Set It Off! Know the Role of the Opening DJ

May 18, 2017

Every DJ worth his salt knows how difficult it is being the opening or warm-up DJ. It takes a great deal of humility and determination to play to an empty dancefloor or venue, knowing that everyone is here to see or hear other performers. As tempting as it may be to flex your mixing muscles and go ham with the music, being hired as the opening DJ requires a mindset of respect and decorum. And regardless of how it feels or what others may say, being the opening DJ is a really important job. If you’re ever asked to open a show or night at a club, it’s important to know the role of the opening DJ before you ruin your chances of really showing what you’re made of.

Finesse the Few

Standing behind the decks with a packed crowd can feel like a very powerful moment, and it is. But it’s just as powerful being behind the decks when there are only a few—or no—people in the venue. Why? Because the atmosphere is a blank canvas, and you’re holding all of the paint and brushes. Your job is to create an environment that makes people want to move, socialize and hang around for the evening. Not doing your job correctly can begin the night with sour tastes in the mouths of event patrons, and that might not bode well for the promoters, venue owners or DJs and performers after you. Your job can even affect how well the bar does! Don’t look at an empty floor as a punishment; see it as the opportunity that it is. Bring the people in. Be the pied piper that ushers in the fun that will happen for the rest of the night. You’ll definitely set your reputation in the right direction.

Avoid Peak Set Songs

As the person wielding all musical power when people arrive at the venue, it’s extremely important to know which weapons to use, and which ones you shouldn’t. Peak set songs shouldn’t be in your arsenal. That’s not your job. Peak songs are for peak time. It can be tempting to pull those songs out or take all of the random requests of patrons who may be club hopping and want to hear “their song” at 10 pm. Don’t give in. It won’t help the main DJ’s night, and it won’t help yours. You will prove that you can’t be trusted to maintain your position, and that won’t put you in a great light within your local scene. Leave the heavy hitters to the peak DJ. Besides, a good DJ can create a vibe without leaning on the typical song set. Challenge yourself and surprise the crowd with your creative skills.

Let the Artist Perform the Hits

If you’re opening for a performer, it’s common sense to believe that he will most likely perform the songs that made him shine. That’s who and what the crowd is there for. Unless you get specific permission from the artist or his management, playing the songs an hour or two before he performs can ruin the impact that the song will have when performed live and negatively impact the show. You’ll inevitably look like the person who told the guest of honor about his surprise party. Nobody likes that guy. Again, it’s simply a matter of respect. Don’t be DJ Deja Vu; the crowd doesn’t need to hear a song twice. If you focus on supporting the events of the night, you won’t be the DJ that stole the main attraction’s thunder; you’ll be the lightning that preceded the storm.

Being the opening DJ isn’t glamorous sometimes, but it definitely has its benefits—and the potential for bigger gigs. If you are the warm-up DJ for an event, understand that you might not be the final picture everyone gets to see. But without your piece of the puzzle, know that the final outcome simply won’t be the same.

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About Mixcity Inc

Mixcity Inc was founded in 2008 with the mission of creating innovative software solutions and engagement tools for the working DJ. The team's first DJ product, KueIt, was groundbreaking when it was introduced years ago, and still remains an industry standard software solution to this day. Mixcity's latest innovation, JammText, is a revolutionary text to screen software solution that allows DJs to reach exciting new levels of crowd interaction and audience engagement.