Let’s face it, a lot of us have had the embedded thoughts in the back of our mind. The thoughts on the inevitable return to our way of life and how ready we will be to get back out there and entertain the masses in the way we used to know. The past 12 months have been detrimental to our industry in the sense that many of us have let go of the reins for a while and focused on other sources of income to keep us going during these ongoing restrictions.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and to many our awaited return is closer than once thought. While some of us are eagerly waiting for that first gig back, some are also dreading the work that needs to be done in preparation before we can hit that play button once again.
“There’s so much that needs to be done, where on earth do I begin?!”
Fear not, for we have a few pointers to follow to ensure you are as ready as can be to get behind the decks once more:
1. Dust off the decks
For most of us, most of the equipment we own have banished to the deepest, darkest depths of our storage units. Now is the perfect time to start digging out those flight cases, bags and cables and check you have everything you need on your jobs. If you come to find that you are missing something crucial, now would be the time to source a replacement or perhaps even find the original. Whilst you are at it:
- Check overall condition of flight cases, protective bags and covers.
- Make a list of equipment you take to every job (including backups) and check the list off as you pull the kit out. You can also use this list for loading up before you head out on your first gig to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
2. Testing and Servicing
So, your kit has once again seen the light of day – Fantastic! That is until you find that the past 12 months without routine maintenance (or perhaps longer) have caused various issues that need urgent attention before you rock up to your first gig of 2021. While you have these next few months leading up to the easing of restrictions, you can test and service the equipment you own to ensure technical problems are kept at bay. This can include:
- Powering up your sound system, checking amplifiers, processors, cabling, drivers and general wear of your cabinets.
- *Taking covers off lighting fixtures to dust out ventilation systems and heat sinks.
- *Cleaning lenses, glass/plastic panels and checking all gobo/colour wheels, prisms, mirrors and shutters.
- Self-test mode to check for individual issues within your fixture or run your show mode/DMX control if your fixtures do not have these test modes available.
These are all easy to accomplish by yourself, however if you are not confident about servicing your own kit or simply do not have the time to do this yourself there is still plenty of time to book these in with your local service centre. If any issues arise during this time, you also have time to speak with your local retailer or manufacturer for repairs or spares.
3. PAT testing
While UK law does not deem to be a legal requirement, PAT testing plays a crucial part in electrical safety and compliance by certain insurance companies and venues. During this time, some people may not have renewed their PAT testing certificate since we are not using the kit and wouldn’t be for the foreseeable future, right? Well, now there’s plenty of time to book your local PAT tester to update the certification of your equipment and potentially prevent a catastrophe at your next gig (and stop the Duty Manager asking as soon as you walk in).
4. Check your playout kit
Your playout kit is just as important as the rest of your rig. Why wouldn’t you want to check it over before you make your way to the gig? Physically checking every knob, encoder, fader and button on your deck is crucial to be sure you can perform the same way you used to without risking sticky/less tactile buttons and rough faders. Again, this would be the best time to get it checked out by your local service centre, retailer or manufacturer if you come across any issues that could stand in the way of your next performance. Software, firmware and driver updates are just as important as physically checking the kit yourself. These updates can solve stability issues, add new features, improve old ones and resolve compatibility issues. Not to mention that these updates can also speed up how it works on your system. Take the time to update your systems and test everything during this time. Things to keep an eye on are:
- Operating system updates (Mac OS X and Windows updates)
- Updates to your DJ software
- Firmware updates for your players/controller
These are all critical to your entire gig as the operating system, DJ software and your hardware all work together to deliver the performance you would expect to entertain your crowds. However, certain issues can arise due to compatibility as much as they can solve them. Therefore it’s always best to give yourself plenty of play time after updating just to identify any issues and to give you the chance to roll the update back to the previous version for stability.
5. Reactivate music subscriptions
As many people’s finances take a hit during the pandemic and the lack of work, it’s been an easy option to cancel ongoing subscription services to the likes of Promo Only, CDPool, Xtendamix among others as a way of cutting back expenses. Now is a brilliant time to reactivate those subscriptions in the leading months if you have not done already. This should give you access to the newest music and make it easy to start building up your 2021 collection for plenty of choice at your next gig.
6. Keep an eye on trends
Many trends seemingly start overnight and can end just as quickly. In current ages, TikTok leads the way in social media and is the one source of most internet trends going on today. For those not aware of what TikTok is, it’s a video-based social media app where users film various activities, mostly singing and dancing, to share with a wider audience. Many popular DJs, producers and musicians also use this platform and use this to promote their new content very quickly and easily for maximum engagement. Trends that storm the app are picked up across the world and has led to the popularity of songs from the past few decades increasing again. We’ve all heard of Mufasa in his brightly coloured shirt with a seemingly choreographed performance to the 1992 classic from Nightcrawlers – ‘Push The Feeling On’. The resonant (and catchy) “It’s Friday then” lingering in the back of our minds have now led to DJ/Producer Riton to produce the new dance hit ‘Friday’, hitting number 5 in the Official Singles Chart UK Top 40 and number 3 in the Official Dance Singles Chart Top 40 as well as introducing the younger generation to the original Nightcrawlers tune. KISS DJ & Producer Majestic has also utilised this platform and added his twist to Boney M’s 70’s Disco classic ‘Rasputin’, sitting at number 96 in its first week in the Official Singles Chart (Positions are accurate at the time of writing).
Music subscriptions, Spotify playlists, the UK Top 40, radio stations, TV and of course social media are all brilliant ways to keep up with new and ongoing trends. This can easily help engage with younger audiences and for those peculiar requests.
