Whether you’re a beginner gearing up for your first ever DJ set, a resident at the cities biggest nightclub, or you’re a seasoned professional who regularly headlines festivals. There’s nothing worse than falling victim to simple DJ fails that can completely kill your confidence. As a result, potentially ruining the rest of the set you’d meticulously planned out and prepared for. Leaving you to endure countless sleepless nights thinking about and recreating that awkward transition in your head.
The truth is, no matter how skilled you are as a DJ, everyone makes these mistakes at some point or another. So if you’re reading this after a seemingly disastrous set, you’re definitely not alone. Though what’ll set you apart from the crowd, is how you handle these mistakes when a less-than-ideal situation arises.
From losing sound completely, smashing the wrong button on your controller, to completely misreading the crowd. In this article, we cover all the DJ mistakes, fails, and train wrecks you could possibly make. Including how to recover from them, and how to avoid them (or at least try to). So let’s get into it!
- 5 Most Common DJ Fails
- Tips to getting back on track
5 Most Common DJ Fails
Not knowing the industry-standard gear
This one’s especially common amongst beginner DJ’s, and I’m sure many have fallen victim to this rookie mistake. Let’s say you’ve been honing your DJ craft at home on the daily. You’ve amassed a consistent portfolio of quality mixtapes and you’ve finally caught the ears of the promoter at the club you’ve been dying to play at. You know you’ve got the skills to make it as a DJ but there’s just one problem. You’ve got no idea how to use the industry-standard equipment that’s required!
Depending on the club, and the style of music you’re playing. Many venues will hold a certain standard when it comes to the controllers, mixers, and/or turntables they want you to use. Now, you might prefer to use your own gear, but so will the sound technicians at the venue. So although some may accommodate for your own equipment, it’s best to be prepared to have to use theirs.
To avoid having to endure a catastrophic DJ set you worked tirelessly to get to begin with. It’s important to have at the very least practiced with the gear that most clubs have on offer. So when it does come time for that highly anticipated show, you know exactly what you need to do. Giving you all the power to put on a show that’s going to get you called back within the following weeks.
On that note, if you’re set on making it in the DJ scene, and you’ve built up the skills to do so. Then investing in industry-standard and compatible gear is always going to pay off in the long run. As well as often making a big difference in whether you get hired in the first place. And if in a couple of months/years, you decide DJing is no longer for you. Then take solace in the fact that DJ equipment often retains great resale value.
Failing to connect with the crowd
Whether you’re playing at a new venue, or it’s the same club you’ve played a million times before. For whatever reason, the vibe is off, and people just aren’t feeling what you’re playing. When your primary job is to ensure your audience is having a good time, this can be seriously deflating for a DJs ego.
Failing to plan, means planning to fail
One reason why your set might be failing to connect with the audience is if you haven’t properly planned out your set. As we covered in our article on making a mixtape, planning is key. The lesser DJ is likely to finalize their songs on a whim, or haphazardly mix a variety of songs together one after another. As a result, you’ve got a DJ set that’s incoherent, shows no progression or balance, and simply falls short.
So it’s important to have at least a good idea of what you’re going to play when you hit the stage. Grab a pad and a pen – or open up a blank document, and start planning. Finalize your song list, track order, transitions, and how you’re going to mix them together. Be brutal, you might have to end up cutting one of your beloved songs from the mix if it doesn’t fit with the progression of your planned set. Because you don’t want to play an hour’s worth of “warm-up” songs. Just as you don’t want an hour full of club anthems that never show any balance.
What if your plan isn’t working?
On the other hand, what do you do when you’re working from a planned set and it’s not going to plan? When the crowd isn’t responding in the way you’d expected, the best thing you can do is change it up. Rather than freaking out and staying on course with your now-a-trainwreck of a plan, experiment with a different variety of songs that you know work well together. Your crowd might just be feeling a different vibe than what you initially expected. Which can often the case when you’re playing a new venue, and you’re not quite sure exactly what you’re getting into.
Adding to that, just because you changed up your songs doesn’t mean you’ll get a hyped crowd instantly either. So you might have to work hard with a number of consistent songs before you slowly win back the love of the crowd. It might just start with one or two more people jumping onto the dance floor. So it’s important to be observant of these slight changes in your audience’s movements.
