Tips For DJs: What To Do When The Music Stops

Tips For DJs: What To Do When The Music Stops

One of the biggest fears for DJs is what happens if the music stops. When the music stops, everyone in the venue will cease dancing and look to the DJ. If will feel like time stops and you'll want the earth to open up and swallow you whole. It's incredibly awkward and embarrassing! The DJ is the focal point of an electronic music event, all eyes (and ears) are on what the DJ is doing. If something goes wrong they will bear the brunt of it.

Perhaps this is even a reoccurring nightmare of yours? It's common for DJs to dream about things going wrong at their performances. The key to coping with the music stopping during a DJ performance is learning how to prevent technical difficulties before they happen. In addition, DJs need to learn how to behave under pressure, solve any problems swiftly and get the music back on all while taking it in their stride.

Mistakes happen and technical problems can arise for DJs big or small. It's a right of passage and even headline acts will encounter technical hiccups that stop the music. Something will go wrong sooner or later for every DJ. How you deal with it makes all the difference to both your confidence the audience's enjoyment of the event. Professional DJs will learn how to mitigate the risk of something going wrong and how to cope when it does.

Prevention is Key

Nobody wants to experience the music stopping so prevention really is key. If you learn how to DJ and handle your DJ setup properly you can avoid many of the potential reasons the music might stop. However, some technical hiccups will be beyond your control.

In our DJ courses, we spend a lot of time focusing on preparing our students for all eventualities and everything that could possibly go wrong at a DJ gig. Consider joining our DJ course if you want to build your confidence as a DJ and because about to traverse technical hurdles as they happen.

In most cases the music stops because of something easily preventable by the DJ. Learning how to DJ properly and learning everything about your DJ software, connections and DJ equipment can help you avoid having to deal with the music stopping.

So, what are the most common reasons the music stops and how do you prevent it from happening?

How to act if the music suddenly stops when you're DJing

As soon as the music stops the best thing to do is acknowledge it with a smile and a fun expression. Win the audience over by making sure they see the issue as jovial and a bit of fun, throw your hands up and express yourself in a positive, smiley and fun way.

Avoid looking devastated, because that negative energy is infectious and it doesn't inspire confidence in the DJs abilities. Of course, only a rookie DJ would act embarrassed because all professional DJs know that mistakes happen and technical glitches are part of the game. If you look shocked in a bad way, you'll look amateur.

A good 'Woi Oiiiii' or 'Whoops' with a laugh is a good start. Eye contact with the audience is good and combine it with hand gestures too.

Now you've made the situation a bit less serious, you can take a moment to identify the issue and swiftly get the music playing again. In most cases, it will be something simple and easy to fix in a matter of seconds. However, for more serious issues like longer sound interruptions, you'll need a different strategy covered later on in this article.

The Likeliest Causes

The most common reasons the music might stop and the sound cut out at your DJ gig are listed here. However, with so many components in a modern DJ setup and sound system there could be more so read those manuals!

You pressed the cue button (stop button) on the playing track

One of the easiest ways to accidentally stop the music is to simply press stop! This can happen when you get confused between which deck is the one playing aloud to the audience. The easy solution for this is to have some Hot Cues ready on every track, ideally on a drop or exciting moment in the music. If you press stop by accident quickly press your Hot Cue and save the day. Your audience might not even notice if you act quick enough!

It's also common to press the cue button my mistake with your belly or jewellery or even by someone else leaning over your decks. Make sure you're aware of your surroundings and steer clear from accidentally pressing cue.

Always have hot cues prepared on all your tracks

You pressed pause on the wrong deck

If you press pause by mistake it's not so bad. On CDJ mode pause will just play the frame of music you're at, like a tiny loop, giving you a stuttering effect. If you hear that sound just press play/pause again, problem solved.

If you're on vinyl mode it could stop dead if your break speed is minimum or slow down gradually if your break speed is anything above minimum. I like to use a long break and play in vinyl mode so if I press pause it would only slow down and I would instantly press play again.

You didn't use the eject lock

Sometimes the music might stop if you accidentally load a new song on the playing deck. There is a setting on Pioneer CDJs where you can lock the playing deck so that even if you attempt to load a new song it won't let you if there is a track currently playing.

Hold down the MENU button for two seconds on Pioneer CDJs to access the utility menu and change that setting. If this does happen to you recover quickly by loading a new track and use a hot cue to get to the best part of the song quickly.

