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How To Be An Indie DJ | Rock & Electro Tracks

by Matt · 3 comments

in How To DJ

Being an Indie DJ is great fun if that’s what you like.

Many people think that DJs are either mobile or wedding DJs, or electronic dance music DJs.

Indie DJs are none of that.

The best ones tend to play a blend of rock, indie (independent, alternative and original tunes) and may drop in electro or the odd funk or even rare disco tune from time to time.

These guys are rarer and tend to get DJ gigs more easily and more regularly than most other DJs.

One thing that I’ve definitely learned in my time is: make sure you create your DJ niche and unique sound.

Having an identity and real proprietary indie DJ style and sound is so much better for you to get gigs and get repeat gigs without even trying.

This is why indie DJs get gigs so easily! They may not play out everywhere, but because there are generally fewer of them (the UK has more, I realise) they are higher in demand.

More importantly, a good rock or indie guy will know how to stand out from a crowd of electro sheep who just copy each other!

How To Be Cool And Play a Great Set

If you grew up with rock, pop and the odd dirty electro tune with an occasional filthy hip hop banger thrown in, there’s every chance you’ll be more motivated to play that style.

Playing indie will make you feel more passionate about what you’re doing.

Play what you feel like you should share. Don’t play what all the other geeks play just because “you’re meant to”.

Develop your own style.

How do you incorporate this into your sets?

1. Pick some headbanging tunes

For a start, pick some great headbanging favourites. Keep these lined up for some beast action when you need them.

Who cares if everyone knows them, you’ll need them as secret weapons for when the dancefloor needs a kick. EVERYONE dances to these bangers when they’re drinking.

You’ll see points in the night where people get bored and move away from the floor. Give it a couple of minutes and BOOM, you hit them with your stomper of a track and they literally RUN back to the floor.

I’ve seen it hundreds of times.

But you’ll need something more than that too during your set.

2. Have some style-changing indie tracks

Within indie and rock there are sub-genres.

There is electro-rock, nu-rave, electro indie, indie pop. There are older rarer favourites, newer more emotional tracks, filthy tunes that boys love and vocal indie that girls adore. There is Britpop, there’s New York rock, there’s even cool French indie pop now. You get the idea.

Organise your tunes so that you can transition to other sub-genres when you play.

Don’t stay in the same old niche of indie rock all night. You’ll never get invited back to play and everyone will point at you and shake their heads, muttering about how the music is usually better than this.

You’ll see the crowd move off the floor after a certain time of staying in the same style. After a few more minutes, you’ll be thinking that you need to boost the energy.

You do this by switching styles with a transitional tune. Or you can drop a different style.

If you know a vocal indie track that girls love, then stick it on. Girls always make the floor come alive. Boys just copy them.

If you feel like the music has been too soft, bang on that electro rock slammer you have been holding back.

What is really important is that you have crossover tunes that are both indie and another style.

LCD Soundsytem’s amazing tunes are perhaps the best example of blending indie, electro and discofunk to perfection.

3. How to mix when you’re an indie DJ

Indie DJs don’t need to be pro mixers.

Everyone out there dancing on the floor, even those guys who want to be DJs (and know a bad mix when they hear it) understand that indie and rock music isn’t made for mixing.

But that doesn’t mean you just play anything in any order though. A real indie DJ wouldn’t dream of that. You need add some substance and style to your sets and get invited back.

You need to follow a few basic DJing rules.

1. Don’t leave silly 3 second gaps between tracks.

2. Create some flow and adventure to your playlist, don’t just randomly slap on any track in no particlar order. Build up, stay up, drop down briefly then build back up again.

3. Mix where you can: if you have the choice between a tune that blends and beat syncs nicely with the track that’s playing, then play that one instead of the track that doesn’t sync.

4. Peak your favourite tracks at the right time at between half way and two thirds the way through the set maximum, not at the start of the night (unless you’re starting at peak time only).

5. Prepare your tunes! Failure to do so will result in a weak set. No one will hug you at the end of the night if your set is crap. Poor sets often result from a lack of preparation or fake DJs. Don’t be either of these.

6. Mix the styles up – indie is not a simple easy style; it’s several different styles. Mash them in nicely and cross blend. People will respect you moving between styles in a way that is acceptable.

4. Make your own bootleg indie tracks

People love hearing versions of familiar tracks that they know but with differences.

And it’s really simple to create a bootleg mix. I even did a bootleg of The Las ‘There She Goes’ by just creating a drum pattern in Reason and laying the original track over it at the same speed.

Anyone can learn how to do that!

Find a great indie track. Maybe one that’s a favourite but lacks some beat or stomp factor. Then add on your own bits and pieces.

If you’re a novice at remixing and production, then read up on how to make DJ music. 

5. Mix with intution

The hardest part, which some DJs can do so well is this method of mixing with intuition.

When you play, you can use a style of mixing that isn’t so well known. Some people call this “mixing with the heart” but basically it’s about intuitive mixing.

As the musical structures of the tracks isn’t so important to the mix, you can mix tunes that are from a different style without worrying so much about BPM or key.

It’s hard to know why some obscure old funk track goes so perfectly well with that latest indie hit, but it just sounds soooo good.

This kind of mixing is highly eclectic indie DJ mixing, where every track has something in common with the previous track, but yet can be different in style, key and speed.

In fact, it’s a highly effective way of getting the dancefloor to fall in love with you, especially if they’re fans.

I’ve heard friends drooling about how the indie DJ last night blended Phoenix with Donna Summer, or LCD Soundsytem with AC/DC and how it made them warm inside.

The above artists are in completely different genres, but yet have tracks that go so perfectly well together.

Knowing your music very well helps for this, but so does relaxing and feeling the dancefloor.

Stay positive, be adventurous and tap into your brain. Let it flow and don’t think too much.

If you’ve done your homework, intuitive DJing will come to you with experience.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Animal Instinct March 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Man I read on digital tips that you can’t be a rock DJ lol

I’ve been pouding out rock for years. Played in some weird places in Spain where they love it. Not just that but you know it’s a niche.

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2 MICRO DJ March 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Rock are you for real? That’s just programming

Real DJs know how to mix right and that means the tracks blend together. I have to say rock DJs can’t do that.

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3 Matt March 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

You can blend rock and electro if you’re any good.

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