Top 51 biggest DJ mistakesCommon DJ mistakes and how to avoid them
We write all the time about how to improve and become a better DJ.
But there are a host of ways DJs make mistakes, ruin their set-lists, annoy their audience and lose credibility. Don’t be one of those DJs!
So with this in mind we’ve put together a huge list of common DJ mistakes and how you can avoid them.
I’ve put them in the order you might experience them, from preparing for gigs, during the night and mistakes DJs make after the gig is over too.
Do you make any of these DJ mistakes? Read on and fix your DJ mistakes today!
- Only DJ-ing one genre
- Buying budget gear
- Buying overly complicated gear
- Not branding yourself well
- Not getting your name out there
- Not being able to beat match
- Not learning other methods of deck controller
- Not trying 4 deck mixing
- Thinking 4 deck mixing is important
- Not looking after your DJ gear properly
- Turning down gigs you think are beneath you
- Not being prepared for anything
- Not knowing your music library
- Getting too comfortable with your skill level
- Playing gigs for free
- Not sound checking before a gig
- Not understanding how sound systems are set up
- Not preparing enough set lists
- Not turning up on time
- Not learning how to use other DJ software
- Not having a unique selling point
- Drinking alcohol
- Thinking you deserve an entourage
- Bad volume settings
- Letting nerves get the better of you
- Wrong track at the wrong time
- Taking requests
- Not reading the crowd
- Playing the same playlist over and over
- Being a perfectionist
- Not using the EQ settings properly
- Mixing with too many effects
- Not playing to your strengths
- Not having backups at hand
- Not adding variety to your gigs
- Not respecting your client
- Letting your ego run away with you
- Not interacting with the crowd
- Not resetting your EQ and effect controls after a mix
- Stopping the wrong deck
- Copying another DJ's style
- Not utilising harmonic mixing (mixing with keys)
- Performing indecisive transitions
- Being too critical
- Not enjoying yourself!
- Not networking enough
- Not helping other DJs
- Not investing in new hardware
- Not setting yourself goals
- Not respecting other DJs
- Not striving to improve
Plenty of DJs do this one. Focussing too much on one musical genre will not only make you a bad DJ but stifle your creativity too. Because one musical genre tends to use the same predictable patterns that wont teach you anything new and improve your DJ skills.
While you may become known for one musical genre, especially if you’re a club DJ, there is a lot to learn from other genres that will improve your mixing.
Try different tempos of music, genres with different swing patterns and structures that differ to the genre you play out the most. You don’t have to do this in your sets, although its fun to throw in a few curve-balls from time to time.
If you just do it in your home studio you’ll improve your DJ-ing immensely. You’ll also learn more about music production and the nuances within each track. You never know it might even open some new doors for you if you can master multiple genres that suit different clubs.
I’ve seen this a thousand times and it only ever ends badly. Its a common mistake because people think they can cut corners by not investing in industry quality DJ gear.
Don’t make this mistake, you’re much better off saving your pennies and buying high quality gear than wasting money on low quality budget hardware that no club would be seen dead using.
You need to learn to DJ on the gear that professionals use. So invest wisely and it’ll pay you back in the future.
Having said the above its very important to note that not industry standard DJ decks, controllers and mixers are built equally. They often have specific uses and suit different musical styles and DJ styles in different ways.
There’s no point in you investing in complex scratch mixing decks and mixers when you’re not a scratch mixer. Even if you think they look cool!
Understand the music you like to play and the venues you’re likely to play it in. Find the leading industry standard DJ gear that best aligns with your style and venues. Then learn how to use it inside out.
You don’t need some 8 channel monster of a mixer if your preferred approach is 2 deck mixing and light use of loop samples. You’re only adding more chances that you could make a mistake if there’s more faders, buttons and dials to adjust.
Nobody is impressed because you have the most nobs… trust me.
You’re not just a DJ. You’re a self employed musical entertainment provider! Having the skills behind the decks is all very well but you’d be surprised how many DJs don’t realise that getting paid to DJ requires marketing and branding.
Pick a memorable name, have a unique logo, make sure you’re on social media and have a website too. People will want to look you up, find your contact details and be able to book you!
Every gig is a marketing opportunity, but its all for nothing if you don’t have “brand you” in place. Hand out business cards, get your name in front of the right people and pay attention to how you brand is received. its all vitally important if you want your DJ career to succeed.
Ever wondered why you’re such a great DJ but not getting any gigs? Maybe its poor branding thats hurting your chances.
This one goes hand in hand with the DJ mistake above, but rather than just having great branding you must know how to market yourself, and not just once but all the time!
It’s shocking how many great DJs don’t know how to market themselves, or make poor marketing choices that reduce their appeal to clubs, venues and potential clients.
It’s not just a case of sharing your name with others. You need to make sure there’s momentum behind your marketing.
This means repeated, focussed and strategic marketing campaigns. Whether you’re utilising services like Mixcloud to create an ongoing channel of your finest mixes, or you’re blogging about your DJ career and recent gigs. Its all important marketing that can land you more gigs.
Don’t just buy decks, learn to DJ and expect gigs to find you. Or even think that your current frequency of gigs is going to last. If the pandemic has taught us anything its that marketing is an amazing tool even when you can’t get out and DJ.
Don’t make the mistake of not marketing yourself constantly.
The debate rages on about this one and has done for many years. While there’s always excuses as to why the sync button should be used, the bottom line is this.
If you don’t know how to beat match it will one day ruin your DJ set.
There, i’ve said it. One day the sync button will fail you. You DJ hardware will for some reason not be able to lock BPMs. Or a track will be poorly analysed for BPM. Or a host of other reasons why you just cant rely on the sync system or any BPM counter.
