Thursday, December 22, 2016
Reader Submitted: "How To DJ The DJ Tantari Way - Chapter Three"
"This is my guide for how to go from a newbie to a moderately successful DJ on Second Life. ... If you do read it and have comments or corrections, I’d love to hear them. (Mail me at tantari.kim at gmail.com.)"
Continued from Chapter Two Part Two
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Chapter 3: How to Perform a Live Set the DJ Tantari Way
If you’re content to listen to them yourself or just post them, then you don’t need this chapter. It’s entirely possible to put together a perfect set as a multitrack project with fades between songs and master it in Audacity, then export it to a MP3 to post somewhere and give to your friends. But that’s not what a DJ does. A DJ plays live. A DJ has a conversation with the crowd through chat and music. And a DJ will often modify their set in response to a live crowd.
I get a special thrill out of performing for a live crowd. It isn’t something I have to do; it’s something I get to do. It’s the entire reason that I do this. Hopefully you will give it a try. I’m assuming that you already have a place to play. If not, check out Chapter 4: How to Have a Second Life DJ Career the DJ Tantari Way.
Preparing for a Live Set
Before I start a live performance, I need two extra things, a silence file and a logo file. I put both of these in a special crate in MIXXX named _live; that way they’re always easy for me to find and grab.
A silence file is exactly that, an MP3 file that contains 5 minutes of silence. It’s easy to create. Just open Audacity and tell it to insert 5 minutes of silence. Then save it as an MP3. I call mine Silence-5Minutes.mp3 and I store it in w:\music\DJ Sets.
A logo file is often called a sound bumper. It is only a few seconds long and usually has your DJ name in it with some sound effects. I chose a famous sound effects record that starts with an English gentleman saying, “This is a journey into sound” because it fits my brand. You should find something that suits you.
As previously described, you want to make up some DJ Cards for the specific club. You will want to schedule a time to get together with the DJ manager for the club to test things out and make sure everything works. This should be outside of normal hours, preferably when there is nothing happening at the club.
At the meeting, give the DJ Cards them to the DJ manager and he or she will put them in the board for you. Click on the DJ board and log in as a DJ. (The DJ manager can show you how if you get confused.) Get your DJ station up and running. Put your set into the Auto DJ. Start playing music. Connect to the Server (either yours or the one provided by the club). Open the Server URL in your web browser and make sure it shows your connection and your song title. Make sure that the DJ Board is showing the correct artist and title for your songs. (If it doesn’t, this is usually because the cards were set for SHOUTcast v2 and the Server is v1 or vice versa.) Make sure that you can turn on the music stream and hear yourself. Ask the DJ manager to do the same. If everything is working well, then you’re good to go! If not, you have a lot of time to troubleshoot and correct things before the audience sees you. You want to look perfect and effortless in front of them.
Starting a Live Set
You’ve got your DJ station all set up. You’re familiar with the software. You’ve played with a personal SHOUTcast Server and you have obtained access to a real SHOUTcast Server. You’ve written a set. You’ve contacted a club and got a time slot to play in. You’ve worked with the club’s DJ manager and had a successful test. All of this is for nothing without an audience to play to. It’s show time.
Well, not quite. First you want to find out if there is anyone on immediately before or after you. Having that extra slack before and after a set is very nice, but you don’t always get it.
Make sure you show up about 30 minutes early, maybe more if it’s the first time performing at a new club or you’re new to things. You want to have plenty of time to set up all your software without feeling rushed. Contact the club host if there is one to let them know you’re there and to give your set title and blurb. If not, check to see if you can post them yourself to the club’s group (if there is one). A little advertisement helps build the crowd and anticipation for your event. If no one is playing before you, it’s great to start with a live warmup, playing whatever songs you want to get people in the mood. This gives you a final check that everything is working before it’s time to go live. (This has saved by butt more than once!)
