How to Be the Best Wedding DJ

How to be the best wedding DJ

Whether you’re a beginner DJ or a seasoned club veteran, picking up gigs as a wedding DJ can be a great way to supplement your DJ income. Weddings are always happening, and they can be a lot of fun to DJ if you go into them with the right mindset. However, DJing a wedding is vastly different than DJing a club or party, so you will need to approach the event much differently than your usual gigs. Being the best wedding DJ will also require a different type of prep than other DJ gigs, but it’s not terribly difficult to switch gears.

In general, if you want to be the best wedding DJ, you’ll need to do a little legwork before the event so you’re prepared for anything that can happen. Your music and your set should still be your number one priority, as with any gig, but the following list of tips will help guide you through any wedding gig with ease. Keep reading so you can become the best wedding DJ around!

What The Couple Says Goes

The golden rule of DJing a wedding is whatever the couple says is law. Make sure you know their expectations when you set up the event. Typically, the bride will have the highest expectations, but if the groom likes to party, you may be fielding his requests, too. 

Take the time to meet with the couple at least once before the event to go over what they want you to do. Each wedding will be different, but here’s a good general overview of the top questions you should ask the couple to make sure their big day goes perfectly:

  • Do you need music for the ceremony, the reception, or both?
  • Will you need an emcee for the reception?
  • What songs should be played for the major events? (Bride’s entrance, first dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance, etc.)
  • What musical styles/genres or songs would you like played during the reception?
  • Are there any songs/artists/styles you DO NOT want to be played at the reception?
  • What’s the general timeline of the day going to be like?
  • What equipment is provided by the venue/what equipment will I need to bring?
  •  Are there others working the wedding who I will need to coordinate with? (Photographer, videographer, wedding coordinator, etc.)
  • Is there anything else I need to be aware of?

Make sure you have all the answers to these questions and ask if the couple has any other specific requests or requirements. Then make sure you hit every item on their list to the best of your abilities. You’ll want to keep an eye on them during the event, as well. Is the bride dancing and having fun? Is the groom having fun? If the couple is happy, then you’re doing your job as a wedding DJ, and that’s the most important thing.

Have a Plan

Once you have the answers to the important questions for the couple, you’ll need to make sure you have a plan for how the night is going to go. The couple has likely set a timeline of events that you’ll need to follow, so work the timeline as closely as possible. But you’ll also need to do some planning on your own, as well.

What music are you going to bring? When will you arrive at the venue to set up your equipment? Who is going to be your go-between to coordinate the timing of events? Make sure you know the answers to these questions so you can build out how your day is going to go. The more you can anticipate in advance, the better.

Have a Backup Plan

However, even the best-laid plans can go awry. Weddings are meticulously planned events, but with so many moving parts, things can and do go wrong at a moment’s notice. So the couple doesn’t have to stress out, make sure you have backup plans for issues that can crop up during your set.

The number one issue you may run into is a problem with your laptop or music library. Always carry backup equipment with you, such as an external hard drive with your music library, extra power cables, or even a hookup to plug your phone into the sound system, in the worst-case scenario. You also never know when someone’s drunk uncle can spill a drink on your laptop, so having an alternative method to keeping the party going on schedule is imperative.

You may also need to shuffle the order of events or have songs to play in between scheduled events in case the cake cutting or first dance gets delayed. A good rule of thumb is to have an extra hour or two of music on standby in case you need to pad out some time, or in case the party lasts longer than anticipated. Be flexible and adaptable and have some contingency plans in place to ensure you’re always prepared.

Collaborate Well

As a wedding DJ, you’ll likely be only one of many vendors and other people helping the couple’s special day run smoothly. Put your collaborator hat on and make sure you can work well with others to make sure the day goes off without a hitch. Don’t make decisions on your own without consulting the wedding coordinator, a member of the wedding party, or the couple. Even if you think a surprise dance may be a great idea, you’ll always want to ask someone first.

Know Which Requests to Take

When DJing a wedding, requests are a double-edged sword. You know you will need to take at least some requests, especially if the bride, groom, or someone with the wedding party requests a specific song. However, you want to keep the dance floor rocking the entire night, so you can be a little choosy with whether you honor requests from specific wedding guests. If Uncle Joe wants to hear the entirety of “American Pie” and the dance floor is already losing energy, you may want to pass. But if the bride and her friends want to jam out to the Spice Girls, you better queue it up ASAP.

A great rule of thumb for persistent requests? Have the guest ask the bride or groom. They have the final say, after all.

Let Your Personality Shine

Your duties as a wedding DJ also will likely include emceeing the reception and announcing the important events. Make sure you have fun with it and let your personality shine through! The guests are there to celebrate the couple and have a good time, so keep your energy level high and playful. The more energetic you are, the more energetic the crowd will be. So, smile, crack a few jokes, laugh, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! If you’re having fun, chances are the bride and groom will enjoy themselves, and so will the rest of the guests.

The Best Wedding DJ to Get Grandma on the Dance Floor

Pleasing an intergenerational crowd at a wedding can be a tall order for a wedding DJ. But with these strategies under your belt, you’ll have what it takes to be the best wedding DJ in town. NYE Countdown also offers two packages of exclusive wedding drops that will help you keep the party going all night long. Check them out or make your wedding setlist extra special with a custom DJ drop with your DJ name!

6 Quick DJ Stage Presence Tips

DJ stage presence

Congratulations! You’ve booked a live gig. You have all the right equipment, and you’ve mixed up a killer setlist. The crowd is ready to hear your set, but once you get up on stage, you pause. What are you supposed to do up there?

DJ stage presence is a key component of live shows. Many DJs can overlook stage presence as they are so focused on the music, they forget their gig is essentially a live performance. The crowd is coming to hear the music, but if your venue is well-lit and your DJ booth is front and center, they also have come to see you, the DJ, perform!

How do you develop a DJ stage presence to keep the crowd engaged? You’ve got the music skills, and you promoted yourself well to fill up the audience. Now is the time to highlight your acting skills and work the stage!

Here are our top tips for cultivating the best DJ stage presence.