It takes some time to master but beat-matching is one of the most rewarding skills a DJ can master. When you get those two tracks playing perfectly in sync without the need for software or hardware to do it for you. Well then you’re a proper DJ!
Make use of our extensive article on why you should learn to beat match and how to do it. Study, try it, experience the joy of beat matching.
Don’t be one of those corner-cutting DJs that can’t mix without beat-matching. Even if you use the sync button you’ll one day rely on those beat-matching skills you mastered.
So you’re a whizz with digital audio files huh? Well done!
- But can you DJ with vinyl turntables?
- Do you know how to DJ with CDs?
- Have you tried a completely different deck controller setup?
Don’t make the easy DJ mistake of thinking you can get away with just mastering one DJ discipline. One day you might turn up at a venue that expects you to work with time-coded vinyl records on a pair of Technics turntables. Or you could arrive to find there’s a technical issue and CD decks are all they have tonight.
Are you going to let them down? Or rise to the occasion because you learnt how to DJ on all types of DJ decks?
Be the better DJ and don’t make the mistake many new DJs do. Learn how to be an all-rounder, confident to DJ on anything.
I bet you love DJing on those 2 cute decks you have. A whizz with the crossfader huh? Subtly mixing one track in to another.
Pah! What about DJing with 4 decks!? And not just 4 but potentially mixing all 4 at the same time!
Sound daunting? You’re damn right. But what a rush to pull it off!
These days DJ-ing isn’t just about fading one track seamlessly in to another. You can do so much more!
Learn to DJ with loop samples, playing on multiple decks at the same time. Apply filters and effects and master the art of producing your own remixed tracks on the fly. Its an incredible rush and you’ll realise you don’t need to rely on simply playing tracks from start to finish. You can now create your own sounds and remix live in front of your audience.
Proof you can 4 deck mix virtually anywhere, including a boat. Check this 4 deck mix out.
Actually learning to 4 deck mix isn’t that difficult. Its just more intensive a DJ-ing experience, but the creativity of having 4 loops playing is incredible.
Take your DJ skills to the next level. Don’t just rely on 2 decks for the rest of your DJ-ing career.
This one might surprise you given how I just sold you the awesomeness of 4 deck mixing.
The problem is DJs often make the mistake of thinking bigger is better.
Some DJs like to inflate their ego (and maybe their manhood) by thinking they’re so much cooler than everyone else because they always DJ with 4 decks.
DJ-ing is about the music and the entertainment. Showing off is a rookie DJ mistake. Let the music do the talking rather than thinking you’re God’s gift to music just because you can Dj with 4 decks.
Its a great skill to have but let’s face it, you’re not a better DJ just because you can.
Utilising whats available to best suit your DJ-ing style is the aim of the game. Making the DJ mistake of thinking 4 deck mixing is better than 2 will only end in tears. Big ego-inflated tears.
Considering how much DJ hardware costs I’m really surprised how many DJs make the mistake of not looking after their DJ hardware properly!
Whether you’re a nightclub DJ playing on other people’s gear or a mobile DJ who has a lot of gear to look after, you’ll always have something that needs maintenance and care.
It should go without saying but seriously, a lot of DJs think their gear is indestructible.
- Keep drinks away from your DJ equipment
- Dust it regularly or invest in a dust cover (a simple cloth will do!)
- test all the controls regularly to make sure they all work as expected
- Re-calibrate your DJ controls with your DJ app. Search the help section of your software to find the calibration settings.
- Make sure not to knock, drop or dent your DJ hardware. It may have a tough outer shell but its insides are delicate computer hardware
Whether your gear is worth more than your car, or whether its simply for home use, look after it properly. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’ll always just work without taking proper care!
Let’s address the ego issue a little shall we. An amazingly common DJ mistake you often see.
If you’re DJ-ing for the prowess, think again.
Its amazing that DJs actually turn down gigs because they think they’re the next big thing. That they deserve the big prime time slots or the venue just isn’t “big enough for my brand”. I’m not kidding I’ve heard it all from promoters, venue owners and organisers.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t take pride in your abilities and brand, but remember being asked to DJ at a gig is confirmation that they trust in your skills and ability to draw a crowd. Regardless of the venue size or the rate.
By all means have standards, but thinking about it like this.
- Every gig is another marketing opportunity.
- Every gig is a chance to refine your live DJ skills
- Every gig will teach you something about the professional DJ industry
- Every gig will make you a better DJ (If you let it!)
So don’t make the common DJ mistake of only going after the big gigs. Your brand, your marketing and your momentum will only come from regular paid gigs. You’ll get nowhere if you’re turning down gigs you think you’re somehow better than!
Man I love this one. It’s incredible to me that DJs make the mistake of thinking all that lovely tech is going to work seamlessly. That their music library stored on some thumb drive or external hard disk is going to work faultlessly until the end of time.
Trust me it wont!
- Cables will fail and break
- Controllers will fail to connect to laptops
- Power supplies will burn out and stop working
- Your music library just wont appear in the DJ hardware for no explainable reason
All of this has happened to DJs, all of this could happen to you. So are you ready?
We’ve written a detailed article about being prepared for any DJ gig with plenty of tips to make sure you don’t make the DJ mistake so many do.
So you’ve got 20,000 tracks in your music library. Well done! But…
Do you know all your tracks back to front? Do they all have hot cues and loop points? I’m guessing they don’t.
While I don’t expect you to know every track perfectly you should at least have your music well categorised, with plenty of playlists containing preferred tracks and musical genres for easy access.
