Back-to-Back DJ Sets: What they are and how to master a B2B DJ set

December 12, 2023
Written by
Buster Bennett
Back-to-Back DJ Sets: What they are and how to master a B2B DJ set

Back-to-Back DJ Sets: What they are and how to master a B2B DJ set

A back-to-back DJ set is where two DJs take it in turns to mix. Sometimes they will be a DJ duo performing under one name like Daft Punk but sometimes they will be separate artists working together for a one-off special DJ set. Recently, DJ mixers have been evolving to facilitate the increasing popularity of B2B DJ sets so it's about time we broke it down and explain what B2B DJs are and what they do. Use this back-to-back DJ guide to learn how to perform a B2B DJ set without issue and the pros and cons of performing as a DJ duo.

Two Heads Are Better Than One?

The old saying goes 'two heads are better than one' but is it really correct? In some cases, having two people at the helm can be helpful but at other times it can cause chaos. B2B DJs need to correctly navigate and prepare for a back-to-back DJ performance in order to make it a success. Here are some of the pros and cons of B2B DJ performances to help you consider if a B2B DJ set is the right choice for you.

Advantages and Disadvantages of B2B DJs or DJ Duos

  1. One of the main advantages of being a DJ duo (two DJs under one artist name) is that you can divide the workload equally. If managed correctly, this means that two heads truly are better than one and DJ duos can see themselves overtake the competition and advance their DJ careers quicker than they could on their own. However, many DJ duos end in disaster, especially when one DJ does more work leaving them feeling hard done by. A DJ duo divorce can be a messy situation in which neither of the DJs involved might ever recover from. Consider this when starting a DJ duo.
  2. Having two DJs networking at the same time means that naturally more connections in the music industry are made, especially if both DJs come from different friend circles. This can provide a great advantage when it comes to forging a DJ career based on who you know and the connections you've made in the music industry.
  3. B2B DJs can also have an easier time DJing. While one DJ loads the next track the first is already mixing. They can help each other problem solve and boost each others confidence. It's especially nice when you travel as a DJ, you'll always be with your best friend making touring more fun. Furthermore, if one of the DJs is ill the show can still go one. This makes it much better to manage DJ gigs, especially during the winter months. This will also help the promoters should illness occur because cancelling a show can be very costly.
  4. B2B DJs also have more stage presence. Having two people behind the booth dancing, moving their body and throwing up those hands in the air means a more impressive stage performance. B2B DJs often vibe of each others energy and encourage each other to go beyond what a standalone DJ might achieve. This boost in confidence and energy can be infectious and the crowd will respond positively to an energetic performance. Making up more space on a stage is always a good idea.
  5. One issue for B2B DJs and DJ duos is music choice and set curation. Successful B2B DJs need to be on the same page musically and able to bounce ideas around freely. You both have to have. a deep understanding of each others music choices to enable you to find tracks in your own collection that work together harmoniously. Often, set preparation for B2B DJs is paramount and one of the main ways DJs can fall out. Many B2B DJs will practice together in a studio before a major performance or decide on a set list together. B2B DJ sets are most likely to fail when there is a miscommunication about what music is to be played and how to react spontaneously to the crowd on the night. B2B DJs need to have great observational skills and be ready to pick the best tunes no matter that the other DJ is playing. An in-depth knowledge of the genre you're playing and music style of the other partner DJ is essential.

DJ Equipment For B2B DJs: Splitters vs A/B

DJ equipment producers like Pioneer DJ have recently upgraded their DJ mixers to facilitate the rise in B2B DJ sets. The latest DJ mixers from Pioneer DJ have A and B headphones. This is a major step up from using a headphone splitter. A headphone splitter is simply an adapt for the headphone output to split the output into two, meaning you could plug in two pairs of headphones. However, using a splitter means that both DJs are listening to the same tracks on the mixer. 

The new A/B headphone outputs on the DJM A9 and DJM V10 enable the DJs to have their own individual headphone outputs. This means that each DJ can plug in separate headphones directly into the mixer. One of the left and one on the right. There are a few advantages to this system. Firstly, you don't have the problem of getting the headphone cables easily tangled. Previously, with a splitter this was a regular occurrence leading to interruptions in a DJ performance while DJ untangled themselves. Most importantly, each DJ can control their own separate headphone cues meaning they can listen to different things. One DJ could be in the mix beatmatching and the other could be cueing up their next song. There are also individual volume controls allowing each DJ to set the loudness to a comfortable volume.

Overall, the introduction of A/B headphone outputs on the latest industry-standard Pioneer DJ mixers is a game-changer for back-to-back DJ sets and DJ duos. B2B DJ sets are now much easier to perform and monitor.

B2B DJ Set Preparation

Prep is key for back-to-back DJ sets. Not only do you need to know exactly what music to play during the performance but you need to be on the same page technically. Both DJs should possess the same level of DJ dexterity and skill in order to create seamless transitions. It's recommended that you both skill-swap and make sure that you practice together. If one DJ is lacking, try and make up for the difference with extra training. Contact us for professional DJ training.

In addition to practicing, each DJ needs to be preparing their tracks correctly on their relevant DJ software. Most back-to-back DJs will use the industry-standard Rekordbox DJ software and Pioneer DJ equipment. This makes thing much easier than using separate systems. If you're going to perform as a B2B make sure you both know how to prepare your tracks correctly and mix harmonically. You need to be experts at beat-gridding and organising your tracks. Make sure you both know all the essential DJ skills and are ready to perform.

When you practice together it's wise to discuss 'What If' situations and be prepared for all eventualities. For example, what if one of the DJs is sick. Will the other DJ take all the money from the gig? Have some clear rules and understandings from the offset to avoid any issues later on.

Example B2B DJs

There are many famous B2B DJ example or DJ duos who perform as a pair. One of our most beloved up-coming DJ duo are the Gemini twins, former students from LSA. The gemini twins take B2B to another level using the A/B outputs and truly prove that two heads are better than one. They look fabulous behind the booth and always perform for the crowd. We love their infectious energy and highly recommend you give them a follow and support!

Follow Geminis on Instagram

Conclusion: Elevating the DJ performance with a B2B Appearance

B2B DJ performances are a quick-fire way to elevate a performance or DJ lineup. Deployed correctly, they are fun and engaging to watch. We recommend that DJs explore the possibility of B2B djing and see if they can find a DJ friend to back-to-back with. You never know, you might form a new DJ duo and a whole spin-off career. Often two heads can be better than one but remember too many cooks spoil the broth! Be aware of the pitfalls of back-to-back DJ sets and try to navigate the risks while aiming for the rewards B2Bs can offer.

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