Over To You: DJing While Drunk

drunk dj

Don't try this at home, kids.

Reader Sasha Nevski writes: "I have a question that I think most DJs (digital or not) would love to ask, but are too shy / ashamed / proud to, and this is it: How would one go about DJing if one had had too much to drink (intentionally or without realising) - after all, it happens to the best of us! Obviously I'm not talking passed-out-wasted-on-the-floor, but you know, just 'under the influence'. Would love to hear what you and the readers think."

Digital DJ Tips says:

While it may be hard to DJ sober, it's the best way to make a decent job of it. There's nothing worse than a drunken DJ who can't do the job, and you're shortchanging yourself and your audience by impairing your ability to perform to the highest standard you can. Having said that, even some of the most serious DJs I know like maybe just a bottle of beer or two to loosen up - one once said to me that "I've been doing this 20 years and I'm twice as old as my audience - I like a beer to forget that and get into the swing of things!"

If you do it to excess or too regularly it becomes part of how you DJ, and your health gets affected in the long term - you don't want to drift into the trap of doing a job where you expect/are expected to drink all the time, after all. But as you say, these things happen! Personally, I have two rules if I feel a bit under the influence: First, I never play anything outside of what I planned to play for that night: So I stick to the folder of tunes I prepared when I was sober! That means I don't pull out some old Duran Duran thinking it'll be really cool in an electro set. (It usually wouldn't.)

Secondly, I consciously leave off the crossfader / effects / sampler and just play records. Tricks that need bang-on timing are in my experience the first to suffer when you're a little bit wobbly. And of course drinking plain water is great, whether you feel tipsy or not - it stops headaches and keeps you functioning well, especially in long sets (ie typical bar gigs).

Do DJing and drinking mix? Have you ever got too drunk to DJ? How did you get through the night? Over to you! Please let us know your stories below. You can remain anonymous if you wish... ;)

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Comments

  1. I usually have around 2 drinks before my sets and this works out just fine because you can relate a bit better to what the audience feels. It also happened to me that I had a few drinks too much. I don’t think that anybody noticed but my set would still probably have been better without being drunk because things like forgetting that one song is almost over happen way more often then. So if you really like the music, you should be able to play a set without having to drink. But I don’t think there is anything bad about drinking 2 drinks before your sets because it makes you more confident which might even result in the audience having more fun.

    • That’s sensible and I’m in agreement with you. I’ve seen blind drunk DJs turn in amazing performances, but also seen it the other way around far too often!

    • +1

    • 1-2 drinks to loosen up works wonders for me.
      When the gig starts, I usually don’t have time or don’t remember to drink.

      My friends tend to claim that I play better when Im a bit under-the-influence, but we still did not resolve the doubt whether they too get drunk in the process. ;-)

  2. After having a few bad experiences while DJing very drunk, I’ve stopped doing it. I didn’t train wreck thankfully, but waking up with a huge headache and a girl whos name you can’t remember is never fun. I don’t see a problem having one or two, but getting to the point where you are rip roaringly wasted greatly increases the likelihood of trainwrecking the gig, picking a song that doesn’t work. Or worse.

    It’s nice to feel relaxed at the gig, so you can get into the swing of things. Just be careful not to overdo it.

  3. I always figure it out as the same way as you. Prepared my tracks & set cue points before the gig and drinking never effected me. But last wednesday i was working with another dj and our set times suddenly changed. I was drunk as hell and things get complicated when i ran out tracks and started to play “on the fly” :)

    After that i decided to not get drunk while i was playing just get a little “tipsy” enough to feel free to drop the biggest hits and dance :)

  4. I’ve had some great sets myself while being drunk. But I’ve had one colleague once who was so wasted with alcohol and other stuff that he just put a pre-mixed CD on and switched vinyl records just for the show. He even played with the EQ on the inactive channels on the mixer. I think he believed that nobody would notice, not even his fellow DJs standing right next to him.

