DJ Etiquette

I am going to turn 30 in a few weeks, which means these ears have had nearly 14 years of DJing. Hindsight is 20/20, and I can tell you it sure would have been helpful to know basic DJ etiquette from the beginning. Many a gig would have been significantly smoother if someone had taken the time to share a few universal principles of dealing with others. So, to help you avoid the same mistakes, let’s go over the basics of dealing with other DJs, patrons and club owners from the perspective of the digital DJ.



This is the area where most DJs get themselves into trouble. The common newcomer mistake is to view the other DJs as competition and not opportunities for more gigs. Treat your fellow DJs with respect and I promise it will lead to more shows. Here are a few critical rules to follow in the booth.

1) Never set up while some one else is DJing (if avoidable)

– Setting up your sound card and gear during the last songs of a DJ’s set can really create a lot of tension in the booth and leave them very pissed off at you. No bueno.

2) If sound check is not possible then bring a short mix CD to blend out of the last DJ.

– Set up while that mix plays and only after the other DJ has exited. (Give yourself 20 minutes)

3) If all else fails then follow these rules.

  • Leave plenty of time to do it (20 minutes or more)
  • Tell him/her you are going to be setting up, and to please let you know if you’re in the way at all. Let him know he has plenty of time and your just setting up in advance.  This way no-one feels rushed!
  • Take your time and do one or two things while the current DJ is not in the middle of the mix. When they are in the mix or working- don’t get anywhere near the mixer!
  • Thank them for their patience when you are done.


4) If you’re opening for another DJ here are a few very important rules

  • Know your place and don’t over rock the floor. Your job is to warm up the room not beat it into submission. If you want to impress the headliner, don’t do it with 15 peak anthems. Impress them by showing restraint and setting up the headliner to look good. This WILL lead to more gigs.
  • If the floor is empty please don’t turn it up to 8. Keep the volumes low for the early part of the night and if you dare, keeping the tempos lower would also help ease people into the flow.
  • Make your last track a long one! Don’t ever leave a DJ 2 minutes to mix, give him a nice long track with at least 4-7 minutes of transition time to get acclimated to the booth.
  • Don’t stay on the mixer and ride the filters for the last 4 minutes of the track, leaving the next DJ with 1 minute to mix. This makes you look like an absolute amateur.
  • Don’t stay in the booth and turn it into your personal party with your friends unless invited to do so.
  • Don’t turn the sound system up to 10. Leave some room for the next DJ to push it.
  • Don’t leave your monitors blaring while they are trying to get set up.
  • Do ask them if the tempo your playing at will work and don’t make any drastic changes.
  • Don’t leave drinks lying around
  • Do tidy up the booth after yourself

5) If you are coming on after another DJ

  • Enter the booth 5-10 minutes before your start time
  • Respectfully introduce yourself and let them know your expected start time and how soon that is based on your watch.
  • If there is a conflict in start times, don’t argue! Go get the promoter and let them straighten it out.
  • When your ready to start playing let the other DJ know you are ready to go- don’t stand over his shoulder with your headphones in hand.
  • Even though you are probably the most amazing DJ ever to grace the decks- it wont hurt to watch what the other guy is doing for 20-30 minutes and feel out the crowd. Especially if this is out of town, the residents will have a lot better idea what the crowd wants than you do.



Its important to recognize whom you are dealing with. The typical club owner is a businessman with very little time and no interest in the micro sub electronic genre that is your life passion. Keep your interactions short and make their life easy to ensure you will get regular calls back.

1) Don’t send demos in the mail

2) Do drop demos off in person

3) Don’t expect to get paid instantly after your done

– they have 25 other people to pay too.

4) If they ask you to change the music, suck it up.

5) When they call to book a gig or you meet in person

-always have your calendar available and be prepared to book something on the spot. They won’t call back.

6) Don’t expect to get free drinks all night long.

-Every club has different policies but a few drinks for each DJ is typically expected. Consume 10 and you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. If more are provided, great, but err on the cautious side.

-If this is your first gig, it might be wise to not drink at all and put your best foot forward.

7) Do follow up regularly to see if there are openings. The squeaky wheel gets the gig.

8) Do make small talk and get to know the booker

-show interest in things other than DJing. Making friends in good places is the surest way to regular gigs.



This is the hardest area to swallow the ego but it’s probably the most important. The people attending this gig are not privileged subjects of your royal techno kingdom- they are keeping you in business so treat them with the appropriate consideration.

1) When someone requests a song please keep this in mind

  • Act like an ass hole and the entire group will hate you and probably talk to the staff about it.
  • Be courteous if at all possible, remember they are drunk and probably have no clue so use your kid gloves when dealing with a rowdy patron
  • While you don’t have to play a request- consider that this is the most direct way to find out what parts of the crowd “wants”. You may not play the song but perhaps use it as a barometer in your selections.
  • The easiest way to diffuse a request if you don’t take them is by smiling and giving them a thumbs up. Chances are they wont come back and you both kept the vibe positive. If they do come back, you can legitimately say, ” I couldn’t hear you!”
  • If you do take requests, it might be wise to bring a clipboard and a pen. This way you are not distracted by trying to figure out what song they want, and there is a record of songs to fall back on.

2) If a patron offers you money to play something

  • Take the money and put it in “escrow” and say, “I will see what I can do”
  • If you play the song, you keep it.
  • If you don’t play it, and they come back give the money back
  • If they never come back the money is yours.

3) Its not un-reasonable to require that people do not place drinks anywhere near your equipment.

-If this becomes a problem- get a security guard and let them handle it.

4) If someone wont leave you alone or becomes hostile

– dont confront them and  immediately get a security guard

5) Do build a barrier around your personal area

– make it clear which areas are off limits. Don’t be afraid to eject patrons that decide to make this zone their personal dance floor.

6) Don’t play into the sleazy DJ cliché and hit on women all night.

If something does catch your eye, read this article on how to make it happen.



This is the group of individuals you are most likely to have problems with after the drunken request monger. The security guard wants two things: To get paid and go home so keep that in mind when playing your last tracks. Remember that the security guards are the people most likely to take feedback from dancers about your performance, so if you want that information passed on to bookers, try and keep them happy if at all possible.  Yes, many a bouncer may be nothing but hired muscle but the last thing you want is to get into a tangle with them so keep your cool if at all possible.


There are many ways to leave a bad impression in the club and just a few ways to leave a good one so the best policy is to keep your profile low and professionalism high. Even in the biggest of cities, the nightlife scene can be small and full of gossip so keep your reputation clean by treating all the people listed above even better than you would hope to be treated by them.

Get DJTT love in your inbox
Drop your email address here, we'll send you news, tutorials, and special offers once a week.
Unsubscribe at any time. we won't sell your data, ever.