Smile and Have Fun

The most important thing to remember about DJ stage presence is you and your audience are there to have fun! Your crowd is there to drink, dance, and have a good time. You’ll need to be the party master extraordinaire! Everyone is a little shy at first when they start performing but let the crowd’s energy feed you. Use the music genre and venue as a guide. If you’re playing a hyped-up, four-on-the-floor set, then you better be jumping with your audience! Is your set a little more psychedelic, a little more subdued? Sway with the music, put your free hand in the air, and encourage the crowd to do the same!

If you’re still stuck or feel stiff, the most important thing to remember is to smile! A killer smile will show the audience you’re having fun, and it will encourage them to have fun too. Relax your shoulders, wiggle out your tension before you get on stage, and just get lost in the music. If you love your set as much as the audience does, it will show through your movements and facial expressions.

Move!

Speaking of movements, your audience came to dance, so you should too if you can manage it without damaging your equipment. If you can’t bust a move and mix at the same time, that’s okay, but make sure you’re not stiff as a board. Sway, bounce, and bop your head to the beat as you mix your next track. A static DJ is a boring DJ. You want your DJ stage presence to shine.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to get too crazy with dancing if your stage is dark. But even if you think the audience isn’t looking at you, you still want to put on a show for the people who do glance your way. Your energy will feed theirs and keep the party vibes going no matter what your venue is.

Engage with the Audience

Does your venue have a front row of the audience? Or do you have a couple of people on the dance floor who insist on dancing right up next to your stage? These people are going to be your hype masters, so make sure you pay attention to them! Engaging your audience is a great way to improve your DJ stage presence and amp up the energy in the crowd.

You can engage your audience in a couple of ways: smile at them, encourage them to put their hands in the air or make noise, or even talk to them with your microphone. A couple of call-and-response shoutouts are a great way to get the audience invested in what you’re playing next. You can even do this with some DJ drops sprinkled into your set, so you don’t have to talk at all!

Practice Practice Practice

You probably already have a killer set that you’ve practiced to death, but you need to practice your DJ stage presence too. Your body will remember movements. Make sure you practice your set a few times for an invisible crowd! Pretend that you have an audience or practice your set and DJ stage presence for friends or family. They can give you live pointers and feedback as well as help you get over the awkwardness of performing for people. You don’t necessarily have to practice your entire hours-long set multiple times, but a couple of half-hour run-throughs should get you more used to making facial expressions, dancing, and engaging with the audience.

Watch Yourself and Improve

Have you performed a few gigs before? Next time you play, set up a phone or a camera and record your performance! Not only do you get to listen to your transitions and the crowd’s reactions from their point of view, but you can also look at your DJ stage presence and see how you look on stage. From there, you can improve on things for your next show. Make some observations and ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you too stiff?
  • Does your smile look forced?
  • Are you having a good time?
  • How’s your engagement with the crowd?

Take notes and apply your observations to your next show.

Learn from Others

Finally, pay attention to your favorite live DJs! Attend other DJs’ shows or watch performances online of local and famous DJs to see how they exude DJ stage presence. Observe how animated they are, or if they have a schtick they use to engage with the crowd. Some pro DJs will have a persona they carry into shows, like Deadmau5, Marshmello, or even the famous (and now disbanded) Daft Punk. You don’t have to go to extremes like light-up helmets but having a persona that you carry onstage like the greats can help you immensely with your DJ stage presence.

Enhance Your DJ Stage Presence with Drops from NYE Countdown

A great DJ has many tools in their belt to add to their DJ stage presence. Engage your crowd even more with a custom video opener for your set, or custom DJ drops to use for call and response so you don’t have to say a word. Check out our shop for all of our top DJ audio and video products today!

7 Tips for DJing a Summer Music Festival

Djing a summer music festival

For all you DJs in the Northern hemisphere, summer is here and in full swing. The days are longer and hotter, and the nights are full of parties and festivals. If you’ve been on the DJ scene for a while, you might have even landed a coveted spot as a featured performer for a summer music festival! Congratulations! Festivals are an experience unlike anything else. But there are some things you should know about DJing a summer music festival.

Festivals are entirely different animals than clubs. Even a simple outdoor gig is worlds away from the nightclub or party life. Your performance might be similar overall, but the preparation involved beforehand, and the atmosphere of a summer music festival are what make them unique. Read on for our top list of tips for DJing a summer music festival so you can be prepared.

1. Know your Setup

Festival stages are usually set up specifically for the event, so it may not be possible to scope out where you’ll be performing beforehand. However, there are some steps you can take to make sure you can be prepared. Ask the organizers where they’ll be setting up the stage, and what equipment is going to be provided for the performers. This way you can have an idea of what you need to pack.

However, the festival organizers or tech team may ask you for a list of what equipment you might need, instead. Be prepared to give them a detailed list if this happens. Surge protectors and cable management are considered equipment, so it’s always better to add more things than you think are necessary.

Map out a plan for where you’re going to park, where your gear is going to be stored, and how you’ll be getting from point A to point B. The festival organizers should be able to help you with this or provide transportation and maps of the venue. The more prep you can do ahead of time, the better, so you won’t be lost on the day of the festival.

2. Know Your Itinerary

Make sure you get your itinerary in writing and keep a copy with you during the festival and its preparations. Include travel arrangements in your itinerary if the festival is out of town, and make sure you’re aware of when you need to arrive to attend rehearsals or other meetings before the festival starts. Last minute lineup or venue changes can happen as weather conditions or cancellations occur before a festival, so mark changes to your itinerary on your copy so you can keep track. You need to always know where to be, when, and why to keep everything running smoothly.

3. Pack Light

Remember the list of equipment from the organizers in step one? The more equipment the organizers provide, the better, because packing light is imperative for DJing summer festivals outdoors. The weather conditions or venue may be hazardous or hard to get to, so you don’t want to have to lug around any more gear than necessary. Make sure you have backups of essential gear (like headphone cables, music storage, or power cables), but don’t go overboard on the “emergency” kit. You’ll need to be mobile, especially if your set is switched to a different time slot at the last minute.

4. Heat/Sun Protection

Summer music festivals may or may not have a covered stage to protect performers from the elements, so you may need to get creative to keep yourself and your equipment cool. If your performance is on an open-air stage during the heat of the day, you may want to invest in a portable shade to cover your equipment and keep yourself out of the sun. Your turntables, laptop, or other DJ equipment can easily overheat in the sun, which can fry electrical components or cause a shutdown. Portable fans are also a necessity if the temperatures climb to dangerous levels.

