Seems like EVERY DJ is livestreaming right now. If a lot of your Instagram followers (and potentially followers on other platforms, too) are fellow DJs, you will have noticed it, I’m sure. (I’m writing this during the Coronavirus lockdown spring 2020, where the numbers have gone up even faster than they were rising anyway.)
Some DJs are broadcasting for hours without any copyright issues on the music, while others’ feeds are getting stopped after a few minutes. Why is this? Likewise, some DJs have five people watching, and others 50… so what is it the successful livestreamers are doing differently?
Here I’m going to share with you 10 livestream DJ set mistakes we see DJs making over and over again. If you’re thinking of giving it a go (and if you’re reading this under lockdown, let’s face it, it’s the only type of gig you’re likely to get for a while), have a read and make a few tweaks. If you’re already doing this, here’s your chance to make an even better job of it.
Start improving the quality of your livestreams and understanding how it all works a little better, and you’ll be rewarded with busier, more successful online broadcasts…
Read this next: 2 Ways to Get Great-Sounding Audio On Your DJ Livestreams
10 livestream DJ set mistakes
1. Not considering your backdrop
Nobody wants to see inside your messy closet. Take a few minutes before your broadcast to test the camera position. You may need to close some doors behind you, tidy up, or move your gear.
If you have DJ lighting, plug it in and dim your room. It really does make your video a lot more appealing. Additionally, make sure viewers can see you and, if possible, see your controller or turntables a bit.
2. Not announcing that the music doesn’t belong to you
You can never be too careful. When you start your livestream DJ set, take a minute to type in the comments, “I do not own the rights to this music”. To pin your comment so it will remain at the top throughout your broadcast, tap and hold the comment.
While this gives absolutely no advantage as far as the likelihood of your stream staying live or not, you’re laying your cards on the table and declaring the value here is in your DJing and the sense of community you’re offering – you’re not just trying to capitalise somehow from playing other people’s music.
3. Not responding to comments
Don’t be that DJ that when I tune in and go to the trouble of typing you a comment, you don’t even see it. Look at the comments — that is the new “look at the crowd”. Eyes-glued-to-the-laptop isn’t a good look for the dancefloor, nor is it good for the livestream. Ideally, you are engaging with viewers (point at the camera, sing along, dance) but at the very least, you are responding to all your comments.
The best way to do this is to have someone who can be your full-time “comment monitor”. The comment monitor can respond to comments coming in and also pop in every few minutes to remind viewers when your next livestream is or anything else you want to promote.
4. Not giving the context
Somewhere in the camera frame, have some signage saying what you are doing, such as, “Sammy Spins Sunday Brunch, 10-Noon” or “DJ Boom Boom Dance Party, 8-10pm”. Not all of our followers are DJs! Let people know what is going on and for how long.
This weekend, I saw DJ Von Kiss broadcasting with a chalkboard behind her that read “Club Von Kiss”. (She also had a small easel next to her that read “I do not own the rights to this music” – see Mistake 2.) I love her idea of giving your virtual night club a name!
Read this next: Which Camera Is Best For DJ Set Livestreaming?
If you’re going to livestream, why not get ahead of the casual livestreamers and establish your branded, virtual club now? Every week when guests tune in, they should experience the same broadcast formatting (same hours, same lighting, same sound set up etc), which reinforces your “brand” and creates recognition.
Who knows? If you do it well now, you may just build an ongoing show with a gang of loyal superfans that continues for a long time into the future…
5. Not asking for tips
Now legally this is a complete minefield (as you could be construed as monetising other people’s music), but I am writing this in the Coronavirus lockdown times when a lot of DJs (and others) aren’t making any money at all, and yet many people still have their normal income streams coming in.
Your viewers will presumably understand that you may be enduring hard times, and the vibe out there is definitely one of people rallying to support small businesses — that means you!
So on measure, we don’t think you should be shy about putting up signage with your PayPal.me or Venmo payment links, or having your “comment monitor” mention it from time to time. Tips could make all the difference at a time like this, after all.
6. Playing full radio edits of songs
The fastest way to get your broadcast pulled down off Instagram for copyright infringement is to play full songs and radio edits. But by quick mixing (ie playing one verse then mixing out) with mash-ups and heavily remixed versions, you have the best chance of throwing off the copyright algorithms.
