By: Andrew Duffield

If you have a gig coming up or want to know what's involved when playing live this article is Gold.


Number 1: You want to be crystal clear on what kind of music the event specialises in, what time you are playing, where you are positioned on the line up and if you're not the headliner and you're playing early I suggest even researching the headliners soundcloud page so you can get a feel for what kind of music they play and if you want to be respectful you could even do your best to avoid playing tracks they've included in their mixes, just to make sure you don't step on anyones toes. Let's face it, if you're playing early, as tempting as it is to show everyone how amazing you are and how worthy you are to be the headliner, an opening DJ's role is really to build the atmosphere for the DJs that follow without stealing the show and if you do steal the show, the chances are you won't be asked back. However if you are playing after the headliner you can play all the big tracks he or she failed to and ideally take the atmosphere even further, but stick around as I dive into this in a minute.


Ok so now comes the super big question, do you pre plan your set and know exactly what you're going to play in the exact order or do you just turn up with the right kind of music and freestyle - meaning no pre planned set, just you, the right music and picking songs based on what you feel is right for each moment. Either way, turning up with the right kind of music is more important than killer transitions. People on a dance floor care more about track selection and expect the DJ to create atmosphere and ideally for the set to evoke emotions. This means curating music that you know people will love and having plenty of options in case the crowd is reacting differently to what you expected. For instance if you pre plan a set and the set's not working you will want more options, and sometimes you may have an idea of what they like but perhaps on that particular night they are responding more to the harder hitting tracks in which case, you should have multiple playlists, with different feels that you can jump to based on what feels right at the time.

Overview DJ Set

Personally when preparing for shows I spend some time before the show sorting my music into a playlist specifically for that event with more options than I can possibly play in the night and I would use that as my master playlist. For instance if I am playing for 2 hours, I could easily play 60+ tracks in that time, so I would aim to have at least 100 tracks in that playlist plus I would have other playlists by genre and even past playlists from similar events on my USB. So for instance if I am playing a tech house party and the events called White Rabbit I may have a White Rabbit playlist with 100 of the tracks I think would go really well for my set time plus I'd have another tech house playlist, a bass house playlist, a more commercial dance style playlist and perhaps even some past playlists that have gone well. This means i have more than enough music but ideally my main focus is on the playlist I built specially for that event.

DJ Playlist

Once I have my main master playlist I would go about finding tracks that go well together and then putting them into a loose order, most likely using my DJ software. This could be based on key or energy, but just remember even though killer transitions do contribute to the atmosphere, playing the right song at the right moment is more important so if a track is not in key but I have an intuition that this track would work well in a certain position in the set, I ultimately choose set flow over perfect transitions. Once I have a loose order with some cool combos and transitions planned I'd hit the decks and practise, and in truth if it was a REALLY important show and I wanted to make a really good IMPRESSION, I would do a practise run and record myself playing the set and then listen back to find areas where I can improve - for instance some transitions may be too busy and some tracks may work better together than others, so you record yourself with the goal of finding areas that need work and then re work the set, which may mean adding more music for the over all flow, or practise some transitions and then I'd DJ the set again and record myself again. I remember once I had a show coming up and in the lead up to the party I had recorded and re worked a set 6 times and when I turned up I knew all the music inside out and even freeestyled away from the set to respond to the vibe in the room but I knew the bases of what I had planned and because of all the practise I was super confident and put together a set that really contributed to the atmosphere of the night and from that set I scored multiple repeat shows and was always billed as the headliner.

Don't get me wrong, you don't have to prepare to that extreme, turning up with he right kind of music is enough, but also having a handful of cool combos, even if it's just a dozen or so really cool transitions that will wow people and you freestyle the rest, then you'll not only feel confident and well rehearsed but the chances are you will be the most prepared DJ on the line up.

