DJ Essentials- Gig Bag Check List

You hit the street, passed out your demos, talked to everyone you know and now its finally paid off with a few gigs. Most djs spend so much time preparing music, hunting down shows and promoting that when it finally comes time to prepare for a gig- they leave out some very important items. Each show is not only an opportunity to play your favorite songs and rock the crowd but the very best opportunity  to get more gigs and build your career. To help you out we have created this important list of items every dj should have in his gig bag to make each gig a smooth one and create opportunities for future shows.

THE LOCAL GIG

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For your local bar or club here are a few items you need to have.

Powered Light– make sure your equipment is visible no matter what conditions you may find. The Joby Gorrila torch is great.

Business Cards- People will ask for one so make sure your ready. Don’t just give yours out though, always take their card and follow up the next day! Many smart djs make their business cards memorable so your prospect can put together the pieces even after a night of rough drinking. I use cards with a wax coating so they last the rigors of my dj bag.

Custom molded Ear Attenuators– Even if you must crank up the monitors while djing there is no reason to blow your ears in the hours before or after your play. There-fore, always carry around a pair of these handy buggers which will save your ears for the mix. Remember, with each hour of heavy noise exposure- your ears attentiveness decreases. So like a good fighter, rest your most valuable weapons before and after each match! Check out this site for more info on “musicians earplugs”

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Back Up CD- There is absolutely no excuse for dead air. Even if the improbable happens and your laptop takes a shit- then you absolutely must be ready with a long mix cd that give you plenty of time to trouble shoot. This ideally would start off with a big intro that makes it sound like the silence was planned and gives you at least 20 minutes of time to figure out what’s wrong.

Extra USB Cable- Yes, they do go bad and without one your screwed- so always pack a backup. It might make sense to use one of our high quality USB cables (they are finally back in stock!) Many users have sent us letters talking about how these cable’s high quality shielding and ferrite’s have stopped dropout problems in crazy club environment’s. If your controller or sound card starts acting crazy one of the first things to check is the USB cable. It might either be of poor quality or just isn’t working anymore.

Pad of Paper, Pen, and bunch of Mix CD’s- This is the secret weapon of most successful dj’s in the early days. At the end of each gig, walk around and ask people if they liked the set. If the answer is yes- give them a CD and ask them to write down their email for your “list”. You will quickly convert casual listeners into devoted fans and build your most valuable asset- a following.  Making decent money for the gig? Pay one of your friends to walk around while your playing for the best results. We like mixonic for good looking mix cds

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Foam Padding- Most of you here are using controllers so you have probably found yourself with no-where to put your controller in booths designed for vinyl djs. Sadly, not much has improved in the past 5 years since I first started putting foam on top of turntables to hold my controllers so it still remains a good option if you need reliable place to put your controllers. Cut yourself a small rectangle of foam that’s approximately 15″ X 10″ inches.  I have always used the 1″ egg crate foam and set it right on top of the center spindle. The foam will keep the platter from spinning and provide a non-slip stable surface for your controller.

Camera- You may rock the crowd every night, but without documentation, no one will ever know. Shoot video and photos at your gigs to sell yourself to future promoters and owners. The Cannon power shot looks good at night in most conditions.

1/8″ adaptor – I highly recommend always keeping at least one extra headphone adaptor in your gig bag. It will eventually pay off big time.

Extra Laptop Power Adaptor- You are eventually going to show up to a club without your laptop power supply and only 2 hours of battery time.  Avoid this very stress-full event and purchase an extra laptop power supply that lives in your dj bag and never leaves. Trust me, its absolutely worth the $50.

The Out of Town Gigs

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Along with the items in the above list,  international and national gigs require a few extras.

Envelop or Pouch- Keep the receipts for every single thing you buy. Even if you don’t get re-imbursed for these expenses by the promoter (which is often the case), every single one of them is tax deductible! This will save you big cash in the future.