Make sure your know all the settings including those in the Utility menu

Crossfader is in the wrong position

Another rookie mistake is not realising the crossfader is on and it's in the wrong position when you introduce a new track with the channel fader. If you're not intending on using the crossfader set the channels to the THRU setting to avoid this. If you are using the crossfader make sure are fully aware of which side it should be on at any given moment. You should also be wary of the position if your channel faders.

Channel faders

You might accidentally fade out the wrong track which would stop the music. Make sure you're fully aware of what channels on the mixer you're using and try not to fade out/in the wrong one!

Filters & effects

Sometimes you can accidentally cut out the music by turning on an effect while not realising the knob is turned on or up. The classic example is the filter. If the filter knob is on the maximum setting position on the playing track and you then turn it on, the sound will almost cut out entirely. Another common mistake is fading in a track no realising the filter is on. Make sure your filter knobs are in the OFF position before you turn the filter on and make sure you reset the filter knobs after each use.

Another example of DJ effects stopping the music playing is where someone might accidentally loop a bit of silence with the ROLL effect. This might cause the music to stop if they do this and have the volume of the Beat FX on full. The best practice is to make it a habit to rest all FX knobs, dials and buttons after each use. Keep it clean and keep it tidy!

Input switches

Make sure you don't accidentally switch the input on your channel while playing. If you do the music would cut to silence. Make sure you know your mixer inputs and which channels you're using. It's also common for this to happen when another DJ is perhaps plugging in their DJ equipment while someone else is playing.

If you're taking some of your own DJ equipment to a gig please make sure you plug it in before the event starts during soundcheck to avoid issues like this.

Trim, EQs or master levels

The Trim (gain) EQs (on ISO) and the Master control could all potentially stop the music from playing if you've turned them all the way down. Make sure you're vigilant and check all your knobs are in the correct positions.

Faulty mixer channel

Sometimes one of the channels on the mixer might develop a fault. This is common on older equipment that needs servicing. If the mixer is looking a little worse for wear this could be something to think about. In the case that the channel fails or cuts in and out you should unplug the audio cable and connect it to a spare channel. Hopefully that channel works better!

Loose audio cable

Sometimes a loose audio cable, like an RCA (red and white stereo audio cable) might simply not be fully plugged in or get knocked out. This might stop the music on the right or left, or both. Make sure all your cables are firmly plugged into the back of the mixer. It's also good practice to carry a spare in case the cable fails.

You unplugged the wrong USB

Another very common mistake with Pioneer DJs using USBs is simply unplugging the wrong USB, often when switching between DJs. Make sure you know how to avoid problems when switching between DJs by reading our other blog here:

How to switch between DJs flawlessly

The link disconnects

The link cable that connects CDJs together can often be faulty, fail or just get knocked out. It's best not use to use the link function where possible and use multiple USBs to avoid this issue. You can also reduce the chances of this happening be being gentle when changing this cable as it's prone to damage. Some DJs will also carry a spare ethernet cable with them but if the port is broken this won't help.

Loose power cable

A loose power cable anywhere in the sound system can get knocked, interrupt the power and stop the music. You should be aware of this potential issue and make sure all the power plugs are firmly connected to the back of the decks and mixer and at the plugs. Make sure there are no trailing cables that could cause a trip hazard too.

Many DJs who take equipment to DJ gigs will need to take extension leads and tape them down in place securely so no one trips up on them and disconnects their equipment.

Be vigilant that fans and friends don't get into your DJ booth and unplug something to plug in their phone charger!

If you see that the lights on one device, such as one mixer or one single CDJ turn off then this would be a sign the power cable is loose or it's been unplugged.

Track glitch

In some cases you will download a file, such as an MP3 and it may contain a glitch. If you load a track and the waveform only partly loads this could be a sign the track is not complete and till cut to silence. Ideally, you should identify these kind of glitches during your set preparation and during your practice time.

More Serious Faults

Some things that stop the music are easy to fix in a matter of seconds. Others can take longer to solve. What can DJs do when the music stops? As we mentioned earlier, the best thing is to own it, make it fun, make it theatrical. Win over the hearts of the audience and revel in the spontaneous chaos of it all.

The hard bit is that a DJ needs to do that at the same time as assessing what could have caused it and fixing it. If you've gone through the list above and the problem persists it could be a more serious fault. Here are some possible causes of bigger faults that can cause the music to stop for a prolonged period.

