Imagine if we asked every DJ who visited our site to sit down, spend a few hours thinking, and come up with the perfect playlist for us. In other words, the perfect 4 hour set, that would work better than any other set, for TODAY. With time to think, I’m sure most of us could formulate a pretty dope night. Every hot song and classic track would get played right in a row. Each song would have a purpose, and would mix perfectly with the next one. It wouldn’t really be too hard to come up with, because most DJs have small mini-sets that they know work well — so the night would mainly consist of tying those sets together, plus finding a way to fit the hot new songs in. And then, you would have it:
The Optimal Night.
For any serious DJ who hasn’t thought of his/her optimal night, it is likely that you’ve atleast had one night, where you felt everything really came together extra well, and you’ve likely gone back into your Serato history to relive it and take notes of what really seemed to work. If you haven’t done that yet, remember — it’s still there waiting for you :)
Anyway, the whole point of the above paragraphs is just to point out that whether we’ve thought of it or not, The Optimal Night DOES EXIST!! Although it would be a little different for everyone, it’s still there. And for DJs with a residency, knowing that the Optimal Night exists, can make doing your weekly gig somewhat of a struggle. You know song B works best after song A, but you did that routine last week. So now, you have to purposely stray from your Optimal Night and play song C after song A instead. When you think of it, DJing at a residency may be one of the few jobs in the world where you purposely stray from whats optimal, just for the sake of switching it up. It’s actually a little sad when you think of it that way, however, there is some good news! We don’t always spin at residencies!! So, how does that change things??
While we’ve spent alot of time on this site talking about how to stay fresh at your residency, we’ve yet to really discuss what to do when you’re a DJ who travels across your state, across the country, or internationally. For those of us who’ve taken the step of leaving the local scene, you will find you have a whole new attitude once you’re ready to spin. You realize this crowd you’re playing for hasn’t heard you spin, if not recently, not ever! (Only the bigger names have to worry about YouTube) All your little sets that you’ve built over the year(s) are fair game to use. No one will know! If you’re a DJ who has an idea of what your Optimal Night is, this is you’re chance to play it. The question now is, will you?? Should you??
I’ve heard alot of opinions on this issue, and it seems like most people are cool with playing sets. Count me in that group as well. If I’m spinning somewhere I haven’t been before, while I’m not gonna run a playlist for the entire night, there’s still a good chance you’ll hear “Be Faithful” after DMX’s “Party Up”. I found that’s a mix that works for me well during my old school set, and If I have the chance, I’m probably gonna stick with it. Not always, but more often that not.
Now as a DJ, I can’t deny that if I went somewhere and killed it — and then a fellow DJ said to me, “WOW DUDE, that was crazy, was that a planned set, or did u just wing that??”, it would be cool to act nonchalant and reply “Ehhh you know, just kinda winged it — why –did it sound okay?” :) But I try to be honest, and I’ll usually explain the whole “yes and no” thing. I definitely can relate to what DJ Vice said last month while on DjCity.com’s The MikiDz Show. Vice explained, “I don’t wanna get bored of myself. Like I don’t wanna go to a gig and be like ‘Alright, let me go to the crate, and here’s the 17 records in a row. I’m just gonna play these and then I’m safe, I’m good, everyone’s dancing!’ Then it becomes a job to me. I’m never gonna let this become a job.”
So while I won’t frown on those who do come to the club with an entire playlist, I think it’s cool to mix in a little “freestyling” in there as well. There’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself every so often, and as JD’s mentioned before, the crowd may not be what you expect, and any set you had planned may need to be thrown out the window. If you’re not used to freestyling your night, you might have trouble. Plus, if you never try just going with the flow, you’ll never find the new song combinations that may work even better than your older ones!