Episode 149: 20 Small Wins for DJs

On The Passionate DJ Podcast, we encourage everyone to dream big, make bold moves, and constantly get out of the comfort zone.

But Episode 149 is about the small wins. Today, we’re going to talk about 20 different ideas that can help get you get mild (but immediate) results!

These are things which you can do to improve your DJing, boost your promotion, expand your horizons, or simply make your life easier… all without taking longer than an afternoon break.

Don’t forget: every month we release an exclusive bonus episode, only for our Patreon subscribers!

Here’s what we cover in today’s episode:

Small Wins

Win #1: Create Some Playlists (05:45)

Even when you aren’t actively DJing, it can be helpful to “always” be building playlists which match a particular theme, sound, or concept.

This can happen within your DJ software, but is also useful in your everyday media player, such as Spotify, iTunes, or even YouTube.

Win #2: Prepare Your Bag (07:40)

While not under the pressure of a gig, why not check out the status of your gig bag?

How hard are you working to set up? How many times have you panicked, after realizing that you were missing something?

What “extras” should you drop in there now, that might save your ass later? (Hint: you can never have too many headphones adapters* …)

Win #3: Build a “Rescue Kit” (09:00)

Speaking of things that could save your ass, I highly recommend putting together a sort-of first aid kit for your DJ gigs.

This could include any number of life-saving adapters (such as 1/4″ to XLR, gender changers, RCA couplers, extension cords for audio and power…)

In my own bag, I have a small plastic box which contains a plethora of these adapters. And yes, that little plastic box has bailed me out, more than once!

I also recommend getting a breakout strip – that is, your own power strip to connect your hardware to, when sharing a booth with other DJs. This helps keep you out of each other’s way.

Win #4: Soft-Delete Your Collection (13:14)

If your music collection has gotten unruly and oversized over time, it may be time to “delete” it and start over.

But, don’t panic… you can simulate this deletion without actually losing all of your hard-earned music.

By simply removing the collection and creating a new one in your software… or alternatively, by creating a new playlist that you work out of “from now on”, you can get a fresh new perspective on your own DJing.

Win #5: Key Your Tracks (16:09)

Harmonic Mixing is a method which allows you to transition and layer tracks which are key-compatible. This allows you to mix styles that may otherwise clash, to mix melody-heavy tracks with each other, and to create amazing sounding mashups on the fly.

Key-mixing is a lot of fun, and it allows you to seemingly get away with murder. We discuss the Camelot Wheel (used to identify compatible tracks) and the benefits of this mixing method.

Recommended Listening: Episode 105: Thinking Harmonically (Our Chat With Mixed In Key)

Win #6: Go Manage Your Cables (21:05)

Perhaps now is a great time to figure out how you can tidy up your setup… for good.

By simply searching for “cable management” on Amazon, you can yield loads of results* and come up with  ideas on how to manage that booth-spaghetti.

A little bit of cable management goes a long way, but it’s important not to paint yourself into a corner. Cable management can also be an extreme annoyance, if done the wrong way.

For example, consider velcro wire ties instead of plastic zip ties. This way, you don’t have to bust out the scissors and ruin your hard work every time you want to slide your CDJ over 4 inches.

You can also find products which will help keep your cables and power strips hidden within a box, such as this Bluelounge* one that I use at my own desk.

Win #7: Learn How To “Over-Under” (24:13)

Speaking of managing your cables, this would be a great time to learn the over-under technique of cable wrapping.

This was taught to me years ago, by a backline tech. By altering the way you wrap your cables, you can save yourself a lot of headaches when you go to unwrap them later.

Recommended Listening: Episode 120: Know Thy Cables

Win #8: Clean & Calibrate Your Gear (26:09)

Dust! It’s the bane of our existence.

Why not take some time to remove that dust? While it can be a pain to get inbetween all the nooks and crannies of your DJ mixer, I’ve had pretty good luck with these Swiffer Dusters*.

Do you have scratchy faders or sticky contacts? I had a situation like this with my Kontrol S4, and was able to remedy it using DeoxIT D5*. Of course, your mileage may vary… and please read the instructions and do your research before spraying anything in or around your gear.

In the interest of keeping your gear protected, Decksaver* is a great way to keep your gear clean, neat, and protected… while still looking nice and having perfect fitment. They can get expensive, but having it snap on perfectly is quite satisfying.

DVS users: how’s your timecode signal? Is your signal coming through the needle properly? Turntable users, have you calibrated your decks?

Recommended Listening: Episode 45: Turntable Maintenance & Mods

Win #9: Contact 3 People (28:41)

Take the time to reach out to 3 different people which can help you make moves in your DJ career. You’d be amazed at how a small amount of outreach can lead to helpful small wins!

Get in touch with that promoter you’ve wanted to play for, or the owner of that venue where you want to promote a weekly show. Call that graphic designer friend and get your logo done, or call someone you’ve been wanting to collaborate with.

