How to perform great warm-up DJ set? Useful tips for you!

Every DJ will get to a point of their career when they will be chosen to be an opening act for a famous DJ. You may be one of 20 other DJs playing that night, yet you are still opening for the main act of the night — everyone is preparing for that big act and so are you! So DJ accordingly and with respect.

I have had many warm up sets over the years and I’ve also had many headline gigs where other DJs had to warm up for me. I have noticed mistakes other DJs make when warming up for the main event — so here are my tips on how to avoid the most common mistakes DJs do during their warm-up sets.


1. Preparation

The big day is close — you have your first warm-up slot for the weekend, you’re amped and you’re looking for tracks to play. Preparation is key to a successful night - especially when you're opening for a big name DJ.

It’s wise to spend several days before the event searching for tracks, making sure your playlist is awesome. Preparation will help you if you get nervous — you don’t want to be searching for tracks and panic, hence why making a playlist at home is vital.

With that said, you will now only have to focus on your mixing and being performing for the crowd.

Prepare yourself mentally so that you will have a great night and don’t be scared — that famous DJ was once in your shoes so they know the stresses you go through. Have your playlist ready, a good mindset and you’re ready to go.

dj preparing for concert

Be sure to be at the club well before your set as that also shows that you’re a punctual professional and club managers will value that. Enjoy your night and be happy — you will get to meet someone that might be a good connection for the future.

2. Behavior

When you get to the event, be sure to be polite and nice to people — especially to the headlining DJ. I’m saying this because if the headlining DJ sees you are rude, he or she might never want to work with you again or request you as a warm up DJ.

djs are polite

Politeness is key. Don’t act like a superstar, you’re not. When the headliner is playing, it’s cool to be behind the booth and observe what that DJ is doing, it might give you ideas for your sets or just how to improve in general. Just don’t be breathing down that DJ’s neck as that will make you look like a maniac.

I’ve had warm up DJ’s constantly ask me what song this is, or how i did that transition, or how do I switch between BPMs so quickly, or constantly tell me how awesome I am. Please don’t do this. Please wait until the DJ is finished for any questions or praise.

Don’t get drunk, nobody likes a drunk DJ, your mixing will go downhill and the headliner will not like your drunk behavior or the fact you smell of alcohol. Actually, nobody will like that. As a DJ you need to act professional and your skills need to be on point.

I’ve seen too many DJ’s make this mistake — they are fine for the first 30 mins to an hour into their set, then they keep drinking and drinking, and then the quality of mixing changes — the DJs mixing becomes awful, they replay the same song they played at the beginning of the set and they become loud and obnoxious. It’s fine to have a drink or two, but please don’t get wasted. You will never get a gig at the same club if you do this and the manager sees your drunken behavior.

I’ve even had DJ’s insult me mid set because they didn’t like my music and were wasted — they have tried to push me aside so they can show me how it’s done. Few times I allowed this drunk DJ to take over and show me how it’s done, he danced and pretended like he was a superstar, the club completely died, music was terrible, people stopped dancing.

It got too loud but he thought he’s the best and that the headlining DJ has no clue how to mix. It’s quite entertaining to watch someone ruin their career like that. So please, don’t be that person. Be always polite, sober, professional and respectful.

3. Music selection and hype

audience-concert

Music selection is very important when it comes to DJing, especially when you’re a warm up DJ. If you’re opening for a DJ that’s famous for his Deep and Tech house, please don’t play EDM, Progressive Trance or Trap.

Same goes if you’re opening for an EDM DJ, don’t play Trance or Dubstep — it becomes insulting. You get the idea.

If the headlining DJ starts playing at let’s say midnight, play tracks of a lower BPM or lower energy level. You are a warm-up DJ, essentially you are warming up the dancefloor — you are not setting the dancefloor on fire, that’s the headliner’s job.

Be sure to play tracks that are not Top100 Beatport or Traxsource. Do some research on what the headliner might play and do your best to avoid playing those tracks. Be sure not to play tracks the headliner has produced as that will get really awkward.

I had experiences where a warm-up DJ played half of my playlist before my set and made it really hard for me as then I had to adjust my playlist on the spot and do something completely different. This is a good example of a bad warm-up DJ.

Warm-up DJs should take it easy, play some tracks that are dancy and have a cool vibe. If you’re opening for an EDM DJ and you play EDM, maybe try playing softer EDM, or even Future House. The point is to keep the crowd dancing, but not going too far with that. Otherwise the DJ will step in after you and won’t be able to build a better set since you already played all the hit songs and made everyone go mental.

To sum this up — play good music, at a slightly slower tempo and energy level, don’t play hit tracks that everyone knows or that the headliner might play and you will be fine.

4. Switch over

Before the headliner is about to start his set, give him notice that you will end soon and ask how many tracks should you play before he’s ready and at what tempo. Every DJ will be very grateful for this notice.

Don’t be that DJ that plays 135BPM Trance and you know that the headliner will play 128BPM House. This is very unprofessional and can cause tension and imagine the scenario where you play something super fast like that and you’re thinking that the headliner won’t be able to continue, but guess what? He continued and mixed in perfectly to your mischievous track.

Your idea failed and you turned out to be the bad guy. Imagine if someone did that to you, if someone played dubstep on 140 bpm and they know you will play deep house on 122bpm. Good luck with that. It wouldn't feel good, would it?

Before the other DJ starts playing, adjust your track accordingly, slow down if needed or even speed up if that DJ will continue a super powerful set. Just ask the headliner how he plans on starting.

high five

Be sure to give enough time and remove yourself from the decks at least a minute or two before he starts playing so the DJ can prepare to enter the mix or decide to let your track play to the end. Thank him for the opportunity and step away, don’t try playing one or two more tracks just because the people are dancing (had a DJ do this to me too).

After your set, go get a drink and enjoy the main act. After the headline DJ has finished, you can ask for a photo or autograph and compliment the DJ. Be nice to everyone — and when the DJ thanks you, you know you did a good job, have faith you will be booked again.

Professionalism is key to success.

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