9 Cool Things You Never Thought About Keeping In Your DJ Bag
There are a number of fairly standard things that DJs keep in their bag. Backup CDs and hard drives, extra RCA/XLR cables, a USB hub, and so-on. It's also handy to keep some sort of demo with you, just in case someone asks. (Even better, several demos geared towards different types of gigs so that you can give one that's appropriate!
However, lately, I've been giving a lot of thought to some more out-of-the-ordinary things that could be useful and trying some of them out.
Here are a list of 9 of them, and a little bit of discussion on the reasoning behind it.
A “Get Out Of Jail” Card
No, I don't literally mean the card from Monopoly. What I'm actually talking about is a small pamphlet, brochure, or sheet which tells people what the night you're playing is about and what kind of music to expect.
This is great for those promoter/DJs out there, people trying to start a new kind of night in an established venue, or recurring small gigs at lounges/restaurants. I thought of this idea when I was playing at my weekly lounge gig at a swanky upscale restaurant/bar. I had been hired to play very deep, jazzy, laid-back lounge and house music for this venue. Because of the way it was set up (I was down with the patrons and it was a very casual atmosphere), I often had people coming up asking for requests that ranged from reggae to “latin music” to Usher… depending on who wandered in that night. This was music that I wasn't really prepared (or hired) to play.
I often found myself saying, “I'm sorry, I don't have anything like that” and getting countered with, “well, what kind of stuff do you play?” I thought to myself how nice it would be if I had something to hand them… a piece of promo material, that was a sort of friendly welcome to the night. Of course, it would all be in the wording… you want it to be warm and welcoming, not rude! Perhaps it would look something like this:
Welcome to (Such-and-Such) Restaurant and Lounge
featuring “Deep Fusion Saturdays” with David Michael
Thanks for coming in to check out our weekly Deep Fusion Saturdays event! Every Saturday from 9pm to 1am, we feature some great drink specials such as (some signature drink) and (some signature drink), all to a backdrop of great music provided by David Michael. You can expect to hear such styles as deep house, future disco, acid jazz, downtempo, and other chilled styles to provide a backdrop for your dining and social experience.
We hope that you will join us next week, and spread the word!
This sort of thing is mostly useful for those who do a recurring gig where you have a varied audience, and is a great way to get out of the awkward “I don't have that kind of music” conversation. With this, you can say, “I'm sorry, I don't have anything like that… but here's some information on what we do every Saturday!”
A Download Voucher
This is something I recently tried at a local event here in my home town. I was asked to play, and I was warming up for some very established local DJs. I knew that I would be playing early and that a lot of people would miss my set. So, I came up with a cool way for people to be able to still hear it if they wish, and also to promote PassionateDJ.com.
What I did was print out a bunch of “flyers” that thanked everyone for coming to that particular event (which I called by name, so that it had a very personalized feel). I thanked all of the other great DJs that played that night, and said that if you missed my set that night, you could download it the next morning using a download code which I provided them.
In case you're wondering, the way I did this was by using a plugin called WP Download Codes (PassionateDJ.com is powered by the popular WordPress blogging software), but there are a number of ways you could do it… including just giving a link to your homepage, Mixcloud page, etc. I just thought this way was cooler… and you can use different download codes to track where people came from if you wish.
This is a cool promotional trick as well. I knew that a lot of the people that would be present that day were DJs themselves, and that the Passionate DJ blog and podcast could be useful to them. So, I offered them a download of my recorded mix, as well as telling them a little about what the site is about. If you'd like to see what the landing page looked like, it's still up and you can see it right here. (And, if you'd like to download my set from that night, you can use the download code K4P8. See what I did there?)
Of course, not everyone runs a blog, but you could use this same type of idea to send people to your own homepage, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, or Facebook page.
A “Cable Snake” and Power Strip
This is a bit of a more practical tip that can help speed up your setup times.
Take some of your common cords (such as all the wiring for your DVS setup, or multiple USB cables) and wrap them up in a “cable snake” so that everything is right where you need it. The faster you can get in-and-out when setting up, especially when following someone, the better! Use gaffer tape – a vinyl cloth tape designed to not leave a sticky residue all over your cables. Speaking from someone who has done similar things with electrical and duct tape… trust me on this.
Also, I highly, highly recommend keeping a spare power strip (surge protector) in your bag… regardless of how many available power plugs there are at your particular gig. The other big benefit of it is the ability to “break out” all of your stuff onto its own strip so that you have much less risk of, say, unplugging one of the CDJs the incoming DJ is using, or cutting power to the monitor. I like to keep all of my stuff plugged in to my own power strip… just a nice sense of security and keeps things organized!