Cue points can make all the difference when DJ-ing so its important to add your own.
Turning up with a huge library of disorganised and unprepared music wont do you any favours and your client wont appreciate it either. It’ll also add to your workload during a live DJ-ing situation so you’re much more likely to cause even more mistakes we’ve listed on this article!
Check out our article on how to create the ultimate set list. It might be just what you need to avoid this mistake.
I think we can all relate to this one at some point in our DJ career.
Its all too easy to think you’ve mastered beat-matching, or that you know all the transitions you want to use.
Or even that you’re at the top of your game and couldn’t learn anything new from any other DJ.
Its an easy trap to fall and one mistake DJs often make.
Let’s face it, in any discipline there’s always something you can learn. Not only that but your skills are never perfect, there’s always ways you can refine.
Some skills in DJ-ing are quantifiable, like how exact your beat-matching abilities are. Or how many transitions you can successfully pull off.
Other skills are much more subjective and can always be not only refined but exercised regularly to keep fresh. I’m talking about building the ultimate set list or knowing your tunes inside out so you can transition and loop them at just the right points.
I’ve been DJ-ing for over 20 years and I’m still refining my skills, regularly exercising what I know and looking for ways to improve.
All of this builds not only your abilities but also your confidence. Clients want confident, responsible and talented DJs. So make sure you don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re the master.
You can always improve.
There’s always been a raging debate about this mistake many DJs make. Being paid to DJ or DJ-ing for free has countless DJs grinding their teeth and shouting “You’re killing our industry!”.
So why is taking free DJ gigs a mistake? And what do we mean by “free DJ gig” exactly?
The simplest way to explain it is this. If you’re good enough to play in front of a crowd you’re good enough to be paid.
The definition of “free gig” is one where normally a DJ would be paid but for some reason the event organiser has offered you the slot because they deem their worth higher than yours. Essentially they pitch it as doing your DJ career a favour.
Its a common mistake promoters and event organisers make. It only ensures that they end up with DJs desperate for recognition, rather than getting the most professional DJ for their budget.
Now don’t get me wrong, doing your mate a favour is very different. If its a party for family or friends thats a different subject. We’re talking about clubs, festivals and promoters taking advantage of DJs.
Our advice is if a promoter tries to pitch to you why you should play for free have a counter-argument that you are a professional DJ who plans to bring value to their event.
You also have to ask yourself why promoters aren’t willing to pay for professional DJs. It usually means they’re cutting corners and over-stretching their finances already which is never a good sign.
So avoid the mistake many rookie DJs make and don’t take the free gigs. You may have to negotiate your fee but stand your grown and show them you’re worth it.
Just turn up and start DJ-ing right?
A sure fire way to annoy the crowd and your client is by just expecting everything to work as soon as you hit play in front of hundreds or thousands of people.
This is especially true if you’re bringing your controller or mixer and plugging in to someone else’s sound system.
No two audio setups are the same, especially when taking in to account the acoustics of the venue, noise restrictions in place and materials within the venue too.
And I don’t just mean pressing play before the night starts and thinking because you can hear it coming out of the speakers it must sound great.
If you’re DJ-ing the entire gig or have time before the crowd arrives its vitally important you stand where the crowd will stand and listen to your music playing through your controller or mixer.
Check the sound is clear, crisp and with just the right amount of bass. This is where the acoustics of the venue can really affect the enjoyment of music. Reducing the high or mid frequencies can help dampen some of the echos, while adjusting the bass can remove some of the vibrations and distortions that different building materials can cause.
Its a rookie DJ mistake to expect everything to always sound perfect when you’re DJ-ing in front of a crowd. A sound check wont take long and could mean the difference between whipping the crowd in to a frenzy or clearing the dance-floor with distorted or inaudible music.
Not only that but the computerised tech we use for digital DJ-ing these days can throw up the odd glitch, causing audio problems you’ll want to fix before the show starts.
This goes hand in hand with the common DJ mistake mentioned above but its worth its own entry in to this list of mistakes DJs make!
That’s because so many DJs don’t even ask what sound system a venue has. They just turn up, press play and don’t care.
Its a text-book dumb mistake and something you can easily avoid.
Just ask the venue for details of their sound system before you arrive. They’ll no doubt be able to send you at least a few specs, how many speakers, often the positions of them in the venue and details of the monitor speaker setup too.
Most importantly you’ll want to know what cables may be needed to plug in to their system, whether they have a sound technician you’ll speak to in order to handle the levels or whether they leave that up to you.
This is all about being prepared for your gig and knowing whats likely await you when you arrive. It shows a level of professionalism a good number of DJs are sadly lacking.
Rise above them and be the more professional DJ. Not only that but having a working knowledge of their sound system may avoid any nasty surprises that can cause issues or knock your confidence at just the wrong moment.
Sure you may have your ideal set list all ready to go for your time slot, or the entire gig if thats your booking. But what if things change?
We’ve been there and experienced it all. Its all too easy for a DJ to make the mistake of thinking everything is set in stone and that your 1 hour set list is all you’ll need.
Here’s a list of common occurrences that could completely change your plans!
- A DJ calls in sick or unable to make their slot, the client asks you to fill in and extend your set
- Your time slot gets moved at the last minute, now suddenly your 2am intense bangers setlist will sound out of place in the 9pm slot!
- The venue changes and the crowd size or setting is now different
- Your set list clashes with a previous DJ, playing much the same tracks, the client asks you to play something different
- The musical genre the client wants changes last minute. Now your EDM set is useless as they want a funky house set instead
There’s plenty more reasons things may change and you need to be ready for this.