  5. I’ve had some real laugh out loud moments when Dj’s have been on the decks when their ” Vitamin E ” tablet started to work ..
    But luckily most the crowd were equally as trolly’d at the same time, and only the people in the booth on stage really noticed ;-)

  6. Hi all djs there and anyone reading this article. am 23yrs old started Djing when i was around 13yrs old. been doing serious Djing in different clubs in malaysia and Africa for over a year now. 1st i was djing without drinking and people loved my works but i had this break through but it was not a break through in actual sense. i played at a house party while i was drinking i performed soooo well and my friends told me you have to always drink while djing because you play so well and steadily. i took on the advise it worked for some time and it still works but sometimes i lose track of my drinking because am so busy mixing i end up making all funny mistakes almost blacking out un necessary noise on the mic and i even forget the music and just keep repeating songs. my advise is dont drink because you are getting your self to the wrong and most dangerous lane and you end up making a fool of your self and if you driving u may be seeing your last days. if u are so addicted just take a few shots just to get you active or an energy drink..Thanx for bringing up this article if possible i would want more advise on how to DJ without drinking…

  7. I like to drink when I DJ as a quick push up, and lots of times I drink quite e few shots but always with a lots of water, and of course it depends of how long a set lasts, but I think It’s per individual.
    Usually I don’t have any problems delivering, but I had, twice, what was the lack of performance in my eyes…finishing the perfect mix I actually pressed turntable stop button on ongoing record! Luckily nobody noticed that it was a mistake…apart from a friend DJ besides me. THAT is a sign for drinking only water! =)

  8. Probably the best decision is to cancel the gig and if possible avoid that anyone related to the club/event manager see you in that state. If you can achieve that lie a little about the reason: you’re ill. If you don’t… just deal with it!

    Use another person to inform as quickly as possible so the club/event manager have time to search for a solution, face the consequences of your actions if you do not get another opportunity from them and learn the lesson for the next time.

    If you are just very tipsy but think you can handle it there’s nothing better than what Digital DJ Tips said: stick to your standard set and your well known tracks, leave the tricks and the creativity for another better time.

    A good shower, some coffee, drink plenty of water and the energy drinks are your friends! I know from people who uses cocaine in this situation, but I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

    • Why do you see alcohol as being a reason to cancel a gig?

      • The question of Sasha Nevski is “How would one go about DJing if one had had TOO MUCH TO DRINK…not passed-out-wasted-on-the-floor…under the influence…”. So by reading this I understand that it could be something between 2 states:

        1.- To be like in the Amy Winehouse’s latest appearances, in this case is when I wouldn’t recommend to do the gig, for obvious reasons and to prevent the ridiculous.

        2.- Or to be just very typsy, in this case is where I recommend that if you think you can handle it you should do the gig but stay stick to your common tracks and DJ routines, to prevent failing.

        I think some drinks or beers are good, specially for the nerves and to socialize… but you have to be consistent about your task because you’ll have to WORK next! Nothing against the alcohol itself.

  9. it depends on the person really, i think i still DJ quite well while im drunk but really its not worth the risk, having a couple drink to calm the nerves is fine but i had an experience where i was djing a friends party and drank way to much, the party ended early but i do not remember what happened as everything was dying down and eventually passed out. you get irresponsible when drinking and with thousands of dollars of gear with you, someone could easily steal it and you could be screwed.

  10. I dont play out but i love getting smashed out of my mind and playing at house parties. I find that I get really in to the music love it and do some of the most epic mixes I have ever heard. Then sometimes I listen to recordings afterwards and think “oh how disapointing, that mix really wasnt so good after all”

  11. One of the less-obvious difficulties in doing long sets (3-4+ Hours) as the only DJ in a club is that you end up drinking quite a lot (if you are they type to drink) over the course of the night if you don’t pay attention. I’ve had numerous nights where the last hour of a set has been slightly difficult to remember clearly. Combine the free drinks with a healthy consideration for requests (generally more the spirit of the request rather than the actual song) and things can certainly take an odd twist.

