We love finding DJ gigs in unlikely places – but how do you prepare when helping to organize and set up a party in a strange new location? In today’s tutorial, DJTT editor Dan White shares some insights – from a mobile DJ and promoter’s perspective – on producing events in unique venues.
In today’s tutorial, I’m sharing some of the best advice I have for throwing events in strange locations. From many years of mobile DJing, and from throwing underground/afterhours parties, there’s a lot of accumulated knowledge around the common challenges that these types of events bring up. If you’re ready for them, you can handle almost any issue – watch the tutorial below and read the full text after that. Have some advice of your own? Hop to the comments at the end of the article and tell me what I missed.
Video: Tips For Setting Up + DJing In Unique Places
Choosing A Location
There are so many factors about place that have a lot to do with specific regions/areas. What types of locations result in successful parties can be very different from city to city. So instead of specifics, here’s two things to consider for almost every party not in a club or typical event space:
- Convenience: Many parties live or die on whether they are relatively accessible to the average attendee.
- Neighbors / Sound issues: Always do your best to figure out before you throw an event in a unique site if you’re going to bother the neighbors if you turn on your sound.
Running sound in a unique location can be tricky, so focus on being as adaptable as possible. Things can (and will) go wrong – have backups and redundancies for each element in your setup.
- Get a sufficient, flexible PA system: This can be difficult to tell before you set up, so I strongly recommend finding a very flexible system with plenty of power. At a recent party featured in the video, we used a Bose F1 flexible array system with subwoofers. This setup was great because had plenty of power to fill a large warehouse space, and the tops also have flexible arrays, which can be tilted to adjust for different layouts of spaces. The subs have built-in stands for the tops – it’s a very versatile system, which is exactly what you want when you’re throwing DJ events in unique places.
- If your speakers don’t have built-in stands, be sure to bring some of your own to elevate your PA up to ear level. Don’t waste a lot of power and volume blasting music at people’s legs.
- Bring a line mixer: A multichannel line mixer to put between your DJ mixer and your PA gives you substantially more flexibility. Have DJs who show up with controllers at the last minute? Want to have a backup audio source ready? Might someone bring an instrument? A line mixer covers all of this.
- Bring an extra of every cable: Again, you should be as flexible as possible with sound. Having more RCA, XLR, USB, 1/4” cables never hurts.
Similar to sound, power is a situation where you can’t have too much of it to allow for flexibility.
- Circuits: Try to split up your power needs between different electrical circuits. This isn’t the same as just different plugs in the wall, which can still be on the same circuit breaker. If you have a big sound system, consider running one side of it from one circuit and the other side of it from a second circuit.
- What’s That Buzzing? Many spaces have “dirty power” that can introduce a noise into your PA speakers. If you can, get a power conditioner – check out this article, specifically the comments, for suggestions.
- Testing: Before your event starts, turn everything on, do a sound test at full volume, turn on any lights you have, fans to keep the place cool, etc. If you’re going to trip a breaker, you might as well do it before the event and adjust the load accordingly.
- Extra cables: As with audio cables, it never hurts to bring more power strips and extension cords.
In the wake of the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy, it’s up to us, the people who throw events, to be very aware of venue safety concerns. Always:
- Make sure you don’t crowd a venue past capacity
- Check that your venue has a smoke detection system
- Know where fire extinguishers are. Consider keeping one behind the DJ booth at all times for easy access.
- Mark and light your exits
- If anything goes wrong, turn off the music and make an announcement
- Tape down ALL of your cables. Not only does this reduce tripping hazards, it also prevents people from accidentally pulling out your master power or audio cable and killing the party.
Accessories To Bring
- Always bring a sharpie or two
- Gaffer’s tape, not duct tape. Duct leaves a residue, is harder to pull up
- Cart/hand truck! this makes moving things around much easier. Even if you only use this once to haul your speakers and subwoofers, it saves your back and important energy
- Bring extra hands. Enlist as many people as you can to help you out in the run up to the party. Being able to delegate
- Ziplock – Put your short cables and adapters in clear plastic zip lock bags. this makes it really easy to look for what you need, find it before you open the bag, and quickly check to make sure you have everything packed.