I just came off a brilliant hour-long interview with Dan Bewick, a highly successful DJ, producer and film score writer. We spoke about how he had a number one hit record, how to get a steady resident DJ slot, just how much musical knowledge you really need as a DJ, what it’s like scoring films… but also, about how to warm up a club. (The full interview recording is available right now to our Digital DJ Masterclass students.)
Dan is particularly passionate about the art of being a good warm-up DJ. And as warming up is one of the most common “first gigs” for DJs in clubs (and if you want to get booked again, it’s essential to get it right) I was really thrilled to discuss the subject at length with him. So extracted from that interview, here are five key tips from Dan for getting your first warm-up slot performed successfully.
Dan Bewick’s five tips for playing a great warm-up set
- Leave your ego at the door – This is a job, and the job is to set the mood, create the vibe, and prepare the club and the dancefloor for the main DJ. It isn’t about showing off, making a name for yourself, or grabbing the limelight. If you want to get booked again, don’t try and do any of these things. Your time will come…
- The big tunes are off-bounds – Filling a dancefloor is easy. Just play all the big tunes of the moment. Thing is, that is absolutely not an avenue open to you as a warm-up DJ. Your job, instead, is to get the dancefloor full by the time the main DJ comes on, without playing any of the big tunes. Suddenly sounds a bit harder, right? So let’s look at some ways of making it easier…
- Focus on the person or people most likely to start the dancing – It may be just one girl. A group of two girls and two lads. It won’t be a whole bunch of people at first, for sure. But somewhere in that slowly filling-up club will be someone who can’t wait to get going. They’ll be on the edge of the floor, probably. Watch them. Play to them. The dancefloor is like a seesaw: Once you get few people on it, it “tips”… and the night has started. So concentrate on your first people – hard
- Don’t be scared to change genres – DJing more about programming and music than mixing, and never more so than when you’re warming up. You’re setting a mood, and trying different things (within the realms of what’s expected in the venue you’re playing in, of course) is part of the job – indeed, it’s essential. This is no time to stick to a pre-planned, perfect mix that just isn’t getting the right results – and as no two warm-ups are the same, you must be prepared to switch things up
- Be friendly, especially to the staff – Dan says this is actually the best piece of advice he has for DJs! DJing is all about atmosphere, and the right atmosphere spreads from you, and from the people who are there from the off… that means the staff! So if you’re humble and friendly with everyone – doormen, bar staff, manager, promoter, other DJs, early attendees – you’re starting to set the fun and happy vibe right from the off. How simple that you can begin to get your work done before you play the first tune! But so many warm-up DJs are moody, insolent or unfriendly, “heads down”-type characters, who then wonder why the club has a bad vibe for their whole set. Always remember, the party starts with you…
• The full hour-long video interview with Dan is available within our Digital DJ Masterclass.
Have you been booked to play a warm-up set? Maybe this something you do regularly? Have you any got advice to add to Dan’s? Have you witnessed a warm-up done particularly well, or particularly badly? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comments.