IEM’s- In ear monitors are a lifesaver for prepping tracks on the plane. They block out all the noise and allow you to work in peace on your sets. They also make airports barely tolerable with the right play-list. I personally use the Shure SCL2’s which have a good bang for your buck.

BackUp Hard Drive- In the case of laptop loss or failure the show must go on so you need to have a hard drive with all your music backed up on a portable drive. This will also prove useful for music swapping with your buddies on the road. The lacie rugged hard disk is my personal favorite.

Work Visa- International locations, especially third world countries are officially hip to International Djs and how easy it is to spot them. Give away clue? Thousands of flyers with your face and country of origin are plastered around the city. If you are traveling, make sure you have your work visa- deportation is a major bummer.

Water! Some of my globe trotting friends are equipped with bullet proof Immune systems- sadly I am not one of them and frequent gigging will always get me sick without sufficient hydration. Flights, Alcohol and late nights all work together to leave you severely de-hydrated so to stay at the top of your game make water a top priority for

Leave the Drugs- Seriously. There is no way to know how other countries feel about them. Just ask Groovrider who sat in a middle eastern jail for several years before being recently pardoned.

FURTHER READING

Whats-in-your-bag

We have many more planned but its worth checking out our first “whats in your dj bag” series where Jesse from MSTRKRFT shows us what they bring to their gigs.

  • DJ KOLOS

    Awesome page, been doing a lot of national gigs and some internationally.  As for bags, been using my Technics messenger bag for my laptop, sera to and gear.  Planning on getting a backpack style from http://www.odysseygear.com/

  • Proze

    Straight to the point and useful again! Cheers for the foam tip, so sick of residents giving me dirty looks for unplugging their technics1200 and putting it under the desk, even when they all use the CDJ1000’s taking up the only laptop stand space. Ha and the Joby Gorilla touch is cool

  • big b

    Thank you for this site, lots of the time information is hard to come by. I often ask other digital djs here in Wash.D.C. for information & 95% of the time they offer NO HELP AT ALL. As being djs we suppose to be a family. I am not new to the dj game but still young to the digital side of djing.I am using a Swiss Army backpack for my dj gear. It’s an excellent product and very comfortable for traveling too !!! You don’t have to spend $175.00 – $200.00 for a gig bag. The Swiss Army backpack cost me $80.00. I have a 17 in. laptop, dj controller, 2 headphones, audio interface, backup hard drive, laptop stand, double-side tackle box(6″ by 3″ by 1′) for my adapters & plugs and cables. Still my gig bag is ONLY half full, I still can put another controller in my bag with no problem.If you know about Swiss Army you know they make quality products. Thanks.

    • DJ Sunshine

       PM me, I’m a DC native 🙂 been on the Raleigh, NC scene for awhile now, but will probably be relocating back home and looking to take it to the DC clubs!

  • Mike Dunne

    What gig bags are ye using lads??

    • James Benjamin

      Magma Riot XL

  • I also would like to know where I can get my hands on the UDG Producers Bag in the states.

    Holler back if you know and as always Ean, great post!

    Ken_UF

    [quote comment=”25613″]Happy New Year all,

    Any place to get the UDG Producers Bag in the states?

    Do you happen to know of a bag that would fit a laptop, VCI-100 and an Oxygen 8.

    Thanks[/quote]

  • Anon

    A dildo. I always carry one of these in my bag. It can be very useful in the right situations.

  • Kama

    Happy New Year all, Any place to get the UDG Producers Bag in the states? Do you happen to know of a bag that would fit a laptop, VCI-100 and an Oxygen 8.