    When I do end up committing this classic DJ error, I have noticed that I generally stick to the plan I have for the evening in terms of energy and crowd response. So long as I have a good idea what the crowd will respond to, I usually allow myself to get caught up in the energy of the crowd and, as a sort of by-product, have more drinks than on night when I’m struggling to get the crowd to respond. Last Saturday was one of those nights, and it was a great night all around. I know I had one too many after closing, and subsequently went to local diner with owner of the club (who also had one too many). But I was still quite functional. Everyone handles being intoxicated differently, and some can manage to operate in a generally acceptable manner when intoxicated. As DJs I think we all should know what are limits are, and know how we behave once we go past them. If you are the type to physically collapse after one beer too many, don’t drink while performing. If you are the type to switch to “autopilot mode” when drunk, you may be ok every now and again to have the extra beer. One needs to be very honest with one’s self about this, otherwise you will end up making a fool of yourself.
    In public.
    Very loudly.

  12. Will Marshall says:

    A beer or two is recommended: it helps lower inhibitions, which in moderate doses can improve perceived charisma and confidence.

    The biggest issue with alcohol is that it undermines your ability to critique your own performance, so you can end up oblivious to the terrible hash you’re making of things. You’ll also have A: worse judgement and thus tune selection, and B: poor coordination.

    In a general sense, if you know your limits and are very careful not to overdo it, being altered can dramatically improve your DJing.

  13. Went to a party this weekend and the DJs definitely seemed a little to drunk. A sober DJ probably wouldn’t accidentally touch the records while they’re playing so much. I also don’t they’d drop a Bob Dylan song in the middle of a hip hop set…

  14. When I do sets, I stay away from draft beer, Me and draft beer does not get along. For some reason, I get drunk quicker. I usually stick with bottled beer. Also, drinking too much can lead to taking requests you don’t like. Or you might say something to a patron you may later regret…even if they did deserve a tongue lashing.

    • Good point, i think the small bottle necks slow down your drinking, over a glass where you can drink huge gulps..
      I have a thing where the nerves when im playing make me reach out for the bottle/ pint or short and mixer and take a swig.. i know im doing it, i know why im doing it i just cant stop it!
      I even do it at home with cups of tea or coffee

  15. Twice in my long career I have been enlisted at the last minute to fill in for a drunk DJ..I do not drink until AFTER the gig is over. It is simply not worth it and there is waaay too much going on..Plus, It makes ALL DJ’s look bad.. There are one of two venues that I work at where drinking is FORBIDDEN..

    • You should come on a few of our nights, i’m sure drinking is compulsory!
      Check out all the beers and JD & Cokes around the decks in this vid.. ;P

  16. I’ve done a number of nights drunk, and beatmaching on CD/digital has never been an issue.

    Practice lots, it becomes automatic.

  17. The day I need alcohol to get me “in the vibe” is the day I stop mixing. For me alcohol is a big no-no, even in small doses.

  18. DJ Digital dB says:

    So i once drank through a gig i had someone help buy some songs off itunes cuz there were some special requests i didnt own but otherwise apparently my set was rlly good and i just would mix myself in with the crowd in between songs i selected all my songs on the fly but i know my library by heart all the time so its not that bad but i didnt touch effects cuz i would confuse knobs so sometimes i would touch volume instead of filter kinda thing (they are next to each other in my mapping). Apparently my set was amazing but i wouldnt suggest drinking it gets hard to read the computer screen when ur drunk

  19. I think that if you get paid to DJ it is a job.
    It is never OK to be drunk on the job IMO.
    So in most cases I do not drink anything but water when I DJ.
    I do on the other hand think that 1 or 2 beers shold be OK
    And in rare occations when I do not drive I take one or at most two beers before or during my gigg and it does not affect my skills in any way I think.

    //DJ Hessler

    • It is OK if it helps you do the job better!

      The thing is, it doesn’t help all the time.

      Many times a drink or two has helped me suddenly get people going but if I get trashed I can’t even remember the end, and I suppose that’s not good.

  20. Finlay Stewart says:

    A couple of beers is fine, then rotate cola/water then beer if you want any more. I try and drink as little as I can, having to leave the booth to pee is not a good look.

    • southyfreakin' says:

      Yeah, besides getting too ishtfaced to play decently, I think that’d be the next big concern. Especially if you don’t have anyone to watch your gear or stop people from fiddling with your bits while you’re away. Happened to me at a friends leaving do this past Friday but luckily I was near the end of my set and only had to do the ‘need the loo boogy’ for about 30 minutes.