7. Update & backup your entire music library
Radio and TV is listened almost everywhere you go. Whether it be in an office, in your car, at home or even out and about in public. Different radio stations have their own age demographics depending on the type of music they play and even if a certain track does not appeal to you, there’s still a reason these tracks are played on the radio. It may be worth noting which tracks are played often on different radio stations to add to your collection and test out when you get the chance to at your next gig alongside the dancefloor fillers.
Your music files are hugely important to what you do. Periodic backups of your library as well as your subfolders and search indexes for your software could save a gig if your primary storage device were to fail. Along with updating your library, be sure to keep a backup of your library somewhere in case disaster strikes and keep a schedule in your calendar to back these drives up every so often.
8. Renew wireless mic licenses
Over the last 12 months, many of us who held wireless microphone licenses have opted not to renew for both financial and practicality reasons since there has not been any need to use them for quite some time. For users in the channel 70 band (800MHz band), this is not a concern since the use of this band of frequencies is exempt from Ofcom licencing. However, the use of channel 38 mics (600MHz band) requires a PMSE (Programme-Making and Special Events) license to operate on which is available from the Ofcom website.
9. Buy new kit, sell old kit
This is something that many people have been on the fence about ever since restrictions started. It’s begged the question of retirement to some and investment in others. Whether you’re using this time to sell your old kit or taking the opportunity to buy and learn new equipment, it’s a good time to begin while our industry prepares for the anticipated return to business.
Insurance is substantially important to our line of work. Insuring your premises, vehicles and equipment have been necessary for peace of mind for many years now and during the last few months some of us may have made changes to our policies to suit our current situation – this being the case for car or van insurance especially. If you have made any changes to your policy over the duration of the lockdown periods, make sure you check what changes have been made so that you still comply with the terms of your policy for when you’re back out on the road again. If you’re unsure on any of this, contact your insurance company for more information or to amend your policy.
11. Vehicle checks
For those who have been fortunate enough to continue using their vehicles throughout lockdown, this doesn’t apply as much. However working from home or using a different mode of transport has left our business vehicles facing neglect since there hasn’t been a reason to use them. Before you head out on the road again, perform some routine checks on your vehicle to search for any damage or extensive wear. Batteries in particular are the most obvious cause of failure after discharging over extensive periods of time, so be sure your vehicle’s battery is charged or perhaps replaced if required. Once you have your vehicle in working order, you now need to make sure:
- Tax is paid
- MOT certificate is still valid (if required)
- Check your engine oil, screen wash and coolant
- Ensure your insurance policy is still active and you are still within the terms of your policy
It is also worth checking your tyre pressure and tread height to ensure you’re not only reducing your fuel consumption by as much as possible, but also that your vehicle is still deemed roadworthy to avoid complications with police.
12. Practice makes perfect
PlayDJ, Twitch and Mixcloud, among others, have proved to be a huge hit with the DJ community globally during these unpredictable times. Not only do these platforms enable audiences to experience our style of entertainment in the way they’re used to but have also given our community a new lease of life by allowing us to continue our craft on the virtual stage. There may be a few of you reading this who haven’t fired up the decks since last week, last month, maybe even last year. Why not take to the web and practice your technique with an online audience? This could be just friends and family or your can push yourself to the next level and show the world what you can do. It’s entirely up to you to go with whatever you feel comfortable with. However, if live streaming isn’t for you, there’s nothing wrong with a little practice by yourself.
13. get in touch with your clients again
Great! Now the back end is out of the way and you’re almost ready to go. Before you do though, getting in touch with your clients again can always be advantageous. This is one of the best methods of finding out any extra details of your upcoming gigs that may have slipped in last minute but can also help ease back into social interaction for those forced into a mental isolation before grabbing the mic once more. In times of complete uncertainty, your client would appreciate the clear message that you’re still in the game.
14. Network with other industry professionals
Whilst I make the point about extending your social interaction, it’s not just your clients who are ready to chat. Various organisations and associations have been hosting virtual events with members of the DJ community since they have not been able to host these in person, with the SEDA’s Coffee Mornings over Zoom being one of the most popular. Not only do you get to meet with your extended colleagues once again, but you also get the opportunity to branch out, make new contacts and learn a thing or two from each other. Networking with like-minded professionals can only raise the bar as an industry with the standards we can uphold. On the educational side of things, the Pro Mobile Conference provides invaluable business tips from renowned speakers and will take place at the Village Hotel, Solihull in March 2022 with tickets available to book now.
And while we’re on the topic of booking tickets, have you booked your tickets for BPM 2021 yet? This year’s show brings back one of the biggest networking, learning and discovery aspects of our industry with a show dedicated to DJs after a year of isolation and uncertainty. One thing that we can be certain of is that we are very much looking forward to seeing you back at Cranmore Park, Solihull on the 16th-17th October 2021.
That’s all there is to it! These 14 points are designed to help you prepare yourself, your business and your equipment for what’s to come. The easing of restrictions along with the UK’s vaccination rollout has been welcomed across all age groups with many audiences eagerly awaiting the return of our extravagant nightlife scene. Of course, it goes without saying but be sure to keep an eye on current local and national guidance/legislation to ensure you’re able to perform safely and within regulations to rock the party once again.
So, final question: Are you ready?
*(DISCLAIMER: Be sure to check warranty status with your retailer or manufacturer before undertaking any work on your equipment. Contact the manufacturer if you are unsure of what to do. BPM Shows Limited cannot be held liable for any additional costs invoked due to damages or the revocation of warranties)