And don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun! Wear plenty of sunscreen and eye protection, and make sure to drink plenty of water during and after your set.

5. Dust/Dirt Protection

Being outdoors also means that you may have to contend with dust, dirt, or mud, depending on the weather conditions of the festival. Make sure all your equipment is stored in watertight or dustproof cases as you transport it throughout the venue. Consider purchasing dust covers for your laptop, keyboard, or other equipment, as well. You don’t want to be sneezing or fighting through the muck to make sure you can perform.

6. Keep an Eye on Your Stuff

Unfortunately, the fun chaos of music festivals can also lead to some unfortunate consequences. Make sure you keep an eye on your equipment or have trusted helpers with you. Headphones, laptops, and other electronics can easily go missing if left unattended in the wrong area. Your bag should always be on your person, or with a trusted assistant. You don’t want to lose your wallet or be unable to play your set if an essential piece of your equipment goes missing.

7. Promote

Finally, don’t forget to put your name out there before the festival! Summer music festivals are a big deal, so there’s probably tons of social media presence advertising the event. Jump on the hype bandwagon and start letting your audience know that you’ll be there! Make sure you check with the event organizers to see if there are details you’re not allowed to disclose on social media first but otherwise go nuts! Share previews of your set, make an event on Facebook for your time slot and tag the festival pages for maximum visibility. This is your moment to shine!

There’s Nothing Like DJing a Summer Music Festival!

Summer music festivals are exhausting but a whole lot of fun, so embrace the opportunity to perform and have a great time! They take a lot of work to prepare for, so make sure you check out our other Pro DJ tips to make sure you’re ready to rock the music festival. And if you’re really looking to spice up your summer music festival set, check out our custom DJ Drops! There’s nothing like a hyped festival crowd screaming your name, after all!

How to Choose DJ Headphones + 7 Qualities to Look For

Dj headphones

We’ve covered two lists of essential DJ equipment on this blog before. However, observant readers might notice one essential component of every DJ setup was left off. Headphones are a crucial part of every DJ’s equipment list. So crucial, that we decided to cover DJ headphones in more detail in this post.

The options for DJ headphones are vast, and there are many price points and features to choose from. But what is the difference between DJ headphones, studio headphones, and headphones for casual listening? What should a DJ look for when purchasing DJ headphones? And how much should a new DJ spend on headphones? Read on to learn more about DJ headphones, and how to choose the best pair for you.

DJ Headphones vs. Other Headphones

DJ headphones are different than other types of headphones in several ways. DJs use their headphones for many things, including previewing the next part of a set and monitoring the current song. DJ headphones are more sophisticated than regular headphones for a variety of reasons, and they include features exclusive to DJ software and hardware.

The biggest factor that differentiates DJ headphones from other types of headphones is their design. DJ headphones have closed, swivel ear cups, which allow DJs to listen to the next track with one ear while simultaneously matching it to the track that’s already playing through the speakers. Some DJ headphones also have a feature where the DJ can listen to two different tracks in each ear cup. This is known as split cueing. With the press of a button, the DJ can switch back and forth between tracks seamlessly for the best match. Not all DJ headphones have the split cue feature, but it’s a useful one to utilize.

DJ headphones should also have top-notch sound quality, with a focus on bass definition. This is a differentiator between DJ headphones and studio headphones. Studio headphones are designed to provide flat frequency response. This means the headphones don’t provide any kind of enhancement to parts of the track, which allows producers in a studio to fine-tune different parts of a track in post-production. DJ headphones, on the other hand, are designed to isolate sounds, such as bass, so that the DJ can more easily match one track to another for a seamless mix.

Qualities to Look for in DJ Headphones

If you’re looking to get a new pair of DJ headphones, there are a lot of options out there. However, there are several factors you should consider when researching DJ headphones to buy:

Comfort

You’re going to be wearing your DJ headphones for long periods of time. So, first and foremost, your headphones should be comfortable to wear. Make sure the headband has adequate padding, and the ear cups sit comfortably on your ears. If you like to wear your headphones around your neck, they shouldn’t chafe or get caught on your clothes or hair.

Ear Cup Design

Most DJ headphones have an over-ear design, instead of on-ear. This creates a seal around the ear and isolates outside noise, allowing the DJ to hear their mix more clearly. However, some headphones marketed for DJs are more of an on-ear design, so be sure to look closely at product descriptions and photos.

Overall Sound

As we mentioned in the previous section, DJ headphones have different sound profiles and specs than other types of headphones. Specs such as driver diameter, maximum input, sensitivity, and frequency range are all factors that should be considered when determining the kind of sound your headphones will put out. In general, look for something that has a higher input rating (less distortion) and a larger driver diameter better bass) for the best sound for your mix.

Cord Options

Wired or wireless? Spiral or straight cord? The answers to these questions will largely depend on the types of headphones available, and your usual setup. Wired headphones can be more powerful, but Bluetooth wireless headphones are becoming more common and can be easier to move around in crowded venues. Bluetooth has its downsides, though, such as the headphones needing to be recharged. If you play long sets, wireless headphones may not be your best option. Coiled cords can easily get tangled in equipment, so if you’re going with wired headphones, a long, straight cord with plenty of slack would be your best bet.

Durability

Your headphones will take quite a beating if you play a lot of gigs. Wearing them for several hours at a time, carting them to and from venues, and being subjected to sweat, bumps, and falls will all contribute to wear and tear. A good pair of headphones will be able to handle whatever you can throw at them. Look for sturdy construction, thicker headbands, and solid earcups.

Replaceable Parts

Segueing from the last point, even the most durable headphones might need parts replaced every now and then. Being able to replace your cord, ear cups, or other parts will extend the life of your headphones and make your life easier. Purchase a backup set of replacement parts and keep them in your DJ bag for emergencies.

Price

The final point to consider when purchasing DJ headphones is the cost and your budget. There are headphones available at multiple price points, but there are pros and cons to each one. In general, more expensive headphones will give you better quality and better specs, but if you’re a new DJ, you may not want to shell out the cash for a nice pair of headphones. Consider how often you’ll be using them, your experience, and your budget to determine which price range is best for your situation.

