for finding local events and staying in tune with a variety of music news. It also provides some really powerful routes for finding new music. The reason I like using Resident Advisor is because I find that sometimes when I’m using Beatport I get stuck at a genres homepage without knowing where to dig, whereas Resident Advisor provides some much more useful routes.

By Artist

One place to start looking is from the Artist drop down under Music. I’ll start by picking an artist whose work I like, for example Eats Everything, and I’ll go to his page to start. From here there are several ways to start looking for new music to complement your sound. The more cumbersome options such as podcasts, soundcloud and mixes are good because they give you a good variety of music that the artist is listening to right now, but you’ll have to listen through the whole thing for what you like and what you don’t.

My favourite place to find music, however, is under charts. Charts give you a good idea of what the artist is listening to as well as other artists they like. This gives you the chance to find related artists to the sound you’re looking for and investigate them further.

Furthermore you have the option of browsing through some of their tracks, which is especially useful for artists you may have just recently discovered. You can also see where their tracks are charting to make it easier for you to identify popular tracks.

This is a great example of the power of Resident Advisor in the way it so thoroughly connects music and artists.

By DJ Charts

The initial DJ charts page is a little bit overwhelming and I find it easy to get lost in the wide range of charts there. I normally start by going to a label I like such as Defected. I can then get to a range of their tracks and see how well they’re charting to get an idea of their popularity.

The DJ Charts tab also provides access to the Monthly Top 50 tracks. This will still give you a lot of the tracks that are popular on other sites, but it will also give you a nice range of tracks that are different from what you’d find on the front page of Beatport.

By Record Labels

This is another handy tab that I also find easy to use. It brings you to some popular labels as well as some highly charting labels if you’re looking for something quick. It also gives you recently reviewed labels if you’re looking for something new that might not necessarily be popular yet.

When you navigate the site this way, Resident Advisor becomes a powerful tool for discovering new music and new artists. It works great for both digging for something deeper and finding something new quickly. Next time we’ll look at another site and compare its capabilities to Resident Advisor as well as Beatport.

Your First DJ Gig – Tips and Expectations Part 1

Posted By — June 14, 2014

The first time I ever played live was really exciting for me. It was in a 50 person side room of a bar/club in my hometown. I remember how I felt before, how I prepared, and some of the misconceptions I had. I wanted to address and discuss some of these so they aren’t stumbling blocks for you in your first live set. So here are some of the mistakes I made:

 I Played for Myself

This is a big one that takes some learning to get over. I had my whole set planned out complete with cool transitions and some clever wordplay but it wasn’t what the room was looking for at all. I played some tracks that got people grooving but not for very long and I wasn’t paying attention to the room; I was only paying attention to what I wanted to play.

Don’t make the same mistake. Watch the crowd – look for what they start moving and grooving to and let that inform what you play rather than being stuck to your playlist.

I Played a Complicated Set

As I mentioned, the set I put together was complicated and intricate. I had practiced it in my bedroom time and time again.

When I got to the gig I was plagued with technical problems – my Serato failed and when I did get going I was too nervous to do a good job of pulling off some of the things I had planned.

Instead of doing what I did, take it easy. Relax, watch the room, keep it smooth and keep the track selection good as opposed to blowing through a bunch of tracks or trying to do something more complicated than what you’re comfortable with.

I Expected the Room to Be Packed

For my first gig I expected that the room would be busy and I would just walk in and light it up. Your first gig should be slow; this gives you time to read a smaller room and get a smaller group of people dancing, which is an important skill. It’s not easy to go into a big room and get really good reactions, which is why it’s important to learn from the ground up with smaller crowds.

I Played a High Energy Set

For my first gig I played some pretty high energy stuff that would’ve done well at primetime in a busy room, but not early in a small one. Just like song selection, the energy of your set should be gauged based on the room you’re playing. It doesn’t hurt to prepare, but don’t get together a set of bangers for your 10 to 11 o’clock opening set.

Hopefully having an idea of some of the things to look out for will help you be better prepared for your first gig.

Creating a Brand for Yourself as a DJ – Part 1

Posted By — May 17, 2014

Not everything about DJing is about the music or playing out. This has always been the case and it’s especially true nowadays, as it’s become vital for DJs in today’s entertainment world to be their own agent and sustain their brand in order to survive.