And don’t forget the value of speaking in person, rather than sending an impersonal email or text!

Win #10: Create an “Emergency” Mix (30:03)

For those moments when things go wrong (CDJ doesn’t power up, headphones go missing, or other hardware issues during changeover), it’s extremely helpful to have a fallback.

Come up with an emergency mix (or playlist) which well-represents your sound as a DJ. Try to make it universal to you, so that it’s helpful in any situation where you might need it.

Even an (offline) Spotify playlist on your phone is much better than 20 minutes of silence, while you’re figuring it out!

Win #11: Learn a New Feature (31:52)

What does this button do?

Between gigs, why not explore those features of your hardware and software which you are unfamiliar with. Maybe you’ll discover something that you like!

If you haven’t ever taken the time to try Traktor’s Remix Decks, to understand Slip Mode, or to realize what Serato’s Pitch-N-Time does… now is your opportunity!

We tend to get set in our ways, but discovering a helpful new feature can be its own small win.

Win #12: Schedule a “Creativity Block” (32:57)

Set aside a block of time to explore creative ideas (try new sounds, play new genres, try a different tempo, attempt scratching, play with FX).

Change things up…. throw yourself under the bus! Don’t just play a DJ set, but go in with the intent of trying stuff.

This is a great way to stimulate some creative energy, without waiting for the inspiration to put together a full mix or start a new project. Get your hands dirty!

Win #13: Set Cues and Loops (35:08)

Take a little time to think ahead. Find those cue points which will help you skip awkward intros when necessary.

Or, find some clean loops and have them already set up within your collection. (Example: right before certain “events” happen in the track, like a big breakdown.)

This one is simple, but often overlooked!

Win #14: Schedule Social Media Posts (37:02)

Pick a day, and schedule a week’s worth of posts from your fan page.

You want to keep the conversation moving in-between mixes and gigs, and you don’t want to use your fan page solely as a distribution service. Social media platforms (like Facebook) want to see engagement, not spam.

I recommend picking a day, and scheduling 1 – 2 posts per day for the next week. Make sure you vary the types of posts, and make them relevant to you and your audience.

Once again, don’t make it all personal spam. Sprinkle in the self-promo.

Win #15: Hand-Invite People to your Page (39:20)

When was the last time you actually directly invited people to your fan page? If it’s been a while, this can be a significant small win.

You can often get 5, 10, 20, 30 new likes (depending on your friends list) just from taking the time to ask.

I do not recommend trying to game the system or send out mass invites to your entire friends list. Rather, take the time to directly invite people who you think would be interested, or are willing to support you.

Win #16: Check Your Gain Structure (40:54)

There are a lot of places to check your gain levels! Are you doing it right?

Obviously, step number one is to stay out of the red. That’s the easiest way to make sure you aren’t doing harm to your precious audio.

Outside of that, the best way to check optimal gain staging is to read the manuals of the involved hardware and software. Now’s the time to learn, so that you have confidence going forward!

In my own personal setup, I counted 8 places where I need to set levels. We go over those checkpoints in the episode.

Win #17: Create Backups & Redundancy (43:03)

It’s always a good time to make sure you have backups.

Mac users, run Time Machine. Save yourself the headache.

Everyone: keep a file-level backup. Whether it’s to a USB key, external hard drive, or “in the cloud”… make sure you have a simply copy/paste backup of your music and important files. This could save your butt.

In the episode, I also discuss the importance of having hardware and software redundancy while gigging.

Recommended Listening: Episode 97: Disaster Preparedness

Win #18: Learn Your Shortcuts (48:05)

Is there some function of your software that you want access to, but there’s no button for it on your controller?

Almost every function in all DJ software is mapped to some sort of keyboard hotkey. Now might be a great time to learn the important ones (e.g. Pitch Bend) in case something goes wrong. For example, a USB hub dies and you suddenly have no control over your tracks.

Win #19: Add Social Media CTAs (49:24)

Check all your social media bios and profiles. Figure out where you can put a link.

Fill that spot with the one most important link, which points to the one thing that you want someone to land on the most.

This could be your latest mix, your SoundCloud profile, a promo video, etc.

Using a service like Bit.ly, you can make these links short and tidy. This also allows you to track them, so that you understand where the clicks are coming from.

Win #20: Create a (Measurable) Goal (51:21)

Often, the hardest part of any pursuit, is actually deciding and giving yourself permission to do it.

Now is the time to create a solid goal, which helps get you to where you want to be as a DJ.

I recommend setting goals that follow the classic SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

News This Week

  • Rane releases v1.2 Firmware for their Flagship mixer, the Rane Seventy-Two. They made lots of small tweaks, implemented based on user feedback. See the full list of changes at Rane.com.
  • Pioneer releases the new DDJ-400 DJ controller, set to replace the DDJ-RB at the $250 price point.

Don’t forget: every month we release an exclusive bonus episode, only for our Patreon subscribers!

* We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.