Final Thoughts

There are many brands of DJ headphones out there, and each DJ will have their own personal preferences when it comes to style, price, and specs. We hope that this guide has helped you learn more about the types of DJ headphones, and what to look for when you do your own research.

Whatever headphones you choose, we’re sure your set is going to be absolutely killer. And don’t forget about your other DJ essential—DJ Drops! A custom DJ Drop with your DJ name will get the crowd screaming so loud you’ll be able to hear them through your noise-isolating headphones. Get in touch with NYE Countdown to order today!

The Extended DJ Equipment Guide – 5 More Tips for New DJs

Extended DJ Equipment Guide

In our previous post, we discussed the basic equipment every beginner DJ should be familiar with. To recap: every DJ needs to select an audio source and choose which DJ software to use. They also need to choose their turntable, mixer, and/or controller and have a backup storage method for their audio. This equipment will get any DJ started with mixing music.

However, when performing a gig at a venue, a DJ often needs more DJ equipment than just the basics. New DJs may not realize how much else goes into making a DJ look and sound their best during a performance. Never fear, Pro DJs. As part two of our comprehensive guide to DJ equipment, the following is a list of some commonly overlooked equipment that is needed at most gigs. At the end of this post, we’ll also go over a list of non-equipment, but still essential items that every DJ should bring to their gigs.

Speakers/PA System

Chances are, if you’re playing at a bar or club, they will have a sound system your laptop or other equipment will plug into. However, if your gig is at an outdoor venue or another site that isn’t used to hosting DJs, you may need to bring your own speakers and PA system.

Your speaker rig will depend largely on the size of the venue and the size of the audience. It also will depend on how much money you can invest into the setup and how portable you need it to be. You’ll want to do your research on your options and determine what you need, but here is a basic rundown.

You can get all-in-one PA systems that include a mixing board, amplifier, subwoofer, and speakers. Most also include a couple of other items later in this list, including microphones, adapters, and cables. An all-in-one system is going to be more expensive and difficult to cart around, but it will include everything you need for most gigs.

PA systems are either battery-powered or include an AC adapter, so you’ll want to decide which setup you need. JBL, Yamaha, and Bose make some quality PA systems with a variety of price points, portability, and other features.

You can also get components of a PA system separately to maximize the quality of your setup or eliminate items that you don’t need. At a minimum, a DJ should have a quality subwoofer and speakers that are compatible with their DJ equipment setup. Bose, Behringer, and Yamaha are some top brands for speakers that you can investigate.

Microphone

If your PA system doesn’t come with a microphone, you’ll want a good quality mic to go with your setup. DJs do a surprising amount of talking during their sets, and you’ll want to be heard over the music and general noise of the venue. Cheaper microphones generally have poorer sound quality, so this is one purchase you shouldn’t skimp on if you want good quality sound.

Most DJs will use a condenser-style microphone with a unidirectional pickup pattern. Condenser microphones are durable and portable while still providing good quality sound. Unidirectional audio pickup means the microphone will only pick up sound in the direction it’s pointed towards while muting the sound around it.

You can choose either a wired or wireless microphone for your DJ rig. Keep in mind the types of venues that you play, and your overall setup to determine which microphone is right for you. Shure and Audio-Technica have a variety of both wired and wireless microphones.

Adapters and Cables

Typically when you purchase your PA system, microphone, or mixing equipment, the cables and adapters needed will be included. However, it’s always a good idea to have backup cables and adapters, in case something goes missing or is damaged.

In general, a DJ will be dealing with cables such as RCA, digital-optical, XLR, USB, ethernet, firewire, and more. Become familiar with the cables and inputs your equipment requires and purchase extra cables to keep in an “emergency kit” with your gig supplies.

Lighting

Most venues are adequately lit for the proper mood, especially bars and clubs. But if you’re a wedding DJ, or you’re DJing an outdoor event, you will likely need to bring your own lighting rig. Dynamic lighting for the dance floor or stage sets the mood, energizes the crowd, and provides adequate lighting to your setup. It’s a little hard to mix music in the dark, after all!

A basic lighting setup for a DJ will include a lighting stand and some general PAR lights that shine over the crowd with an array of colors. Most lighting setups can be controlled digitally, set on a timer, or synchronized to the music for maximum effect. Depending on your venue, you may also want to invest in up lights that cast a color wash onto walls, or floodlights to provide vast swathes of light over the crowd. Keep in mind, you don’t want to blind your audience. You also want to be able to see what you’re doing! So don’t forget to light your table.

Table

Speaking of a table, this item is often overlooked, but a good table for your equipment is essential for mobile DJs. Clubs and bars will usually have a setup for you already, but outdoor venues or small parties might not have a table they can spare. A sturdy, portable table is essential to have in case you need it to set up your equipment. You can go as simple as a folding table or get a rolling DJ booth that has more room for your wires and equipment. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to determine how comfortable you’ll be standing at the table for hours at a time.

Non-Equipment Checklist

Now that you have all your equipment and a table to put things on, our final mini list in this comprehensive guide to DJ equipment is a checklist of essential, non-equipment items. Some of this may seem obvious, but it’s a good idea to have this list printed out or in your phone’s notes before a gig. This way you can check off items as you pack for your performance, and you won’t forget anything.

  • Keys and Wallet
  • Phone and Charger
  • Emergency Kit (Water, Snacks, Medication)
  • Change of Clothes (You’ll probably be sweating and may want to change before heading home.)
  • Toiletries (Deodorant, Gum, Toothbrush, etc.)
  • Earplugs (Protect your hearing!)
  • Business Cards (You never know when networking opportunities might arise.)
  • Flashlight (For those dark venues!)
  • Tool Kit (Screwdriver, Pliers, Electrical Tape, etc.)
  • Cable Management (Keep the “cord spaghetti” under control to avoid tripping.)

Break A Leg, Pro DJ! 

We hope this guide has been helpful to you as you continue your journey to becoming a pro DJ! These two lists just barely scratch the surface, and you’ll likely need to do more research on the types of equipment you want to use. However, we hope that this guide will give you a starting point in your research, so that you may flourish when it comes time to perform your first few gigs!

If you want to make your set even more special, consider a custom DJ Drop from NYE Countdown to get the crowd bumping and to make sure everyone knows your name. Get in touch with us or browse our shop for a complete list of products to make your set sound amazing!

