The Pros and Cons of Pre-Made Sets

By Tony Fernandez:

So let’s talk about music. I know we’ve discussed different things and different aspects of music, but this time around, I’d like to bring attention to a particular aspect of our DJ music world — the sets or blocks of music that DJs seem to be constantly looking for, specifically, pre-made sets.

Allow me to put a finer point on it: I don’t mean sets, in the sense of theme. We ALL do that. We can be at any number of events and we can rifle through a set of 70’s, 80’s. 90’s, 00’s, classic rock, country, Top 40, Rap, etc. That’s part of our job. What I do mean is when you’re in your flow, you ALWAYS play Song A, Song B, Song C, and Song D, in THAT order, EVERY time.

I’ll admit right up front, I don’t get it. I don’t see the necessity or advantage of discovering, creating, and then utilizing pre-made sets for the next dozen gigs, or years, it seems.

On one hand, I do get that we are creatures of habit. We discover a chain of songs that when linked together create a great response from our floors. Then we may recycle that same “set” again if we get into a pinch. “It worked last week, so let’s give it another run…”   I even get that (usually) there are a new group of people, so the same set you ran last week, is new to the current group of people.

On the other hand, what I don’t get is why are DJs asking other DJs for their pre-made sets? Aren’t you supposed to be figuring out the music for EACH of your events/crowds? If we treat each event we do as a unique and singular event, then having pre-made sets kind of defeats the purpose of being a DJ.

While all of these other DJs are sharing their sets, why would anyone think someone else’s set would work for your crowd?

I have to concede to the fact: I realize and recognize that DJs are individuals. As such, their experience, knowledge, and skill level is going to be vast and wide. I’m sure not trying to filter these thoughts and questions through my personal filter. I don’t expect others to be as big of a music nerd as I am. I sure don’t expect people to mix and program the way I do. Nor do I expect others to just do it THIS way because that is the ONLY way.

On a slight tangent…that is one of the beautiful things about being a DJ. There is no ONE WAY to spin. I love reading DJ’s play logs and listening to other DJs spin a set to get ideas and inspiration. Not to mention maybe picking up a dope track or three that I may have slept on.

My point is this: Don’t be complacent. Be proactive in your music knowledge and your programming. Practice. Listen. Put yourself into scenarios where instead of doing homework, (no one likes doing homework) you’re opening your artistic side of your brain to new musical possibilities. The more you do this, the easier the ideas will come.

I have seen DJ friends and colleagues that became apathetic and unindustrious. They suffered over time because they became stale and predictable. They aren’t working. Don’t become the complacent DJ. Don’t be lethargic in your approach to discovering music. You may just elicit a creative side in your repertoire, and that would be a beautiful thing.

Keep ‘em spinning.

Based out of Richmond, VA, DJ Tony Fernandez has been a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Musical Soothsayer and Audio Gear Oracle since 1980. Find him on facebook. Email djtonytf@gmail.com

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