Written by: Cris Rodriguez
A show must have all the right pieces in place for the night to run smoothly, from stage production to promo, all of these roles play an integral piece towards a show’s success.
If you’d like to know how these pieces work together, I recommend my previous article:
The Unspoken Secrets Of Working In The Music Industry
In this article however, I’d like to specifically detail the necessary roles each DJ must fulfill in order to create a cohesive night.
I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to play alongside some incredible artists and by the time this post airs – I’d have personally played each slot respectively.
If you’re an aspiring DJ wanting to play mainstage/headline – you will want to pay close attention to each role. In order to be trusted with headlining, you need to prove you have the ability of managing energy levels and the crowd. Each role requires different types of music, as it requires a different level of energy. Learn each role and play it to your best ability and you’ll rank up in time.
So let’s take a moment to discuss each role and how they cohesively create a perfect night:
A DJ’s journey begins here, learning energy and crowd management is easiest at this stage due to the time slot and low level of expectation from the crowd. The venue just opened – people want to get comfortable, they’ll chat, drink and mingle as the night begins. This is the perfect time to set the mood, the opener plays a subtle yet powerful influence on how the rest of the night will flow – the vibe the opener sets will be carried by the direct support role which then affects the headliner. This ripple effect sets the tone for the night and few DJs know how to properly set the stage.
On paper, the opening slot is the “easiest” – don’t play too hard, keep the crowd interested and pace properly. Learning how to bring down the energy levels is key – you can blow out the energy levels of the crowd by playing too hard. This time slot isn’t about impressing the crowd, it’s about setting the stage for the next DJ to take warmed up crowd and keep them dancing.
Direct Support (11pm-12am)
This role is generally reserved for a DJ that has proved himself/herself well enough to be trusted with managing a crowd properly. This is the ultimate balancing act, play hard enough to keep people dancing and engaged, yet not hard enough to tire them out before the headliner. Too many rookie DJs in this role make the mistake of “outshining” the headliner only for the event organizers to never book them again for this role.
Stay humble, don’t lose your head as the crowd’s vibe is intoxicating and it’s easy to play harder and harder, remember your role – you’re only hear to make the headliner look good, your chance to shine will come.
*these hours may vary
THIS is the reason everyone came out, the entire night is focused on making this DJ the highlight of the night. The crowd should be buzzing with excitement and anticipation, they should be warm enough in order to be receptive enough to anything the headliner plays. A good headliner will see the crowd’s energy levels and improve upon them by playing the right track to segway from direct support’s set onto theirs.
The time has come, the world is your oyster and it’s time to enjoy the spotlight! Play to your heart’s content, and own that stage – it’s your moment, after all. Crowd interaction is key here, much more than previous roles, as a strong headliner has a healthy relationship with the microphone and knows his stage presence. Play to your heart’s content, closing support will help finish off the night.
Closing (2am – 4am)
This role is equally as crucial as direct support, as both roles establish the necessary energy levels to properly cultivate the audience’s attention and energy towards a spectacular night. Once headliner steps off stage, it’s the role of closing support to keep energy levels high, keep people dancing and engaged, and (on behalf of the venue) keep them partying. Some venues close immediately after the headliners, other venues keep going until sunrise – it’s the closer’s job to keep the party going!
This role is pretty much along par with direct support if not just slightly more important – you’ve been trusted to keep energy levels high enough that people will stay around drinking and partying! This is a huge responsibility as too many dips in energy during your set may be enough to have people leave, which is the very last thing the venue wants. Read the crowd: play what they like, engage them with the microphone and own that stage, they’re here to keep partying and they’re counting on you!
To wrap up, all of these roles require finesse and tact, they require a special type of energetic precision that develops with time and practice – those that have walked away from a memorable night is largely in thanks to everyone’s teamwork. A common misconception is that DJs are “competing” against each other, which couldn’t be further from the truth, without a proper lineup and clear energetic progression, the headliners couldn’t do what he/she does best.
I’ve been privileged to learn from the best in my scene and mentor upcoming DJs through these ranks, thanks for joining me today and learning more about DJing culture and performance, it’s such a beautiful art and I can’t wait to continue to inspire others to join.