Category Archives: Gig Rewind

How To: Prep For First B2B Gig In Front Of Thousands

Your first gig in front of thousands is going to be nerve wracking enough. Now crank up the heat with going b2b for the first time. For all you Synch babies out there that means manually beat matching.

‘Oh why not just use Ableton Link?’

Ableton Link was only added as a Traktor feature in the Fall of 2016 for their 2.11 update. Both DJs need at least this version. Lo and behold my compatriot uses a controller that is not compatible with the most recent version of Mac OS. As a result he is stuck using a version of Traktor released well before 2016.

Sad panda.

Luckily I had weeks to prepare for the gig. Ok cool, just practice, right? For some reason I have a hard time practicing for practicing’s sake. Even with the pressure of spinning in front of thousands. I crawl into a ball and find something else to do. Procrastinator 101. The next best thing that works for me is opening up a live stream online. Unless I’m sipping on a Bulleit & Coke and jamming out, DJing without eyeballs is something I struggle with.

But indeed, within my problem lied my solution. I had been so busy with gigs over that span of time that I was able to get in a couple hours of practice a week. I’d fit micro sessions in the few minutes between songs during low periods of activity.

Now, since you’ll be able to LAN hack and cheat off your friend’s screen, you’ll already know the exact tempo you need to mix in. All you need to do is work on your ‘beat-drop’ timing and adjust with your ear. Luckily you can practice this half a dozen times over a minute or two. That’s exactly what I did during gig downtime.

My issue was that I kept cheating. The phase meter is right there in Traktor. Every single time I would glance up and see how far off I was. Practice attempt ruined. The good news is that we can turn that off. For ease of practice I set up two identical layouts to cut between and left the phase meter off one of them. Here is how I set it up within Traktor:

B2B Manual Beatmatching Setup

  • Layout Manager -> Add
  • Select favorite mixing layout, rename to ‘Beatmatch Practice’
  • Move Up/Down so it is right before/after your favorite layout
  • With your new layout selected, go to ‘Deck Layout’ and uncheck ‘Phase Meter’
  • Go to Controller Manager, add a new keyboard mapping to scroll up/down your layout list
  • For Serato users: Try mixing in Library Mode

Practice Routine

  • Turn off your sync button
  • Cue up a track of similar tempo
  • Match your BPM (manually, this is important)
  • Start dropping on the one in your headphones
  • Adjust with your platter if it sounds off

You’ll suck at first but you’ll get better with time. Try not to overthink it, you’ll eventually develop an intuitive sense of being ahead or behind.

Think you’ve got it on target? Switch into your Phase Mater layout and see how far off you are. Immediate feedback! Once you’ve nailed mixing within headphones it’s time to up the ante. Listen to the live track only from your speakers with your cued track only in headphones. It’s a little harder but this is what you’re going to have to do in a live situation.

Live Tips

Agree that each of you will stick to round BPM numbers. 120, 110, 128, etc. It will be easier to set your tempo.

When mixing in pick a part of the song that is easy to identify, yet very basic like Hi-hats. Loop it. Once you think you’re matched in your headphones, creep the looped track into the master output in a little at a time. Drop 2-4 beat samples to see how close you are. Almost no one will notice if you’re off by a bit. Adjust your platters, bring in some more volume and check again. You can match up tracks as early as you want and leave it looping. As long as their tempo doesn’t change and their platters aren’t touched you’re golden. With ‘Snap’ & ‘Quantize’ activated you can jump around all you want and remain ‘in time’.

Furthermore you can side-step beat matching by using what I call drop-in tracks. Simulate a turntable stop with the outgoing track and drop into your next one if it’s conducive. A great example is at the beginning of ‘It Takes Two’ when he says ‘Hit it’.

How exactly did I get that festival gig?

It’s a long story, though my approach was very simple.  It’s certainly possible to go from bedroom to festivals in just a year and a half. Subsequent posts are going to focus precisely on how I went from hardly any DJs in my network to getting leads left and right, including this gig, all in just 18 months time. Sign up for my newsletter and my guide will be sent straight to your inbox once released.

Behind The Scenes: Negotiating Terms With A Club

With under a week before the party, our venue was suddenly closed.

Against a wall, the organizers began looking for alternative sites to ensure success. Over the coming days a promising bar a little off the beaten path with plenty of space surfaced. A meeting was quickly arranged with the owners so we could discuss terms and scope out the venue.