It’s pretty easy really. Your job as a DJ is to have multiple set-lists ready to go. Whether its previous sets you’ve played, smart lists based on genre, key or BPM. The latest floor fillers or classic anthems. Make sure you have plenty of playlists you can choose from.
All modern DJ software has a bunch of organisation tools at your disposal.
So don’t make the mistake of thinking your amazing 1 hour deep house set is all you’ll need. Things can change fast.
I mean this is just rule number one. Don’t be late!
But wow this DJ mistake is way too common. DJs of the world! Set an alarm and turn up on time!
In fact be early, be professional and be prepared. Its really not that difficult.
But we’ve seen it time and again where some laid-back DJ without a care in the world shows up 20 minutes late thinking “its all good”, meanwhile the event organiser is having a melt-down, trying to keep everything running smoothly.
It’s a sure fire way to never get booked by that organiser again. So don’t do!
If you’re travelling to the venue over a long distance be sure to set alarms, leave plenty of travel time including potential delays.
Arriving early is never a bad thing. It gives you more time to analyse the space you’ll be working in and will reduce your nerves too as you’ll feel more familiar with your surroundings and less flustered because you were running late and are now suddenly launching in to your set.
A whizz on Serato? A total Traktor Geek? A Rekordbox Nerd?
Its great to know how your DJ app works inside out but what happens when you turn up at a club that has a setup different to your home studio?
While the premise of DJ-ing apps is the same, their execution, features and flaws are all different.
Its your job as a professional DJ to know how these DJ software packages work and how you’ll handle them should you find yourself working on a less-familiar app.
Here’s a list of the industry standard DJ software you should familiarise yourself with.
- RekordBox – For Pioneer DJ hardware
- Traktor – For Native Instruments DJ hardware
- Serato – For Rane and midi controlled DJ hardware
- Virtual DJ – For Denon, Pioneer and Reloop hardware
- Mixxx – For midi controller DJ hardware
The great thing is there’s free versions of all of these DJ software apps. So getting started and familiarising with the controls is quick and easy.
Its your responsibility as a DJ to work with the venue to make sure you can play your set without any problems. So take a look at all these apps and see how they differ.
This video is a useful starter guide to the various DJ software out there right now.
Many DJs mistakenly think they know it all without ever putting in the time and effort. Its not that difficult and when you’re put on the spot with less familiar gear you’ll be able to get right to it and still be professional and above all entertaining to your audience!
A huge mistake many DJs make. Its one thing to become great at the technicalities of DJ-ing, its another thing entirely to become a unique and compelling DJ clients will want to book again and again.
You have to have a USP (Unique Selling Point) and that’s not just down to your mixing style.
It can include all manner of things
- The types of tracks your play
- The unusual twists you put in to your sets
- How you interact with the crowd and hype them up
- The sounds, loops, samples and originally produced drops you put in to your sets
- The way you always deliver on all of the above!
Your brand, your style, in fact YOU is all important. You need to be memorable, professional and entertaining.
You’d be surprised how many DJs fail to realise this. Concentrating too much on perfect seamless mixes and not putting in the time to do something different from the rest.
Find a way to stand out. It’ll transform your DJ-ing career more than any other aspect.
I’m sure we’ve all been there. Its a party atmosphere after all. In the early days of your career its all too easy to get swept up in the energy and think you’re invincible. Drinking alcohol before your set, even during it. It can all seem so harmless at the time.
Trust me, I know from experience its not. Don’t make this dumb DJ mistake.
Not only is it easier to DJ when you’re sober, it’s also easier to deal with any unexpected situations too!
Beat-matching is easier when you’re sober. As is creating much more refined and impressive transitions. Sometimes its the little timely adjustments which make for a perfect and compelling mix. Something you’ll be sacrificing if you hit the beers!
By all means enjoy yourself, but if you think alcohol is the only way to do that you might want to see someone about your alcohol problem.
Don’t be that drunk DJ performing slopping mixing and making a fool of themselves in front of a big crowd of people.
Clients won’t book you again, crowds will turn on you, its never a pretty site.
So just don’t drink alcohol. Why make such a silly mistake?
This is a fun one I thought worth adding as I’ve seen plenty of DJs think they are Gods gift and deserve to invite anyone they like to their gig.
They mistakenly think that because they’re booked to perform, they can bring any hangers-on to crowd around them and inflate their ego further.
Trust me this never impresses a client. No promoter has ever been wow-ed by your ability to bring 10 uninvited non-paying punters to their event.
You can always ask for tickets and even request to see if there is a guest list but in my opinion you should always be professional with your client. They don’t owe you any favours here, its a business transaction.
Don’t mistake a DJ booking as an invitation to throw a free party for your friends. It may end up hurting your DJ career.
So let’s get in to your DJ set itself. You’re at the club and starting your set in front of the crowd. What mistakes are made while DJ-ing at a gig?
Well the first one is obviously yet still so many DJs make this mistake.
Watching your mixer light up with level lights can help you DJ but they’re also there to show you whether your volumes are too loud or too quiet.
Like any traffic lights system, amber means warning and red means stop! It’s no different on your mixer. If your channel is hitting the red repeatedly then this is bad. Stop doing it!
Hitting the amber lights with each beat is the sweet spot. Not too high and not too low. You’ll need to adjust the gain to get this just right.
If you’re mixing vinyl records you’ll need to adjust for every track you play, no two records are ever the exact same volume.
If you’re DJ-ing with digital files then your software is probably applying auto-gain to all your tracks. So they should all be around the same volume. Also as they’re generally a copy of an original mastered source with preset volume levels there shouldn’t be too much deviation from the perfect volume level anyway.
