The Unwritten Rules of the DJ Booth
The Unwritten Rules of the DJ Booth: Ultimate Reveal!
Once you have learnt how to DJ and have starting performing you soon pick up on some unspoken rules of the DJ booth. These unwritten rules are important to know so you can avoid any embarrassing mishaps. A social blunder in the DJ booth can negatively affect your reputation as a DJ and cost you gigs. Use this guide of unwritten rules to navigate the secret DJ code of conduct DJs and promoters expect from professional DJs.
At LSA, we organise DJ gigs for all graduates of our DJ courses. Live DJ experience is a crucial learning stage for any new DJ. Luckily for our students we are there to supervise the events and make sure everything goes smoothly. We'll show our students how to behave in the DJ booth and what the general etiquette is.
Not everyone has the ability to come join our course in London so we're providing this unique and revealing list of unwritten DJ booth rules. Make sure you don't accidentally fall foul of a faux pas and avoid any critical mistakes in the DJ booth with this essential guide.
1. Be Punctual
The number one way to show your professionalism in the DJ industry is to be punctual. This means never be late, be in the booth on time, communicate with the promoter effectively and always be reliable. DJs who show these qualities will be rewarded with more gigs. If you burn a promoter by being late with no good reason, you can't expect to be booked again. Make sure you are aware of the set times and in constant communication with the promoter and other DJs. This could be in the form of a group chat or via an artist liaison. Set times can change so be flexible and keep your eye out for any changes. Make sure you're in the booth five minutes before your set time.
2. Don't Crowd The Booth
DJs need space to do a good job. One of the most annoying things is people crowding your booth when you're trying to perform. You shouldn't be in the DJ booth unless invited and you should always give the other DJs space when they are performing. Don't let your friends into the booth either. Also remember, other DJs might be more self conscious if another DJ is looking over their shoulder which can affect their confidence and performance. Let each DJ have a booth to themselves.
When it's your turn to take over just come into the DJ booth five minutes before your set and introduce yourself. Politely wait for your set time and make sure you're not in the way.
3. Don't Interfere Without Permission
You should never interfere with another DJs performance unless you have expressed permission, like a call for help. Respect your fellow DJs right to perform without interference. Yes, other DJs might be making mistakes but that's not up to you to correct. They might need to experience of making the mistake to learn from it. You might offer help but never jump in uninvited.
4. Be Supportive
Newer DJs and older DJs alike might need help from time to time. If you see someone is struggling or stressed you might politely offer them some help or support. Perhaps their headphones have broken and you can lend them yours, or maybe they don't understand a function or button which is hindering their set. Be supportive and positive but never look down on a DJ or patronise them.
5. Don't Photobomb
Further to our advice about giving DJs room to perform a separate note is needed to highlight the fact that you should never photobomb a DJs performance. Many promoters and DJs will pay photographers and videographers to document their DJ set and many fans will also be filming. Make sure you don't ruin the shot by being in the background. When you see someone filming or taking photos you should give them space to do their job and get the best angles.
6. Don't Use The Booth as a Cloakroom
It's very annoying when friends of the DJ think the DJ booth is a free cloakroom. Not only is it very difficult to perform when someone is stashing a handbag or coat under your booth but it can be a health and safety hazard. These items might create a trip hazard and can easily also catch an important cable or smother hot electrical equipment. Make sure your guests use the official cloakroom or green room.
7. Respect The DJ Equipment
It goes without saying that respect must be given to the DJ equipment. Without it, no one can perform. Drinks should never be at the DJ table or around the electronic equipment. Many venues will also bill the DJ if there is any damage to the equipment and a spilt drink is one of the most fatal things that can happen to DJ equipment. Avoid this mistake by only having drinks in safe places. It's a good ideal to have bottles water where you can screw the cap back on when not in use.
Treat the DJ equipment like your own and be gentle with the buttons, switches, knobs and faders. We all know how hard it is to DJ when something is broken of faulty. Avoid any reckless behaviour that could lead to damage, malfunction or you leaving with a bill!