The Essential DJ Equipment Guide: 4 Easy Tips for Beginner DJs

Beginners Guide to DJ Equipment

To the average person, a DJ is someone who shows up to a gig and plays some music. What the average person doesn’t know is how much equipment is needed to simply “play some music”. DJs spend a lot of time perfecting their craft, and a lot of money on the proper equipment, too.

If you’re new to DJing, ensuring you have the right DJ equipment can be intimidating. There are a lot of choices out there, and it’s not always easy to know what you should buy so you can start producing music and practicing for your first gig.

If you’re wondering where to start with your equipment list, look no further. Below is our handy beginner’s guide for essential DJ equipment.

Audio Source

Your audio source is the most important component of your DJ setup. You have three choices when it comes to your music library: vinyls, CDs, or digital files. Your choice of how you store your music will determine the rest of your DJ equipment setup, too. So, let’s break down the types.

For the purists, vinyl is the way to go. It’s the original medium of choice for the DJ pioneers of the industry. In a vinyl setup, you get your music from vinyl records and control the output with two turntables and an analog mixer. This setup is the classic one that most people think about when they imagine a DJ.

However, for new DJs, vinyl is not without its obstacles. The medium is fairly limited in its capabilities. There isn’t a lot of music available on vinyl anymore, as more artists go digital-only. Vinyl records are expensive and prone to damage, as well. If you want an extensive music library in vinyl, you’ll need to shell out hundreds of dollars (or potentially thousands) to build your ideal setlist.

CD Decks replaced vinyl turntables around the mid-2000s and are the second option for a DJ’s audio source. The setup for using CDs is like a vinyl turntable, with dual CD players surrounding an analog mixer. CD decks also allow you to play burned CDs with mp3s on them, which allows you a larger music selection. Used CD decks are also affordable, but CDs also fall victim to the same technical limitations as vinyl, as well as being impractical to carry.

The final and most popular audio source for modern DJs is a digital library and DJ mixing software. With this, your main piece of equipment is a laptop loaded with your DJ software of choice. Your music files are all at your fingertips either saved to the computer or via an external hard drive. This setup is by far the most versatile and cost-effective since you technically don’t need anything else except a sound system to plug into. You can theoretically control your mix directly with your mouse and keyboard.

However, using your mouse isn’t ideal, and there are other pieces of equipment you can buy that will control the software on your PC for you. With a digital library, you have an infinite number of songs available to you to mix. You can also take full advantage of digital effects and other mastering techniques that are difficult or impossible with physical music mediums.

DJ Software

For digital DJs, the bulk of your mixing capabilities lies in which DJ software you use. In short, DJ software are programs that mimic a vinyl or CD deck, but with more flexibility and features. Most allow you to mix more than two tracks at once and offer a variety of control features that old-school DJs once needed expensive mixing systems to use.

There are many DJ programs on the market at a variety of price points and features. For the true DJ on a budget, or someone just starting out, a free software like Mixxx has a good offering of features. You can test out how to blend tracks and add effects, and it even integrates with iTunes for easy access to your music library. Virtual DJ Home also offers a free version of its paid software, but you can only use it via your keyboard and mouse. It doesn’t allow you to hook up an external controller or mixer, so it isn’t ideal for long-term use or professional gigs.

In the mid-range price point are programs like Cross DJ and djay pro AI. For under $100 you can sink your teeth into a fuller range of mixing features. Explore transitions, multiple tracks, and utilize external audio interfaces and controllers for a more professional-quality sound.

For the serious DJ, you might want to consider shelling out a little more money for a top-of-the-line DJ software that has all the bells and whistles you could want. Serato DJ Pro, Rekordbox, and Traktor Pro 3 are some of the most popular premium options. They boast a wide array of features, and some even have digital cloud services to store your music library for ease of use on the go. Whichever DJ software you choose, be sure to do your research into the pros and cons of each choice.

Turntables, Mixers, and Controllers

Mixers, turntables, and controllers are important pieces of DJ equipment that are related to one another but have different capabilities. Each DJ, depending on their audio source, will need a custom setup of these items. In short, turntables, mixers, and controllers all allow a DJ to control the music. They help add effects, stabilize EQ, crossfade tracks, and more.

Turntables and mixers go hand in hand and are both integral for an analog DJ setup. Turntables are the vinyl or CD players that DJs use to “spin” their records. In the mid-90s, Hip Hop DJs gave birth to a style of sound effects called “turntablism” or “scratching”. They would move the record back and forth on the turntable to allow the needle to scratch the vinyl and create sound effects. This is what most people think of when they think of a DJ.

Mixers are devices that plug into turntables, digital controller systems, or other audio inputs to allow DJs to blend tracks together. They have a series of knobs and sliders on them to control EQ, levels, effects, and more. Mixers are useful for their versatility, and they give a DJ the greatest control over their set.

Controllers take the best of both worlds of turntables and mixers and converts their capabilities to a digital format. A controller connects to a laptop and allows a DJ to control their DJ software right from the controller. You can use a controller to queue tracks, add effects, and everything that a turntable and mixer setup can do, plus more capabilities that are only available for digital DJs.

Backups

Finally, for your first gig, you don’t want to forget the most important thing: backups for your music library. You never know what can happen when you get to a venue, so you’ll want to have multiple formats for your library so you’ll always have something to play. For analog DJs, make sure you have a way to store your vinyls or CDs and keep a backup set in your equipment bag just in case something gets damaged in transit. You may also want to consider having a digital setup as well in case your venue doesn’t have the proper hookups for your analog gear.

Digital DJs will want to make sure their music library is saved in multiple locations, preferably on a few physical hard drives in case of internet failure. Save backups of your setlist on flash drives, external hard drives, and to your laptop itself so you’ll be prepared for whatever life throws your way.

You’re Just Getting Started

Your DJ journey is likely just beginning. Hopefully, this guide will help you select your equipment and give you the tools you need to get started. In our next blog, we’ll cover some more advanced pieces of DJ equipment, plus an emergency kit that every DJ should have for their gigs. Stay tuned!

Want to really sound like a pro DJ? Check out our custom DJ drops to add to your sets.