But don’t rely on software to set the volumes for you. Always check the lights on your mixer, keep it out the red and just touching the amber / orange.
You need to do this not just for each channel but also the master output. It’s all very well making sure all 4 decks aren’t clipping in the red but what if your mixing them all at once and your master output is clipping constantly?
One thing that turns crowds off quicker than anything else is badly distorted music. So keep an eye on the volumes and don’t make such a rookie DJ mistake!
We’ve all had this at some point. You’re flustered, you’ve had a crappy day, you’ve had technical issues or things were changed last minute. Or you’re just starting out nervous about the big set in front of a big crowd.
Whatever the reason its an easy mistake to let your nerves consume you when really you know you’ve got the skills to DJ.
You’ve spent countless hours at home perfecting your skills, you know you can do it.
Take a deep breath and just remember the crowd love the music, they are there to dance to music. As long as you can play them good music you’ll be fine.
If the nerves are getting to you then my advice is just keep things simple. Go back to the basics you know you can nail with your eyes shut. There’s no need for overly complex transitions if your nerves are increasing your chances of messing them up. It’ll only knock your confidence even more.
So keep things simple, build your confidence up. Let the crowd show you the way. You’ll soon be lost in the moment, loving the music you’re playing and the nerves will melt away.
After all you’re there for the music you love too right? Yea!
Probably the most common mistake DJs make is a poorly timed selection of songs. It doesn’t matter what type of DJ you are or what genre of music you play. This one applies to you all.
In fact I would go so far as to say this is the most important aspect of DJ-ing. Its more important than beat matching or clever mixing transitions. Its more important than showing off to the crowd too. So park your ego and take note!
Nothing says “amateur” more than a badly thought out set list. In fact it was one of the first articles we published on this site to help DJs create better setlists.
Knowing what time you’ll be playing, the demographic of your crowd, the type of music your client wants and the order the tracks will be played in. All of this will create the ultimate set list that will make your set memorable.
There is nothing worse than some high intensity peak time 2am nightclub floor filler tune being played during a sunset session at a beach bar. It’s jarring and just plain wrong. Now I love a 2am banger as much as the next guy, but not when i’m sipping a Mojito with friends and enjoying the sunset.
Not only that but jamming tracks together that don’t flow nicely will murder your set to pieces and cause people to walk away from the dance floor. It amazes me that DJs don’t realise this as its the one thing you’re being paid to do! Provide the perfect music for the time slot you’re playing.
Now don’t get me wrong. Some requests, depending on the type of gig, can be a great thing as its instant feedback on how well your playlist is being received.
Problem is it can also just be a few opinionated people thinking your set isn’t good enough, when in actual fact the dance floor is full and loving what you’re playing.
Either way you’re there to read the crowd and understand their reaction to each and every track. You can adjust your playlist on-the-fly to make sure you keep the energy levels up.
You shouldn’t be relying on punters to do this for you. Trust me a request can kill a dance floor quickly if you’re not careful.
My advice is have plenty of playlists ready to roll, politely turn down requests and rely on your instincts to play the right songs. Its what you’re being paid for after all.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the DJ mistake above. You’re literally there to entertain the crowd. That’s your number one job!
You’re not there to play whatever the hell you like, even when the dance floor is emptying, people are leaving or worse still people are looking unimpressed with you and shaking their heads at the poor selection of tracks you’re playing.
This gig isn’t about you… It’s about the crowd’s enjoyment.
So make sure you’re always analysing how the crowd are responding to the music. Be prepared to make quick changes if for some reason they are really not in to whatever track you’re currently playing.
The crowd wont mind a short sharp transition to the next track if gets them all hyped up again and back on track for an enjoyable event.
You can tell by their body language, the number of people dancing at any given moment, even their facial expressions if you can see them. Take it all in and work out if the crowd are digging your vibe. If they’re not then its your job to fix that.
Surfing the crowd’s emotions is a talent the best and most versatile club DJs have. Its what makes them stand out from the regular DJs and get more bookings.
Reading the crowd is your job. Don’t make the mistake of doing a bad job!
So you’ve put together some killer sets. You’ve perfected every transition. You’re so pleased with yourself you play it out at multiple gigs. And why wouldn’t you? You’re a demon right!
So many DJs do this mistake and while you might be able to get away with it when your audience is new each week, its still a bad idea and here’s why.
You cant record the same set list
Its an obvious mistake here. Repeating the same set list means no new recording for your Mixcloud or Soundcloud account. It means no new marketing media you can use to help grow your following. People want to hear fresh new content created by you!
So if you’re peddling the same set for even a few weeks or months then you’re missing out on giving your audience and potential clients something new to hear!
You wont learn anything new
New playlists create new challenges. They require different mixing techniques and different cue points to make the mix the best it can possibly be. Keeping things fresh with every new set list will help keep you fresh too.
While repeating one setlist wont harm things, repeatedly doing this will mean you’re missing out on giving your audience and yourself something new to work with.
You might be surprised that trying to be perfect is a DJ mistake but its entirely true.
Recording a set in your home studio is a very different environment to DJ-ing live in front of a crowd. While you may strive for absolute perfection in that environment, the chances of replicating that at an intense, loud and adrenalin fuelled gig is a very different experience.
To be honest your crowd aren’t expecting perfection. They’re not expecting every mix to be absolutely seamless, they’re more concerned with having a good time.
Now its true that knowing your craft, being a great DJ, knowing what to play and when, as well as having carefully considered transitions is entertainment in and of itself, but seeking perfection in every mix, in a dark, loud, flashing and often intense atmosphere isn’t the number one priority for you.
