Standing in my room and mildly overwhelmed, I stare at various cables and adapters scattered across my bed.

I nailed my first international gig, the hard part’s over! …Right? 

Sure… just don’t forget a single thing you’ll need to DJ for two weeks straight. In a country you’ve never been to before. Whose native language you haven’t spoken for over a decade. In a class you only passed because your teacher didn’t show up for the final.

No pressure dude.

So how exactly did I prep for my first international resort gig as a headlining DJ?

The Traveling DJ’s Gear List

Since I’d be abroad for two straight weeks I wanted to ensure I had everything I needed. Twice as much, actually. You don’t want to be screwed if anything breaks, I took the same approach that I take for wedding prep. Two of everything, as much as I can help it. 

In speaking with my booking agent all I needed was my laptop and music, controller optional.

Here’s what I ended up packing:

  • Power
    • Extension Cord
    • Backup Laptop charger
  • Audio Cables
    • Pair of TRS -> TRS
    • Pair of TRS -> XLR
    • RCA
    • ⅛”
    • RCA – > ⅛”
  • 2 USB cables
  • 2 Headphones
  • Backup Laptop
  • Backup Controller
  • Flash Drive

As far as flying with gear goes, you can straight up check your flight case though I prefer to keep my actual controller with me in the plane. My S4 just barely fits in my carry-on if I pack my flight case with clothes instead.

But if you can fit your controller in luggage, why bring a big bulky flight case? Having your flight case offers easy setup with a built-in laptop stand wherever you play. It also makes your rig look ‘legit’ as opposed to a metal laptop stand and all-in-one controller.

It sounds corny but the sad fact is that a DJ’s appearance matters as much as their performance. 

Flights & Getting Through Customs

I’d need a passport which I already had. On top of that I signed up for TSA PreCheck and Global Entry so I’d have as many speed bumps or potential complications removed ahead of time.

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Work ahead of time to pave the way for when you need it most. A concept I live by as much as possible, crucial for weddings and other important gigs.

You never know what craziness you’ll run into especially when catching a flight, so spending $100 to speed through security when every minute counted was a no-brainer. 

Now once I got on my flight they passed around a customs information sheet. Basically they don’t want folks bringing too much merchandise in or out of the country that would otherwise be taxed. A laptop and controller (classified as a musical instrument) won’t give you any problems. Any more than that and it will look like you’re there on serious business which might incur some questions.

Security was rather straightforward after paying a ~$10 entry fee. Not bad right? 

Music Prep

I’d be DJing on average 3 hours a day, 13 straight days, and I wanted to be at the top of my game. To have enough music each I’d need several hundred songs.

I immediately got to work on my DJ pools and curate lists, getting up to date on the latest music. I had a decent back catalogue of Latino music in addition to a ton of pop remixes with reggaetón beats. Super handy in a Spanish speaking country.

My most successful gigs were those I had prepared for the most, having the right tools at my fingertips in addition to having enough songs. This meant organizing setlists and properly tagging my tracks with relevant vibes.

My most important tags would be my ‘Staples’ & ‘Get Out Of Jail’ tracks.

Staples are your tried and true songs that have worked for you time and time again. I tag all of these with #staple in the Comments field so I can easily find them.

Drop-in tracks are songs that folks instantly recognize without buildup, no mixing required. Important when you’re in a bind and need to get the crowd back into it real quick. In fact with some of these you’d be doing a disservice mixing them because they kick off with such a recognizable sound, like the horns in House Of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. As such I tag these with #dropin so I can find them in 2 seconds in emergencies. For my first resort gig I wanted as many of these on hand as possible. 

Next article I’ll go over how prepared I actually was and how I nailed my club nights despite things not going as planned!