8. Soundcheck if your Bringing DJ Equipment
If you intend to use your own DJ equipment make sure you organise a time when you can set it up and sound check before the other DJs start. This way you can avoid the faux pas of interrupting the other DJs performance to plug in your equipment. This is wise also because you want to solve any sound issues before it's too late.
If you are bringing DJ equipment make sure you have everything PAT tested and that you have public liability insurance and general product insurance. Many larger venues would require a high level of insurance if you're bringing equipment with you.
Avoid plugging cables in and out when other DJs are playing, even if you're just recording your set. You should not be doing anything while another person is on stage.
9. Be Mindful of Health & Safety
It's no just the venue's job to manage health and safety in the DJ booth. Make sure you're playing your part by looking out for potential hazards and proactively reducing risk. Common health and safety issues in the DJ booth can include:
Electrocution Risk - With lots of electronics around there is a real risk of electrocution. Make sure that you never have drinks near electronics. Make sure that all the equipment has room to breath and is not being smothered by things like coats and bags. Make sure that cables are secure and in good condition. Don't overload plug sockets. If the DJ booth does not look safe, refuse to play.
Trip Hazards - Make sure there are no trip hazards like trialing cables or items like bags and boxes blocking the gangway. If you bring anything with you make sure it's in a safe place where no one can trip. Make sure there are also no slip hazards like spilt drinks and report anything to the manager of the event or venue.
Falling & Crush Hazards - Another common DJ booth hazard is the potential for something to fall or crush someone. Make sure that your stage and DJ table or stand is secure and not at risk of collapsing or falling. Speakers, lights and booth monitors should also be secure.
Heat & Aeration - Make sure your DJ booth is not too hot. The temperature and ventilation should be conducive to a DJ performance.
Fire - Where is your nearest fire exit and is your venue at a safe capacity? If in doubt talk to the event manager or venue manager. You'll want to check and see if there is a fire alarm nearby or any fire fighting equipment. Someone's life could depend on it.
Medical - Most large venue's and events will have medic teams. You should know who to contact in an emergency for yourself and others. The DJ has the best viewpoint of the whole venue so look out for your fans.
10. Be Mindful of Security
As well as looking out for general health and safety DJs should be mindful of the security of their DJ booth. Some DJs booths are separated from the crowd and others are not. Either way, you need to be watchful of your belongings and also monitor who is in the DJ booth. Sometimes people can sneak into the DJ booth. In this scenario you should contact the venue's security to help remove the person. If you're unable to find security you might wish to ask the bar person to do so.
11. Switch Seamlessly Like a Pro
One of the most important moments is when one DJ switches to another. This is the critical moment when a lot of things can potentially go wrong.
12. Don't Cut Them Off Early
Once you have taken over from another DJ it's polite to let their last track play to the outro of a sign of respect. However, if the track means it's eating into your set time or clearing the dancefloor you have the right to start mixing in your first track.
13. Stay Professional
In a hectic and loud environment it's easy to become anxious or stressed. In any situation, you should remain calm and professional. Remember that your reputation as a DJ is more important than just one gig or inconvenience. Protect your reputation at all costs and be the calmest person in the room. Always be courteous with other DJs, venue staff and promoters. There is normally a solution for any issue and at worst you can just calmly walk away.
14. Stay in Communication
Organising an event is tough. Promoters and event managers have a touch job managing all the facets of a live music event. Make their job easy by remaining in constant contact. Make sure your phone is fully charged and your have signal. If you don't have signal make it known to the promoter or artist liaison as they will need to monitor your performance if you can't call for help.
15. Don't Get Wasted
Save it for the afterparty dude! No one wants to deal with someone who is intoxicated in the DJ booth. It's a sloppy look and highly frowned upon. Your DJ set will be affected and your reputation will go to the dogs if you're seen wasted behind the decks.
We hope you enjoyed our ultimate guide to the unwritten rules in the DJ booth! Please share this blog with your DJ friends and let us know if you have any suggestions to add to the list. Click here to contact LSA.