[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Amy Pilcher, a music fan and digital marketing specialist at MediaVision. Read on for a practical list of ‘must haves’ for any aspiring or veteran DJ. Think she missed something? Let us know in the comment section!]
The stage manager gives you “the nod” and you know, it’s on. As you step out onto the platform, you try to steady your hands as the collective adrenaline of the crowd starts your heart racing. You’re a finely tuned setup machine and your gear is out and connected in under a minute. A moody pad begins to spread from the speakers and the crowd erupts with excitement. This is the moment you’ve been rehearsing for weeks, plotting the perfect curve for that jaw-shattering drop. The synths sing, the snare builds in intensity, the crowd is poised to explode and then… crickets.
It’s a nightmare that any DJ worth his or her salt will face at some point. Gear failure is simply part of the job. While there’s no spell you can weave to banish gear failure for all time, you can certainly be prepared for any eventuality, with this DJ survival kit. Once assembled, you’ll have what you need to deal with gear failure, connectivity issues at the venue and a host of other unimaginably unpleasant situations.
Most DJs will have a “lucky pack”, which they swear carries with it some kind of mythical powers. If so, use it. If you’re looking to buy something new though, aim for a pack with as many separate compartments and external pockets as possible. You’ll quickly get to know where everything is stored, saving precious minutes during setup and pack up and in the case of technical failure. Also, choose a bright colour that will be easy to spot on a dark stage.
While carrying your music collection on flash drives is already common practice, you can keep a separate collection of “emergency” flash drives with the power to save your neck in a huge range of situations.
- Pre-built sets:
There’s nothing worse than struggling to solve a technical issue, while an old, stale house playlist ruins the mood and starts turning people away from the dancefloor. With a few cleverly constructed emergency playlists, each loaded onto their own drive, you’ll be able to simply pop in the right drive and let the playlist do its work, while you attend to the issue. If you’re a working DJ, you no doubt already know what types of events you play most often, so simply build a playlist for each type of set. One for a late night club set, one for a wedding reception, one for a Sunday lounge gig, etc.
Use flash drives in different colours and be sure to label them regardless. It’s easy to forget which is which in an emergency.
- Drivers and MIDI maps
If you’ve ever had to map your controllers from scratch while an audience stares at you, you’ll know how important this drive is. Include an updated set of drivers for your Traktor, Serato, Mixvibes, or any other software you use and don’t forget to include a text file containing your serial numbers. Remember to update this drive when if you make changes to your midi maps and ensure that you’re storing a copy of the most current drivers.
There’s nothing quite like the terrifying realisation that the event organisers have obviously just used your tech rider as a coffee coaster, and ignored its contents entirely. Purely because frantically running around asking members of the audience for a 1/8 to ¼ adapter really isn’t rock star, here are the adapters you need to pack in your survival kit.
- 2 X 1/8” female to 1/4” male jack
- 2 x RCA female to 1/4” male mono jack
- 1 x 1/4” female jack to 1/8” male jack
- 2pcs RCA female to female (for extending cables)
- 1pc RCA female pair to 1/4” male stereo jack
While we all dream of a truly wireless future, we have yet to see a wireless technology that performing DJs would trust to replace the good old cables in their setup. Aside from the lovingly organised and immaculately rolled cables you take to every show, keep these spares, which should have you covered in almost any eventuality.
- 1 x 1/8” male to 1/8” female cable (surprisingly handy in many situations)
- 1 x 1/8” female to RCA pair male (great for plugging in phones and external sources)
- Spare USB cable (no explanation required)
VJs, don’t forget these essential backups:
- 1 x DVI to HDMI adapter
- 1 x VGA to DVI adapter (again, you really don’t know)
- Energy Supplement
Whether you’ve been standing around waiting for your set to start, rushing between multiple gigs, or trying to stay pumped for that late night slot, be sure to have a few extra packs of your favourite energy supplement in reserve.
Remember, while energy drinks are great for an instant kick, their high sugar content mean that when they wear off, you’ll feel even more drained. Healthier alternatives include nuts and dried fruits, like raisins.
- Spare headphone cups
If you have spare cups for your headphones, be sure to pack them in your survival kit. These come in handy when you least expect it.
- Duct tape
As if we even needed to mention this. Duct tape fixes an incredible array of problems that you might encounter during setup for a live performance. The sound engineer probably has his own collection of duct tape, but don’t count on it.