Picture yourself headed to one of the most important shows in your life. You turn up to the club with your laptop in your top-flight DJ backpack, Decksaver-covered controller at hand. You check in at the elevated DJ booth that overlooks the biggest crowd you’ve yet played for, every single one of them waiting with baited breath for the first hint of music that you’ll be pumping from the speakers. You are, after all, that hot new deep house DJ that everyone’s been buzzing about, and now it’s time to show them what you’ve got. The club has a colossal sound system at your disposal, perfect for the type of music you play, capable of moving both feet and soul, and you simply cannot wait to bend it to your whim.
You are very confident. And why shouldn’t you be? You’ve spent all week figuring out possible song combinations, you’ve spent hours slogging through blogs looking for the freshest remixes. Hell, you’ve even made your own custom edits just for this show! You practised late into the night the past few days, as you always do, to the point that the line between you and your limited edition DJ controller begin to blur. You are unstoppable. Man and machine in digital harmony. Even the booth technician, a veteran DJ, has so much faith in you that he’s already cleared an area for your controller. “Just plug your leads in and we’ll get this party started, my son,” he says with a smile.
You set up your laptop and controller, and proceed plug in your leads and when the time is right, you hit “play”. The thin synth pad of your intro song fills the air as you gaze into the crowd and see their eyes slowly light up with expectation. “I’ll leave you to it, then!” says the technician. You nod, plug your headphones in and direct your attention to the dancefloor. It’s packed. The initially timid song begins to pulse, quietly building a crescendo. You hear people scream “I know this song!” The cheering begins, and so do the claps. You step up to the front of the booth. You throw your hands up in the air as the crowd mimics your every move. They know what’s coming next. Everybody screams.
And then suddenly, silence.
What happened to the drop?
“Check your leads!” The technician barks at you.
You quickly switch your audio cables for those the club already has plugged into their mixer. Still no dice. Beads of cold sweat begin to form on your brow.
“What the hell is going on?” The promoter runs to the booth. Obviously, this isn’t going too well.
The wait is painful, the hushed crowd silence turns into quizzical chatter. People start to leave.
The booth technician flips through a pack of USB keys he has lying around, takes one out and plugs it into the club’s CDJ-2000 player. He removes the leads from your controller and plugs them to the CDJ. A mixtape of US Top 40 hits from 2010 begins to play over the speakers. He notices your controller’s lights flashing intermittently.
“Seems like your USB cable is shot, lad. Do you have another?”
Your mind races through all the anticipation that’s built over the weeks, all the preparation you’ve done, all the visualisations of tonight’s successful performance… until you realise.
“I said do you have another?”
You are too nervous to even breathe, but you emit what sounds like a faint whimper:
The DJ Emergency Pack
First off, don’t let this happen to you! All DJs should always bring a spare USB cable as well as a pair of output cables as a spare. If you’re a video DJ, you might want to take along an extra HDMI cable just in case, too.
But while cables are easy to purchase, the same can’t be said for jacks and adapters. The consequences of not having with you the proper leads or adapters when needed will be similar to what we just described. But what should you source to cover most eventualities? What’s really important to be carrying?
This article is designed to give you a strong foundation for building your own DJ Emergency Pack, as the components we suggest will cover the majority of the most common incompatibility problems you may have with any soundsystem you encounter. Let’s take a look at the list:
1pc Dollar store Tackle box (any small one with separate compartments will do)
2pcs 1/8” female to 1/4” male jack
2pcs RCA female to 1/4” male mono jack
1pc 1/4” female jack to 1/8” male jack (you never know)
2pcs RCA female to female (for extending cables)
1pc RCA female pair to 1/4” male stereo jack
1pc 1/8” male to 1/8” female cable (you’ll use these when you least expect it)
1pc 1/8” female to RCA pair male (for plugging in consumer sources like an iPhone to your mixer)
Video DJ specific
1pc DVI to HDMI adapter (super important if you’re a VJ. Don’t leave home without one!)
1pc VGA to DVI adapter (again, you really don’t know)
1 pair of earplugs
1pc USB key with mixes and personal top40 / most played tunes, just in case it takes you longer to set up, as well as:
- Copy of Traktor/Serato/Mixvibes/Virtual DJ/Rekordbox. Put in a text file with your serial number on it for good measure/last minute activating
- Copy of CD timecode files. Bring a pair of blank CDs with you always in case you need to burn right before the show…
- Copy of your Traktor mapping and other controller related files like drivers and updates
Having these pieces in your DJ Emergency Pack rolls the odds in your favour in the event that you perform at a club with mismatched leads. At the same time, it also includes tactics to delay the crowd while you troubleshoot and makes troubleshooting itself easier by having all your “First-Aid” supplies in one convenient place. You can add on to this list as your needs may vary, but I find that these pieces cover a lot of technical ground when it comes to DJing, and you shouldn’t have a reason not to have one in your bag: Such a kit is quick to assemble, relatively inexpensive, and could really save your bacon when the time comes!
I made a quick video to show you exactly what I carry in mine:
PS So, did I make the story up, or did I learn this from hard, painful experience? Let’s just say we remember our lessons well… 😉
Have you ever had an experience where your leads or cables simply refused to work? How did you get out of that pickle? Do you think there are some essential pieces that we didn’t get to include? Do let us know in the comments below as we’d like to make this pack even better!