Well, this has been a pretty insane year for the DJ community. And we are far from over it all yet – if we have learned anything this last year or so, its that you should never take anything for granted, even if you have it booked in your diary. Events can spiral very rapidly.
All that being said – if you are used to being a working DJ, now is a good time to take stock of a few things, prepare yourself mentally and physically, and make sure that you are well placed to get straight back to it.
I’ve been gigging hard since the UK’s most recent lockdown ended, so here’s a few hints and tips to help you get back to work safely and effectively!
Health & Safety
This probably doesn’t need pointing out, but we aren’t out of the woods yet with this pandemic, so take a mask with you to wear at the appropriate moments, take some hand sanitiser, exercise caution in enclosed spaces with other people, such as elevators or stairwells etc.
If you can get ventilation to wherever you are DJing (by opening a door/window for instance) then do so – it massively helps reduce the risk of transmission of the virus if there is good airflow.
DON’T GO IN TO WORK IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE SICK! I know it would suck to miss a gig right now, after so long, but it would suck a lot more to give all your co-workers the virus.
This is a big one. A year of barely playing out to an audience can do interesting and strange things to your crates… You might have been active on Twitch – but its often a totally different thing on there compared to the “real world” (I certainly play quite differently on Twitch to how I do at live gigs, much more rarities and obscure stuff).
Playing to in-person crowds who are paying to be there (either through entry charges or the food & drink they are buying) can be very different to playing for people on the other end of an internet cable! Keeping a dancefloor happy is very different to keeping a chat room happy!
Some of you may have been following the charts and trends and new releases for your styles for the whole of the last year, and to those conscientious DJs – kudos! To those who haven’t, here’s a few ideas for ways to freshen up your crates.
And also think about your actual arrangement of your music library – we covered this topic here. Having well organised music is practically a super power for the modern DJ!
If you use USB sticks – get on to Rekordbox ASAP and get those sticks updated. Nobody enjoys that last minute rush on a gig night, wishing it would transfer the songs faster!
Make sure everything that you need to use still works! Make sure you still have your adapters, your cables, your laptop stand – whatever it is you normally take, make sure you still have it, make sure it still works, and make sure you actually take it to your gigs!
On this last point – its not a bad idea to have some sort of checklist of crucial items, either written down, or that you call out to yourself while checking your bag, both when setting off to go to your gigs, and when packed up and about to go home at the end of the night. I always unzip the top of my rucksack and say out loud “laptop, stand, power cable, headhones, USB cable, USB sticks, earplugs” while checking all those items are there. There are other things in the bag, but those 7 are the real essentials.
If you get booked to do long sets and haven’t been doing them at home for the last year, now is the time to start practising a few times before you get back out there!
Just getting used to being on your feet for extended periods of time is important, maybe sidestepping any possible posture issues you might get if your first gig is your first time stood at the decks for 5 hours at a time – your back might not be ready if you haven’t done a few warm up sets! Think about the shoes you have available for these gigs, if its a long one your feet will thank you to take care of them.
Another thing is the adjustment to finishing at times beyond midnight – I can say with certainty that this will be a shock to my system after a year of going to be at “Regular People” times!
Maybe pack some snacks and an energy drink or two if you aren’t sure how you’ll cope if you’re going to have to stay up later than normal – we covered the DJ love affair with snacking here.
Unglamourous, but necessary. Unless you have are the kind of DJ that has a team of staff doing this stuff for you, you need to think about the logistics of your gigs, and getting paid.
Promotional posts on your social media are practically a necessity these days, for multiple reasons – to advertise the event to potential customers, to show your teamwork to the people who booked you, and to let others know that you are out there spinning again.
Invoicing is essential if you want to get paid – make sure all your details are up to date on your invoice, and those of the venues you are DJing at. Last thing you want is for the money to go to an old account or for a payment to be held up for weeks because you invoiced to the incorrect business address or something.
Get your calendar skills back in tune, and maybe set reminders in your phone for the day before gigs – its not easy to immediately get back into the swing of things and remember everything without some external help, and you DEFINITELY do not want to be missing gigs out of forgetfulness!
I mentioned social media above – well, now is a good time to make sure that your Instagram (or whatever else you use) looks the part. Lets say you go out to your first gig and absolutely crush it. Somebody in the audience asks for your insta, and it just so happens that they do the bookings for a big venue across town – you want to make sure that you make a good impression when they look you up.
I know a lot of people don’t like the importance of social media in how people interact with DJs these days, but its a reality – most people will take a look at those pages before deciding whether to book a DJ. So it makes sense to work on your presentation as we get ready to go back into clubs and events.
If you drive to gigs – check that the routes and parking are the way your need them to be (lots of authorities are using this time to fix roads/bridge, or have changed access to certain streets/areas), and if they aren’t, make alternative plans. Its a lot easier to plan these things a week ahead of time rather than 30 minutes before your first set in a year is due to start!
If you use public transport – make sure your preferred methods are still running. Similar reasons (authorities fixing train tracks during a relatively quiet time for transit for example), and also some transport services may have seen budget cuts because of the squeezed finances caused by the last year or so. Better to know in advance and plan than turn up to your train station and be hit by a difficult surprise!
I suspect that this will be a really big one for a lot of DJs. One of the reasons humans have done so well as a species is that we adapt so quickly to changing circumstances, and that becomes “normal” very fast.
And now, after over a year of acclimatising to a new way of doing things, we are about to be thrust back into the arena. And it might be even MORE crazy than before – people have been locked away for a year, and are absoluting itching to party!
This present a whole lot of opportunity for DJs, but don’t forget – drunk customers are often quite, how can we put it… “direct”.
I had my first run in with this the other night – playing at a venue that draws quite a latin crowd, but isn’t specifically for latin music. I had already played a bunch of latin house and reggaeton, and had moved on to a bit of disco and disco house. A table sat down, and within 5 minutes a woman comes over, and starts saying “when are you playing latin music, we booked here for my friends birthday because this is a latin place…” etc etc. I quickly reassured her to not worry, I would be playing latin music. Problem solved! Except, in classic requester style she then went and added “Because all you are playing is this 80s rubbish”.
I don’t know why people do this (make a perfectly normal request, get a positive answer, but then throw an insult on the end of the request), but it happens – it was the first time I’d had anything like this in probably over a year! I smiled, took a deep breath, and let her walk away. What I was playing wasn’t 80s, she’d only been in the venue 5-10 minutes, there is ABSOLUTELY NO POINT getting into it with her. Had she not come over, I would have played more latin music that night, so I played more latin music that night – much as it was tempting to say “NO LATIN MUSIC FOR YOU!”
The point of that anecdote is this – don’t let an idiot or two throw you off your game. Shrug them off, and keep pleasing the crowd as a whole. If they say something particularly stupid to you, make a note of it – it’ll make a funny tweet later on, and you might get some nice social media engagement out of it!
You’ll have to adjust to strange sleeping patterns, maybe your eating schedule and habits will be impacted. You’ll have the highs of great nights, and the lows of stinkers. Think about how this might affect your mood, other corners of your life, your responsibilities to others in your life (partners, family, housemates etc). Be prepared for the fact that your life is about to change back to a quite different pattern. But most of all – have fun, and be thankful that you get to do this amazing thing called DJing!