DJ room Atmosphere

However if you really want your show to be successful you need to do your best to make sure there is atmosphere in the room when you play and this may mean making people aware of your show. So in the lead up to your show don't put 100% of your focus on the music, instead you need to put at least 50% of your attention on creating a buzz and energy for the show so people are there for you. Put it this way if you rock up and you have at least a dozen people there to support you, that's the beginning of a dance floor and from that even more people will be drawn to the floor and if those 12 people are really getting into it and even cheering you on, this can bring a festive vibe to your set and attract more festive thinkers to the floor and you can use your set as an opportunity to connect likeminded people through creating atmospheres that unite and bring people together, IMO, this is what DJing is all about and there's no better feeling than playing to packed rooms and even playing side rooms and the energy of your room being so big that you are pulling patrons form the main room to your room and you essentially become the main attraction.

DJ Events

So in the lead up to the event build awareness that you are playing and share your excitement and give people reasons to be there. To create awareness you could do some posts, but don't make all your posts about promo, mix them up, you may first share the art for the event and let people know you are playing, you could share past photos from the events the promoter has run to create a buzz and to give people a feel for what to expect. this also helps the promoter to spread the word and if you tag the promoter in your posts this will no doubt create a good impression. You could even talk to the promoter and let them know you want to run a contest through your pages and ask for a few give aways or VIP passes that offer people free or reduced entry or even some kind of prize. In short you want to give people as many reasons to come and support you as possible and even bring a FOMO vibe to it - for instance first release has just sold out, this is looking big.

VIP Guest Passes

So a quick checklist of ways you can create a buzz for your show and you should aim for at least 3 of these: vip passes, giveaways, sharing event art, share past event photos and videos, share anything that creates a buzz and awareness for the party, you could even promote other Djs on the line up, you could do a talking video where you personally invite people and let them know the plan for the night and that you'll be hanging around before and after your set and invite people to come and say hi, you may even associate to certain themes, for instance let people know this is your first ever DJ set, or announce you are supporting a really big DJ and then plug that DJ, or even that it's your first event working with this promoter and then start sharing the promoters past work to show how big they are and create an image of success for yourself. Another really cool angle is if you may have a birthday coming up, or even a friends birthday, you can associate your event to the birthday, so for instance you also announce it's Jessis' birthday and we are celebrating her birthday at this party, which gives people even more reasons to go and then you could arrange some VIP passes and perhaps even some free drinks for the birthday girl - trust me, promoters love promo and if you're creating a huge buzz for their event it will make you more valuable to them, especially if on the night you 1. bring a good vibe to the party 2. you have support and 3. you're an amazing DJ that creates a killer atmosphere when you play, then that's the hat trick.

Club Events

Put it this way, my first ever club event was the grand opening of my first ever nightclub. So if I just focused on the music I would be playing to myself and would not only not get repeat shows, but would lose my venue. So I did this 6 week campaign in the lead up to my grand opening event with the goal of creating huge awareness to the event and this way I can play to full rooms and by doing so I impress the venue and by doing so I was able to run my club event every Friday night at their venue for 7 years and then I expanded and opened more clubs. But being a good DJ alone is not enough. 100% it;s part of it, as people come for the atmosphere, but the people also help create the atmosphere but how can there be people there if they are not aware of the party, so help the promoter and by doing so you can become a valuable asset to the people that you work wth as you are the full package: you've got a cool giving attitude, you can get the word out there and create a buzz around your shows and your talent is second to none. Anyway I dive so much deeper into all of this in my club ready dj course and I have a whole section with 20 years of industry insights on how to get shows, build contacts, network to even making sure you feel club ready and have the confidence to play plus even videos and checklists on how to run your own events and what's needed to make them successful.

DJ Playing Event


OK so it's the big night! I get it, you want to be a rock star and turn up 5 minutes before your set, but the truth is, unless you really are a star and you have epic influence and they need you more than you need them, then don't do it. Instead arrive before doors open, check out the DJ gear, check your USBs are working, do a quick sound check, speak to the door staff and make sure they have any VIP lists you have arranged, get to know the venue and let the promoter know you are there but don't create more work for them. The chances are the promoter will be busy getting everything ready for the doors to open but it will be good for them to see you there and perhaps even ask if they need any help with the set up. I remember at one of the events I ran, a DJ turned up an hour early and helped me set up the event and then he played a killer set and then he stayed to the end helped me pack down afterwards and then I saw him at the next event, even when he wasn't billed to play, and after that I invited him to play more and more as he was contributing in every way he could and that really resonated with me. So arrive early stay late and if you're too much of a grandpa to do that f that, I'm in my 40's and I'll still going strong. Sure I may not club every weekend but there are promoters in this area and I always go to their parties, not because I want anything, but because I love Djs and events, I feel it's in my life blood and already that attitude is creating more and more opportunities for me and also sparking ideas and inspirations and the thing is, I don't even drink. So walk your own path and sitting at home nt supporting a scene you want to be part of is not inspiring. Trust me, inspiration doesn't come from sitting on the couch watching TV, change your story, go hard or go home, no more excuses.