As we’d come to discover he’d been promised the world by many, though few actually came through to deliver. As such his primary concerns were as follows:

  • That we wouldn’t show up wasting the bouncer’s time
  • That we would show up, but we’ll bring a rough crowd
  • That we’d abuse a comped bar tab by passing drinks to friends

As such our original agreement settled as:

  • 15% of bar sales
  • $100 taken off the 15% return for the bouncer
  • 1/2 price bar tab for the three DJs (and no passing drinks to friends)

We brought up bringing additional speakers but the owner balked. They already had a decent setup but the sub wasn’t well place and the room had various dead spots. After telling a friend of ours the initial terms he paid his own visit to negotiate a better deal. He was well equipped; he had extensive experience organizing and promoting events. Ultimately we’d be able to bring supplementary sound in addition to

  • Waiving the cost of the bouncer ($100) and
  • Getting a bottle at follow-up events for the DJs, contingent on a successful first night.

The event was centered around House music accompanied by interactive live percussion. And I was the opening DJ.

After all was said and done we ended up with over two grand in bar sales. For a kickoff event series it was a strong success, the place was packed most of the night. Management was happy, we had a blast, and we broke even after bar sales we taken into account. We got to drink for free and rock an awesome party.

We now had a new venue to host parties in a decent location with solid staff, with terms in our favor.

DJing my first 1000+ person event

Mid-week a friend of mine reached out and asked if I was free the upcoming Sunday. He was on the West coast for the month and needed a fill-in. “It’s for a fundraiser” he said, “plug and play, sound is already provided. You might need to do some light MCing though.” I’ve done a number of weddings so jumping on the mic is not foreign to me. Sunday gigs are also great since I’m usually free anyway. He didn’t know what the fundraiser was for, just at a college nearby. But at the end of the day it wasn’t going to really impact how I was going to prepare. I’ve got a number of setlists to reference last minute if I needed to switch gears, worst case scenario.

The morning of the event I do a little research and end up piecing together the charity given the college. It wasn’t just any fundraiser, it was in fact a 5k run for Crohn’s. The guy who plugged me in follows-up to ensure I’m all set. He sends me a photo of the stage I’ll be on, and “Oh by the way, it’s going to be in front of 1000-1500 people.” Damn son! Aright then well let’s do this.

The event is 4-7 pm with sound check at 3. I wanted to get there extra early to account for potential traffic and make sure I could find everything. Not only does it damper potential stress when you’ve given yourself plenty of time but the event staff and managers definitely appreciate it knowing they don’t have to worry if their DJ is going to show up.

I set myself up fairly quickly. As he mentioned it was indeed plug and play, just needed a fold-up table and my gear. I hooked right in with XLR cables, though I did need to dig out my TRS -> XLR adaptors. The sound crew had iPads and were able to control everything right there in their hands, pretty cool stuff. I throw on a busy, high energy track for sound check and we cranked it. Dammm the stage was rattling with bass! After setting our levels they have me put on a continuous mix until the show is ready to get going. I have about a full hour until game time. I spend a good portion of it creating a refined setlist now that I saw the venue setup and had a better idea of what I’d be playing to.

Shortly prior to kicking off a coordinator comes up and hands me two sheets of announcements consisting of shoutouts to their sponsors. This is about when they tell me it’s a 5k run/walk and not just a festival. Ahh, ok makes sense.

In the 45 minutes after we get going I sprinkle in their sponsor shoutouts. Leading up to the kickoff ceremony I throw in 10 & 5 minute warnings. Of course things run behind so in reality they got going with the ceremony fifteen minutes late. Not two minutes before it’s supposed to begin another individual comes up and asks I if I can host and coordinate the ceremony, in the process handing me a whole book of how it’s supposed to unfold…

Uhhh, no.

If you guys wanted me to host your entire ceremony you’d have had to at least given me a bit more notice than that. Not to mention I was hardly even familiar with the disease and had zero context on what was going on. Aside from being unprepared, it was just not a good idea all around. They go off and find someone else, by the time they get back I call everyone over.

Up until this point I was doing well in my announcements but finally I trip over my words. Straight blabbermouth. Blahhhh. Of course everyone heard me sound like an idiot. I knew because the entire field started walking over since I had announced we were about to begin the ceremony, in fluent PygLation.

Doh.

And holy crap it was a lot more people than I expected!

I hardly noticed at first since everyone was nestled off into tents, way off and scattered around the field. Their appointed host gets through the ceremony and we kick off the race. I scramble to find an appropriate song to launch with but ’This is what you came for’ by Calvin Harris was the best I could come up with. Once the race got started there was nobody left hanging around. Like, zombie-nation status. I decided at that point it was time to have a little fun with some easy going Disco House.

As folks get done trickling in another coordinator comes up and hands me the top three times for male and female. I announce the names as he handed out the medals. Since people were returning to the field in at such a slow pace the crowd never picks back up again. Everyone just left shortly after they were done walking/running.

I did have a few backup dancers just prior to closing up shop.

These three little girls just wanted to hear Ed Sheeran, and who was I to say no with no one else really around? I gave them a bunch of the free props that were left and sent them off happy as could be.

And just like that, my first thousand person event. Not nearly as bad as I might’ve thought!