The Ultimate Checklist Of Things To Take To Your DJ Gigs

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
May 18, 2021

Get your free download: Ultimate DJ gear gig checklist

Use the list I am about to share with you to ensure you’ll never turn up at a DJ gig ever again having forgotten something crucial – an embarrassing and (sometimes literally) show-stopping thing to do.

Having made a few cringeworthy errors in my time (forgetting my laptop power adaptor, and headphones, to name just two), I started carrying around a “kit list” many years ago, to refer to whenever leaving the house to head out to play a DJ gig.

Since doing it, I’ve never found myself missing something important at a gig.

Today I’m going to share with you what’s on the list, and why – and give you a chance to download your own list, that you can print out and pin to the back of your door – preferably to the very last door you close before heading out to your DJ gigs!

So download the checklist for yourself here before you read any further, and print it if you can – it’s yours to keep.

There’s room on the checklist for you to add extra things, and in the rest of this article, I’ll go through what’s on the list, and explain the thinking behind it all.

Why you need a checklist

A DJ gig is a high-stake thing. There are a crowd of people, and it’s your job to entertain them – and you can’t do it without the right tools.

And just like once you’ve left your home and got on a plane to head off on holiday and realise you’ve forgotten your sunglasses, it’s too late (more about sunglasses later), it’s exactly the same with DJ gear and gigs.

For instance, It’s no good realising you’ve not got your laptop’s power adaptor and you’ve only got 21% power to play with, five minutes before a three-hour gig. (I had to get my girlfriend at the time to drive to the gig with it, she wasn’t pleased.)

Checklists are the best way to avoid silly mistakes like this.

By working through a checklist before you leave home (ie when you can still do something about it), you avoid forgetting to take something important with you to your gig.

This list focuses primarily on DJ gear, but it does have a few more general items on it too. It is for you whatever type of gigs you play. Before we start though, a few general tips:

  • Use good bags/cases for your gear – Protecting your gear in transit and at venues is important. Don’t skimp on these things. You don’t necessarily need “hard” cases for everything, as soft bags, cases and rucksacks can work well these days too, but taking your gear in polythene bags and the boxes it came in is not a good look
  • Set up everything at home first, and test it all – Just like only the foolhardy would go camping with a new tent without setting it up in their garden first, you shouldn’t ever hit the road with gear you aren’t thoroughly versed in using
  • If you can, check with the venue or organiser as to what you’re expected to bring – Below you’ll see advice for all types of gigs, from club to mobile – but nothing beats talking to the organiser of the party, and even visiting the venue, to find out for sure what you’re expected to provide and what is there for you
  • Always follow the checklist – There’s no point having a list if you don’t follow it. No matter how rushed you are, or how sure you are you have all the gear with you, find the time to have a run-through of the list before you leave, no excuses. It’s when you’re most confident that the biggest mistakes happen…

The Essential DJ Gig Checklist

Remember, you should start by downloading your free, printable copy of the list. Have it to hand as you read so you can customise it to suit your situation.

Click here to download your own printable copy of the DJ Checklist.

1. General checklist

This is the stuff you should have on you quite apart from your actual DJ gear.

Some of it is obvious, but checklists aren’t about being clever – they’re about helping you to avoid doing something stupid…

  • Keys – Hearing the door “click” and realising 1) you have no keys, and 2) you therefore cannot drive to the gig is not pleasant
  • Wallet – Don’t rely on being paid in order to have the cash you’ll need, have some backup – promoters are flaky!
  • Phone & charger – You’ll be using your phone a LOT at your gig, maybe even for music backup, so make sure it is charged, and you have a charger with you. I actually have a battery case on my phone, for this reason
  • Meds – Painkillers, antacids, whatever you need – don’t be caught short at the start of a five-hour gig
  • Emergency food & drink – An irritable DJ due to hunger or thirst is not a good thing, so throw a bag of sweets into your bag and always have bottled water
  • Sunglasses – If you’re playing a day-time party, or playing all night till sunrise…
  • Business cards – No pro leaves home without these. And yes, they may be uncool, but they still have a crucial role to play in promoting yourself
  • Torch – A separate small LED torch is a great idea, even though you could use your phone. You never know when you’ll be required to get round the back of equipment in a dark booth
  • Pen & paper – Always useful to be able to scribble things down when DJing
  • Change of clothes, towel and toiletries – Depending on your itinerary and how hot and sweaty you get behind the decks. A spare shirt and deodorant as a minimum
  • Earplugs – You only get one set of ears, and tinnitus is forever. Musician’s earplugs are a good start, and over time you may want to even buy a custom-moulded pair – but avoid foam ‘ear stoppers” as they just muffle the sound, which is no good for DJing

2. Club/Festival DJ checklist

Do you DJ in a club, or a venue that provides the gear for you to use, so you just have to turn up with the “bare minimum” of kit? Lucky you! This part of the list lays out the things you should be ensuring you have with you, in addition to the items on the general checklist above.