Not knowing what song to play next
Sometimes, you’re playing a set, and you get to a point where you just can’t decide what to play next. It might feel like impending doom, but it’s important not to freak out. Start by searching through your digital crates for songs in the same (or complementary) key of what you’re playing. This will at least narrow down your list of potential songs. As well as being likely to mix in well and blend seamlessly together due to the fact you’re mixing in key.
Alternatively, if you’re running out of time, and you’ve got nothing lined up on the decks. Just pick any song! You’d rather have something playing for your audience than have to endure a moment of dead silence at the club. Because your crowd is a lot less likely to notice bad song choice in the heat of the moment. Then, you’ll have time to carefully consider the next track you’re going to play, and get your DJ set back on the right path.
If you really can’t pick a song, depending on the track, you might even be able to set a loop on the outro of your track. Throw on some EQ and FX, and just like that, you’ve bought yourself a few more seconds of time before you need to switch it up. The key here is to know how long is too long for your loop to be playing. You don’t want to bore your audience.
Losing sound completely
More often than not, mishaps in your DJ set are usually completely within your control. However, sometimes that’s just not the case. In the unlikely scenario that you completely lose sound, and you know it’s not your equipment. Your job as a DJ just became even more important. The worst thing you can do here is assuming that the sound and tech guys have noticed what’s going on. That is unless they’ve signaled to you that they actually do; so make sure you flag down someone working at the club as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, your job as a DJ is to get creative and make sure the party continues until the sound is back on track. It could be as simple as engaging the crowd in a sing-along, you’ve got to own the fact you just lost sound! But whatever you do, just don’t loose your cool!
Making a massive mixing fail
Perhaps the most obvious kind of user error when DJing. Everything’s going well and then BAM! You mess up a transition; hit the wrong cue button and restart the song; forget to turn the volume fader down and start playing the song you’re trying to cue up in your headphones; or completely go off track with the beat matching. The list goes on.
It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing, and you probably get the feeling that everyone in the room is looking at you with disgust. But more often than not, if the rest of your set’s going well. Your audience is having a good time and you’ll find you’re probably the only one who will even notice. After all, as DJs, we’re our own harshest critic.
For those times when you make a really big blunder, and you know the audience picked up on it. As we touched on before, the best thing you can do is own it, and laugh. Your audience is much more likely to appreciate your honesty, and the more forgiving they’ll be for the rest of your set.
Then, make sure to leave that fail in the past and keep your head in the game. Overthinking a simple error is only going to make you prone to reoffending, and your audience will notice if you’re not enjoying your stage time.
Getting back on track
So you’ve experienced a DJ fail during your set. Maybe you recovered from it and killed the rest of your set. But maybe you let it eat you alive and you’re wondering how you’ll ever recover from such a disastrous performance. These next few tips are basic, but essential for getting you back on track so you’re ready to perform for your next show.
Listen to feedback
If you’ve had a particularly bad set, that you know didn’t go as well as you like. One of the best things you can do is get feedback from your peers. When we say listen to feedback, we don’t mean listening to that inebriated club patron who just had to express his negative opinion of your performance. Or the salty drunk guy who gave you the finger because you didn’t honor their request to play 2pac’s, California Love.
So get some feedback from someone you trust who was there. Whether that be the promoter, friend, or fellow DJ. Gaining honest, and constructive criticism is vital information you can use to reflect on your performance and be even better the next time around.
Recreate those epic fails
Rather than lying in bed having nightmares about that horrendous transition you made. Pull out your DJ Controller, fire up your software, and recreate that dreaded mistake in the comfort of your studio. Allowing you to get down into the nitty-gritty of your performance, work out exactly what it was you did wrong, and learn how you can do better next time. Practicing your weaknesses over and over may not be all that fun. But it’s a sure way to helping you grow as a DJ, and minimize the amount of dreaded fails!
Move on with it
Finally, the best thing you can do after a gig full of DJ fails is just to let it go. For one, it’s never as bad as it seems. Secondly, dwelling on your negative experience will only eat into your next performance. So learn what you did wrong, make sure you take action to improve and leave your mistakes to the side.
Because no matter how experienced you are as a DJ, everyone from first-timers to big names such as Calvin Harris and David Guetta have all messed up on stage. They’re still headlining stages and selling out venues, so don’t let it stop you. It’s also why DJ fail videos have been so popular over the years!