Tips for the Perfect Warm-Up Set
I think I won’t be too far from the truth when saying every DJ in the world has started off with warm-up sets for someone else’s main performance. Much like bands and singers will play as opening acts for someone better known to make a name for themselves (while still being paid, mind you), beginner DJs are usually called in to warm up the crowd before some other bigger name(s) get behind the decks.
Now, warm-up sets are actually more challenging than DJing for an already warmed up crowd, and I’m sure you understand why. The DJ usually enters the venue and starts the warm-up set around the time people start coming in and order their first drinks – meaning the whole responsibility of getting a bunch of different people in the mood to hit the dancefloor in a couple hours falls on their shoulders.
People keep asking me what is the best kind of music to play for a warm-up set, and, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t know either. However, after a few years of spinning in clubs, I’ve come to realize the few things that you definitely should NOT play at a warm-up set. I would stay away from playing the latest hits – especially the very rhythmic, dance-oriented ones. Although people might feel like dancing to those tunes, most of them haven’t gotten through their first cocktail yet – meaning hardly anyone will be brave enough to hit the dance floor. Except maybe the two ladies who have been obviously sipping on mimosas since brunch time. Anyway, if you play those hot tunes during the warm-up, and the main DJ starts playing them again during the main act, the crowd will likely get bored pretty fast, as no one wants to hear the same songs twice during the same night. However, don’t get too carried away and play nothing but monotone, lackluster tunes either – the key is to create a pleasant atmosphere for people to drink and socialize to, and work your way into more rhythmic and familiar tunes towards the end of your set.
That being said, I would recommend playing easily recognizable tunes – think something you’d hear a lot on the radio and maybe hum to, but probably not look up or add to your workout playlist. Vocals are nice too, as long as they’re enjoyable and soft enough to not overpower the bassline.
Another important thing I want to mention here is don’t expect people to dance to your warm-up set. It can be dishearting and even discouraging at first (we’re all had those thoughts of ‘isn’t my music good enough?’ after our first warm-ups,) but I assure you, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. The point of a warm-up set is not to bring people to the dancefloor, but rather to pave the way for the set coming after yours. I guarantee that you will almost never see people dancing during a warm-up set, but if you see them enjoying themselves, ordering one drink after another and shyly putting on some moves by the end of your set, congratulations! The warm-up was a success!