DJ Playing Club Event

Anyway if you're playing first, be mindful to hold back and 100% play the cool vibe tracks but not the fuck yeah run to the dance floor tracks. That being said if you have a dozen or so people there for you and a your dance floor starts filling up, you can escalate your set with the crowd but again be mindful not to step on the headliners toes. If you go too full on too early you leave the headliners nowhere to go and the chances are the headliners could also be the promoters or organises of the event so burn them and you will be the one who gets burnt so be considerate of the event as a whole. See the night like an unfolding story, don't be the guy that tells people how a movie ends before it's even started. So play a good set, build the floor and the atmopshere, but don't steal the show. So for instance let's say it was a tech house event, I may play some of fishers b sides, but I wouldn't play the big hits that would be considered the fuck yeah run to the dance floor tracks, more the, man this is awesome, but not the fuck yeah tracks.

DJ Holding Back

If you're headlining, go nuts, and if you're on late, arrive early see what's been played to avoid double ups and also arrive early to see what people are responding to. Personally if I was coming on late, or after the headliner, I would try to out do the headliner and show people who the real headliner is haha, and in truth anything goes after the headliner, just not before, as the goal of the DJs playing late is to keep people there and if doors are closing and you have a full room of people cheering encore you'll know you nailed it.

DJ Going Nuts

As for getting wasted this is tricky. The irony is the event promoters and headline DJs may be wasted and if they have invited you to get wasted with them, and you are open to it, then perhaps I shouldn't say this but why not, as long as you feel confident enough to play in that state go for it, but if you are not in that inner circle I would hold back from getting noticeably wasted as it could come across as unprofessional and sloppy. If you need to drink, perhaps pretend you're driving and go 2 in the first hour and 1 every hour after that and split it up with plenty of water. Let's face it being around wasted people can be difficult and tiring and drunk people can definitely test ones patience especially if you, or in this case, the promoter is sober.

DJ Hanging Out

I personally feel one of the most important things, outside of the music is using each event as an opportunity to build your fanbase and the best way to do that is to hang around after the event. I used to manage a band in Brisbane called Osaka Punch and they were the best at this. They would always hang around post show and they would even go to the after parties with people and by making time to network and by simply being grateful to their fans for their support it made their fans feel significant and in truth making people feel significant is the secret to building fans and you do that by taking time for people.

When socialising in the crowd, people may come up to you so make an effort to learn there names and when speaking to them give them your full attention. Even add them on social media and let them know how much it means to you that they are there and how much you appreciate their support. Osaka Punch were the best I have ever seen at this and guess what every show they played was a sell out, their fan base was huge. Sure they were great musicians but they were even better people and everyone loved and respected them and they used their events to bring like minded people together through good music and atmosphere. This is the goal and trust me, if you build 5 new devoted fans per show, in time you could be rocking up with 50 people that are there just for you and 50 people just for you will attract more and more attention and if you continue to network and make socialising after your shows something you always do, then before long you will be headlining huge events and you will take off. Too often people play and are tired and need to get home for some reason that either sounds practical or made up - for instance I have work tomorrow - well if you knew you had work the next day and you couldn't give my show all your love and attention, why take the show. That being said though, if you rocked up with 50 people and played amazingly you can afford these indiscretions., but if you;'re new and they gave you a chance, you stay out and go to work tired. So when you accept a show commit to making a night out of it and if you're only playing as means to an end and not enjoying it as a means in itself and not taking the time for your crowd then don't expect anyone to take time for you. See this is what I love about DJing it puts you in a real position to grow as a person and in a community.

