Reader Tony Youll writes: “Hey, I’ve been asked to play a gig for a friend’s birthday. She has booked out a nightclub and everything so it’s going to be pretty high end. Be around 200 people there. At first I was all up for it, but when I’ve been talking to her more, I have a few worries. Firstly, I’m a dubstep / electro DJ, which she likes. But she is also right into indie music and stuff so she wants that sort of stuff incorporated too. Just wanted to know how I could fit this into my current mixing style. Secondly, the party is 10pm to 2am. That’s four hours. I’ve only ever done a set up to 1.5 hours, and even then I was struggling with consistency as I haven’t done much in terms of ‘live performances’.
“I was thinking about potentially asking if I could maybe do an hour, or two at the most and possibly get someone else to do all the indie stuff? What do you guys think I should do?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
“If it were me, I’d take the gig and learn from it. You’ve got a chance here to learn about music you wouldn’t normally play, and learn a lot about DJing to boot. These kinds of gigs are invaluable for your growth as a DJ. To get through the “four hours” bit, plan it as four one-hour sets if you like. Warm-up, getting there, peak and a party-time classics set to end, for instance. Just find a way of splitting it down. Four hours is not over-long; most DJs when learning end up playing long sets, if only because they’re playing bars and lounges where they’re the only DJ for the night. I still do, actually – four hours is my regular slot as a resident.
It doesn’t matter what “kind” of DJ you are, or what kind of music she likes. What matters is who walks through the door, and what will make them dance and have a great time. So ask her what music ALL her friends are into. Ask who exactly will be there. Read between the lines and make guesses. It’s up to you as the DJ to guess this right, and play something for everyone, all the time looking like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Sounds hard? Sure, it is. But it’s also like no feeling ht the world if you get it right! Don’t worry about “how” you’re going to incorporate unfamiliar music – worry about the music you take with you. Mix the tunes end-to-end if you like, nobody will care. You’re there to play great tunes to someone’s friends on her birthday, not be a superstar DJ. Mixing comes second, by a long way.
Finally, on the night, watch carefully. Be prepared to follow what the floor seems to like, and your instincts. And hold your nerve. You’ll have patches where you get it a bit wrong, but if you prepare and approach the gig in this way, you’ll have much bigger patches where you get it right. Good luck!
Have you been in a similar position? How did you deal with it? Are you happy mixing styles up for parties, or would such a set make you uncomfortable too? Please add your advice for our reader in the comments.