How Professional DJs Select Songs For Their Sets

How Professional DJs Select Songs For Their Sets

On the surface, you’d think that having an immense catalogue of music to work with would be a bonus for the aspiring DJ. In practice, it can actually be a major cause of confusion.

After all, with a limitless stockpile of tracks to choose from, how the hell can you narrow things down to a brief 20-song set?

Selecting songs for a DJ set can be a surprisingly daunting prospect for newcomers. Precisely where a few tips from the pros can pay dividends, making it much easier to prep for your next live performance.

Let’s get started:

  1. Research Your Audience

First up, you can narrow things down massively by simply factoring in the most obvious preferences of your target audience. Are they 90s, 80s or 70s kids? Are they looking for songs they can sing along to, or go nuts dancing to? What are their ages and how contemporary (or otherwise) are their tastes? Forget what you’re into when selecting tracks for your set – focus all of your attention on those you’ll be entertaining.

  1. Go For a 6/2 or 7/3 Formula

In a club setting, most established DJs swear by the classic 6/2 or 7/3 formula.  This is basically where you play six or seven bangers the crowd will get a real kick out of, followed by two more subdued tracks or deeper cuts. In doing so, you’ll be giving them all the time they need to go nuts on the dancefloor, followed by a welcome break to use the bathroom, hit the bar or go for a smoke.

  1. Head to Similar Gigs in Your Area

The easiest way to pick up a world of solid-gold wisdom is to take the time to head to clubs and gigs in your area, similar to the set you’ll be putting on. Pay close attention to the type of music the DJ plays, and make notes on their distribution of bangers vs slower songs. If they play something that sends the crowd into a frenzy, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask them what it is – assuming it’s something you’ve not already heard.

  1. Keep a Note of Requests

It can also be useful to welcome requests while doing your thing on stage – even if you have no intention of playing them on that particular night. Bring someone along for the ride to help you out, or perhaps just leave a pen and pad by your booth for revellers to jot down what they want. Slowly but surely, you’ll build what’s essentially a blueprint for the perfect set for these kinds of audiences.  After all, what better way to give people what they want than to ask them what they want?

  1. Play the Hits

Last up, the easiest way to evoke the right response from any audience is to play the hits…plain and simple. As a DJ, you need to be on the cutting-edge of whatever genre you specialise in. If there’s something making waves at the time that everybody loves, it simply makes sense to feature it prominently in your set.