DJ Audio Branding: 3 Memorable Techniques to Make Your Sound Stand Out

DJ Audio Branding Visual Branding

So, we’ve covered branding yourself and self-promotion as a DJ on this blog before. But there are a lot of different ways you can take your branding to the next level. Modern DJs don’t just play music; they are master producers, editors, and most importantly, digital musicians. Creating a public persona is just one step in the artistic and marketing journey of a DJ. Audio branding is the next step.

You can create a public image or brand with marketing and visuals. But DJs are in the business of sound. How you sound, what your music is like, and how your audience reacts emotionally are as important as visual marketing. A DJ could have the best visual presentation in the world—they could look cool, have a cool website and eye-catching videos—but if their sound is poor? Well, if their music doesn’t reach their audience, then they might struggle to stand out from the crowd.

Sound is one of the quickest ways to evoke emotion in an audience. Musicians and producers are no strangers to this fact. We can all remember the first time a song moved us, made us cry or laugh, or filled us with rage. Music and sound are powerful and evocative, and as a DJ you can use these emotions to your advantage in your marketing. There are three major techniques DJs can take advantage of to market themselves via audio:

  1. Overall Sound Branding
  2. Audio Tags and DJ Drops
  3. Sound Logos (Also Known as Sonic Branding)

We’ll go into more detail throughout this blog.

Overall Sound Branding – Creating a Unique and Memorable Sound

Most DJs are in more than just the business of mixing other artists’ tracks together. Often, DJs double as music producers. They’ll throw their own spin onto existing tracks or create entirely new sounds. If your DJ career is based primarily on music production, you can utilize specific techniques to brand yourself via your music itself.

There are a couple of producers who make the overall sound of their music part of their “brand.” Imanbek, for example, uses a particular style of synthesizer in his remixes. Listeners can immediately recognize him, even if the song is unfamiliar.. Check out a couple of his songs, you’ll see what I mean:

Aviicii too, did this well. His use of a particular synthesizer and keyboard are instantly recognizable:

Even the artist Skrillex you can pick out of a crowd for his trademark wobble bass that defined the dubstep genre in the early 2010s:

Your genre will define some of your sound profile, but other factors can inform your stylistic choices. Think about what you want your audience to feel when they hear your music. Elated? Euphoric? Zen? Energetic? Tranquil? Think about what kinds of instruments or sounds you could use to evoke those feelings. Then you can experiment with different sounds until you create a signature “brand” to your music that’s instantly identifiable to the listener.

Audio Tags and DJ Drops – A Quick Way to Spread Your Name

Another way DJs can use sound to brand themselves is through audio tags or DJ Drops. You’ve probably heard a DJ at a live show drop a pre-recorded “you’re listening to DJ XYZ” or “make some noise for DJ ABC”. These quick audio bites identify the DJ for listeners and can easily become part of a DJ’s overall brand.

DJ Khaled is a great example of this method. His taglines “DJ Khaled”, “anotha one”, and “we the best” are evident in nearly every song he produces. These tags also extend to other mediums, like collaborations and commercials.

All three of DJ Khaled’s tags are present in the beginning of this collaboration with Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, & Lil Wayne

Other music artists do this too. Think Pitbull’s “Mr. Worldwide” slogan, or Jason Derulo crooning his name at the beginning of every song. The sounds might be different, but the goal is the same; identify the artist to the listener even if they’re not listening to the music live.

DJ Drops don’t necessarily have to be your DJ name, either, although that’s the most common. Take DJ Khaled’s examples above. His variety of DJ Drops and audio tags make it so that even when he’s featured in a collaboration, he’s identifiable to the listener without having to draw attention to his name.

You can use just about any phrase as a DJ Drop. Again, think about what kind of feeling you want to evoke in your audience. Go back to your overall image as a DJ, maybe your logo or a particular style you want to emulate. Whatever you choose, feel free to get creative! Then you can record your drops yourself in your voice or have a professional voice-over artist produce them for you. Once you have the drops recorded, you can use them just about anywhere to increase your recognition.

Want some inspiration? You can check out NYE Countdown’s custom DJ Drops in our store.

Sound Logos – How Sonic Branding Can Take Your Production to the Next Level

One of the most under-utilized areas of audio branding is referred to as sonic branding or sound logos. Their name isn’t very well-known, but you’ve definitely heard examples before. The best way to describe a sound logo or sonic brand is as a sound that plays in conjunction with a visual logo to create a lasting image in the viewer’s head of the brand.

Still not sure what I mean?

When you see McDonald’s golden arches, do you find yourself humming the “ba-da-ba-ba-ba” that comes before their “I’m Lovin’ It” tagline?

Do you get instantly ready for a binge-watching marathon when you hear the “tudum” that plays as the Netflix logo loads on your smart TV?

 Or are you excited to hear about the latest crime dramas when you hear the “dun-dun” of Law and Order?

All the above are examples of sound logos used in conjunction with a visual logo. They’re quick sound bites, usually a couple of seconds or less, that evoke an emotion or mood and remind the listener of the visual that goes along with it. Sound logos are so powerful that just hearing them alone after creating the association is enough to have an effect on the listener.

DJs can use sound logos along with their visual logo to create a similar effect that these major brands use. This is where you can get creative. Play around with an animated logo and time a synth swell with your logo fading into the screen. Use an instrumental trill with your logo flashing to get your crowd hyped for your set. The choices are yours but combining your visual logo with sound is a great way to cement your DJ brand into the minds of your listeners. It’s also a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd. Sonic branding is powerful and evocative, and it will make your DJ brand unique.

Your Brand Identity is Calling

Whatever you choose to enhance your DJ brand, audio is a logical way to do it. By putting in a little effort now, you can send your image into the stratosphere with a memorable sound that sets you apart from other DJs. Combine an overall sound profile, DJ Drops or audio tags, and an audio logo along with your visual logo and you’ve got the perfect recipe for some memorable sets. So go forth and create! Maybe you’ll be the next name I hear on the radio.

DJ Persona: 3 Easy Steps to Start Self-Promoting

Female DJ Mixing

Let’s say you’ve been DJing for a while. You’re good at your craft and have somewhat of a following, but you would like to lift your DJ brand and persona to new heights. This is where self-promotion comes in. Major companies and big artists have a team of marketers to help spread their product and connect with other creatives in the field. But if you’re a small-time creator, you have to play the marketing game all on your own.

