Tech \ Technique \ Gear Tips

5 pro tips for a great first gig

Some sound advice for beginner DJs

2016 Feb 29     
2 Bit Thugs

So you've finally got your first proper gig? Our regular columnist Harold Heath has some words of wisdom to ensure all goes well

Sooner or later, if you stick at it long enough, you'll convince someone to pay you to DJ. It might be to warm-up at a local club night, or it might be a huge booking that you've fluked due to an accident you had in Ableton Live getting to No 1 on Beatport. Either way, it’s a great opportunity and also a big responsibility: you might be single-handedly liable for a substantial portion of a night's entertainment that the public has paid for.


If you take nothing else from this article, take this one simple bit of advice given to me by a highly respected old-school DJ very early on in my career, right before I went on: "Don't fuck it up". Great advice no doubt! However, there are a few more specific steps you can take to ensure a smooth and successful first gig:

1. Tell your mates

Not in a mega spam-fest where you end up inviting everyone you've ever met, including elderly relatives, the garage where you got your MOT and people on other continental land masses. Just a few cool people who are local enough to be able to make it.
The 'cool' part of that sentence is quite important - you don't want your first paid gig to be overshadowed by the spectre of your mates getting so drunk that they hit on the promoter's other half before throwing up on the stairs. Or indeed hitting on the stairs before throwing up on the promoter's other half.


2. Buy some new tunes

Make an investment, in terms of time and money. Take some time to find something really good that you can play that not everyone else is. If you invest some of your time, effort, energy and money into your DJing and take it seriously, your craft will reap dividends and it will show in the quality of your live gigs.


3. But don't worry about playing some older stuff, too

There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing a set made up of new, recent and old music - why should there be? DJs who think they can't play old tunes are crazy - good music has no sell-by date. If you find that your older music now feels unplayable, maybe you didn't spend enough time finding really good music that has longevity, and that will still be high quality after the latest fad in handclaps or snares has moved on.


4. Stay (reasonably) sober

A drink or two is fine, maybe a few more once you get into your set. But you only get the right to go full Villalobos once you have a successful career. Do it at your first gig and, to misquote The Who, you won't get booked again.


5. Get your equipment sorted

If you need cables or connectors, bring your own. Assume the venue will have absolutely nothing, make sure you've got your name on them and bring spares. If your set-up absolutely requires a particular cable in order for you to play, and you only bring one, you will not be able to find it. If you bring two, the little fuckers will be the first things that come to hand whenever you put your hand in your gig bag.

This is just a fact of life, as is the fact that all audio cables are descended from one ancient, giant audio cable and they will always try to return to their original form. This is why if two neatly coiled up cables are in the same time zone, they will eventually manage to tangle themselves up. If nobody ever untangled any audio cables, eventually, they would all knot themselves together in one huge, planet encircling cable before returning to the mothership.

Just a little preparation can make a huge difference on the night and lead to more bookings: promoters love a professional. And also, don't get all wrapped up in the excitement and forget to get your money on the night. Promoters also love DJs who forget to pick up their wages!

Harold Heath's productions have graced the likes of Lost My Dog, 3am Recordings and Urbantorque. When he's not DJing and producing, he also writes about music and teaches music technology





Tags: beginners, Harold Heath, first club gig