Pull up your working notes for that set. In MIXXX, pull up the Auto DJ playlist and make sure it’s empty. Then load in your silence file, then your logo file, then your set playlist, then the silence file. Open the Server URL in your web browser so you can make sure it’s alive and keep an eye on it during the set. If you’re sharing the Server with the club, you should definitely make sure no one is using it before you connect to it. You might mess up their set, which will make the other DJ and the club upset with you. If there is another DJ currently playing, make sure to give them an IM (instant message) early on. It is common courtesy for a DJ to give a time remaining count to the next one so they know when to go. It’ll usually start somewhere around 5 minutes before the switchover. Eventually it’ll get down to 1:00, :30, :10, GO! When they shout GO, it’s time to start your set.
A minute or so before it’s time to start, click the Enable Auto DJ button. It’ll start playing the 5 minutes of silence. When you get the GO signal from the other DJ, tell MIXXX to connect to the streaming server. (This is if you’re using a shared Server. If it’s a private server owned by you, then you can get on it early without bothering anyone.) Click the DJ board and click the Log In as DJ link. Once it loads your DJ data, you’re streaming live! Click the “Fade Now” button to go into your intro file and then into your set. You’re DJing! (Don’t forget to log in to the club’s DJ tip jar or drop your own if you have one.)
Performing a Live Set
From this point until your 2 hours are up, you’re live. I will let a song play until it has said everything it needs to say, then click the “Fade Now” button to go to the next song. You should keep the fade at 2 seconds unless you want to tweak it higher or lower for a particular song. You should know how to mix up your Auto DJ playlist while playing in case you want to cut some time, add a request from the audience, or just vary the order.
Performing Live is a very subjective; every DJ does it differently. I’m going to give you some pointers on what does and does not work for me. As you learn the club, the crowd, and your own style, you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.
When I start the set, I like to paste my title and blurb into group chat the moment my intro file plays. That lets them know that I’m starting something special. Even if I was warming up before, this is the main event. For me, I always use the same form: This is a Journey Into Sound with DJ Tantari. Tonight’s Journey is Mood for a Rainy Day - Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.
If this is a new set, make sure to play it up. “This is the world premiere of a brand new set, Mood for a Rainy Day!”
Refresh your Server URL in your web page from time to time. Make sure the status is good. Watch your current listener numbers. Make note of what things get them to tune in and what things make them drop off. Learn from it, but don’t be driven by it or obsess over it.
Try to say a little something about each song other than the title. If you have a bit of trivia about the band or song, share it. If not, try to say something clever and work the title in. If you really can’t think of anything, state the title and append it with one of your Theme Quotes.
Welcome people as they come in. Greet them by name. Don’t say the same thing each time; they may think that you’re using a script and get annoyed. Often I’ll use it to work in Theme Quotes. For example, “Hey, Steve! Welcome to the Ark and Mood for a Rainy Day! It’s not about waiting for the rain to stop. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!” If the club supplies a good host or hostess, you won’t have to do this too much.
If people in the crowd talk to you, make sure to talk back to them. Engage them in a conversation around the music. Make them a participant.
Always try to keep a happy and positive attitude. Exude enthusiasm. Hopefully your audience will catch on and want to have fun with you.
If you want to quote song lyrics, make it short and sweet. Do it sparingly. Do this at most once per song.
Never beg for tips. I don’t even mention it. It’s tacky. If you’re in it just for the money, this isn’t a good way to do it. The most I’ll do is say something like, “I do this for you! If you’re enjoying the set, throw me a compliment!” It encourages the audience to get involved and someone with money might decide to throw a few dollars your way. If you do get a tip, make sure to thank them by name no matter how small.
Point out the continuity of your set. “I’ve got a trio of They Might Be Giants coming at you next!” “We’re upping the energy even more as we dive into our Dark Rock Block!” “Now it’s time to give all that negative energy a break with some Comedy.”
Make sure you know how to call for security at the club if an audience member starts doing abusive things. Don't deal with them yourself. Call the club's security team and let them do their job.
Realize that you will have some good nights and some bad nights and there's nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you’ll make a lot of mistakes, but the audience will be eating out of your hand. Other times you'll be doing your best and just can't get their attention. It happens. Don't take it personally. Do your best every time and realize that there is always another performance tomorrow.