Fortunately, the internet makes it easier than ever to self-promote, connect, and win fans and collaborations. However, there are a couple key things to keep in mind if you want to market yourself successfully as an artist. Not only do you have to have vision and a brand that sets you apart from everyone else, but you need to have a strategy for online communications and networking. What works for each individual artist is a little bit different, but these are the three starting points that will help launch your career into the stratosphere.

Step One: Crafting Your Persona

The first step to successful self-promotion is to determine what your overall image is going to be. You need a hook­–something that makes you stand out from the crowd. This can be the hardest part, so don’t be afraid to experiment! Work towards the vision you set out for yourself and have the willingness to fail along the way. A passionate work ethic will push challenges you may face into progress during your journey. Having a unique personality and stage presence is attractive to potential fans and promoters. Knowing your purpose and expressing your passion through your work creates a persona that reaches a larger audience and gains recognition overall.

DJ Khaled is a great example of this! DJ Khaled is a self-made producer that would bounce around hotels in Orlando, Florida before he made it big. Soon after, he was acknowledged nationwide by giving back to schools and organizations in the Orlando community.  His persona centers around happiness and spreading loving energy throughout the world, primarily through social media. Speaking of, a unique personality stands out on social media, and utilizing online spaces is often how successful DJs market their personality to the masses.

Step Two: Online Presence

Now that you have a cohesive image and a recognizable brand, it’s time to create an online presence for yourself. Having quality content and engaging with audiences on social media is the number one way you can market yourself as an artist. You can connect with fans and other creative professionals in the music industry and show off your skills online. And all it takes is one hit song or one video to go viral and BAM! You’ve got reach! But going viral won’t happen overnight; it takes a lot of work to build your presence and fan base first. Spreading yourself far and wide online is the key to masterful self-promotion.

Social Media

If you don’t have a professional social media presence, now is the time to create one.  Social media is where most people spend their time online these days, so you’ll need to be where the fans are. Build your following on multiple platforms and connect with your fans. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, TikTok, and Youtube all have their pros and cons, but the number one rule across all of them? Engaging content.

Build your following by telling your personal story on social media. Show off your work and stay true to your brand and persona that you developed in step one. Be authentic, but above all else, you want to draw attention. And the number one way to draw attention on social media is to engage.

Interact with other accounts and your followers to keep people coming back to your page. Post upcoming events, mixes, news, merchandise, and other creative content. Improve your reach by jumping on industry trends and interacting not only with your followers, but with other DJs as well. You can create challenges or participate in challenges created by others. Comment on other DJs’ content and reply to your fans! Interacting with content is a great way to increase your reach organically, and without having to pay for pricey advertising.

Finally, don’t forget about the power of video! TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms and posting promotional videos or previews of your mixes or shows is an easy way to gain followers and fans. TikTok doesn’t necessarily need flashy, produced videos, but professional-looking cinematography certainly doesn’t hurt you either. Keep your videos short and engaging and lean into your persona that you’ve crafted to keep up with your image. Adding an engaging call to action at the end of a video can also be a way to get viewers to remember your brand. Ask them to visit your website, follow your socials, or check out your next event on Facebook.

Website

While social media is where a lot of the magic happens, you don’t want to skimp on a website. A professionally designed website will go far in making you appear legitimate, and you can present other types of content on a professional website more easily than you can on social media.

Your website often will be the first thing your audience will find when they put your handle in a search engine. Link to your website on social media, and make sure it’s well-designed, clean, and full of good content. Post your vision, brand, good quality photos, your best mixes, upcoming gigs, and merchandise options on your website. An Electronic Press Kit (EPK) groups these segments on your website to display information about you and your music career. Adding this will allow you to reach viewers outside of your existing network and give promoters, organizers, and future fans a quick synopsis on who you are and what you are all about.

Step Three: Networking

Now that you have a persona and an online presence to back it up, you can start building relationships with others. Networking is the most effective skill for DJs to promote their talent. You need to have the skills to pay the bills; however, networking your brand and persona is essential to building your audience. It is important to have a professional approach when networking as a DJ because it can be easy to sound desperate. If you build a relationship with promoters and organizers first, it will increase your chances of being able to perform onstage when you ask.

Networking topics to help build professional relationships:

1. “My fans are discussing your upcoming event and I wanted to find out more.”

2. “I’m following your social media accounts and I’d love to find a way to collaborate with you.”

If you’re looking to promote yourself, you’ll need to provide value in having other industry professionals work with you. They likely want to promote their own brand. Being able to set yourself apart from others is key to landing  the opportunity to collaborate. Remember the engagement you’re doing on social media? Start by connecting with other artists there, and you can use it as a springboard when talking with promoters or other industry professionals. “Check out my work on TikTok with So-and-So.”

Collaborating with other DJs is a win-win situation that will gain both you and your colleague exposure to a wider network. Partnerships also allow you to break into new markets and find more ways you can better yourself as a DJ. You can always learn something from other artists. You can also connect with your community to find out what your city has to offer in terms of DJ opportunities. Other artists in the community can help you discover opportunities, such as weddings, clubs, and other venues.

Now Climb the Ladder!

Self-promotion is a long, hard, never-ending road, but learning how to market yourself is the key to becoming successful in the industry. The more you practice at it, the better you’ll get, and the more easily you’ll be able to find collaboration opportunities.

Use these three strategies to get you started, and don’t be afraid to experiment along the way. Some things you try may fail and others may succeed, but as long as you keep trying, you’ll get to where you want to be.

Apply a diverse collection of celebrity, custom, and pre-produced DJ drops to your track list to make your work stand out even more. Check them out in our store.

6 Important EDM Subgenres DJs Should Know

DJ Playing EDM

Electronic Dance Music, or better known as EDM has dominated the club and party scene for years. EDM is not a genre in and of itself, but rather an umbrella term for electronically produced music of many different styles. It can encompass everything from dance beats to ambient, chill-out music. The only similarities between the different styles of EDM are how they are produced and their technical elements. Many styles of EDM use bass synthesizers, drum machines and other inorganic sounds. These elements characterize EDM as a whole.

