Top Five Codes of Conduct For Opening DJs at EDM Shows

SOURCE: opening_edm_dj_codes.php

Shannon Nehls / OC Weekly

Last weekend, local selector Deone opened for Chuckie at the Yost Theater in garish fashion, playing a slew of hard-hitting bangers and even one of the headliner’s own tracks in his set. While it seems like a small thing to get riled up about, it prompted us to speak to one of the venues owners, Dennis Lluy, about the dilemma we have seen all over OC.

“Being new to the EDM scene what I have learned is that opening a show is an art on it’s own,” says Lluy. “We have met with our in-house talent buyer and Johnny Shockey, the owner of LED Presents, and will be coordinating most of our bookings with them. They have been doing this a lot longer and know plenty of Orange County and surrounding area DJs who will respect our headliners and play the correct role in our shows,” assured Lluy.

It’s too bad it took Chuckie getting upset and tweeting “Yo, playing ALL the hits in your warm up set at 134bpm is not gonna bring you anywhere” to get people’s attention. He’s not the first DJ we have seen tweet about this in OC, but we are glad people are talking about it. We’ve seen this going on for way too long where openers think they are Swedish House Mafia or Afrojack. The opening DJ has an important role so we decided to put together a list of five things opening EDM DJs should know.

Shannon Nehls / OC Weekly


1. Do NOT Play the Top Songs on Beatport 
Anybody can play bangers all night, it’s another thing to be creative with your time slot and still get the crowd pumped up. The big guys have earned the right to play the headlining spot and thus reserve the right to play the songs of the season. Don’t make them edit their set and go to different cuts because you don’t know your role in the show. Have some respect and common sense and use it as an opportunity to be creative with your artistry.

2. Do NOT Play the Artist/DJ’s Songs 
It’s an honor to open for the artist and play in front of their fans, you should support the show accordingly. The hundreds or thousands of people in the crowd are most likely there to see the headliner play their songs. Don’t be the idiot who tries to steal their thunder. Show some respect to the those who have actually produced their own tracks, been picked up by a record label and put their music out on Beatport.

3. Do NOT Play Songs Like “Put Your Hands Up”
Between 10pm-12pm, guests are arriving in the club, buying their first drinks and getting settled. They aren’t ready to throw their damn hands up until they’ve had plenty of drinks in them and they see enough people getting wild. Also, they aren’t ready to “Save the World” before midnight. Any DJ who blows their load too soon will leave the crowd wanting for the rest of the night.

4. Do NOT DJ Into the Red 
There’s a real tendency for opening DJs to think they are the star of the show. When you play fast, hard-hitting songs above 128 bpm into the red or put the volume at level 10 the system gets maxed out and the room is way louder than it should be that early in the night. It’s easy to get carried away with the energy and excitement, but you give the headliner no room to adjust the volumes properly and effect their sound.

5. Do NOT Unplug Anything 
After you leave the decks it’s obviously crucial to leave the RCA cable and any ground wire in place with no excuses! If you are going to do this then you probably shouldn’t be an opening DJ and need to find a new career path. Being an opening DJ requires a unique skillset and venues need to be screening them to make sure they recognize their position and follow these simple DJ codes.

Follow us on Twitter @OCWeeklyMusic and like us at Heard Mentality.

18 Responses to “Top Five Codes of Conduct For Opening DJs at EDM Shows”

  1. Dj River July 17, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    I think all those are common sense but i think the main one should be “don’t play the headlining artist songs… but i also found it funny that they wrote “anyone can play the bangers of the season” but hey reserve them for the headliner LOL, personally i think if your the headliner “bring the new shit and make them like it”… Unless they are playing some premixed stuff matching up with an extravegant light show and thats why they are mad cause they can’t alter their sets with all the “bangers” that have been made in the world…

    • Tommy Burger July 19, 2012 at 2:03 am #

      RESPECT THE HEADLINER!!! That’s the key. The aforementioned 5 rules are true. Point #2 is the most essential. Never play the Headliners Tracks! Play your own tracks and new music that the audience has never heard. Impress the crowd with creativity, new music and skills. As an opening DJ it is essential to understand that most EDM type headliners are Producers 1st and DJs 2nd. Their skill levels as DJs are limited and portions of their sets are pre-mixed, therefore it is difficult for them to alter their sets. A key point to remember is that they’re not the headliner because they have amazing DJ skills. They’re the headliner because they have great production skills combined with Platinum Hits and Remixes. It is more accurate to view them as a Producer making an appearance behind the Turntables, CDJ or Midi Controller as opposed to a DJ. For this reason utilize your talent to WOW the crowd. Make them look great while at the same time making yourself look great.That is your job and a true DJ can do this with ease.

  2. Anthony July 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    So basically the opening Dj is supposed to suck so that the headliner sounds like they killed it? I’d be out there wanting to kill it every night. How are you supposed to gain a fan base?

    • JoJo Electro Staff July 18, 2012 at 1:03 am #

      It’s a really grey area according to so many different people. However, most of the experienced, traveled, respected djs will agree that there’s insane music you can play from 10pm-1am, then there’s insane music that the headliner should be playing from 1am-?. It’s not necessarily the same music pool though.