    Thanks

  • DJN

    Great stuff here – one thing of note: Battery back up – If it’s not powered by the usb on the laptop (which is a mixed blessing) This protects your gear, hard drives and equipment.
    I did a gig once where the power was so bad luorescent lights in the place wouldn’t work right. Amps didn’t care much but everything else had issues. I know it makes a bag heavy but in some instances it is a life saver it you plug in more than a laptop…

  • alang

    i would recommend tom bihn bags..they’re not dj-specific..but the attention to detail & value is top-notch. i’ve got the ’empire builder’..though there are other styles i drool over.

    his laptop cases are the best..they cradle the laptop & suspend it above the bottom of the case..so it’ll never take a direct shock setting it down. the thing i love most about the empire builder is that it sits flat & holds open, almost like a case.

    http://www.tombihn.com

  • Anthony

    I think the check list is now complete.

    However….If the club is real ghetto, You might want to bring along your gun. If a crack head tries to snatch your VCI-100 at the club, you check the fool!!

    What?!?! It could happen.
    Happy mixing in 2010!

  • Just like you’d expect, business cards and mix cds can do wonders in the after hours.

    I don’t know how many times I’d be sitting around with DJs after the night has calmed down to ask for some sort of ID so I can check out their stuff later and, of course, they didn’t have anything to give me.

    You try to pass around Facebook and Myspace info but of course it’s going to be forgotten.

    You did miss the most important pieces to bring – an extra set of needles!

    How many times do you get to a party to find out the decks have broken needles – be prepared.

  • Great articles there’s a good few things I had not thought of there… Foam padding is a good once so you can overlay your laptop or controller over the existing decks without damage. You really can never have too many extra spare cables just in case, I’ve been caught out before.. Mix CD’s are a must have, people really appreciate them. The grooverider story was incredible. In Dubai its a definite no-no…

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=”25505″]I keep hoping I’ll find a musical subculture that ISN’T a ‘boy’s club’ filled with immature sexist jokes. Guess I’ll keep looking…[/quote] Dont worry there are plenty of mild gentleman out there in the booth’s but as long as males are slow to maturity and prone to stupidity, sexism and douchebaggery will pretty much be the order of the day*

    *day here indicates the span of recorded history, (as recorded by men)

  • cosign on International adapters when traveling. I did 17 days in Germany and had two shows in Swizterland and the spot had these odd AC plugs. Sat around waiting for a guy to drive home and pick up power converter then had to splice cable to make them fit into the socket.

  • Silami

    For any dj who spins vinyl, 3 prong to 2 prong powerplugs are lifesavers to eliminate unexplainable groundloops!

  • roger

    +++1 for a gig bag review….

  • dj broken record

    I keep hoping I’ll find a musical subculture that ISN’T a ‘boy’s club’ filled with immature sexist jokes. Guess I’ll keep looking…

  • d. struct0

    [quote comment=”25489″]Don’t forget girlfriend or backup girlfriend.[/quote]

    Has become obsolete now that I don’t need somebody to carry crates

  • Abyrne7

    How do you guys hook up your I Pod in the club?

  • As far as a back up CD. I always have a iPod Nano handy just in case my laptop ever takes a Sh*t.

  • Ian T

    Extension Cord was needed for tonights gig.
    I forgot one.
    Damnit.

  • In my bag I have also

    Rca to xlr Both ways Spare of usb cabels “new unpacked” + Laptop stand and a korg nano pad back up 4 vci+100 + a mp3 player with some Mega mixes.
    Dvd with Ghosted operativesystem Gets u going in under 20 mins.
    😉

  • I1Kirm

    I would also add a universal power plug adapter for all the international DJs out there

  • Brian

    Don’t forget girlfriend or backup girlfriend.

  • great article…
    but i usually goes for the backup ipod than the cds..
    forward the song to the build up, in case of something happened, just press play…
    btw, review the gigbag too..
    at least include the udg creator bagpack..
    i’d like to know how’s ur review on that one..

  • Abyrne7

    Nice article. I noticed that after some experience I had alot of this stuff in my bag already. And I know what you mean about limited space for controllers in clubs…

    DJ TECHTOOLS should make their own stand or sell some sort of controller resting pad to place on top of CDJ’s and Vinals. Maby the shape of an OTUS or something?? Just thinking out loud bit I think it’s a must have!!!
    What you think Ean?

