Get DJ Gigs

How To Play Your First DJ Gig! Tips And Advice.

by Matt · 1 comment

in How To DJ

I hear from so many people: “I got my first DJ gig coming up! I’m absolutely crapping it. What do I do to prepare?” This post is to reply to those of you who asked me how to prepare for a first gig.

By the looks of some of your messages, it seemed to me as though you’d been totally getting your first DJ gig by taking the DJ promotion tricks I shared a little bit too far!

Come on guys, if you blag a gig by selling yourself as a hot tune selecta, you’d better be able to at least back it up with some real skills instead of send out SOS panic emails to the likes of me!


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But, then again, it’s normal to have butterflies before a first DJ gig

Getting your first DJ gig is still pretty nerve-wracking though I have to admit.

It takes me back to mine, quite a few years ago now, in a late bar with a dancefloor. A kind of bar club.

I’d been hassling the guy who organised the rota for ages. I’d sent him my cool DJ demo CD (and it was cool) with a photo, a kind of DJ resumé (or CV) saying what my chart was and that I had a couple of years of experience.

You got me. I hadn’t ever played anywhere but my bedroom. But I didn’t want to tell anyone that. Being a new arrival in the city, I could easily pretend I had more experience than I really did.

Bad of me? Maybe. But it was the intent that counted. I knew for sure that I would cook up a great night in that place. So for me, bending the truth a bit to get my foot in the door didn’t matter as long as I made people have a great night.

I’d hung out there quite a few times and checked it out. I’d been following all the beginner DJ tips and I was sure I’d lay on a good set at this place.

I knew all the hottest tunes like the back of my hand!

So why be nervous if you’re ready for your first DJ gig?

Of course I was nervous. I was totally shiteing it about the DJ equipment,and in case anything went wrong.

And yes in true nervous first gig style, I’d forgotten to bring a headphone jack with me.

So that was me done, unless I found a silly little headphone jack, I wouldn’t be able to play. I’d have to line up my tunes one after another, without even mixing. What a nightmare! None of the bar staff even knew what a headphone jack was, so no chance they’d be able to find one for me.

Fortunately, I’d arrived quite early to check out the gear and to set up my own DJ accessories that I had with me, as you do.

Even more fortunate was that my girlfriend at the time was still at home, ready to leave when I started mixing.

So of course, I made her find my headphone jack by searching everywhere in my stuff and get a taxi to bring it down to ME. Right away.

Traktor Kontrol

She duly obliged of course and got down to me with my shiny gold headphone jack in the nick of time.

Of course, while I was waiting I was nearly pooing in my pants with nerves. I know it sounds really silly, especially looking back now.

So how did the gig go?

Pretty well.

Everything worked fine, my preparation paid off nicely and I got people dancing from around 11pm until closing at 2am. Not bad for a first gig?

So I don’t know, maybe it’s not so bad to be papping your wet pants a little. People say you can channel the nervous energy and improve your performance. Maybe that’s what happened that night.

Of course, I still get nervous nowadays when playing at new places sometimes.

So what about MY first DJ gig? Any tips?

Oh yeah, sorry about that. You’re still reading. I thought this was all about ME and my stories. Didn’t you know I just want to talk about myself all the time?

So here are my tips for performing at your first DJ gig:

1. Practice mixing like crazy

Follow my DJ tips on how to mix and get familiar with it. You have to be at ease with mixing, otherwise you’ll be nervous.

And the best deejays are the most relaxed and organised ones. Safe in the knowledge that they know their stuff and can pull off a quality mix without sounding like a tranny falling down the stairway.

Prepare yourself for a variety of situations.

Don’t leave all your practising until the day before, or the same day. Make sure it’s all done well before that.

You won’t be able to wing a set by cramming your mixing technique all in the last minute. It doesn’t work like that fool.

2. Watch the people in front of you

When you play, look up from your cool little mix from time to time and see who is in the room, what they’re doing and try to get a feel for what music they like.

Whatever you do, don’t play out some prepared set. That would be a big mistake.

Have some tunes in mind, but have enough that you can choose which ones you want to play. You’ll need to adapt to the people, not the other way round.

Read my tips on how to read the crowd like a pro to see more.

This may not come easily to start with. Remember to watch your peopleand get girls on the dancefloor.

3. Know your DJ music

Know your tunes inside out. Be familiar with what tune goes with what.

Always get more music than you think you need. Hey, with so many people using their own DJ consoles and controllers these days, you should be able to fit in tons of wave or MP3 tunes onto your hard drive.

Having more variety and different genres of music with you is like having a Swiss penknife. You’ll be able to adapt to different crowds with ease.

Organise everything into genres and moods. You’ll also need to go through your tunage beforehand and organise it as well as possible. The advantage of this is that every time you go through your tunes, you’ll find some forgotten or hidden gems that you can play.

4. Have a checklist and remember to take everything

The day before, write yourself a checklist.

Put down any equipment you need to take (headphones, accessories), any tunes you might need to grab before going and anything else.

Tick it off before leaving to get to your spot. You’ll be far more at ease if you do this properly.

5. Invite your friends down to see the event

You got it. Friends make us feel more chilled and can make us laugh a bit. They can also provide you some honest feedback if your set isn’t going so well.

There’s nothing better than some banter with friends to calm the nerves.

Of course, another reason you may be worried is that you might think no one is gonna turn up. This could well be the case. I’ve had plenty of week day sets in empty places during holiday periods.

But on your first gig, all your friends should come down. You’ll feel great seeing them there, especially as they’ll dance for you whatever!

Of course, the catch here is that you’d better lay on a great night for them. You don’t wanna disappoint them do you? Right.

6. Arrive early at the venue to prepare

Arriving early at where you’re gonna play helps a lot.

You’ll be able to check out the DJ gear, set yourself up in time, perform a real soundcheck and get a feel for the crowd that night.

I’d arrive sometimes 40 minutes early and get a drink and chat with the barstaff.

First DJ gig

I’m not saying get drunk in order to get over your nerves, but a chat and one drink only before starting does chill you out and gets the tension off your chest.

Good luck!

What do you think? Would you add any more tips for beginner DJs? Have you already played your first DJ gig? If so, let me know how it went. Leave me a comment below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Craig May 23, 2012 at 9:04 am

So after playing around in the spare room on my Traktor and Macbook for 18 months i finally played my first gig last friday in a small club close to where I live. The secret to getting this opportunity for me was a littel bit of blagging to the club owner/resident, persistance, but most of all being really friendly and chatty to everyone in there. THe conversation ended up a bit like this “so after moving here last year, I’ve been trying to find somewhere to DJ. Any chance of getting maybe an hour or 2 here one night?”. the response i got was a little surprising “I’m not here next friday so you can do all night if you like 9pm till 2 am. interested?”
A week of blind panic, track organising, cable and adaptor purchasing, facebook promoting and sleepless nights ensued!
Then on the night, i had a couple of drinks and saw lots of friendly faces from the previous week who were full of encouragement (and a little overexcited about the prospect of a new DJ who promised to play lots of House music). This really helped with my nerves and after a quiet opening 20 mins the place was rammed from half 9 until closing! i made 2 memorable (to me but not sure anyone else noticed) mistakes during mixes and the amp cut out for 30 seconds due to a wiring issue on the smoke machine. Experienced all the usual punters from nosey “experts” and dodgy requests to “this isnt the version of the song that i asked for” but apart from that it was an awesome night topped off with a decent fee at the end (which i had or mentioned or expected)!!
The owner was chuffed at how busy and lively it was and has asked me to stay on and play every other friday….which is perfect for me!
The start of a rosy future hopefully!

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