Playing A NYE DJ Gig? You Need To Read These 5 Tips!

Joey Santos
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 25 November, 2020


Ah, New Year’s Eve! That time of the year when anyone and everyone’s in the mood to party. Whether you’re DJing for a packed megaclub, spinning the year in review for your local sports pub, or playing a party for friends or family, keep these five tips in mind for a smooth transition into the new decade. 2020 here we go!

1. People come and go at different times

There are four parts to every New Year’s Eve party: The warm up during the earlier part of the evening, the countdown leading into the New Year, the party right after the countdown, and the after party. If you’re playing all four sets, you’re going to have to pace them properly in order to build proper excitement and heighten anticipation come midnight. Also, you’ll have people coming in and out of your party at all times, unlike normal nights when often everyone comes and leaves at the same time, so plan for that.

Course of action: Depending on where you are in the world and the way you celebrate New Year’s Eve, the timings of these may vary, but what would be consistent is the musical flow of the evening: Save the year’s top charting songs for right before midnight! As the night wears on and your crowd’s heard the big tunes, go ahead and drop some older and more familiar ones. Throwbacks are fantastic for the after party, too, when some folk would rather sing than dance…

You’ll get some new faces on your dancefloor, too, with some guests having come from other New Year’s Eve parties, so if you feel the need to play a track you’ve already dropped, try playing another version or a remix of it to keep things fresh.

2. A large chunk of guests are “once a year” clubbers

New Year’s Eve is that special time of year when you’re reunited with family and friends you haven’t seen in a while (for better or worse!), and that “spirit of togetherness” carries on over to parties all over the city you’re in, mainly because this is one of those rare times of the year when folks who don’t normally go clubbing actually go all out.

Course of action: Prepare a playlist of easily accessible and popular dance tunes that you can drop at a moment’s notice when you feel that the room is filling up with “once a year” punters. Of course you aren’t expected to mix hit after hit, but these surefire floorfillers are good aces to have up your sleeve when playing to a more casual crowd. And be ready to fend off more than the usual number of inappropriate (musical) requests. Have your “polite” hat on…

3. Know the year’s anthems and bangers – they’re expected!

Coming from the above tip, people will come to a New Year’s Eve party expecting to hear tunes that were popular in the last 365 days – or even in the past 10 years since we’re closing down the 2010s. This is fine if you’re a Top 40 / open format DJ who plays radio tunes and chart music, but what if you’re a DJ who specialises in a particular genre like house or techno? Dropping a pop song may be a weird segue between two banging techno tracks, so you need to think about this.

Course of action: Know the biggest tunes of the year or the decade for your particular genre, and also keep an open ear for mainstream tunes that may have remixes in the style that you’re playing. A good example of this is the many EDM and deep house incarnations of pop and Top 40 songs that you can get a hold of online, so the bit of research that you could do to prepare for your set is to check out YouTube and SoundCloud for these types of productions, and buy the ones you think may be useful to you.

4. Have a song sequence for the countdown itself

Every New Year’s Eve party has a countdown, and if you’re DJing through to midnight and beyond, you’d better have some sort of sequence in place for people to follow along with. That’s the highlight of New Year’s Eve, after all, so it’s worth the effort to think it through well.

Course of action: Coordinate with the gig’s venue and your event promoter to know whether or not they’ll have something canned, in which case they’ll just be playing back a countdown sequence (which you can allow time for) or if you’re the one in charge of the countdown itself. If it’s the latter, you’ll need to have a timed playlist containing a handful of songs, along with the countdown itself (eg “10, 9 , 8… Happy New Year!”). If your venue has screens or an LED wall, you might want to prepare a video to go along with the countdown which you can find and download online.

Also, try to turn the music down and put up the house lights right at midnight if you can. People want to hug, kiss, find their friends, smile, cheer, feel the moment. Then, hit them with the biggest tune of your whole night at 12:01, and keep that dancefloor going until the wee hours!

5. Don’t get too smashed…

Extremely important: While everyone’s partying, downing drinks, and getting turned up, it’s extremely tempting to join in on the merrymaking, but don’t forget that you have a job to do. Indeed, New Year’s Eve is one of those make-or-break moments for DJs that can build one’s reputation for professionalism that can lead to more opportunities – or tear and burn it down in an instant.

Course of action: You know your tolerance and habits better than anyone, so just count backwards from the end of your DJ set and make the appropriate allowances. The worst thing that you wouldn’t want to happen is having to pack up in the middle of your set because you’re too plastered to even hit the play button… (or the sync button 😉 ).


Love it or hate it (and let’s be honest, many do hate it), New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest clubbing moments of the year, and one any DJ should be up for rising to. Overall, the key is preparation: Preparing your tunes, preparing yourself for the crowd that’s likely to be there, preparing yourself for the demands of the management… and having “plan B” routes in place to deal with unexpected changes in crowd / set time / music.

Doing this extra prep will calm your nerves and hopefully allow you to enjoy the night as much as your crowd hopefully will. We wish you luck, and a happy new year!

Have any New Year’s Eve tips to share? Any NYE horror stories that you’d want to warn us about? Do so in the comments section below! Happy new year, everyone!

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