In fact if you’re seeking perfection in that environment chances are you will fail to and that will annoy you. Then you’re much more likely to make mistakes and perform badly if you’re not happy.
So make your crowd happy first, then make yourself happy. Save perfectionism for the home studio and let the entertainment aspect come first.
I’m really surprised how so many DJs still don’t use the EQ controls on a mixer properly to help create better mixes and more importantly better quality of sound for their audience.
Not only can they help during sound checks to perfect the audio quality, they are an integral part of many advanced mixing techniques which we cover in our article on the subject.
It’s pretty straightforward to understand that two bass-lines, two kick drums, two sets of high frequency sounds could clash or overwhelm a perfectly good transition.
But you’d be amazed how many DJs just play with the faders and miss out on the subtleties of EQ fading.
Check you know the basics with this great video.
I can’t remember the last time I didn’t use the EQ controls to create a more seamless and better sounding transition. It adds a whole extra dimension and creative experience, so why wouldn’t you?
So don’t be that lazy DJ who just throws in the next tune, to hell with the levels! Be the better DJ and don’t make this simple mistake.
Effects can be amazing, they can add so much creativity to a mix. They can transform sounds, blend tracks and loops together in new and surprisingly effective ways. But they can also ruin a perfectly good mix if you use them too much.
And boy do they get used too much by some DJs. Its a rookie mistake any DJ could make!
All those controls, all those presets and lovely options. Its all too easy to want to use them all!
But less is more when it comes to effects and timing is key. Know when to use them, which effects compliment your style of mixing and genre of music. Know when to stop using them too! It’s vitally important so you don’t ruin your mix.
Your home studio is the perfect place to jam and experiment, by all means use as many effects as you like there. Find out what amazing sounds you can create. But when it comes to live audiences, use them sparingly and carefully. Your audience will thank you.
I think we’ve all been guilty of making this mistake from time to time. Mainly because there’s so many ways to be creative as a DJ these days.
Its all about knowing what you’re really good at, and quite frankly, what you suck at.
Of course there’s always room for improvement and the ability to learn and refine your skills, but you’re not going to master them all. You can never be the master of everything in this world.
So when it comes to live sets you want to DJ with confidence and that will only come if you play to your strengths. Realise what you’re good at and refine that until you’re the master.
By all means dabble with those areas you’re not so great at but if you just cant get the hang of scratch mixing, or your ability to pull of that perfectly timed seamless mix seems to always go awry, learn to live with it and perform in ways you know you can nail it.
I’ve seen way too many DJs attempt styles that just don’t suit them, it wont win the crowd over and it wont look professional. Be the master of what you can master!
So we’re mid set, its all going well. The crowd are lapping up every beat you’re playing.
Then suddenly… silence.
What just happened!?!
Your hard drive burnt out, your USB hub gave up the ghost, or for some inexplicable reason your DJ gear just isn’t working.
This can and will happen to you at some stage. You’ll need to think fast and get the show back on the road.
The quickest way to do this is with a backup of your music library. Most clubs will have backup gear. As long as you can plug in a USB drive or thumb drive, you’ll be able to get something playing pretty quickly.
But no backup? No music! It doesn’t bare thinking about.
Don’t be that DJ who didn’t bring a backup. Don’t make that mistake! You can read about making clones of your music library in our article here.
They say variety is the spice of life. So why do so many DJs keep playing the same old thing?
One of the most memorable sets I ever heard live was by a DJ known for playing deep house, he dropped the most incredible funky drum and bass tune right in the middle of his set. It took everyone by surprise and by the end of the track the entire venue was on its feet and hyped beyond belief!
So why did he take that risk? Because people love surprises.
Cheeky remixes, bootlegs and mashups, disco classics and famous genre defining tunes from yesteryear are all great ways to spice up your set list. Throw something out there and do something different.
If your sets become predictable then your brand becomes predictable. Promoters love DJs who can offer variety and something a little different. And so will your followers.
Its slightly sad that this one even makes the list but this classic DJ mistake is so common. DJs who get regular gigs can often get inflated egos, they forget they are being paid to perform professionally, they forget they have a boss who expects them to be professional.
And its not just about turning up on time (which we covered earlier). Its about putting the effort in to research the gig, the venue, the promoter. Being supportive during any crisis where you could potentially help out. Keeping in regular contact without bugging them (as promoters are mega busy people!)
Some DJs don’t see it this way. They make the mistake of thinking its all about them. They think they’re doing the promoter a favour. Trust me I’ve been both sides of this coin and you’re really not.
Disrespecting your client will not only stop you getting rebooked but will also give you a bad reputation. Word can travel fast inside industries. Don’t become “that guy” promoters hate.
An extension of the above really but I’ve seen DJs who aren’t getting booked regularly still acting like they’re some world famous DJ.
Sure maybe its the people all staring at you and showing you appreciation that can go to your head. Maybe its the countless late nights and pats on the back for a set well done. Whatever your excuse, check your ego from time to time.
Remember people are there for the music. For the love of dancing, for the love of socialising and having a great time.
You’ll get way more gigs and followers for being a friendly down to earth DJ than you ever will for thinking you’re Gods gift to DJ-ing.
There once was a time when DJs were too busy to do anything but stare at two rotating turntables. We were seen as masters of our craft, almost hidden behind the decks while we let the music do the talking.
These days your hands and brain will still be busy, but it’s pretty much expected that you need to do a little audience participation.
Look at this video of some of the most famous DJs in the world. Spending half their set dancing, clapping, even on the microphone to the crowd.
