What To Do If Your DJ Gear Breaks Down At A Gig

Marc Santaromana
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 8 April, 2019

With all the advantages that digital DJing provides, technology also creates more possible points of failure in the middle of a DJ set. Software crashes, computer errors, and controller malfunctions happen when you least expect (often in the middle of a set), leaving you in a bind that can make even the most confident DJ panic.

As long as you come to your gigs prepared, you can buy yourself some time to troubleshoot, or at the very least keep the party going until the end of your set. Here are three tips to get you out of these tough technical situations.

1. Use a backup controller

We’ve seen more and more cheap, portable controllers hit the market like the Numark DJ2GO2 and Hercules DJControl Starlight. These provide a great option if you experience an issue with your main DJ controller, and since they’re tiny, they aren’t a pain to take along to your gigs.

Pros: Fits in most DJ bags, allows for hardware control, provides two pairs of outputs and better sound quality than stock laptop jacks

Cons: Extra cost to purchase secondary controller, may require DJ software restart

2. Use DJ software in “standalone mode”

Almost all DJ software have some sort of standalone mode that lets you mix with two decks without the need for a DJ controller. You can use a DJ splitter cable if your app supports it so you can still spin with headphone cueing. In a pinch, a standard 1/8″ to RCA cable will do.

Pros: No extra hardware purchase necessary, quick to set up

Cons: May require DJ software restart, no hardware control apart from keyboard shortcuts and a trackpad

3. Use another playback source

One of the biggest fears of many digital DJs is their computer itself crashing during a gig or having issues. Using the same 1/8″ to RCA cable connected to a smartphone or tablet can buy you some time while you troubleshoot.

Pros: You most likely have a smartphone with you already, streaming services like Spotify give you access to millions of tracks

Cons: May not work if someone decides to call you, phone/tablet becomes unavailable for any other task, you need to be sure your phone is not low on battery


Having a plan when hardware or software issues arise at a gig is a must, so don’t get caught flatfooted: From buying a backup controller that is easy to carry or just using standalone mode in your DJ software, you’ve got options. The trick is to spend time preparing for such situations. Whichever method you choose, make sure you familiarise yourself with it and have everything you need to use it the moment it is needed.

Any hardware horror stories you’d like to share? Has your laptop’s software crashed while you were spinning? How’d you manage to get out of that? Let us know below.

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