      The majority of talented/knowledgeable djs will say that the opener should build a great set, then out of respect, end their set somewhere in the vicinity where the headliner would want to take over. So many ways to skin this cat.

      • Gavin July 18, 2012 at 11:54 pm #


    • Hady Basha July 18, 2012 at 3:34 am #

      no this is not what you are supposed to do sir, the Opening slots are the most important sets you can get involved with, the whole night rides on your shoulders as an opening DJ, for one you are to engineer a set that takes people from Level Zero Energy to drive em up to about 70% Energy level, the club owner and the bar counts on you as well… the Headliner grabs the crowd ready and ripe from you when you do your job right, you see when you select your track list and sound levels and equalizers correctly and flawlessly at your opening slot, you will have people talking about it for a long long time after… “Banging Out” your set from the get go as an opener, is like stickin you dick in right away… foreplay is key 😉

    • shiny July 18, 2012 at 4:00 am #

      nooononononoono not at all. if you suck as an opening dj because you cant play “bangers”, then you suck as a human. there are so many awesome songs that you can choose from that arent “bangers” but still keep the crowd energy up and the dance floor groovin, and all without blowing everybodys load too early by playing Alesso calling or saves the world and levels.

    • Carl August 1, 2012 at 3:06 am #

      Who said anything about sucking? Opening is probably the most important part of the night. Youre taking a room with 0 energy and making things right for the headliner. That is exactly how you gain a fan base and more gigs, by being a good opener and working to be a headliner. You can kill an opening set if you do your homework and educate yourself how to properly warm up a room.

  3. Lord Pyro July 18, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    DISCLAIMER: I know it sounds harsh but I’m really passionate about it!!

    I think the point is that it isn’t YOUR gig, its the headliner’s gig. You play bangers and build your career on YOUR gigs, not some one else’s.

    Opening for a big DJ is part of the practice/artform of being a DJ and you have to respect the artform if you want to be a DJ. It IS rude to play the hits of the person playing after you. A)its selfish – making the other DJ have to play something else..its like you are bad host B) it doesn’t look good for you – people came to see THAT artist playing THAT tune – not you, so it looks bad, so you ruin the experience for that audience member to hear the guy they paid to see playing their favorite tune and C) its tacky, like the headliner has to come to you before the gig and tell you not to play his/her tunes – I wouldn’t want a DJ opening for me like that!

    When you open for a big DJ, your JOB is to be the ‘opener’ so you find other interesting, dope shit to play and build your career/fanbase on your own gigs not his/hers. There are hundreds of other songs to play and if you can’t find anything else, then you should go home and look harder.

  4. CLAKSAARB July 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Opening definitely takes more skill than being a headliner, that’s why most headlining DJs don’t get to that point without earning their stripes first. I think a good rule of thumb, besides the obvious criteria listed above, is to compare the music you’re playing from 10-12 when you’re opening for someone to the music you would be playing from 10-12 if you were spinning all night. If you were spinning all night from 10-2am, you probably wouldn’t burn yourself with bangers and “put your hands up” tracks in the first two hours. So why would you do that to a huge headliner?

    The point is, there’s always an appropriate time to play a certain type of music. I’m usually never concerned about an opener burning me, because there’s so much music out there to play it’s not worth getting upset about. What annoys me the most is when the opener is playing Levels and fist pumping in the DJ booth with the 5 douchebag friends he brought while everyone else is just getting a drink and mingling.

    • Wally August 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      That last point you made I had to deal with on a lot of occasions. I have been the opener a few times and then I got to do the headliner thing recently. The guys that booked me to headline were showboating with hard gabba breaks complete with pumping fists and friends going “look at me up here!!!” and shite like that. I was booked to play deep house after them. I wasn’t ready for a competition that night. I kicked their ass, though, even with playing groovy stuff, but I was so upset that I just wanted to go home, even after some girls wanted to have fun with me at a after pool party.

  5. Bob Nugget July 19, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    Am I the only person that thinks the premise of this entire article is goofy? Why would there be rules for an opening set? Music is art. Art doesn’t have rules. That’s why it’s called art.

    Seems to me that if a “headliner” DJ can’t differentiate himself from every 20-year-old-first-year-DJ with a debit card and access to beatport without some special cooperation, then the show sucks to begin with.

    And there’s nothing an opening DJ can do to make up for bad talent from the headliner. It’s up to the promoters to stop booking over-achievers in the studio that can’t put on a live performance. Cheers.

    • prophet July 21, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

      Obviously you are not a dj. Ass!

  6. seth martin August 2, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    This is the stupidist article I have ever read. I opened for robbie rivera last year and blew his ass off back to miami. I have been djing for 20 years, and if you have the skills go for it! Dont hold back, just because dj ferry van oakenstein is headlining. This culture is soo lame, these kids coming up have no clue, they have not paid there dues. Yeah go get your little serato-beatport-mustache and play cheese all night. Dance music is dying because of chuckie, guetta, afrojack, paris hilton and all this garbage.