  • I LOVE THIS Article !!!!! DJTECHTOOLS DIGITALISTS 2010 TAKE OVER !!!! !!!!

  • great article…at the prices going right now, i’m going to buy an extra dj2 soundcard for backup (my main one is dj8), for it’s very small size and if you are a controller dj – who needs timecode anway? i also recommend a custom setting of your laptop keyboard to what you use the most if your controller goes to hell – not the best solution, but it saved my ass a few times…

    extra simple inner ear phones take very small place in your bag as well….and i do carry a simple 60 something cd bag with the current music i’m playing plus a few custom sets and some of my favorite sets for opening the evening or closing it (also great for running for the bathroom!!!)

    another great promotion tool is stickers – just stick them on the dj booth/bar/bathroom/artist room and give some out to the crowd – you’ll see them again when you come back and the owner \promoter will have your name in his face all the time

  • What about a laptopstand, where there´s no place for the controler there´s even less space for the laptop!

  • Excellent article, lots of really interesting points.

    Thanks

  • slangemenneske

    No worries, put that on your tech rider. J/K, more of this please 🙂
    I remember a friend of a friend almost getting tricked out of his demo live gig due to connectivity… he somehow didn’t have what was needed to plug into the PA but the dj before him saved his life by lending him his soundcard (which ran with no hassle, phew).

  • Pieter

    that lacie hard disk really looks nice, going to pick up one soon I think

  • I always make sure to have extra stylus, RCA & USB cables, a ‘pen-light’ flashlight, plus a variety of adapters to make my own connection out of nearly anything I can possibly run into. I put all of these inside of a small bag that has become my DJ “FIRST AID KIT”. I also keep an extra pair of slipmats with me at all times because some clubs either don’t have them or they are disgusting from being mistreated with spilled drinks and smoke ash. In addition I have normal ‘wall-size’ monthly calender that fits into my record case that has all my gig info on it. It fits nicely between records and it’s easy to read in the dark when I’ve had to talk to other DJ’s/promoters about dates and other possible gigs.

    Also not to forget! TAPE. I used to have a little flat pack roll of duck tape, but now I pretty much swear by gaffer tape since it doesn’t leave residue and it’s usually black which doesn’t look as shoddy. Nice article. Keep it up.

  • Full Stop

    I would add a few things. A spare RCA cable, RCA male/male gender changer(s), backup flash drive even for local gigs. Also, if I have a regular gig somewhere I ask the club if I can stash all of this stuff somewhere in the club, so I have local backups AND what’s in my bag.

    For gig bags, I shelled out for a Mono bag and have never regretted it. I can put my laptop, APC, sound interface, and all sundries in it and get on a train if I want. If I carry my Maschine it goes in a shoulder bag. They aren’t cheap but they’re great, great bags.

  • +1 for the gig bag review!

  • Stupid Question:
    What makes In Ear Monitors different than standard Earphones?

    Are these actually connecting to your Monitor/Booth out of the mixer or are they just noise-isolating in-ear headphones?

  • Sebas

    I would throw in a tech tackle-box to the equation. You can get little plastic units with dividers for 1/4″1/8″ RCA1/4″ various xlr adapters, short cables, everything you can think of. These have always been incredible life-savers for me, and also earn you bonus points with other DJ’s who may not be as prepared. Have both genders of adapters! Sometimes you need to make a franken-dapter.

    Emergen-C (I think thats how its spelled). For that hydration bit. Always good to have extra electrolytes on you at all times

    Condoms – While I think everyone has this on their mental list, its worth mentioning. Don’t get burned out there.

    ipod instead of mix cd’s – In case of emergency behind the decks. If you have an 1/8″ -> 2 male xlr (or 2 female 1/4″) cable, you can eliminate all points of failure before the amplifiers by going directly into the main lines to the amps. The power that the DJ booth is on (usually) is different from the amps driving the speakers and will be a major point of disaster (think spilled drinks). This way, you can bypass all of it, and still keep the music going while the circuit breaker gets reset (or whatever).

