Controllers In Clubs: The State Of Play In 2016

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Last updated 28 March, 2018

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Have you turned up at a venue only to find you’re not welcome because you wanted to DJ using a controller? Let us know your experiences and thoughts below…

Two years ago, we ran a story about how a club promoter refused point blank to allow a controller DJ to play at his venue, and we asked for your experiences. We got such a huge range of responses, that we repeated the exercise last year too. So in the spirit of tracking progress (or otherwise), we thought we’d do it again for a third time, another year later.

Kicking it all off, yesterday we asked the question “Are clubs banning DJ controllers where YOU live?” on Facebook, and we’ve taken some time to reproduce some of the most interesting answers from there below (the full Facebook post is here).

Now it’s your turn! read on to see what other DJs think, then let us know how welcome DJ controllers are in venues where YOU play by commenting below this article…

“Are clubs banning DJ controllers where YOU live?”

“Playing everywhere with my Reloop Beatmix. It’s not important what gear is on the table, what’s important is what you play and your technique of mixing. Haters gonna hate, always…” – Petar Simon Dulčić


“Guitarists don’t have to use ‘the club’s guitar’, so why would they do that to DJs? Don’t they want performers to be comfortable? Don’t they know most performers customise their gear one way or another? How hard can it be to plug in two extra cables into their console?” – Keru Roc


“[Promoters] have no problems letting people use controllers. BUT ffs think about how you’ll fit it in to the booth before you arrive. Turn up with a massive controller and your laptop and expect everything clearing out the way and you’ll have a p%&@ed off promoter. Bring a laptop stand, maybe even two if your controller will fit on one. If your controller is massive then warn them in advance! Lastly, be prepared to be off to one side where ever you can be squeezed in, no whinging!” – Chris Surfleet

“I sold my all in one controller and bought an X1 and Z1 then if I gig, I can take my Mac, just the X1 a sound card (Audio 2 is tiny) and link up to the venue’s mixer. Small footprint is key for me now.” – David Hunty Hunt


“Not an issue in Chandigarh, India. I’ve taken my combination of modular controllers to festivals and concerts. The venues are happy to arrange space for my controllers even if they have their own set of CDJs” – Czetan Monga


“When you get booked is when you provide your ‘tech specs’ a simple document that relays your technical needs to the engineer/stage crew. Everyone has a particular set up and so any self respecting promoter will be aware of the need to plan both with connectivity and space. Problems begin when dealing with a bar manager who never ventures into the booth or a promoter who overlooks the above standard practice in event management.” – Matt Catt


“At the club that I play at it’s the other way around…. they have a DDJ-SZ and I asked if I could bring a NXA2 setup but sadly they said no!” – Kenneth Gammelmark


“It’s almost abnormal for venues to provide solid standard equipment at this point. Everyone (venue wise) seems to be very comfy with having the DJ provide equipment in addition to pay us very little. I’m not certain what’s worse… ” – Fathom DJ

Are controllers welcome at the Ministry of Sound?

As part of our Digital DJ Masterclass Free Training Event 2016, we are playing a film we made behind the scenes at London’s Ministry of Sound, getting the inside story on whether or not DJ controllers are welcome there (you may find the answer surprising).

That free training is running all this week, and so if you want to watch that film (and get the rest of the awesome free stuff on offer there), get on the Digital DJ Masterclass 2016 Free Training Event by clicking here.

“Here in Belgium, controllers are mostly a no-go, except for small venues. Clubs usually do allow the use of Serato on their own gear, and at festivals, even that is usually a no-go.” – Lady D’Nova ft Sweets


“I’ve worked in big chain clubs in the UK which force you use their equipment, of which you cannot mix on at all. One of the chains no longer exists and the other is on a downward spiral, coincidence? I think not.” – Ashley Amorè


“I use the Traktor S8 at home and, although knowing pretty much all functions of the standard CDJ/DJM set-up, I’m still not 100% comfortable on the CDJ set-up as I cannot afford my own or even to rent for a sufficient length of time to gain experience. I’ve found some promoters don’t mind me bringing the S8 along to gigs… Most are quite impressed with the unit in terms of what you can do on it. However, many promoters (in Glasgow and Edinburgh at least) will not let you anywhere near a DJ booth with a controller. For whatever reason, controller DJs are not taken as seriously even when there is no difference in the quality of their mixes. It’s a real shame as a lot of good DJs are essentially being priced out of their local DJ booths as they simply can’t afford to gain experience on the club standard gear.” – Jordan Grant

“If you’re not going on and they say it’s because of your controller, it’s really because you suck. They’re just trying to be nice. Go home and practice until your sets become more important than your gear.” – Chad Gombosi


“Personally I have no problem with this. A professional DJ should be able to use anything and if it’s a club chances are it will be a Pioneer setup which can be mapped easy to Traktor and Serato anyway, so no big deal…” – Jonny Howard


“In South Korea, basically the big EDM clubs will not let you use a controller and even get pissy if you want to use Serato, most EDM DJs use only USB, the opposite side of that is most hip hop clubs use only Serato. Most of the clubs don’t have enough room to accommodate using a controller in the booth and they are mostly frowned upon using them in a club situation but most DJs do have a controller at home to practice on, there just isn’t the space in the booths to easily set them up and break them down.” – Marcus Powell


“I don’t have a problem with DJs using controllers, the only problem I have is that the software is so unreliable, the amount of times I’ve been to a club and the DJ’s Traktor/Serato just decides to not work forcing someone else to step in because the DJ didn’t bring USB/CDs. If you are a controller DJ, you should be prepared to switch to CDJs at any point.” – Chris Ivory

Over to you…

So – are controllers welcome where you live? Let us know below – and don’t forget to go and watch the surprising Ministry of Sound film here, too…

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