DJ Event Photographers

Another way to build fans and help people remember your name is to bring your own photographer and the photographer can take photos of you, the event and random people shots and when they take shots they can hand out cards with your name on it and a barcode leading people to your pages so they can see their photo and perhaps even tag themselves. In short where attention goes energy flows and if you're doing everything you can to turn your sets into exercises in building a culture around your shows, then you will be the stand out DJ with huge popularity. Let's face it, there's DJs that have reached huge levels of fame and success because they have a pretty smile and because they are kind and take time for their fans. Their track selection's great but there networking skills are better and this means people are routing for them and this attracts opportunities.

Event Follow Up


You'd be surprised, but in my 17 years of running very successful club events, often 3 events per week down the east coast of Australia, seldom did DJs message me to thank me for the show and the few that did earned my respect and often became residents. Let's face it gratitude is the best attitude and if you're a good person with a big heart and a love for music and club culture then people will be drawn to you. So if you want repeat shows, or fuck that, you just want to be a decent person, thank the promoter for having you through a DM and even publicly. When I say publicly I would post some pictures from the event and say how awesome it was and how working with that promoter was a highlight for you and something you would love to do again. When talking with the promoter you could even be open to feedback, not in a fishing for compliments way, but more so, you could express how much you loved playing and ask where they happy with your set and even express you'd love to be part of their team and what can you do to make that happen. Wether or not you hear from them, I would always be sharing event posters and links of the promoters you want to work with and always tag them and the DJs on the line up and take every opportunity you can to talk up and support their events. Very few people do this, but remember don't do it as a means to an end, do it as a means in itself, because you want to help out like minded people as at the end of the day we're all people and we should take every opportunity we can to lift each other up, not because we can get something from doing so, but because we admire their work and their contribution and if you don't admire them, then don't work with them and if there's no other events to play at, start a competing one, not to compete, but because you feel you have something special to offer and you don't other peoples validation to prove your worthiness.

Recovering From A Bad Event

Recovering from a bad show / experience

I'll be honest with you, DJIng can be the best feeling in the world but no doubt you will have the odd bad night. Personally I would say it's probably 1 bad night in a dozen, but who's counting, ether way, bad nights can be soul crushing and can be avoided or minimised by doing these things. Some of these things I have already covered, but here they are in point form:

- have the right kind of music
- be over prepared - have more music than you can possibly play
- take 2 USB sticks and make sure the music has been run through RB first
- have a slightly more commercial playlist in case it's a student crowd and you need to infuse some familiarity
- commit to enjoying yourself no matter what happens
- if the dance floor is dying, put on a track you love, like I said enjoy yourself no matter what
- if the promoter starts blaming you, decide what feels right for you and it may be setting boundaries or walking away from a toxic environment
- if you can't even get shows, watch my master sex master DJIng video as you may be wanting it too much and you may need to learn to let go to let in
- if your set goes really badly it doesn't mean you're a bad DJ or that anything is wrong with you, it just means you have been given a valuable lesson and an opportunity to learn and grow
- remember no regrets, only lessons learn

Keep Some Perspective

All in all remember this to keep some perspective. Earth moves very fast. It spins in rotation at a speed of 1000 miles per hour and orbits around the sun at a speed of 67,000 miles per hour. Our galaxy is moving through space and in that sense earth is like a spaceship and we are intergalactic travellers. In the grand scheme of things don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff. It is said we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that we all see the world based on our filters and conditioning. So stop the self full-filling prophecies of not being able to get a show or not having any friends, or being too old to DJ and instead decide what do you want and know that if you can get excited about an idea it already exists within you and you just need to get of your own way so it can surface. I heard meditation once compared to a plastic bottle full of air being held under water. This resistance we put on ourselves by trying to control the circumstances of our life is not our natural state. So instead let go and by doing so you raise your vibration and your ideas can express themselves through you, and for the sake of this metaphor, you release the bottle and it floats to the top effortlessly. So get clear on what you want and think what can I do to achieve it and when you get it, focus on what's good and take time to celebrate your small victories, in this case throw a party and invite everyone you know as you just scored a gig on this amazing space ship called earth and you're going to make your life count by leading by example and inspiring others, and how do I know this, because you wouldn't have read this far unless you were meant to read it. We've got this.




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