What Do You Mean by Brand?

This is your face as a DJ and it applies to both the personal image you put forward at shows (including what kind of music you play), as well as how you’re represented online and to promoters. You want the music you play to complement the kind of brand you want to promote, and vice versa.

How You Carry Yourself

How do you achieve this? An example would be to consider the different ways popular DJs carry themselves online. Think of the way Deadmau5 acts on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube and how it represents him as an artist, versus someone like Laidback Luke who has a more professional air online. This also applies at shows; how you act towards promoters will trickle through your local scene and influence how many shows you get booked for, as well as the type of shows you’re asked to play.

I can’t stress how important attitude is for promoters when they’re choosing which DJs to book.

Create an Online Image for Yourself

Ever hear some great remix? You know the remixer, but you just can’t find any of their info. Don’t be this person. First of all make sure you have channels for people to find you though, whether it’s Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Twitter or something else. Make sure you have social media profiles, and make sure you keep these profiles up to date and looking presentable.

Google yourself to make sure people can find your name easily. Make sure your contact info is readily available; people won’t book you if they have to work to contact you.

Make sure your stuff doesn’t look tacky (unless that’s the look you’re going for). Keep it simple if you need to but make sure everything is filled out and you have some nice looking pictures as well. Put your name and contact info in any music meta data you may have. When you talk to industry people, make sure you have a card – if someone wants to book you they’ll only have so much patience in trying to find you!

Keeping up a good online and in-person image is the first step in creating a brand for yourself.

Next time we’ll explore branding image some more and talk about some more things you can do to build a concrete brand for yourself.

Playing Pop Style Music – Part 1

Posted By — April 24, 2014

I recently watched this video from DJTechTools.com about how to mix pop music here. As someone who plays a lot of pop and Top 40 music, this got me interested . Though this video focuses on the actual mixing of two pops songs, I wanted to take it back a level and discuss playing pop sets and how you should be choosing your tracks and keeping the crowd interested.

Keeping People Interested

If you want to play a catchy song and have everyone sing along, it’s important to examine which parts of the song people actually know the words to! Of course most people will know the chorus, since it’s repeated multiple times throughout the song and is usually pretty catchy. But what other parts will people know? Let’s talk about the other parts of the song in order of how well people know them.

The first part of any song that people hear is of course the intro, which tends to hold a different feel in terms of pacing from the rest of the song, making it more memorable. After this, each verse follows in turn. When people listen to music nowadays, they tend to not listen to the full song. Instead, they’ll probably listen to the first thirty seconds to a minute, then flip to the next song. Because of this, people normally know the intro well, but will be less and less familiar with the words as the verses progress. So to re-iterate, in order of which part is most memorable, a pop song would be structured as follows: chorus, intro, verse one, verse two, and so on.

What does this mean for you? Well, it’s important to watch (and listen to!) your crowd on this one. If people aren’t singing along anymore, it’s time to start thinking about getting out. There are a lot of pop songs that the whole crowd will know through and through, but many people will start to lose interest when they no longer know a part of the song. This is when you can spark more energy by mixing into another song that people will know the words to.

Choosing Tracks

Building on this idea of which parts of songs people know and recognize, we can also use this method to help us choose where to place songs in a set. If you’re in a primetime slot, you’ll want to choose songs with choruses that have a lot of energy, and maybe save the tracks that have long vocal breaks before or during the chorus for later on in the night.

Also, when you’re mixing pop style music, be mindful of sections of tracks that don’t have any words. If you’re going to keep your crowd singing along all night, be mindful of what you’re about to play. That being said, heavier tracks with no words can create a lot of energy in the room so don’t be afraid to play with these types of tracks as well.


With any rule, there will always be exceptions, and the same is the case when it comes to which parts of a song people remember. An easy example is Be Faithful by Crooklyn Clan – the break in the middle of the song is the part that people know the best. With songs like this one, make sure to play out that important part for the crowd. Even though it goes against the formula noted above, this will ensure that your crowd stays interested.

Final Words

Keeping people singing can have a great effect on your crowd, both during and after your set. Keep in mind what we discussed about knowing which parts of a song people will recognize, and using this knowledge to keep the energy up in your set.

Next time in this series we’ll talk more about mixing and song selection with pop style music.

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