How Not To Bang Out - Tips for Opening DJs

By Andrea in DJ's, EDM News
Sunday, October 14, 2012, 6:49pm. (Updated: 10/24/13 at 9:26pm) Add comments

Lately it seems that everyone claims to either know a DJ
or (even worse), that they are one.

paris hilton dj
Sorry to burst your bubble, but mixing Somebody I Used to Know, A Million Voices and Greyhound on VirtualDJ doesn’t cut it. And before you start bragging that you know a DJ, please note your company. They more than likely either know one too or simply don’t care. But hey, who could blame someone for wanting to associate themselves with the fame, fortune and rising social status that comes with being a rockstar DJ.

Although house music was invented in Chicago in the 70s, EDM has nonetheless become an overnight sensation in the American mainstream, giving many aspiring DJs a false sense of hope.

In the bestselling novel Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell noted it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert of a fine-motor activity (ex. playing the piano). In the case of DJs… it takes more than a sync button, spinning hit after hit and posing with your arms raised.

Glow has 4 resident openers that have secured their spots for a reason. Below they have provided some great tips and tricks for any up and coming DJ-to-be. If you want to be the next Tiesto, Ferry Corsten or Richie Hawtin then you should go buy Logic and start producing hits. If you want to open here and there, continue reading.

Do Your Research

DJ set list database
Far too often, opening DJs don’t do their research when it comes to who they’re opening for. It’s not good when the opener and headliner play the same tracks. Jon Deke is a Glow resident who has opened for Calvin Harris, Steve Aoki and Benny Benassi. He can trace his DJing roots back to his teens, during the days of Buzz. Jon recommends you know your music and steer clear of anything the headliner might play.

He has seen openers play tracks by the guys they were opening for simply because they were unfamiliar with their work. Ya think Jon would still spin Glow if he had played Feel So Close or Awooga while opening for Cal? Some people may think the opener is respecting the DJ by playing his/her tracks. They would be wrong.

Roberto Gonzalez is Glow’s go to guy. Kaskade invited him to spin in Vegas and Cosmic Gate, Tiesto and Markus Schulz consider him a friend. Roberto was the first-ever performer at Echostage. Why? Because he opened. Berto says he researches a headliner’s recent track listings as well as a few older ones to get a feel for what they play. Many of the big DJs play similar sets week to week. An opener should use that to their advantage when choosing what to play.

Know Your Role

know your role
You are an opening DJ, not Laidback Luke.  You cannot go in with the mindset that you’re going to blow everyone’s brains out with your killer set. Des McMahon, resident and producer/host of Glow Radio, has opened for 12th Planet, Porter Robinson and is on the upcoming “Mega” billing with Nero. He produces and has a solid support list. He also knows his role when he opens.

He says it best: “Make people move their hips and not their fists. You aren’t Pauly D, you aren’t trying to make people “rage,” you’re trying to make them groove.”   As an opener your job is to set the stage for what the people came for.

Watch Out for Vocals

shh finger to lips
Yeah… we all like nice vocals that we can completely butcher, but the Glow residents collectively agree that you need to be very wise with your vocal selection. If unsure, just stay away from them entirely.

Matt Goldman, who has opened for Mark Knight, Carl Cox, Axwell and Tim Bergling (who?), says his rule is ‘no vocals.’ But it’s ok to throw some in before an electro headliner. However, Des says one of the best pieces of advices he ever received was to play no vocal tracks at all. If you have to question whether a track is too hard or not, then it probably is. It seems like the use of vocals is up for debate, but if you have to remember one thing just remember, less is more.

Be Cool and Get More Gigs

be cool travolta devito andre 300 the rock
And how do you do that? Respect those within the industry. Goldman says that making the headliner look good puts you on good terms with them, their management, their agent, promoters, etc. He also says that playing a set with a bunch of bangers will only get you a few “you killed it” comments from your friends. It won’t get you booked again. Gonzalez says he sets up the headliner to come on and “bang it out.” His goal is to simply compliment the set.

Get in Good with Promoters and Talent Buyers

Showing up to the party helps. But don’t show up with 20 USB sticks and start talking business. Hang out, meet people, be chill. Try and get a few gigs at some smaller parties. Show the people on top (or the people who know the people on top) that you have a following, play the right stuff and aren’t a pain in the ass. Spinning with USBs/CDs as opposed to a computer helps too.

If you do land a couple opening spots, don’t email a promoter in Denver saying you opened for Dirty South in Atlanta and want bookings. It doesn’t work like that unless you’re also producing, getting support and truly building a name for yourself. And please – if you do land an opening spot somewhere, don’t start asking about pay and sending contracts. Just say thank you and relax. You’ll be taken care of. You’re an opener, not Sonny Moore (who?).

2 Responses to “How Not To Bang Out – Tips for Opening DJs”

Comments (2)
  1. tim bergling – avicii
    sonny moore – skrillex

  2. Rome Spinosi says:

    Great tips, and like the sources you referenced -them being the opener djs for the headliners- and i wish i had some of these tips when i started opening, but its never too late 🙂
    PS^^ i think he was just joking around with the “sonny moore (who?)”, & “Tim bergling (who?)” but thanks for the clarification.

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