Behind The Booth: What’s in Your Gig Bag?

in Music

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To play the part, you’ve got to have the right gear in your bag, but how much is too much, or not enough? 

Entering a new venue to play, DJs can never know what to expect behind the booth. Are they running CDs? What models? Do they have the latest software installed? Or maybe there’s a Serato configured controller and you just happen to be running Traktor. This is a moment you can never be too prepared for. No matter how many precautions you take or how well you practiced at home on your own gear, the first look at a DJ booth can either be faced with a huge sigh of relief or can pose a very nervous question “What did I pack in my gig bag?”

We all know you need to carry a few essential items along to a gig. But what exactly are these essentials? Why is it important to bring USB cables, torches and SD cards? How do you know you have everything you need? What items are on your list? Why do I need to spread out gear on the floor and making check lists, DJ’ing is supposed to be about the music… isn’t it?

For some, this list is only two items long: one memory stick and a pair of headphones. In today’s club set-ups it’s very possible to get away with these two items, however you may be left in the dark when one of those items fails on you in the middle of a banging set (and they will eventually), it’s just a matter of time.

No one wants to worry about what the set up at the club is going to be like. You want to focus on rocking your set and delivering an awesome show. Most importantly you want to show the music director of the club that you’re on top of the DJ change over. The last thing he wants to hear is “hey, do you have a spare power pack for my MacBook?” This screams that you’re unprofessional and may leave a bad impression with him.

Here are a few tips to make sure you if you do come across this situation you’re prepared for just about every possible outcome, as well as a few handy tips that will definitely get you out of trouble.

The Essentials

The most important asset you are bringing to the night as a DJ is your music. No music, no DJ. If you run a laptop in your DJ setup, you have to bring a spare power pack that lives in your gig bag and make sure it never leaves! Most clubs will provide an audio interface of some sort but just to be safe you might want to pack one of those also. The Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 is a reliable, pocket size, high quality sound card. If you’re DJing with USB sticks then have a back-up or two. The CDJ 350’s are popular in smaller bars and require a USB stick in each machine. It would be worth packing an SD card and even a few CDs with a backup of all your music. The more options in your bag, the more confidence you’ll have and if your laptop suddenly re-boots (it happens) you want to be ready with a premix CD/USB to give you a few minutes to resolve the problem. There really is no excuse for silence on a dance floor. Last but not least, please make sure you have solid pair of DJ headphones.

The Basics

Have plenty of adapters, converters and cable back-up’s: RCA cables, USB cables, RCA to jack, XLR to RCA, 1/8 inch jack to 1/4 inch jack adapters and every possible combination you can think of. Pack a link cable so you can switch that up if necessary. Pack a torch so you can see in the dark. Keep some Serato / Traktor control CDs. These are cheap and will save you a world of pain when the pressure is on. The basic idea is to duplicate as many items as you can.

Everything in its right place

Keep all your gear in protective cases. Separate your cables from your adapters. Group cables together that you use regularly. If you have a custom digital DJ set up that requires controllers and sound cards then group items together and label everything! That pocket size torch is really going to come in handy.

Everything Else

Pack some business cards and make them interesting. Gigs will always breed more gigs, so make sure every single important information like your contact details, soundcloud page and email are clearly visible on the cards. No one wants to spend hours on Google trying to track you down after a great show.

For all controller DJs, be prepared to enter to a DJ booth with nowhere to set up. There might be two vinyl decks and a pair of CDJs taking up the entire booth with a web of entangled cables that you wouldn’t dare touch. With the risk of possibly messing up the sound system moving CDJs and vinyl decks around, you may try packing a piece of soft foam into your bag that can easily sit on top of a turntable. This allows you to set up your controller in no time.

Having a gig bag packed to the brim with equipment isn’t overkill, it shows others you are professional. The music director will have even more confidence in your abilities, especially if this is the first of possibly many gigs at a new club. Take the time to pack your bag and deliver a great set, confident your equipment isn’t going to burn out and if it does, you’ll be prepared for it.