Over To You: When Should I DJ With Older Music?

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Last updated 30 August, 2017

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There is a wealth of great dance music out there going back decades – so where do you draw the line? What rules do you apply in choosing what to DJ with in your sets?

Digital DJ Tips member Boris asks a question that we’ve heard from several DJs recently. He says: “When is it appropriate to play older music during a set? Many DJs use Top 40 tracks, but sometimes the audience wants old hits, so I feel lost. What do you recommend?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Deciding how to programme your set depends heavily on the type of gig and how you read the crowd. Some venues and nights call for the occasional classic mixed with new hits, while others require complete focus on the present. Then of course, certain scenes like Northern Soul, retro nights, or “old school” require a different approach, based around tracks that fit within the genre or theme (read: older music).

Phil, our founder, was telling me the other day that at one of his gigs, the venue owner stormed over to him and told him to “only play music from the last six months” – even though the person who booked him for the party had asked him to do his usual, eclectic mix of old stuff and new. Sometimes you can’t win!

Choosing which gigs to take on is a personal thing – though we recommend if you have 10% interest, take it. (Unless it’s someone’s wedding. Weddings are too important to mess up…) The experience will help, and you’ll step outside your comfort zone. This is where DJs grow the most.

Over to you: What percentage of old vs new music do you play at gigs? Ever been asked to change that percentage? How do you decide? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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