Laidback Luke’s five golden rules for DJs

Last year, Mixmash Records head, international festival fixture and Blow hitmaker Laidback Luke talked inthemix through his six golden rules for producers. From kick-drums to masterchains and beyond, the Dutchman’s pointers proved invaluable for producers new and old alike. So before he kicks off his Australian summer club tour this weekend (see the full list of dates below) we tracked Luke down for another helpful set of pointers – and this time, it’s for the DJs out there. As he put it: “Here are my guidelines for what I think a good DJ needs to focus on in order to perform an amazing set.” Over to you, Luke….

#5. Pay attention to your energy

I see tracks as packages of energy. Music is emotion, and holds a certain type of energy. If you can recognize that energy, you can stack and build it up, or you can tone it down. You can make it more emotional, you can make it happier, or you can take it darker.

When I’m making a mix for radio – or any mix that isn’t specifically geared to the dancefloor – I would mix more according key. But my main focus is actually combining the tracks that sound similar or have similar elements in them. If you do that, the energy of your mix will flow better and make for a more engrossing listen. Elements over key is what I do, as “mixed in key” can give combinations which don’t make sense energy or style wise.

#4. Listen to loads and loads of tracks, on a daily basis

Real DJs used to be the tastemakers. Instead of just buying the top ten tracks, they would dig into crates and spend hours in record stores to find that rare super-awesome B-side that no other DJ had. That’s what would make a DJ stand out and this year, I would love to see more tastemakers back in the scene. I deliberately am not aware of what the Beatport top ten looks like, because I want to discover amazing tracks on my own. And, although I play a lot of tracks people know, I still want to introduce my audiences to some incredible unknown tracks as well.

#3. Learn your gear!

I am still surprised when I run into professional DJs on the road who don’t know the functions on a CDJ inside out. If it’s your job and you’re getting well paid for it, you really should know how to turn off the auto-cue on a CDJ. You would expect a flight attendant to know the ins and outs of the inside of an airplane, right? Learn your gear, dive into it and try to find out what every function is for. The decks are your instruments, the more you know, the better and more confident you will be.

DJing in a club or a festival is waaaaay different than DJing in your bedroom. For instance, the sound in every single club or festival is different – usually, it’s shittier than at home. A good tip is to change the way your decks and your speakers are set up in your bedroom. Put the speakers in the corner of your bedroom for a change. And put the decks far away from each other. Try to mix a set like that, and then switch it up again. This will get you used to different situations.

#2. Learn how to read a crowd

This is essential! Just constantly keep an eye on what’s going on in the crowd. You will be able to connect with them and you will be able to read the energy in a room. If the energy gets “stale”, it’s time for a surprise. Switch up genre, or throw in something you are sure everyone will know. If you have been banging it out, go deeper, or the other way around. Usually after a half an hour, you will know what tracks the crowd is into. It’s vital that you tap into the energy on the floor.

#1. And my golden rule…

Play 50% for the crowd and play 50% of what you want…but only play tracks you really like. If something’s the most popular track ever and I don’t like it, I won’t play it. With the 50% rule, I always get a nice middle ground of the hits I like, but enough space for me to introduce new tracks as well.

Laidback Luke Australian tour dates

Jan 24: Family – Brisbane, Australia

Jan 25: Platinum – Gold Coast, Australia

Jan 26: Salt On The Beach – Perth, Australia

Jan 30: HQ – Adelaide, Australia

Jan 31: Billboard – Melbourne, Australia

Feb 01: Pacha – Sydney, Australia