CDJ Failure

In some very rare cases a CDJ might freeze or just die on the spot. If the deck fails the music would normally stop. This is a hard one to recover from unless there are multiple CDJs or spare CDJs available. Bigger venues will have spares but perhaps not smaller venues.

For this possible eventuality, it's good practice to store a pre-recorded mix on your USB to play on the working deck in the event that DJing is not possible. If you don't have a pre-recorded mix you might want to turn AUTO CUE off, and change the playback setting to continuous. That's surly better than silence but I certainly wouldn't stand there while it plays. Just leave the booth in this case.

Laptop failure

If you DJ with a laptop there is a whole other set of potential problems. The music might stop due to a cable disconnection, your battery running out or your laptop crashing. It's easier to use a USB than a laptop for this reason.

As well as general laptop failures you could also encounter problems with your audio settings or your DJ software. There is a myriad of settings, drivers and firmware updates needed to link laptops to DJ equipment. In many cases it's simply easier to avoid using a laptop.

If your venue doesn't have CDJs that work with USBs make sure you have back-up cables and perhaps even a back-up laptop. Have your back ups ready to go at a moments notice. Most DJs with a back-up laptop would have it plugged in, booted up and ready to go.

Power Cut

Storms, electrical faults, service interruptions and faulty generators can affect the power supply. If the power goes normally this would take out the whole venue. In this case it's not so bad because the audience will realise it's a power failure and not something in the DJs control.

However, if you're playing a gig and the power to the DJ booth or soundsystem has dropped but the lights are still on this could give mixed messages to the crowd!

Sound System Failure

Generally, the DJ is in control of the DJ mixer and CDJs (Decks) and not much more. In most venues there will be a sound engineer who is responsible for setting up, maintaining and running the sound system. If there is no sound engineer because it's a smaller venue this responsibility if often the venue managers.

If the amp or speakers stop working they should be altered so they can attend to the problem.


Please remember that the sound can be switched off in an emergency situation like a fire. Ask your artist liaison, promoter or venue manager to brief you on emergency procedures before you performance.

What can the DJ do when the music stops for a longer time?

If you're DJing and the music stops and you can't instantly solve the problem you should communicate with the audience. If you have a working microphone simply inform them in a positive way there is a fault with the system and the management is working on a fix. If you don't have a mic be prepared to raise your voice and make the announcement.

In this situation many DJs would simply walk away from the booth until the event management's team get the sound back on. This would save face a little but it's not the best solution for the audience.

Braver DJs might spin this crisis into a memorable and spontaneous moment, something that will actually benefit the vibe. DJs have been known to start singing, make speeches or jokes and even encourage the audience to participate in a sing along.

Here are some more left-field ideas on what you can do if the music stops when you're DJing.

  1. Sing happy birthday to a random member of the audience
  2. Sing a popular hit like Oasis Wonderwall acapella - encourage the audience to sing along, clap along or stomp their feet
  3. Crack out some jokes and create a spontaneous comedy show
  4. Do a fake a phone call, pretend your mum has interrupted your live DJ set
  5. Do the walking down stairs mime and make a swift exit
  6. Do a special dance and get the audience to join in - start the Macarena or even a Mexican wave
  7. Tell a story of funny story or anecdote, the more embarrassing or ridiculous the better to win over your audience
  8. Beatbox, yodel or whistle (Singing in the rain is a good one)
  9. Get the lighting technician to turn off the lights, get everyone to turn on their smartphone lights on and sing 'Candle in the Wind' by Elton John (or a track of your choosing)
  10. Get everyone to play your track on Spotify simultaneously from their phones (possibly the best marketing ever)

Hundreds of people hold up their phone lights at a concert


DJs are performers and stage presence techniques are a vital skill that all DJs should practice. You need to be able to stay cool under pressure and keep the vibe fun for the audiences sake. Learn that mistakes and sound issues are inevitable at live DJ gigs and how you react is of vital importance. You can communicate your professionalism by handling these instances with utmost confidence and style. Make sure your authentic personality and performance skills keep the silence away. Be larger than life in these moments and win over your audiences hearts and confidence. The show must go on!

Further Reading: Click here for the most common DJ mistakes.
Further Reading: Click here to learn how to switch between DJs flawlessly.



Want to Receive DJ & Production Tips?

Sign up to our newsletter to get regular tips, tricks and discounts from DJ Gym