  • USB DJs: USB stick & backup copy – Obviously you want to remember your music, on a decent USB, reliable USB drive – but it’s a good idea to take a backup copy too
  • Laptop DJs: Laptop, power supply, stand, external hard drive (if using) and USB connecting cable – Venues won’t provide a laptop stand for you, so make sure you take one if you like to have your laptop raised a bit closer to you. If your music’s on an external drive, don’t forget that either
  • Turntable DJs: Own cartridges, needles, DVS box and control vinyl/Phase system – Don’t rely on the cartridges and needles provided by venues – they may well be sub-standard or even missing. If you play DVS or Phase, remember to take your complete system, including all connecting cables
  • Headphones & headphones adaptor (1/8” to 1/4”), plus backup pair – It’s very hard to DJ without your headphones, so make sure you have a second pair – even if it’s just a pair of wired earbuds. Headphones have a weird habit of disappearing…
  • Backup music source – As a minimum, take a cloned USB stick (see above), or have some tracks or an emergency mixed mini-set on your phone. Don’t forget a wired headphones adaptor to get the audio out of your phone. Some DJs will even take a backup laptop, with all the same software and music on it
  • Basic tools – A multitool as a minimum is highly advisable, because you never know when you’re going to need wire cutters, a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a knife and so on

    Remember to download your printable copy of the checklist here.

3. Bar & Lounge checklist

I’m differentiating between “club” and “bar and lounge” insofar as with bar and lounge gigs, I’m assuming you’re expected to take your own DJ gear. If not, treat those gigs as “club gigs” for the sake of this list. But typically, you’ll be turning up and expected to “plug in” to their existing system.

So for this type of gig, you’re going to need everything listed above, plus the following:

  • DJ gear – Usually you’ll be expected to take your own controller, or decks and mixer, or whatever you DJ on – don’t forget the mains power cables!
  • Live mixer & its power adaptor – Many DJs like to carry a small live mixer such as the little Behringer Xenyx 802, for EQing the whole output of their DJ system to compensate for the acoustics of the PA in the venue, to adding microphones, to adding other DJs to the mix, to creating more outputs to be able to record the event – it’s a “Swiss Army knife” type purchase
  • Microphone & cable – You may well be expected to have these, so do check and if in doubt, take one. We use a Shure SM58.
  • Audio cables – List out what you’ll need. You’ll definitely want any gear interconnecting cables (typically RCA-to-RCA stereo pairs), but also ¼”-to-¼” jack balanced cables, XLR to XLR balanced cables, ¼” jack to female XLR balanced cables. and an ⅛” minijack to RCA cable (for plugging in a backup music source). Go for 1m minimum length, and buy good ones – and look after them
  • Multi-socket mains extension cable – If you need to plug it in, don’t assume they’ll have sockets to let you do so. Bring a multi-socket with at least the number of sockets you need for your gear on it, with a decent length extension
  • Backup DJ system – Can be as simple as a DJ app on your phone, or a small controller like the Numark DJ2GO2, or even a whole second system – depends how “mission critical” the gig is. Also, learn to DJ on your laptop keyboard. This can get you out of all kinds of holes while you fix gear issues
  • Gaffer tape & zip ties – Gaffer tape can fix all kinds of things, and cable ties can keep things tidy and make your set-up safer

4. Event DJ checklist

So you’re playing an event – a birthday party, a corporate gig, whatever – where you’re expected to bring all the equipment. At this type of gig, the pressure is all on you, because you’re the expert in the room, and you can’t expect any help from the venue. Therefore it’s critical you bring it all with you.

So here’s your list, including the obvious and the not-so-obvious. You’ll be bringing all the above, plus:

  • Powered speakers, subwoofer/s and stands, plus mains cables and correct audio cables of sufficient length – Your PA system should provide 5W RMS for every person at the gig if it is indoors, or 10W RMS if outdoors. So a 200-person outdoor set-up requires a 2000W (2kW) PA system. Don’t forget your stands and any safety attachments
  • Lighting and stands/clamps plus control unit/s, DMX cables and mains cables – Obviously the lighting you take depends on the gig, but the important thing is that you remember everything – including remembering to charge any battery-powered uplighters. Don’t forget your trusses, lighting clamps etc.
  • Fog or haze machine, refills & its mains cable – If you’ve got one, and you’re planning to use it, don’t forget it!
  • DJ console/table/facade – Don’t expect the venue to provide a table (which will be too low to DJ comfortably on anyway) – take your own unless you know otherwise.
  • Scrims/covers – Remember any scrims/covers you have to make your console and the rest of your rig look pretty
  • Sufficient mains electricity extensions and adaptors – Make sure they are able to cope with the wattage your gear requires, and remember to uncoil them completely before using – coiled cables can trip fuses when you ramp the power up

Finally…

This checklist (or any checklist) can never be complete for all situations, but hopefully it will have got you thinking about some things you don’t have but really should carry, and more importantly, it’ll be useful to you from now on as a “master” list.

Remember to download and print out the “checklist” version of this info.

That sheet contains all the above minus the “discussion” part, and has blanks for you to fill in a handful of extra things you may also want to take, so you can make it your own.

And do let us know in the comments if we’ve forgotten anything!

Last updated 25 July, 2021

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