7 Tips for the Warm-Up DJ Looking to Play a Great Opening Set

Chances are, most people who attend an electronic music concert, club night or live event came for the performance of the main act. If you are a relative newcomer in the DJ industry, however, you will most likely be tapped to play the opening set for the event.

Performing as the opener has its own challenges, particularly in getting the audience warmed up for the main act in a manner that is suitable for the event and artist coming after you. This entails being able to create the atmosphere of excitement and energy out of thin air, all without overdoing it and stealing the limelight from the headlining act. And as any DJ will tell you, that makes the job of the warm-up DJ the most difficult of all.

If the warm-up DJ fails to get the crowd warmed up or goes overboard with his set, the result will have a domino effect which ultimately leads to a less than memorable concert.

We have noted 7 tips that every warm-up DJ should keep in mind when playing an opening set:

  1. Gauge the audience and the atmosphere of the moment. Whatever you will play will depend on what is needed to get the audience excited enough for the main act, without going over the top either. Each crowd and audience is different, so be sure to keep an eye on the room and play accordingly.
  2. Play familiar music, but not the peak-time tracks. Just stick to lower-energy, lower-tempo tracks that have a familiar feel or will get them hyped up just right. This does not mean only playing tracks that the crowd knows, but a sound that is familiar enough and suitable for the room so that the audience is grooving and ready for the headliner coming on after you.
  3. Make friends with the staff. Take time to get to know a bit about the staff at the venue you’ll be playing. More importantly, you should show yourself as someone who is positive, polite and friendly. This actually helps set the mood throughout the night, as your own mood and outlook will be reflected on your set and performance.
  4. Prepare for your set, head there with with an idea in mind of the music you would like to play. Know beforehand the type of music you should play as a warm-up DJ, have your playlists ready and head to your set prepared for your performance, as well as anything else that may come up during your set.
  5. At the same time, be prepared to deviate from the playlist idea that you have. As we just said, every event has a different atmosphere and you should learn to “go with the flow” when reading the room during your set. It’s fine to have a general idea of the direction you will go on, but it must be flexible so you can alter it to suit the speed of the night.
  6. Be attentive, especially of the initial people coming in. Those early people are the ones you need to watch, as their initial enthusiasm is going to dictate the atmosphere for the rest of the event. Even if there’s no dancing, watch out for reactions like bobbing heads, little dance moves, smiles, or vocal reaction to whatever you’re playing. Remember also to focus on those who’ve really come to party.
  7. Always remember you’re part of a bigger plan. Be mindful and respectful of the main act people came to see in the first place. The tracks that you play and the time that you are on stage should reflect that respect.

Despite what some may think, being a warm-up DJ is no easy task. Hopefully, these tips will help any warm-up DJ play a great opening set as they work on becoming the main acts themselves in the future.

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