DJ Etiquette 101: Playing With Other DJs


by Rick Cruz aka DJ C-Sik (Beat Drop DJ Instructor) As you start playing out more often you’re probably going to start sharing the stage with other DJs. Sometimes they might be DJs you know, maybe in your own crew, or it might even be with other DJs that you’ve never met before. In any case, when you start to share the stage, there’s a certain set of unspoken rules in the DJ world that are a good idea to follow. Not only will it keep a good rapport with your fellow DJ brethren, but it will also help keep the flow of the night running smooth. I’m going to break down a few major points and issues to consider:

1. The DJ Hog

It’s always a good idea to have a quick game plan with the other DJs you’re playing with before the night rolls out to figure out the timing logistics of the night. Sometimes it’s beneficial to come up with a set list, that way there’s no arguments as to which DJ is going on when. Sometimes this means each DJ gets a certain time slot and sometimes this means that the DJs play in a steady rotation. Whatever the case, it’s always good to discuss this before the night gets rolling so everyone gets his or her fair shot and no one’s being the “DJ Hog”. Obviously these set times can be bent to fit the needs of the night. If a DJ’s on a roll and killing it but his or her time is almost up, it’s probably a good idea to let him or her keep going and figure out when a good time to switch would be later. Most DJs out there are gracious enough to know when their time is up and sometimes they’ll ask for the next DJ to switch anyway.

2. Sharing Equipment

Some DJs really don’t mind sharing their records, needles, CDs, etc. but some could be pretty particular about it. At every gig, make sure you always have your own equipment ready to go just in case the next DJ really doesn’t want you sweating all over their new headphones.

3. Switching

There are a lot of different setups that allow for more than one DJ to play a night (we’ll get into these at a later post). Whatever the case, make sure the transitions between you and the other DJ run smooth. There’s nothing worse than a big “train wreck” as another DJ is taking over (this happens a lot when inexperienced DJs are playing the 2 x 4 turntable/CDJ setup). Communication is the key in these instances. It’s a good idea for DJ B (who is getting on) to let DJ A (who is getting off) know how many bars his song is coming in for. This way it keeps DJ A in the know as to when to drop the bass and fade out the song just as if DJ B was controlling both setups. These mixes are about teamwork; try not to let DJ B hanging. Not only does this ensure the night still runs smooth but it more importantly doesn’t leave DJ B with a mess to clean up at the very start of his set.

4. Let the DJ do His Thing

This is kind of a given but if you’re DJ B waiting to get on (again, this is usually in a 2 x 4 setup) while DJ A is doing his thing, be respectful and keep your volumes down. This means your tracks, your sample effects, scratching, etc. If DJ A wants you to join in with them, he or she will ask. It could be disrespectful to the DJ and it usually ends up turning into a bunch of noise. Unless you both planned to play at the same time, be courteous to the DJ you’re playing with and don’t interrupt their set.

5. Resetting Your System

DJ setups have come a long way in the last decade. They’ve gone from two sources and a mixer to the Star Ship Enterprise’s bridge controls. With a 4-channel mixer, midi controllers, and a few laptops with spinning circles and lights, things could start getting pretty distracting for the DJ who’s playing. This may sound trivial but there’s a small favour you can do for your DJ partner to help them focus better: EJECT YOUR SERATO TRACKS. One, this will stop the song on your laptop so there’s no chance of accidentally bringing up the wrong channel. Two, stopping the song/ejecting the track will stop the LED level lights from jumping on the channels that the current DJ isn’t using taking down four meters to the two that the DJ is trying to focus on.

Some of these points may seem insignificant to the average working DJ, but I’ve heard enough complaints from DJs out there about these very issues. Sometimes a few bad DJ habits could label you as the DJ that no one wants to play with. Above all else, be respectful and have fun up there. When there’s more than one DJ, the task to rock the party has gone from you to the collective of you. You’ve become a team for the night (and hopefully more nights in the future if things go well). Keeping a good rapport on stage (and off stage) with other DJs will open doors for you as a working DJ as you never quite know what opportunities your partner for the night might have in store for you.

Do you guys have any horror stories about playing with other DJs? Or how about a great experience sharing the decks with someone? What are some of your pet peeves when sharing the stage with other DJs?

C-Sik will be teaching a new class DJ 101 that is perfect if you are looking to get into DJing but don't know where to start. You can also visit the Events section of our Facebook page to check out all our other events and courses.

Also, stay in the know about what's going on with Beat Drop by hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter or joining our Mailing List if you haven't already.