EDM emerged in the mid-1980s as music technology became readily available for artists to use. It expanded internationally in the 90s and has continued to grow into a wide array of genres and subgenres. These genres evolve continuously as DJs and producers blend, remix, and rehash different sounds into new combinations.

As a new DJ starting out, you might wonder which genre you should work with or where to even begin. This handy guide will walk you through some of the most popular EDM subgenres and give you an overview of the history, sound, influences, and popular artists of each genre.

House

House music originated in Chicago’s underground club scene in the early to mid-1980s. DJs of the time mixed the soaring 70s disco vocals with synth and electronic production. These new sounds exploded across the country and around the world. Today, it’s one of the most dominant genres of EDM, with many subgenres characterized by their own unique sounds and production styles.

Classic house is characterized by 4/4 kick drum rhythms, funky basslines, and sampled soulful vocals. These sounds are designed to get you up on the floor dancing the night away, and house is still quite popular in clubs. Notable subgenres include acid house, deep house, progressive house, and electro house. 

BPM: 115-130

Notable Artists: Frankie Knuckles, Larry Heard, Daft Punk, Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Avicii

Trance

Trance dominated the EDM scene for many years, although it has waned in popularity over the last decade. Originating in the German club scene in the late 80s and early 90s, trance is characterized by soaring melodies, long build-ups, and a slightly faster tempo than House. Tracks are usually instrumental, but can have dreamy, usually female vocals that don’t follow a typical verse-chorus structure.

The mood of trance is usually euphoric, getting its inspiration from and hitting its heyday in the ecstasy-fueled raves of the mid-90s. Light and airy. Its popularity has given way to harder styles in recent years, it’s still easy listening and upbeat to dance to. Trance also has several subgenres, including vocal trance that contains more structured vocals, and psychedelic trance.

BPM: 135-150

Notable Artists: Armin Van Buurin, Paul Van Dyk, Paul Okenfold, Tiesto

Techno

Techno was born out of the predominantly African American music scene in Detroit in the mid-80s. Although techno has earlier roots in disco and funk from the 70s. Influenced by Kraftwerk, the four on the floor rhythms of techno, really hit its stride once it made its way overseas. Like house music, techno found a home in European clubs, and in 1988, UK journalist Neil Rushton released a music compilation record titled Techno! (The New Dance Sound of Detroit). From there, “Detroit Techno” was put on the map, becoming a staple of European rave culture for many years.

Primarily instrumental, techno is characterized by pounding beats and a repetitive sound meant to be the base of a DJ’s set, blending seamlessly from one track into the next. Futuristic sounds have always been part of techno’s signature sound and are what set it apart from other genres. It has also given birth to several subgenres and spinoffs, such as digital hardcore, acid techno, and even trance.

BPM: 120-150

Notable Artists: Kraftwerk, Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, Nina Kraviz, Aphex Twin, Carl Cox

Garage

Also known as UK Garage (and pronounced ‘Garridge’ like the British pronunciation), Garage developed out of house in Europe in the mid-1990s. The term’s use in the U.S. was coined from the eclectic playlist of New York’s popular gay club “Paradise Garage”. However, the genre itself developed more from its’ UK roots. A faster tempo than house music, the 4/4 beat of the early influences of Garage became too fast to dance to, so DJs dropped every other beat to create “speed garage”, and eventually 2-step Garage.

Garage has other influences in Drum and Bass, Jungle, Hip Hop, and other genres, making it a blend of many different sounds. It’s mostly characterized by syncopated drums with shuffled rhythms and pitch-shifted vocals. The mid-2000s to early 2010s brought about other subgenres and derivative genres, such as dubstep, bassline, and grime.

BPM: 128-140

Notable Artists: MJ Cole, Zed Bias, Ms. Dynamite, Disclosure

Dubstep

Speaking of Garage subgenres, Dubstep has become its own notable and popular subgenre to the point it’s essentially a full genre of its own. Dubstep evolved from Garage and 2-step in the early 2000s, slowly increasing in popularity in Europe and beyond up through the later half of the decade. Spreading mainly through the internet, dubstep became a dominant cultural phenomenon in the pop music scene thanks to American artists like Skrillex in the early 2010s. Its’ trademark sounds even made their way into top-charting pop hits.

Defined by its’ characteristic “wobble-bass” and darker tone and rhythms, Dubstep uses a lot of different sounds for complex, layered tracks. There aren’t a lot of vocals involved in most dubstep, with producers sticking mainly to samples they edit nearly beyond recognition. The wildly popular American variety of dubstep has evolved into a subgenre of its own called brostep, but as of 2021 dubstep’s popularity has decreased substantially.

BPM: 138-142

Notable Artists: Skrillex, Zomboy, Knife Party, Krewella, Flux Pavilion

Drum and Bass

Drum and Bass, often stylized as Drum ‘n’ Bass or simply DnB, originated from the early 90s UK rave scene. Heavily emphasizing—you guessed it, drums and basslines—the genre was influenced by breakbeat and jungle tracks, as well as Jamaican styles such as dub and reggae. DnB reached peak popularity across Europe in the mid to late-90s but started to dwindle towards the start of the new millennium. However, it still has a strong niche audience and core set of artists, and its sound makes for a fantastic dance floor atmosphere.

Syncopation is the name of the game for DnB, with rolling basslines and sampled drum breakbeats making up the core part of its’ sound. The most influential track in DnB history was 1969’s “Amen Brother” by The Winstons. The 7-second-long drum breakbeat known as the “Amen break” has been widely sampled throughout the genre, providing the backbone to its’ sound as a whole. Multiple sampled breakbeats in the same track are common, the artist switching back and forth between them to create complex, syncopated rhythms.  DnB has evolved into multiple subgenres with different tones and conventions, such as darkstep, liquid funk, jump-up, and techstep.

BPM: 160-180

Notable Artists: Pendulum, Noisia, Andy C, Netsky

The Evolving EDM Landscape

This is by no means an exhaustive list of every genre and subgenre of EDM. The musical landscape of EDM continues to evolve and grow, giving way to new sounds and blends of existing genres until they transform into something new. There are hundreds of styles out there, each just waiting to be discovered. New DJs should listen to many genres and experiment with their own sound to figure out what style of mixing or producing they want to do. You can take the time to craft your own unique sound and style, learning from those who came before. And just have fun with it! You never know, you could help to create the next big sound in EDM.

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