  21. It really depends on yourself. Can you handle beer? No problem then, have one. Are you that “drink one, can’t stop” types? Don’t drink then!

    I was at Tomorrowland 2011 and Steve Aoki/Afrojack were closing the Dim Mak stage. When I arrived, both looked so damn drunk that they couldn’t glue 2 tracks together without trainwrecking, yet everybody was going absolutely WILD.

    Moral of the story: Sometimes you can get away with it because people around you are as drunk as you. Most of the time tho … .

  22. Daddy Fish says:

    Drink lite beer – low alcohol content – it feels like you are drinking beer but it won’t sneak up on your ass all of a sudden

  23. Deejay_DJ says:

    I can relate to this very well. I’ve been blackout drunk quite a few times whilst DJing. The clubs I play out at have a very binge drinking culture and people often pour alcohol into my mouth. When I’m DJing I tend not to notice how much I’ve had, and I’ve gotten deep into my set whilst getting completely massively smashed. I’ve woken up the next day not remembering if I’ve taken my gear home and what I played.

    When it works for me: I always refuse to drink BEFORE a set, only drinking after. My best sets are when I keep alcohol consumption to approximately the drunk level of the crowd. I feel them more and deliver what they wanna hear.

    When it fails: my track lists had repeated songs (even one after the other) and I left my laptop in the taxi on the way home.

    I personally hate DJing sober. Every time I’ve done that I tend to think I’ve done a shit job – I guess it just feels that way as I don’t get into it as much.

  24. Great question and one that most Djs have had to deal with at some point.

    Here are my top 10 tips on how to keep yourself in check.

    1.) Do not drink before you get to the bar/club
    2.) Drink cider with loads of ice, the ice melts and keeps you hydrated so you don’t guzzle because your thirsty.
    3.) Do not accept drinks especially shots from people you do not know, they may be spiked or double or triple shots.
    4.) Have some 3 track premixes ready, if you drink alcohol, you will need a piss with greater frequency than normal, which is a nightmare if the club or bar is packed.
    5.) Do not put anything liquid, especially sambuca anywhere near your equipment (sambuca will rot mixer components like the blood of the creatures in Aliens.)
    6.) Do not go on the microphone you will sound like a dick
    7.) Have some mini-mixes (15-20mins) preprepared; 3 bad mixes in an hour is better than 10.
    8.) Ration your intake across the night, if you are getting drunk at the beginning of your set you will be hammered by the end. I have a rule than I will not have a shot, cocktail, shooter etc before 1am. My usual set is 10-3.
    9.) Keep things simple, use sync and mix with 1minute 30 seconds to go.
    10.) STOP DRINKING AS SOON AS YOU FEEL A BIT WRECKED.

    Ultimately remember that you are being paid to do the best job in the world. You are only as good as your last set and losing a great gig because you got hammered is stupid.

  25. As a mobile DJ i don’t even look at anything with alcohol. I must have my gear with me home and drinking and driving don’t mix. I don’t care if any other is drinking thats not my point but DJing is a job. If you have another job besides DJing do you drink there?

  26. 2 words (both for and against): Ron Hardy

  27. I find it much easier to just shoot up. KIDDING. 1 drink or 2 shots, and then it’s H2O.

  28. I prefer to start off with water or iced tea…..and close to the end of the gig i may have a cocktail or 2……maybe. I’ve had bad nights in the past and also I’ve witnessed very bad nights……bad for business. And if it’s a wedding or private function….no drinks whatsoever!

  29. It really depends on the person. I for one enjoy quite a few whilst spinning but I never let myself get sloppy. If you are going to get ya drink on, just make sure you don’t make stupid mistakes and probably best to stay away from the effects (people get RIDICULOUS with this after a few!)…don;t let the music suffer!