  • i need one of those gorilla lights

  • MiL0

    Grooverider was in prison for less than a year (not several) – he was pardoned from his 4 year sentence after about 10 months.

    Fair point about the drugs though…

  • So much for traveling light…
    These are great points, though. I carry most of this stuff with me all the time, and everything’s been used a few times. One thing I did differently was to leave the extra laptop power thing home and get a second larger (9 cell) battery for gigs cause many places out there have horrible eletric installs that I want nothing to do with.
    On a side note: club owners and event organizers should really read this stuff. We’ve gotten smart enough to back up a lot of stuff that REALLY isn’t our job to provide.

  • Johbremat

    [quote post=”4066″]This will also prove useful for music swapping with your buddies on the road.[/quote]

    Ummm, notsogood. We know artists get reamed by labels and get a pittance from their productions, but no need to escalate, yeah?

  • I am DJ 707

    Ean: Great ideas, I think you have covered it all, I have a question, is the lacie HD powered by USB only? if so it sounds like the ideal back up system, rugged as hell, and no extra junk in the way. When you make demo Cd’s do you go for the full color with hard case, or B&W printing with paper sleeves? I have to say nothing burns me more than giving out a demo to someone who asks for one then leaves it on the floor of the club at the end of the night. I feel like DJay from “Hustle and Flow” (the movie), when he gives his demo to Skinny Black and he throws it in the toilet. 🙂 LOL

  • Anonymous

    im a bit overkill when it comes to backup but i have two of everything… and people please dont go cheap on cables i have had 3 instances with my sound card dropping audio which lead to traktor freezing, when your all digital and the place has no cd’s you are kind of FUXORED!… a high quality USB cable is key… and two of them is a very smart idea…

  • YES! Awesome thread!

    But like a few posts before me have stated, I’d love a Gig Bag review, showdown, etc!

    Would be awesome!

    Thanks again DJTT!

  • TENOTCH

    thanx Have I great year!!!!

  • its already mentioned but i always take a power strip (if not at least a double-adaptor), spare rca’s, spare headshells (when i used to play viny as quite a lot of places had tables setup without needles/headshells), an extention cord of a couple of mtrs in length… all of which have been used at least once!

  • yeh man, ean – you reckon you could do an up to date comparison/review on gig bags? I’m really stumped about what to go for, and pictures really dont do them justice..
    Nice list though 🙂 +1 on the power adaptor – and the extra usb cable! I had to ask my hotel for a printer cable the other night! not cool .. kept dropping out on me!

  • armando

    hey ean,

    how about a segment on the ideal way to carry your stuff around? One that wouldn’t be bulky but have enough pouches and hideaways for all your necessities?

  • Majo

    I will add too:
    rca to jack adaptors
    1/8″ stereo plug to dual RCA
    and a usb hub

  • [quote comment=”25444″]+1 on the backup power strip. I forgot mine once and it was hell.[/quote]
    thanks for the reminder, I forgot to include this – post updated!

  • n2hf1st

    +1 on the backup power strip. I forgot mine once and it was hell.

  • This is an excellent list! I’d even add an extra AC adaptor for your laptop. An extra extension cord; and a power strip.

  • Nice one Ean, really good stuff 🙂

    What bag are you using nowadays? I’m always between taking the oxygen or the VCI on the road, and I have to use a couple of different bags.. i could do with a definitive go-er that would hold all my paraphernalia too.. my PC for on the road audio editing and recording is always important alongside my macbook, spare cans etc…

    What do you use?

  • Great stuff.

    A big thing also is back-up headphones, i’ve had to use them a few times

    thanks, -DJ MIXali

  • armando

    I was just discussing this with my gf and then I happened to see this post. Perfect timing. Thumbs up for reading my mind. 🙂