Switching DJs seamlessly is one of the most annoying part of a show. There’s often drama in the booth in that shouldn’t belong. Below, we have identified 6 taboos when switching DJs so you can avoid being “that guy” when it’s your turn to play.
These 6 tips will apply particularly to controllerists. Playing on a controller versus the club’s CDJ setup brings a different set of challenges. Usually, a club will have a Pioneer mixer with CDJ’s set up by default. By bringing in a controller, you have to a. tie into the mixer and b. possibly move the mixer and/or CDJ’s to accommodate the table space for your controller. If you learn to play on CDJ’s you are guaranteed to eliminate most of these problems.
Plugging/unplugging gear (without asking) during another artist’s set. This is pretty basic. Whenever you enter the booth or step on stage during another artist’s performance, they are the king of the castle. Do not plug in your controller into the mixer or a USB drive into one of the CDJ’s without getting an ok from the current DJ. You can risk cutting off sound from the other artist’s performance by accidentally unplugging an RCA cable or, in rare cases, crashing Rekordbox on the CDJ’s by plugging another USB drive mid-set. Always make sure that you ask the previous artist when to load your gear in & be respectful while you’re in the booth.
Showing up 5 minutes before your set & expecting to have your gear set up immediately. When you have a controller to set up, approach the booth 15 minutes before your set. Politely plug in your RCA’s to the mixer, run a simple line check, and get the hell out of there.
EDIT: Shoutout to our reader Jeff for commenting this addition on Facebook: “Don’t start mixing your set into the end of the previous DJ’s set. (Unless both DJs are aware of this.) It’s cheesy, rude, and a good set will have an ending that shouldn’t be interrupted and continued into a frenzy of clashing genres.” You go, Jeff.
- Setting up your gear early & hovering until your set starts. Don’t stand up in the booth, trying to pick out the best opening song while another performer is trying to connect with the audience. Also, don’t stand on the edge of the stage or hype the mic while the other artist is performing. You will have your spotlight in a minute, you don’t need it now. Load up a track, plug in your headphones, and step into the shadows until your set starts.
- Leaving your gear in the way while you put away other stuff. I’ve had this happen to me recently, and it is endlessly infuriating. The artist before me ended his set 5 minutes late (because he “started 5 minutes” late ), then started to slowly put away his headphones, his laptop, his laptop case, his backpack, and then finally,his controller. The controller, by the way, was right where I needed to set my controller to start playing. I literally waited an extra 5 minutes for him to put away all the little things he could have set to the side. Get your controller out of the booth immediately after your set. If you have a road case like I do, lid up your controller & just set it on the ground. Your backpack, laptop, and headphones can wait.
- Mimosa-ing (playing late because you started late). If you’ve asked for an extra 5 minutes because you started 5 minutes late, really think about this one. Are those last 300 seconds of music so important that you want to risk pissing off the other artists to play them? Do you have such an intense connection with the crowd that ending 1 or 2 songs early would crash the night? Most likely, the answer is no, and you’re just being a dick. DJing is a sport of adaptability. If you start 3 minutes late, play 3 minutes less. It’s okay to cut a song and make an actual musical decision in your set. Plus, it looks super professional when you’re able to stick to a tight schedule in the face of complications.
- Asking to borrow some major last minute gear. It’s cool to share. I’ve shared my gear with other artists, but please, don’t be the guy who asks to borrow my controller right before your set. If you know you are short on gear, hit up the other DJ’s on Facebook way before the event and ask if you can borrow something. If that isn’t possible, you can definitely ask early in the night. If you know you do not own a controller or a pair of headphones or even a laptop, it is your job to figure out how you’re going to play your set before you step on stage. If you forgot an RCA cable or a headphone adapter, that’s totally different, but, if you are booked to play, you need to know how you are going to do it beforehand.