There is nothing worse than showing up to a DJ gig unprepared. Bringing the right cables, backups, and equipment with you is vital to a proper performance and important for piece of mind. Full disclosure here, this isn't a list for mobile DJ gigs ( the ones where you are required to bring a full speaker set up and mobile rig). This list isn't designed for strictly vinyl sets, although a lot of the content crosses over. As a matter of fact this isn't designed to be the end all be all of lists! It is designed to extend beyond the short checklist (Slipmats, Needles, Headphones, Laptop, Stand, Charger, Control Records) for those of you playing club dates on turntables. So lets get down to brass tax.
In my mind a good DJ is 30 percent Uhaul, 20 percent librarian, 40 percent performer, and 10 percent Radio Shack. Let me break this down a bit. Uhaul is simple, you haul all your stuff to and from the gig, on and off of planes, trains, and automobiles. I'm not going to cover musical organization ( the Librarian aspect of the job ) on this one, but that's a doozy. I'm only going to cover "Radio Shack". Simply put when you are at a gig and something is wonky it is your responsibility. No one cares if the club has rats chewing up the cables all night, if the show stops you look bad. Now I'm not saying bring 30 feet of XLR cable to every gig, but you need to be prepared.
- First things first, make sure that you have a couple of back ups. You never know if or when something screwy might happen with your laptop. It doesn't matter if you are rocking with a brand new Macbook Pro or a 10 year old IBM ThinkPad, things happen, and its best to be prepared. Keep a USB stocked with enough music to play for at least 3 hours in your bag. If something happens to your laptop prior to a gig you may be able to play off of another laptop. Thats a pretty simple and inexpensive backup and honestly, it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of those handy.
- Always bring a few classic 12 inch singles with you to a party even if you're only playing on Serato. Things happen, you may need to reboot your computer and play all of Rappers Delight, or throw on an extended disco edit while switching out between DJs. I've seen guys try and switch out in between sets without these and it can be near impossible on some setups. You don't want to be the guy standing behind the decks while the crowd parties to dead air. Not a good look.
- It is important to have a few stand by pre-recorded mixes on an iphone, or ipod, your laptop, or on a CD. As a safety net run a RCA to 1/8th inch cable in to AUX in on your mixer (most have this) just in case something happens to your computer. It can come in handy if you need to take a request that you haven't got and can save you in the case of an emergency. A buddy of mine was doing a NYE gig at club that was broadcast on air and right at midnight had a giant CO2 container dropped on his foot resulting in a trip to the ER. Just saying, things happen and that mix might just be the thing to buy you a little time.
- Back up your back ups! I know guys who have had their bags or laptops stolen on the road, which has to be up there as worst possible scenario. I'm thankful that hasn't happened to me, but it ins't outside of the realm of possibilities. More commonly hard drives crash or computers won't boot so keeping your files backed up on an external is vital. I would even say it's better to go one step further and use an additional cloud back up software to make sure you don't loose your library. They are getting way more affordable (I pay around $13 a month for unlimited backup space and can connect all of my computers). While it might not help at a gig if your bag is stolen, having your files backed up for a replacement is crucial.
- A dedicated laptop charger. You know how it goes. You we're organizing music before the gig or watching Netflix on your laptop and forgot to pack your charger. This happens to everyone. Buy a second charger and keep it in your bag at all times.
- You need a cable bag. We make one you can get here...and while I am completely biased, it works great! Once you get all the stuff below sorted you can keep the cables in the bag and not worry about them.
- Spare needles and head shells. Most of the "needle cases" have slots for 4 head shells. Get two sets and keep your stylus in tip top shape by brushing them off and use canned air to blow off gunk on a regular basis. It's not a bad idea to keep a small brush with you just in case.
- Cables. You need these, lots of them, and in different lengths. I personally buy them on Amazon by the gang and wrap them individually with velcro cable ties. This keeps them neat which means you can bring a bunch of them in case something happens. Random cables to have on hand : Four RCA cables. One RCA to 1/8th inch. Two 25.-XLR adaptors. Two "printer USB cables", Two USB to Mini USB for Dicers and other random electronic devices. One 1/8th inch to 1/8th inch cable for Dicers ( if needed). Use velcro ties to keep them tight and in order, they are cheap and will make your life so much easier. Color Code them. You know how the back of a club mixer can get, cables going everywhere, dust, and some random dudes business card crumpled up back there. I recommend getting some colored electrical tape and color coding your cables. For example I use green tape for my RCA cables, yellow for my mixer cable, blue for my turntables, and white for USB's. It just makes things easier to look at, and makes it harder for someone else to walk away with my cables. I would recommend that while your at it you personalize your power cord for your laptop and your needle box, a lot of these end up looking the same, and someone will take yours if you aren't careful.
- Deoxit. You know how folks lick the back of their head shells? Don't do that. Instead get one of these Deoxit pens. I've been carrying one of these with me for a while now and they work great. You can clean the connectors on your head shells with them and even get inside where the tone arms meet. A lot of the time if I'm getting a wavy signal in Serato this will shape it up.
- A little screw driver and a flash light can help if you need to fix a janky mixer. You can get an eyeglasses repair kit for a couple of dollars at almost any pharmacy. They are small, light weight, and can come in handy. Rane crossfaders can fall if they aren't screwed in and really, who likes to play on a beat up mixer. This can also help if your head shells need tightening down....or if someone steps on your sunglasses while you're crowd surfing.
I hope this helps. Make sure to bring some business cards with you for the end of the night and remember to have fun!