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5 Challenges of the Opening DJ and How to Overcome Them

DJ Experience, News | Oct 16, 2015   

5 Challenges of the Opening DJ and How to Overcome Them

For many opening or ‘warm-up’ DJs, it may actually take more skill to do an opening set than it would take to headline an event. A bit ironic in that many beginner DJs get their start as the opening DJ for many of their first bookings.

There isn’t a learning curve. You got to hit the ground running. As the opening DJ, it’s up to you to set the mood, ambiance, and overall success of the event.

We’ve done our research and talked to other DJs about their experience as an opening DJ. We asked about the biggest challenges they faced, but also how they overcame them.


Challenge 1: Opening up to an empty and/or sober room.


How to overcome:

Whether you have 2, 20, or 200 people in the room – embrace the crowd. If there are only a few people you’re playing to, play your heart out to those few. Don’t half-ass your set. Stay focused and show enthusiasm and love of the music. Remember, your energy is infectious. Keeping your energy level up will help give you more clout and respect from other DJs, promoters, and guests, which certainly won’t hurt your chances of being booked more often.


Challenge 2: Creating/Introducing the atmosphere.


How to overcome:

This goes along with the first challenge, but we broke it up because it is a whole other challenge on its own. This will require strategy on your part as an opening DJ. Playing your set is more than playing top 40. A good opening DJ is like being an expert storyteller – introducing the narrative of the whole night. This is where you hook the audience in. The other DJs playing after you are relying on a crowd that’s hooked and warmed up.


Challenge 3: Sync with the DJ coming on right after you.

How to overcome:

Communication is key. Days or even weeks before the show communicate with the other DJs on the bill. Know their sets, listen to their mixes, and get an intimate understanding of the vibe and story they are trying to convey in their set. After that, do research, curate, and figure out a set that will provide a good intro for the other DJs going on right after you.


Challenge 4: ‘The Balancing Act’

balancing act

How to overcome:

You got to keep people dancing, but you can’t get them too tired out. Don’t be boring, but keep the right level of excitement in your set. It’s a delicate game to keep things balanced out in your set. The best approach would be to read the crowd. If you notice things are getting too dull, kick it up a notch. Having a sixth sense of the vibe is key. Don’t worry too much. You will get better at it. Just stay focused and keep refining your skills.


Challenge 5: Steering clear of playing hit-after-hit & going through the top 40.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 12.58.36 PM

How to overcome:

Want to know how to piss off headliners and never get booked with them again? Well this is exactly how that happens; playing hit-after-hit with no regard for the DJ coming after you is not a practice you should get comfortable doing. It’s easy to avoid this. Just talk to the other DJs to see what their plans are before the show.


Remember it’s up to you, the opening DJ to set the mood for the night. You could look at it as a daunting task or you could embrace it. The latter will earn you respect from more established DJs, refine your skills in reading the crowd, and eventually get you more bookings.

Have you faced different challenges? Share your story below. We’d love to hear from you!

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