  30. I think that the technical part of DJing, the mixing and all that, is rather simple and straightforward and as long as you’ve practiced a bunch of tracks, mixing should not be difficult whatsoever. What is more challenging is tapping into the mindset of the dancefloor, and hearing in advance what they’ll want to hear. I don’t know about you guys, but most dance floors I’ve seen have generally very un-sober people inside of them. Getting into the drunk state of the dancers definitely helps me pick out the right tracks at just the right time. You might think that a track has some energy left, but if you’re drunk you might realize that you’ve already lost interest and need a track to pick up the energy. I can DJ completely fine while drunk or sober, and I blew the top off the last party I DJ’d, and I was extremely hammered. Again, the alcohol helps me get into the mindset of everyone else, gives me some stamina and energy, makes me looser and more excited for tracks, and overall just generally helps me out. I say that as long as you’re the kind of person who is able to still function while drunk, then there is nothing wrong with doing this. If you’re the kind of person who has trouble remembering their own name when super hammered, then stay away and don’t do this at all.

  31. Hi All i have been mainly a mobile dj since 1984 so can remember when pubs only opned from 6 till 10.30 then if you went on to a club that was only till 2.00am or midnight on a sunday,It used to be a few steeing up several more during the set another at the buffet some more till the end of the night leave the gear till the next day (big heavy boxes of everything) hit the clubs with that nights pay and wake up next day knowing you have to go back to the gig to humo everything our or down the stairs,have a couple more doing this on th the next gig to set up before afternoon closing 3.00 pm back at 6.00 to do it all again.result of all this I have stumbled in to the stage drumkit mid set fallen off a stage taking the light rig with me got a divorce up to now I have I thing an intact liver several scars and at one point a reputation as a drunken a@@s H@@@e that could still spin records ho and a drink driving ban on my licence . That last one was the wake up call as I lost a lot of work due to travle arrangements I can’t say it was not fun but I can@ say don’t do it. Looking back It’s a learning curve where everyone finds their own levle they are happy with. Now I may have one ot two maybe 3 or 4 if I am not driving but the worst thing is trying to tell your kids not to do that when you did the same at tht age . Trouble is now my oldest roadies for me and dj’s for her mates and gets hammered then waits for me to pick up the peices when she gets it wrong. So Beware drink can make the best of a fool and a fool of the best, to quote Ricky Tomlinson “Cheers my Arse”.

  32. When I was actively DJing my main night was a very popular student night – biggest night in town in fact. I did the same gig for five years running and I don’t think I was sober for one of them. Never affected my ability to DJ, in fact since I was on the same ‘journey’ as the people in the club it probably made me more in tune to the music they wanted to hear. Only downside was the toilet breaks, but there were always tracks like Born Slippy for moments like that.

  33. I would recommend that people do as the military does and train for the worst. Practice your sets well under the influence. After a bit of experience behind the 1’s and 2’s you’ll get it engrained in you how to make it happen. It borders on instinct. I’m not saying I condone this, but it’s difficult not to join the party that you’re supposed to be the maestro of. People keep handing you drinks and shots…there needs to be a point where you draw a line in the sand, however you can’t surely insult the person who is buying you drinks. It’s a very thin line between professionalism and partying. It’s up to the individual to 1) support bar sales 2) Create a lively party atmosphere 3)above all remain professional.

  34. I think it depends on the individual, some people can rapidly loose co-ordination and/or focus when drinking, where as others can maintain these.

    I’m lucky that I one of these people who can drink a fair amount and can act and be perceived as being completely sober. One thing I do notice if i drink ‘a few’ is that I tend to gradually get more self indulgent with my tune selection which is normally not a good thing!

    On a another note, sometimes if you are a little nervous A drink can relax you and you may perform better because of it, just like when playing pool with an audience!

  35. StrangeMatter says:

    This is a funny topic for me. One of the best DJ sets of my life also happened to be the worst set I’ve played thanks to alcohol.
    I was in a DJ competition and was playing last. Now, I was used to playing on a belly full of booze and this was going to be no exeption; I sank a few while being driven there, and few more on arrival. What I hadn’t figured into my calculations was adding half a bottle of rose wine into the mix (Thank you mate’s girlfriend!).
    During the set, everything was going well. I nailed every cue point, beatmixed perfectly and the crowd were rocking. Then suddenly, trainwreck! In my, rapidly deteriorating, state I somehow managed to forget which deck was live (in hindsight I should’ve simply looked at the mixer!) and hit the wrong cue button.
    Next thing I know, the room’s gone silent and everyone was looking at me.
    All I could do was stick the next track on and carry on but by that point I’d already lost the crowd and subsequently, my place in the competition.
    The judge pointed out after that if it wasn’t for that most epic of fuck-ups, I’d have more than likely won as I was easily the best on the night.

