After last week’s post about one of the worst DJ sets ever, I’d like to take the opportunity this week to talk about how you can recover when you run into one of those “oh #$%&!” moments in one of your sets.
The most important thing to keep in mind about losing the crowd is that it happens to everyone. No matter how much you prepare for your gigs, if you DJ enough, eventually you’re going to bomb. Sometimes the crowd is just not feeling your style, sometimes your equipment malfunctions, or sometimes you’ll just have an off night.
The point is not to obsess over playing perfectly every time, since it’s impossible. Rather, you need to know how to gracefully recover before you make a total fool of yourself and get booed off the stage. Messing up is not what sets the pros apart from the amateurs; knowing how to recover is. So here are a few things you can do when you start to feel your set going downhill.
Have an Exit Strategy
Different DJs have different approaches to how much they pre-plan their sets – from total improv to having everything pre-recorded – but no matter how you plan your sets, you always need to give yourself options.
If you’re in the middle of a song and the crowd’s just not feeling it, you need to be flexible enough to change up your set on the fly. Often, DJs will have “exit strategy” songs built into their set at various points that they can use to take their set in a different direction. So whether you’re improvising your set or you have it mapped out from beginning to end, you always need to have several options for what to play next.
Don’t Be Too Proud to Adapt Your Set
One of the toughest things about DJing is that crowds can change dramatically from venue to venue and from night to night. You might even play the same venue two nights in a row, but for whatever reason, one set that went over great one night might totally bomb the next.
Sometimes when a crowd’s mood changes, you simply have to let go of your pride. So what if you have an amazing set planned? If the crowd’s not in the mood for it, you need to throw your set out the window and move on to plan B.
Get out Smoothly
When you start to bomb, don’t freak out. It’s not too late to recover. Sometimes when you feel like you’re losing the crowd, you may have to keep running the current track or set for a while until you can find a smooth spot to transition into a new vibe. The worst possible thing to do would be to simply cut the music and leave an empty silence while you madly search through your library for something new to play.
Learn from Your Mistakes
No DJ really wants to mess up. But the thing that most people won’t tell you is that messing up is actually the key to becoming a better DJ. How will you get better at reading a crowd if you don’t lose the room once in a while?
Take it from a pro: “You have to fall on your face. So that next time, you don’t fall on your face, and you create a new move,” says will.i.am.
If you don’t risk messing up, you won’t get any bigger. So embrace the mess, and use it as an opportunity to up your game.
Speaking of upping your game, why not check out some of our free video lessons – maybe you’ll find some tricks to keep the crowd more engaged at your next DJ gig.