Digital DJ Tips reader DJ Osok writes: “I just recently got my first club gig, at an 80s-themed club for my friend’s birthday. It’s a great opportunity to gain a following and land more gigs. (Plus I want the club owner to think of me on more modern nights.) I’ve been mixing for three years and mainly work with house tracks, four on the floor, although I’m branching out to trap style. Do you have any advice or tips on how to mix 80s style music?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
Luckily, a lot of 80s music is at a constant, electronically determined tempo (although not all), and so Traktor can handle it as far as beat detection goes, though you’ll have to do some beatgrid work as always.
However, unlike with your usual styles, be aware that it’s impossible to beatgrid tracks that aren’t at a constant tempo in Traktor (unlike in Serato, for instance). Thus you’ll have to at times rely on manual beatmatching skills. I recommend finding a small (maybe four-beat) section at the start and/or end of your tunes that you can loop, in order to make mixing easier, as a lot of 80s music (in common with a lot of pop today, actually) doesn’t have the typical eight or even 16-bar intro/outro beats that make “house” style mixing simple.
Don’t be scared to just drop the tunes in on the beat, slamming from one to the next – nobody at the end of the day will expect smooth mixing with this type of material. Timing is more important than mixing. If you can use the above tips to pull off a bit of that as well, it will make you sound very slick indeed.
As far as choosing material goes, my advice is the same as ever: Pick stuff you like, but that your audience will also be likely to enjoy. In this case, listen to chart compilations from the 80s. All of these tunes are proven “hits” already; it’s just a case of picking the ones you like, or that you decide you can’t afford not to play. Spotify etc is a good place to audition this kind of material.
Finally, a good rule of thumb with such parties is to start with your less well known tunes and build the familiarity up as you go on – and don’t be scared to have a bit of all-out cheese for the last bit of your set. It’s a retro party, and that means fun, not chin-stroking trainspotting. You can use last.fm artist popularity charts to look at the most popular tracks for any given band etc.
Hope it goes well!