Where’d “No More Laptops In The DJ Booth” Come From?

This week, a story made the rounds on the internet about a nightclub owner in Los Angeles who decided to publicly announce a new rule for the venue, “No more laptops in the DJ booth.” We’ve heard from many DJs who have encountered similar rules. In this article, we break down why this luddite attitude is incorrect, and how digital DJs can avoid perpetuating anti-laptop sentiments.

“WE DONT WANT LAPTOPS. End of story.”

First, a bit of back story on the actual post that Kenny Summit, owner of the Cure And The Cause nightclub in Los Angeles, made. Here’s the original post:

The post itself seems born of frustration – and it isn’t too hard to imagine the situation that might have caused it. With many newer DJs who have only ever used a very basic laptop setup, a club DJ booth could be a completely foreign landscape. They might even start asking the DJ before them to “pass the aux cord” – which is how this absurdly bad Boiler Room must have started:

Laptops Banned: Focusing On The Wrong Thing

What’s surprising to us is that the laptop DJ discussion feels a bit dated at this point. We can recall the same anti-laptop sentiment was common 5-6 years ago, but with the rise of controllers and the focus of most of the industry on digital DJing, it seemed to subside in recent years.

To his credit, Kenny Summit did eventually clarify the rule for his nightclub:

“people who actually USE the technology to enhance their DJ set are more than welcome to use whatever the hell they want. our issue is with people coming in, setting up all kinds of shit just to simply mix from one track to the next.”

He also shared with Magnetic Mag the source of his frustration:

“[we] get a lot of locals and young DJs who get hired by promoters to warm up the room. The problem lies with the opening DJs (mostly), many of them show up with a laptop and controller, and that’s all they’ve ever used. That’s a problem. They don’t know what to connect with our Pioneer system; they have no clue what they’re plugging in or what plugs they’re taking out. “

How To Be A DJ With Your Own Gear

The old layout in a Ministry Of Sound booth - pretty difficult to modify. (Photo credit: Ministry Of Sound)
The old layout in one of the Ministry Of Sound DJ booths – pretty difficult to modify. (Photo credit: Ministry Of Sound)

Kenny was willing to be reasonable and modify his rules – but for many DJs around the world (particularly those in places where DJ culture isn’t well-rooted), club and venue owners that have a similar experience with “laptop DJs” aren’t as forgiving.

But really it’s not about having a laptop or not – it’s about using gear that isn’t what the venue already has set up. If you’re bringing your own DJ gear to a bar, nightclub, or anyplace with a DJ booth, there needs to be a core level of confidence that you bring to the situation.

As a DJ with your own gear, it’s your responsibility to make sure that stereotypes of “laptop DJs” aren’t perpetuated – so here’s some of the things we recommend doing:

  • Always sound check: If you can show up to a venue and get your own DJ gear set up far before it opens to the public, there’s very little chance of issues later on.
  • Learn the lay of the land: This is related to a sound check, but a big part of making sure your DJ setup will work is knowing what the physical layout and other gear present is. We recommend going a week before you play a new venue and scouting out the booth. It’s a good networking opportunity – you can meet the DJ playing then, and while they’re not mixing, ask to have a look in around the booth.
  • Never unplug anything: Unless you’re absolutely, 100% certain you know where the playing audio is coming from and going to, don’t unplug any cables on the DJ booth during the gig. This includes power cables!
  • Have a backup: Everything might go completely south with your setup, it’s a risk that every DJ takes. That’s why you have a redundant system of some kind – from an extra USB stick to plug into the CDJs, to a second laptop. If you have to, be ready to use other DJ gear.
  • Bring a bag of cables: Come ready with every cable/adapter you might ever need. It might seem unlikely that you’ll need to turn a 1/4″ cable into dual XLRs, but if someone else shows up with their own DJ gear in the middle of your set, having extra adapters and cables will help things run smoothly. Watch how Ean, Amp Live, and Mad Zach pack their gig bags in the video below for inspiration:

Have You Ever Experienced A “Laptop Ban”?

Ean mentioned in his article earlier this week that he talked with a number of DJTT readers who have experienced some anti-controller backlash recently in club environments. Combined with this anti-laptop sentiment, it seems like there could be a trend – have you had issues with this recently?

Share your stories in the comments below.

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