Dj-ing is now a lot more than twiddling controls.
So don’t make the mistake of just standing there. You need to dance, clap, interact with the crowd and even make up some of your own dance moves.
Your audience will love you all the more for it.
You’ve created the perfection seamless mix, transitioning by reducing some of the EQ controls and adding some cool effects to the outgoing track.
Or maybe you’ve kept the bass from your outgoing track and your incoming track has the low frequency EQ set to zero.
You finish your transition and… wait… Where’s the bass!? Gaaah!
Or you’re trying to mix in your next track and are wondering why it sounds like an absolutely dogs dinner.
We’ve all been there, especially in the heat of a live set. So many controls, dials, faders and buttons to help you create awesome mixes, but sometimes it’s easy to forget you need to set them all back to their original position so you can mix in the next track or loop.
Been there, don’t that.
It’s a simple rule, when the transition is over and you press stop on your deck, rest your controls too!
You’d be surprised how many mixes have been temporarily ruined by not returning your controls back where they should be.
Another one we’ve all done, in fact I’ve witnessed plenty of world famous DJs falling foul of this DJ mistake.
You’re having the time of your life, the crowd are loving your mixes, you perform a truly outstanding transition and are all pumped to cue up your next track, You reach out for the stop button and..
Suddenly the party’s over! The room is silent. What the!?!
You will make this mistake at some point, everyone does. Regardless of how many flashing lights, animated spinning controls and blinking LEDs that tell you which deck is playing, chances are at some point you’ll just hit stop thinking it wasn’t being broadcast to the room (or possibly the world!).
The solution? Well there isn’t one really.
Some controllers have a built in “deck lock” system where-by the deck that has any volume coming out of the master output cannot be stopped. While thats useful there are times when you might actually want to stop it, so it can be a pain sometimes.
Some DJ software has locks a deck if a track is playing, stopping you from being able to load another track in to that deck, but it wont stop you hitting the big ol’ stop button by mistake!
My advice, just check once your transition is complete, double check even. Make sure when you’re hovering your finger over the stop button that you know for sure the sound from it isn’t coming out of the sound system. It’ll take just a second to check and you’ll be glad you did as occasionally you might find you were about to stop the wrong track!
An easy DJ mistake to make and easily avoided too.
We all have our favourite famous DJs. We all got in to this business because we idolised someone’s abilities on the decks. Its great to aspire to be like someone who’s got so far and done so much.
But that doesn’t mean you should wholesale emulate them. Right now there’s a lot of copy-cat DJs making a big mistake in the DJ-ing industry and it rarely ever works out well.
If you’re copying someone’s set lists, watching endless youtube videos of famous DJ’s transitions and trying to be just like some world famous DJ, all you’re doing is ensuring you’re not unique.
As I mentioned earlier not having your own unique selling point will hurt your chances of making a proper career from DJ-ing.
Find your own way, forge your own path. Just because someone famous is doing something doesn’t mean it’ll work wonders for you too.
One of the greatest aspects of digital DJ-ing is the ability to lock the key of tracks and mix them with other tracks of the same or complimenting keys. It sounds so awesome and adds a whole new level of creativity.
But its still quite a niche thing for some crazy reason. So many DJs are making the mistake of not harmonically mixing their DJ sets!
Most modern DJ software can lock keys while adjusting tempo, not only that but the music library in most software can analyse the key of your music and help you group by specific keys.
But I get it, setting up your own perfectly harmonically mixed set list isn’t easy. Which is why we created a very detailed tutorial for harmonic mixing so you can master it too.
There really is no excuse to this DJ mistake. Mixing with keys will take your DJ sets to the next level. So try it today!
Plenty of beginner DJs do this and far too many veterans of DJ-ing too. It’s an easy mistake to make as well.
The golden rule of any DJ transition is that you must know what your transition plan is. Its 3 simple things…
- How you’re going to fade one sound to another
- When you’re going to start the transition
- When you’re going to complete the transition
Of course you can play around on your journey from start to completion but its important that the direction of travel is always towards the end!
By this I mean if you start fading something out, reducing a sound’s dominance, do not start changing your mind and bringing it back in again.
At least if you do there needs to be a purpose, a reason and decisive changes.
There’s nothing worse than performing a seamless mix and then getting indecisive about your end point, bringing sounds back in when really the transition was done.
Novice DJs often make this mistake. When your transition is done… its done! Don’t undo your handy work thinking you could have extended it further in to the track or that you’ve just realised the next phase of the outgoing track is way cooler than you remember and wanting to bring it back in again.
Too late! You missed your chance. Better luck next time.
Be decisive with your levels and your transition. When its done move on to the next.
So you DJ-ed your gig. Your client is happy, the crowd were happy, but all you can think about is that transition that didn’t quite go to plan. Or that moment the beats slipped out of sync and nearly ruined your mix.
If you’ve recorded your session and like to listen back, remember to do it with an open mind. This was a live DJ set in front of a crowd of up-for-it punters. Their recollection of your amazing set will be different to your own.
By all means listen to figure out where you can improve, but don’t put yourself down. A live setting is very different to the perfect acoustics of your home studio.
I’ve heard lots of DJs who fall in to the mistaken trap of being far too critical of their live sets. There’s always room for improvement but its also good to reflect on how great your set was too.
Besides, putting yourself down wont build confidence for your next live gig. It’ll also hamper your ability to market yourself as a competent, confident, professional DJ. So don’t shoot yourself in the foot by thinking you’re no good just because one or two transitions didn’t work out as well as they could have.
Learn and improve!
