5 Reasons Why Long DJ Sets Rule

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 2 December, 2017


Early doors

If you run your own club as the resident DJ, those nights where there are no guest DJs ought to fill you with glee (assuming your club has a proper following who’ll turn up of course). If you DJ in a bar, then it’s more likely that already you’re the only DJ.

However you manage it, if you’re not doing it already, I think you owe it to yourself to find a longer residency somewhere. After all, DJs like to play tunes out; how many actual tunes did you play in front of an audience in the last week? You owe it to yourself to make sure that number is as high as you can make it. Here’s some reasons why:

  1. You’ve got all of your tunes with you. You’re a digital DJ carrying an awesome number of tunes. Gone are the days of hulking two boxes with at best 160 records with you to choose from. You’ve got a lifetime’s-worth of music with you (see Five reasons why digital DJing beats vinyl). Long sets give you the chance to flex your musical muscles and play some more of that music. Like a (good) comedian, you can go off on tangents, coming back to the plot when you’re good and ready and taking your time to get to the point. It’s empowering. (Note the word “good” there. Plan your tangents or take those long routes at your peril…)
  2. You can play records you want to hear out but that aren’t peak time. And you know what? You’ll find some of them are. If you play a long set, chances are your venue will be next to empty at some point, usually the beginning as you’re warming things up. This is your chance to programme the tunes you’re not sure about, you want to hear on a big system, that break a bit of ground, or are less known than your peak-time tunes. Watching crowd reaction at this non-mission-critical part of your set will inform you as to whether your “next big thing” tunes are floorfillers in the making or, well, a bit self indulgent
  3. You will go places you didn’t expect at the start of your set. Not so much musically, but just in your enjoyment of it. A short set is gone in a flash. Playing a long set means you can get over dips and ride the waves when they come. Sometimes you only hit your stride after a couple of hours. I played a set recently where I simply didn’t want to be there for the first half, nothing went right, no-one seemed to want to listen to the music. By hours four and five, the whole place had settled down, the groove was now assured as the venue hit one vibe, and I ended up swapping tune details and email addresses with total strangers – a really good night. Just needed to mature into it. Only playing short sets? You’ll never know how good this feels
  4. You won’t be so nervous. I remember one time playing at Privilege in Ibiza, for Xtravaganza. My set was at 5am, and I got to the club at 10pm. I was with maybe 40 friends. I spent nearly the whole seven hours literally hiding from everyone I knew, so nervous I couldn’t function. My hour came and I mixed my 10 records (that I more or less knew I was going to mix a week earlier) without a hitch and had a great time. But waiting for DJ sets is not fun. Playing all night certainly solves this…
  5. You’re the star of the show! Any DJ would be lying if they said this isn’t an appealing thing. If you run your own club night and have put years of work into building up your crowd, it’s lovely to play to them all night. If you DJ in a bar, you’ve got the satisfaction of seeing regular faces coming back week after week, knowing your music is playing a large part in their decision to be there

Of course, playing long sets involves organisation, discipline, and an ability to resist copious amounts of alcohol (sign up for my newsletter and read “10 Common DJ Mistakes…” for more on this heinous crime). It can also be tiring to be on your feet for that long (but there’s no excuse for sitting down to DJ. You know who you are. STOP IT…). And if the crowd really don’t want to know… you’re stuck with them. But on this point, I have to say I don’t recall a crowd ever that couldn’t be won over. And isn’t that part of the fun?

So get your tunes-per-week count up. If you’re not holding down a three-hour-plus residency, get yourself one. You and your tunes deserve it. They say it takes 100,000 hours to become an expert. So start racking ’em up and get better, quicker.

Have you played many long DJ sets? How did you do it? Got any stories? Why not let us know below…

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