How to Prepare For Your First DJ Gig: Avoid Common Mistakes

How to Prepare For Your First DJ Gig

Your first DJ gig can be an invigorating experience but there are hurdles to overcome. If you want your first DJ performance to be stress free and less nerve-wracking you should follow this useful advice. As a DJ school we've been instrumental in launching the DJ careers of countless artists. We’ve organised thousands of DJ gigs for our DJ course graduates at incredible venues including Ministry of Sound, Amnesia, Pacha, Egg London, Fabric, E1 and more. 

Over the years we’ve seen most of the mistakes a DJ can make. We've also learned the most common oversights that a new DJ can tend to make and the things they can think about to improve. To help new DJs conquer their first DJ booking we’ve put together this essential list of the most common DJ mistakes newbies make. It’s crucial reading if you’ve got your first DJ gig on the horizon.

Top Tip: Within this article you will also find links to other related blogs!

1. Research 

Before your first DJ gig you should research the venue, event and the other acts performing. It's even better if you can go to the event before you play. It’s a great idea to visit and see what music is working well and what isn’t. You can plan your set accordingly.

Knowing the venue well will also help ease any gig nerves because you’re more familiar with the surroundings and the acoustics. We also recommend trying to meet in person with the promoter or some of the venue team.

While you’re at the venue see what DJ equipment they have. You might need to research how to use something you’ve never used before. 

Visit the venue beforehand
Meet the team ahead of the gig
Read the crowd: see what music the crowd is reacting to
See what DJ equipment they have 
Experience the acoustics and vibe 

2. Set Preparation

The best way to avoid any mistake is to prepare properly for your first DJ gig. This involves using your DJ software to load the tracks and then check for errors. Make sure you’re familiar with all the beat-grid tools and check for grid positioning errors, BPM drift and BPM changes. If you need some Rekordbox help before you gig don’t hesitate to reach out for an online masterclass. Click here to contact us and book that. 

In addition to beat-gridding you need to prepare multiple playlists of music so that you can change the style of music to fit the crowds reaction. 

Within each playlist make sure you have suitable cue points, hot cues or loops that you can use to better your DJ performance. 

Download high quality tracks (MP3 is okay for small gigs, WAV or AIFF are better quality)
Prepare multiple playlists so you have different music to fit the vibe 
Beatgrid all of your tracks and check for BPM drift or changes in BPM
Set memory and hot cues or loops if required

3. Practice Your DJ Skills 

Assuming you’ve already learnt how to DJ properly (feel free to check out our DJ courses here) then you should be ready to perform. However, practice really helps calm the nerves and improve your skills. Try to vary your DJ practice by covering the BPM and beatmatching by ear, using different acoustics and sound systems and back to back with other DJs. 

Practice beatmatching by ear with the screen covered 
Learn how to pitch-shift 
Perfect your mix basics including harmonic mixing, beatmatching, phrasing, EQing and filters
Perfect your creative mixing including hot cues, loops, effects, vinyl effects, cutting and combinations
Know the settings of your mixer and CDJs. Do you know every single function? If not, learn them!
Practice with friends
Practice in different acoustic environments or studios
Practice on different DJ setups
Practice with older and newer decks 
Know what to do if the music stops 
Understand the most common DJ mistakes 
Learn how to switch between DJs correctly
Know the unwritten rules of the DJ booth

Book a studio to practice your DJ skills

4. Practice Your Performance 

Aside from your DJ skills, you need to perfect your stage presence. DJing is a performance and nowadays the DJ is the focal point of any club night, festival or event. The audience will look to the DJ for leadership. As the conductor of the dancefloor the DJ needs to convey energy and emotion to help their crowd let go and enjoy the music.

There are many ways a DJ can convey their passion for their music and body language is one of the most essential. Master the art of dancefloor psychology and crowd control. Use a mirror if needed! 

Practice making eye contact with the audience 
Practice open body language showing a positive attitude 
Practice gestures list fist bumps, dance moves, footwork or just jumping up and down!
Think how you can elevate your performance and become bigger than life
Think of how you can convey emotion in your DJ performance 
Think of how you might control the energy of the room and create memorable moments

5. Logistics

DJs have to be well organised in order to maintain a high level of respect and professionalism within their scene. Make sure that you are always prepared and punctual! Creating a clear plan of action or itinerary is a great start.

Make sure you’re going to get to the event not only on time, but early. You need to show support for the other DJs, the night as a whole and the promoter. Arrive early, network and take note of what music is getting the crowd energised. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you’re in contact with the venue or promoters team. Set times can change so you need to be contactable.

Make a list of what you need to bring to your gig and remember you need at least two USBs and headphones with the quarter inch jack. Don't forget ear plugs!

Create a DJ Gig Checklist and double check your travel arrangements 
Make sure your phone and devices are fully charged and you’re in communication with the booker
Make a list of items you need and prep your gig bag 
Have a plan B in case anything goes wrong like transport disruption 

6. Promotion

Every DJ gig is an opportunity to gather content and help promote your DJ career. Think about how you can capture the special moments, be it film, photos, audio or all three! Have a plan to gather as much footage for later use as possible.

During the gig you can network, have a business card to hand, some merch, a flyer or some kind of keepsake to engage new fans and potential bookers. 

Are you going the film the event?
Are you going to record the audio of the mix? 
Are you going to take photos or book a photographer? 
Do you have a business card or some way of sharing information with potential bookers or fans?
Are there any opportunities to display your DJ logo, like a screen or Lightbox? 

In conclusion, there are many obstacles a new DJs face at their debut DJ performances. It pays to be properly prepared to avoid any embarrassing mistakes that can affect your reputation. Being diligent, and by following the advice in this article you can have a stress-free and smooth DJ performance. Something that you will be proud of! Good luck with your first DJ gig!

P.S - If you're still looking for your first DJ gig click here for tips and advice



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