This common DJ mistake is closely aligned with the above and its surprisingly how many DJs put too much pressure on themselves when DJ-ing a live gig.
Sure its important to get those mixes right, but the crowd aren’t just there to hear the music. They want to enjoy themselves and if you look like a stressed out DJ focussing solely on every minute detail of a transition then you’re missing the bigger picture.
Learn to relax, go with the flow and enjoy the music as much as your audience are.
People want to see how much you love the music, how its your obsession and how much it means to you.
Its as simple as smiling, dancing and looking like you’re having the time of your life.
If you’re happy you’ll mix better too. Confidence and a relaxed mind will mean less mistakes.
While the punters may love your mixing prowess and ability to entertain, they’re not the people who put money in your pocket. For that you need to market yourself well and above all you need to network?
So why do so many DJs fail and make this silly mistake?
When you’ve finished a set and often before you’ve even pressed play, you need to be part of the conversation with your client and potential clients. You need to have the tools and items available to keep “brand you” in people’s faces and on their radar.
This is what gets great DJs more gigs, not the amazing 2 hour deep house set you just did or the wedding party you absolutely nailed.
So many DJs don’t have cards with their contact details on. So many DJs don’t spend the time to be friendly with the client and engage with them in conversation.
Your job absolute is not finished when your set is over. To get more gigs thats half the job, you now need to get to work on marketing yourself for the next gig.
Of course you shouldn’t annoy people and badger them when they’re busy, but being remembered for being professional, friendly and ready to share whatever details they need from you is what will most definitely get you more gigs.
Not only is networking important to market yourself but reputation also stands for a lot in this industry.
Its pretty easy to get a good reputation. Its also very easy to get a bad one! So avoid this rookie DJ mistake and do the right thing.
It all starts with helping other DJs working with you at the gig. Assuming you’re no the only DJ playing.
This involves a few key areas you can easily do.
- Be on time! Don’t stress other DJs out with your late arrival
- Be sober! Nobody likes a drunk DJ
- Be supportive. If another DJ has a technical issue you know you can fix, then help out You might just save their set from ruin!
- Stick around and act as backup. This means staying sober and alert to any problems. I’ve helped more than one promoter in the past by being available when there was a no-show or total technical meltdown.
- Make sure other DJs remember you. Recommendations from other DJs can often win you more gigs as loyalty and trustworthiness are a big deal in the DJ world.
Its not so hard to do these things. So don’t be “that guy” who makes the mistake of alienating himself from other DJs.
DJing can be an expensive business, but thats no reason to make this mistake. While looking after your current gear is important, its also equally important to keep one eye on the latest DJ hardware offerings. You never know what venue, club or festival might have these installed and you’ll need to know how they work!
You may love your 10 year old mixer or think that the DJ controller you invested in 5 years ago is all you’ll ever need. But the tech world moves fast and this directly affects how creative you can be on the decks.
You’ll also find your skills improve, your abilities progress and you move on from beginner, to intermediate, to veteran expert DJ over time and your hardware needs to keep up with that.
Invest properly and regularly in the tools of your trade. It’ll pay you back quickly if you do.
This video will wet your appetite I’m sure. At the very least it’ll keep you up to date with whats on the market. DJ gear you may well find in a club or bar near you soon.
This one ties in nicely with what we’ve just been talking about. Your progression as a DJ should never stagnate. Your skills, marketing, brand exposure and value as a DJ will constantly change.
And you can force this change to happen more quickly too if you set yourself goals.
So why don’t DJs do this? Why do so many DJs make the mistake of thinking their DJ career will be handed to them? or their ability to mix seamlessly or scratch will just happen one day.
You think the best DJs in the world got to where they are out of sheer luck?
Put the effort in, set yourself achievable goals in timeframes that suit your lifestyle. Stick at it and keep focussed on the next goal.
It can be as little as getting to know your music library, adding cue points and loops to all your music. Learning how alternative DJ software works maybe.
Or it can be more groundbreaking, learning to DJ an entirely different genre. Learning how to beat-match properly without the sync button. Getting your first paid gig. Getting your 10th. Getting repeat business or even getting a residency.
Setting yourself goals will help you analyse your skills, your marketing, your worth, and keep you motivated to achieve them.
Making the mistake of having no goals will only do your DJ career harm.
So. what will your goals be? Write down at least 5 right now and decide how long you think it’ll take to achieve them.
Whether you meet them in person, engage with them on social media or even dis them behind their back, dis-respecting other DJs isn’t cool and is definitely a mistake to avoid.
You’re not the best DJ in the world, you can always learn from other DJs. So berating them publicly, disagreeing with their point of view through comments and blog posts is never going to win you over and fans.
What it can do is damage your brand, your marketing efforts and potentially your break in to the big time.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll make it all by yourself and that your skills are the best in the business. Look for advice, gain inspiration from other DJs.
Don’t let your ego get in the way of a flourishing career. Make use of all the resources available including your relationship with other DJs. You never know it might just change your life.
Last but by no means least. This one is important and goes hand-in-hand with all of the mistakes DJs make.
If you don’t strive to improve your DJ skills you will stagnate, your career will plateau or it may never take off at all.
There are far too many DJs in this world who stopped setting goals, who stopped networking and making strides to further their career. Who stopped investing in their DJ tools and learning new tricks. They stopped marketing themselves well let their ego get the better of them.
Don’t make these DJ mistakes. Always look for ways you can avoid them and improve all aspects of your DJ-ing.
The biggest mistake of all is thinking you’ve made it and thinking you no longer need to care.
The DJs that succeed in this business are the ones that always care, always strive for more and know they can always improve.