Don’t be shy with the scratching or effects either, as all of that helps too. Also, playing a song even just five or 10 percent faster or slower than its given BPM can help. Finally, talking over the music to the “virtual crowd” can help. Be aware though that there is no guaranteed way of livestreaming risk-free – it’s currently the nature of the game.
Want to learn to DJ so you can do this? Check out DJing Made Easy
7. Not using your name drop
When spinning at a nightclub or a wedding, there are mixed feelings about using DJ drops (a recording by a voiceover artist saying something like “you’re in the mix with DJ Skillz”). But when it comes to livestreams, I think it’s perfectly appropriate, if not recommended, to use your name drop every 15 or so minutes during your set.
Not only will it help throw off the copyright algorithm, but it’s another way to give people the context mentioned in Mistake 4 again.
8. Poor sound quality
One DJ I was interested in watching this weekend was about half the volume of the other DJs going live at the time. My daughter and I had the disco lights going at home and were ready to party… but quiet just wasn’t going to cut it. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your sound quality.
There are lots of ways of improving it. If you want to get flash, you can buy audio interfaces that work with phones to give you a proper Line In from your mixer (we’re fans of the iRig Stream), or you can sometimes “hack” the microphone input (the one that enables the little mic built in to the lead when you’re wearing headphones) using a special cable called a TRRS to TRS cable (although this doesn’t always work).
At the very least, place your phone close to your speakers and do a test recording before going live – have your phone far away, and you’ll get not only echoing, but a huge reduction in your overall volume too. This isn’t ideal though – check out our article and video on great livestream audio for how to do it right.
Also, if it’s usually your style, why not plug in your mic and act like you are actually at the club when you speak to your audience? This “style” of talking to your viewers is better than just kind of casually chatting, like you’re in your bedroom — even if you are. Maybe you’re not announcing drink specials any more, but you can still do birthday shout-outs!
9. Not interacting with viewers
We talked about not responding to comments in Mistake 3, and I suggested you use the mic above, in Mistake 8. Just know that keeping your eyes glued to the laptop makes for a boring experience for your viewers. So make eye contact! It can be awkward to look at or talk to the camera, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get over yourself and do it anyway.
The new “put your hands up” is “hit that heart button on the right for me”. The new “let me see you bounce” is “everyone give me a thumbs up emogee”. “See a chug, take a chug” also works (you announce “time to chug”, and then take a swig of your drink).
Zoom parties have taken off big style recently too, so if you are broadcasting in conference mode on that platform (so you can see the Brady-Bunch-esque panel of your viewers), tell everyone to put their hands up to the camera!
10. Not promoting your set in advance
Just like any public performance you plan to give, make a flyer for your feed and announce it on your story. Let your followers know when and what you’ll be spinning. (Clean/family friendly? All reggaeton? All Madonna?) At the end of each virtual dance party, remind people when your next broadcast will be.
If you are choosing to risk going live on Facebook (where most DJs feel the copyright enforcement is stronger), be sure to set up a Facebook Watch Party, which when you go live allows all your viewers to see each other (like on Zoom conference mode).
Go on, give it a go!
As I said at the beginning, I’m writing this under Coronavirus lockdown, and there are lots of reasons to get involved and do this, especially now. Indeed, if you’ve always wanted to try this, there has never been a better time.
Learn to DJ from home: Check out DJing Made Easy
There are plenty of groups and organisations right now that would feel quite blessed to have a DJ donate a virtual dance party for them, not least schools.
For instance, schoolchildren in your area must be missing their friends and the continuity and community that school provides, so why not donate a virtual dance party to your kids’ school to help the parents entertain their kids, give them something different (and active) to look forward to, and to help their school community stay connected? Likewise, a virtual prom is better than no prom!
Or, you could share DJ sets specially designed for people to work out to, helping people stay motivated for the endless stream of boring indoor circuit training sessions. At the time of writing I’ve only been quarantined for a week, and I’m already so sick of jumping rope. Why not offer people pre-timed circuit training mixes and cycle workouts so they can not only enjoy the tunes but also forget about timing their bike sprints and circuits?
There is plenty of outreach DJs can offer right now. For many people imprisoned in their homes, music is the one thing keeping them sane. Let’s not forget the power of music or why our profession exists at all. We can be so much more than a wedding jukebox or a bar’s soundtrack. Music helps people safely escape this reality — and who better to provide that music than us DJs?
• Follow DJ Staci The Track Star on her Instagram.