6 Reasons To Leave The DJ Box While Playing (And How To Do It)

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 29 November, 2017

Get out of the booth and join your crowd for a few minutes… they’ll love you for it. Pic: Neddoscope is dead!

Some DJs hate to be seen around the venues they play in, to buy their own drinks, to mingle with their crowd… while others love it. Guess which ones the punters tend to like the best?

Leaving the DJ booth can do wonders for your camaraderie with your crowd, and never more so than in the middle of your set – even if only for a couple of minutes. And in smaller venues, it’s no big deal, if you’ve got another tune ready to play next. Here’s six reasons why it’s sometimes good, sometimes necessary to leave the booth while playing:

  1. To check the sound – If you don’t leave your DJ box to check what your music sounds like while you’re playing your set, I don’t think you’re serious enough as a DJ. You need to know what it’s like in all four corners of your venue. I always do this before starting anyway, but a full venue sounds totally different to an empty one – full venues soak up sound and unless you’re lucky enough to have a really good sound engineer where you play, it’s up to YOU to make sure your sets sound sweet. If you have booth monitor speakers, this becomes even more important, as you’ve really got little idea what the crowd is hearing. I am obsessive about this, but it pays – not only will you sound better, but you’ll be seen to be caring about it.
  2. To go to the toilet – Another big one, of course. What DJ hasn’t had to nip to the loo in the middle of a set? If you haven’t, you don’t play long enough sets! Get used to saying “sorry, I’m the DJ” so you can jump the queue – it’s one of the perks of the job, and better than radio silence when you’re not back to mix the next record in in good time…
  3. To get a different view on the party – If you’re not sure what your crowd wants to hear next, if you’re not sure if the venue feels full enough, or if you’re just not feeling it from your DJ booth, head off to another part of the club and survey the scene from there for a couple of minutes. That cold, half-empty room may seem like a rapidly filling up and promising place from outside your box. You literally end up with a different view on things, which could give you the inspiration you need as a DJ to go back and give the dancefloor what they want.

    The lure of the bar may be too much – just make sure you elbow your way to the front of the queue… Pic: Lomo Cam
  4. To get a drink – Yeah, in an ideal world we’d be brought all of our drinks whenever we felt the need for one, but it often doesn’t happen like that. Even if you’re on free drinks (and I sincerely hope you are), you may still have to head off to the bar to collect them. Again, apologising then pushing to the front of ther queue is essential if you’re to get back to the box in time.
  5. To let your friends in to the venue – If there’s a cover charge, you will without doubt at some point get a text on your phone from someone outside who’s not on the list and who needs you at the door in order to let them in. No matter how many times you tell your friends to organise it beforehand, this one always seems to happen. Nothing for it but to run down there and sort it out. And guess what? Friends never seem to care that you’re right in the middle of a set…
  6. To dance – What’s wrong with hitting the dancefloor while you’re DJing? The crowd absolutely love this one, and if you’re feeling it, why the hell not? Obviously you’ll be on a part of the dancefloor really near to your booth so you can rush back when you have to, but it’s the ultimate “being at one with your crowd”. My favourite time to hit the floor is probably the last song of my set, or the last song of the night if I’m ending (this is a great trick at the emotional end of an all-nighter) – big pause, everyone claps and cheers, you throw a nice long final classic on, and head out to dance with the people you’ve been looking down on for the past few hours.

Tricks of the trade

Of course, in the old days what we were most scared of was a record sticking while we were nowhere nearby to jog it on a bit – it thankfully never happened to me in 15 years of vinyl DJing. Nowadays, your main problems are likely to be the music stopping because the tune has run out, or maybe worse, someone thinking they can have a go and messing with the music by mixing something else in, playing with the FX and so on, ruining your hard work and making you look bad.

You can stop the music running out simply playing a long tune. Bear in mind that if the song you choose is the final song on a ripped CD it might have a load of silence at the end of the track in order to buffer the “secret” song at the end of the original running order- don’t put a 14 minute remix of something on only to find the last 9 minutes are complete silence… and please don’t ever click automix. Ever.

Best bet to stop someone messing with the system when you’re not there is to either lock the computer so you need a password to unlock it (practise this at home first), or leave a trusted person who isn’t a DJ to keep charge in your absence. No matter how much they’ve drunk, 99% of non-DJs will never mess with your gear.

Oh, and please, no matter how desperate you get…. no peeing in bottles. OK?

Have you had to leave the DJ booth for any reason while playing? Have you even gone to the toilet only for the music to stop, stick or get changed by someone? Let us know your DJ booth thoughts and stories below…

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