    What I’ve learned from is this. If you like a drink, have a drink but remember. You’re not on a night out with your buddies, you’re working. Having a few to get onto the vibe of the night is one thing. Pressing Cue on the wrong deck is another altogether! Don’t be me guys!

  36. luke james taylor says:

    I remember back in the late 80’s early 90’s whenever I asked DJs for advice one thing I always heard was. “Get on it” In other words get high and feel the vibe but those were different times when most DJs worked at drug fueled illegal parties instead of slick corporate venues.

    Nowadays most DJs I look up to are teetotal.

    I myself try to do the first hour sober nerves and all, then when the night progresses and you start drinking it improves your set instead of starting already under the influence and going down hill.

  37. I have a few drinks before hand to losen up. But there was this one time that I had an allergic reaction to my friends dog an hour before we left. We started drinking at 8pm beer and liquor to make it worse. We then went to a liquor store and bought some DayQuil (at least that’s what we thought). Dude gave us night quil, so by the time it was my turn to dj. I was already gone, beyond belief. I was barely able to see the songs on the cdj’s, let alone anything a few inches away. But for the most part I did pretty good, except for the last song. Never again, will I ever do that. Now I bring my own allergie meds with any time I go dj for my friend.

  38. DJ Lady Muse says:

    Record your sets and you will know for sure! I know for a fact I play better when I’m drinking, but I keep it under control. If you lose yourself in the alcohol, then you are not really there to play music, you are there to get drunk. I stick to something simple that my body can process easily like a cuba libre. I think it gets risky if you are mixing different types of cocktail beverages: shots, martinis, beer, mixed drinks… my suggestion is to pick a favorite for the evening, something you know how you react to and stick with it. Switching it up is when you get in trouble, and you need to be able to concentrate on your set. :D

    What works best for me is to have a cocktail before my set, I’ve had time to get used to it and it improves my mood and it makes me more creative. I think we are all different, and that there is no real answer to the question of whether you should or shouldn’t do it. Respect the rules of the venue you are playing, never get blind drunk because that could cost you that gig. :(

  39. I always have a couple of drinks before I go on and I like to have a ready supply of beers and wine in the DJ booth but thats mostly because my mouth gets dry while I’m playing.

    Most of the time I don’t have time to get drunk as I’m busy and not the sort of DJ that just let a track play out. I’m often using 3 or 4 decks + FX so to manage all that and get drunk dosen’t really work out.

    Sometimes I do end up drinking quite heavily, especially when I’m playing long sets of 3-4 hours but I never get drunk while I’m actually playing (I guess it’s because I’m concentrating) but as soon as I’m done, all the booze hits me and I’ve ended up quite messy after gigs.

    I think it’s really down to experience. If you’re 100% confident with your DJ abilities then DJing while a bit drunk is no big deal but I’ve seen many a nervous warm-up DJ get hammered and make a mess of it.

  40. Does your insurance cover you when you are drinking on the job? I doubt it.
    I’m a professional, so I don’t drink on the job, period.

  41. I find my sets tend to be more spontanious and arguably have more energy after a few drinks – pref V+R :)… But, having said that, if it’s a paid gig, I try to pace myself (3 beers tops). Slurring on the mic is never good LOL

  42. Can’t anyone relate to this??? I’ve not found anyone yet???!

    I’ve been Mixin for 5 years now (I’m 22) and I started out at illegal raves so naturally I was munted the whole time, when I moved onto clubs and frankly “grew up” a bit I switched to getting really really drunk, I have played less than 5% of my gigs sober (ironically I don’t remember much of them) and now here’s my problem…

    When I mix sober now I get completely bored! Even at home just messing around?? I don’t want to get smashed all the time just so I can enjoy mixing obviously. But I have noticed that if I’m drunk e.g. After a night out, I’ll come home and mix for hours and hours. I feel like I’m going to have to find a new hobby which sucks but I can’t have one that I can only enjoy intoxicated. Can anyone relate?

    And yeah yeah I know it’s sad…

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