This is important enough to break out into its own section. The main job of a DJ is to create a mood and show the audience a good time. It is not to be a jukebox and play whatever someone requests. A poor request can break the mood you’ve spent time and energy trying to build. If another DJ is after you, you have a very limited time; every request you play means other tracks must be dropped from your carefully crafted set. Since you’ve saved the best for last, requests jeopardize your epic finale! But you can’t just tell the requester to take a hike. He or she is a valued member of your audience. This is a very delicate subject. Some DJs never take requests. Should you? What to do?
While I can’t tell you what to do in every circumstance, here are some pointers to help you:
Try to deal with requests in IMs (instant messages) as much as possible. If something goes sour, it’s private instead of in front of the entire audience.
Explain to the requester, “Tonight our theme is Mood for a Rainy Day. Do you have any calm, mellow songs that you would play on a rainy day? Also, they have to be totally awesome!” About half the time they’ll apologize and back down. But sometimes you’ll get a really awesome new song that you wish you’d thought of in the first place.
If the song is a huge style shift that you think would break your set, try to back out of it. Explain that you don’t have it and you’re very sorry. Or explain it straight to them in a very polite way, “I’d love to play this but it’s really going to clash with the feel of the rest of the set. I’m sorry.”
Try to find a spot in your set where the request will flow at least decently instead of just putting it in next. Explain that to the requester, “Hey, I think this would fit in really well 3 songs from now. Is that cool?”
If you do decide to play a request and you don’t have it in your MIXXX Library (use the search function), then ask the requester for a YouTube URL for a clean copy of the song. In my experience, they’re very happy to provide them. Listen to a few seconds of the song to make sure it’s not horrible. (It’ll be hard to hear it over your live stream anyway.) Then throw it into your YouTube ripper of choice (like http://peggo.tv/) and dump it to your temporary directory (f:\temp\MusicResearch\new). Drag and drop it directly into the Auto DJ window to queue it up.
(Due to an eccentricity of the way MIXXX and Auto DJ work, if you want to play it next, you'll also have to also load it into the idle deck manually.)
When you play the song, announce it to the crowd. It makes the requester feel good to be credited for it, and if it’s really bad, it gets you off the hook with the audience for choosing something awful. “Okay, I’ve got a special request up next for Steve!”
If you do play a request, be mindful of your total play time. If no one is up after you, you have the luxury of running long; just know that some crowds will rapidly disperse after a contest is awarded, so you can’t go more than 4 or 5 minutes long. If another DJ is up right after you, try to eliminate the same amount of time from the rest of the set as you can. This is really hard to do on the fly. Often I'll load the playlist into WinAmp and select the remaining songs to get an estimate of remaining playtime to help me determine what songs to delete to bring it in on time.You’ll have to use a lot of judgment on this one, because you still want a chance to play your epic finale.
If there is no one after you, save requests for the encore. “We’re doing Mood for a Rainy Day for this set, but my set is over in 45 minutes. After that I’m taking requests for any topic at all. I’d love to play it for you then. I don’t seem to have that song. Can you send me a YouTube URL so I can grab it?”
And most importantly, always be polite, even when you have to say no. This is your audience. You’re here to entertain them and give them a good time.
Ending a Live Set
You’ve done a great job and wowed the audience. Time to wrap it up with a bow. If the audience remembers anything, it will usually be your last impression, so make it count.
Towards the end of your set, remind them that there will be a grand finale. “Just 30 minutes left! And I always save the best for last.” “Just 3 songs left, and I’ve got a great finale for you!” “One last song, and it’s something special...”
During the last song, thank them for coming out. Thank your listeners. Plug the next DJ if there is any. If no one is after you and you want to stay later for some requests or extra bonus songs, announce that as well. “Thank you all so much for coming out to the Ark tonight. And a special big thanks to my 12 current listeners. I do this for you! Stay tuned for DJ Ignite coming up next!”
If there’s another DJ after you, make sure to get in an IM with them and give them a countdown during your last song or two. Announce him/her to the audience. Disconnect from the Server quickly so the next DJ can use it. (If you’re using a private one, this isn’t an issue.) Make sure to log out of the tip jar or pick up your tip jar before you leave.
And that’s it! Great job, DJ!
Continued in Chapter Four