A chamois (typically pronounced “shammy”) is a highly-absorbent leather (or synthetic) drying towel… such as this.
Back when the original Kontrol S4 came out, I bought one and was super excited to try it out. On my second time playing out with it (at a nice little art show), a drunk person came up and spilled their red wine all over my new piece of gear. I stood there in horror as I waited for someone to bring me something to dry it off with. I was able to finish the night, but it has been the source of problems with the device ever since. If only I had some sort of towel with me in my bag…
The nice thing about using a chamois instead of just a regular towel is that you get a lot of absorbency for your “buck”… that is, it's small, but still sucks up a lot of moisture. Also useful for wiping your face off during a particularly energetic gig or outdoor festival show.
A USB Snake Lamp
I'm sure most of us have been in that situation where you're working in a dark club or room, and you can't very well see what you're doing. A lot of DJs keep a flashlight in their bag for this purpose, but here's an alternative way to do it.
A “snake lamp” is a rigid and stiff light source which you can bend and mold into any practical position, and is powered by your USB port (for those of us with a laptop in the booth). Perhaps not the best choice for those of us without a surplus of USB ports (Macbook Pro, anyone?) but still, worth considering. (Could also use it with a USB hub if you set one up anyway).
This allows you to keep your hands free and still see what in the world is going on, without illuminating the whole booth.
It seems simple enough, doesn't it? But I don't know how many times I've been in a situation where a pen would've been useful, yet I never thought to just keep one in my bag!
Out of business cards? Write your web address or Facebook page on a napkin. Someone wants to collaborate? Write their information down. Want to get the phone number of a potential date? Write it on your hand!
Even better yet, for you vinyl and timecode DJs… make it a pencil with a good eraser. This is a good tool to have because sometimes the contacts in the headshell don't make good contact, and rubbing it with an eraser is a safer way to handle this situation than licking the contacts. Licking them will fix the problem temporarily, but causes issues in the long run… don't do it if you can avoid it!
A Medicine Box/Pack
How useful would it be to have a small box or packet with pills to help get you through your set? (Alright jerks, I'm talking about actual medicine, here!)
It's not a bad idea to have such things as Tylenol/Ibuprofen, Tums/antacid, and some Imodium for those “uh oh” moments. Of course, if you're a traveling DJ, be careful of what you're carrying around and make sure you're not breaking any laws… especially if you're on prescription medication.
CDRs and a Timecode File
Special thanks to Jessica Fenner for this tip, mentioned in episode 3 of the Passionate DJ Podcast (Small Time Promoter Tips with Jessica “Fortune” Fenner). Did you know that Native Instruments and Rane both provide downloadable versions of their timecode for Traktor Scratch and Serato?
Not long ago, I was planning on playing on a friend's CDJs using timecode. Silly me, I forgot my timecode CDs. If I had downloaded the timecode and had CDRs in my bag (not something I would take out regularly, like my timecode CDs)… I could have burnt new ones on the spot and saved the trouble. Luckily, I had my trusty old wine-doused S4 as backup.
Of course, another way to handle this is to just burn (or buy) a second set of timecode CDs that never leave your bag.
A Snack or Pick-Me-Up
For those of you playing those long DJ sets (3-4 hours or more), wouldn't it be nice to have a little snack or pick-me-up to help keep yourself energized? (This is crucial if you're diabetic!)
A lot of times, DJs who play longer sets “hit a wall” later in the night. Have you ever experienced that moment? Everything's going fine, and then you suddenly just sort of “zone out” and it's like you forget how to DJ? There are a number of reasons for that, and one of the simpler ones is that you could just be tired or running out of energy!
You could keep a Red Bull or 5-hour Energy in your bag, but not everyone is a fan of that approach. Consider a protein bar, some nuts, or heck… even an apple. Bust that thing out and make it part of your show! Maybe people will remember you as “that DJ that ate the apple while playing”. Why not?
In all seriousness, it's important to stay energized and focused, and sometimes a quick snack is all you need. It's also important to realize that sometimes the only thing we consume in the booth is beer or liquor, and doing that for several hours with nothing to eat can obviously affect the way you play.
Oh, and don't forget gum or breath strips… also not a bad addition!
So, there you have it… 9 cool additions to your DJ bag. What other unusual things do you carry with you? Post about it in the comments below!